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A word which, in Roman public law, designated primarily the sphere of action allotted to a particular magistrate. (See Magistratus.) When, in the third century B.C., Rome began to assume the permanent rule of territories outside of Italy, it became customary to intrust the government of each such territory to a single magistrate; and, by a natural transition, “province” became the technical term for conquered territory ruled by a Roman governor, and “provincials” the technical term for the inhabitants of such a territory—the subjects as distinguished from the citizens of Rome. Territories left under the sceptres of native princes, though practically controlled by Rome, were not provinces. Free and allied cities, though included within the boundaries of a province, were not parts of the province, nor were individuals who had received Roman citizenship properly numbered among the provincials. In the imperial period, however, with the gradual disappearance of the protected kingdoms and allied commonwealths and the gradual extension of Roman citizenship throughout the Roman world, the term province became purely territorial; the provinces were simply the great governmental districts outside of Italy. At the same time, in consequence of the growth of imperial absolutism, the distinction between Italy and the provinces lost all real importance. As early as the second century after Christ, the methods of provincial administration were introduced into Italy; and under Diocletian, at the close of the third century, the distinction disappeared even in name, Italy being divided into a number of provinces.

Western Provinces of the Roman Empire.

Provincial Officers.

Provision was made for the government of the first four provinces by increasing the number of praetors annually elected at Rome (so B.C. 227 and again B.C. 197). The praetors-elect drew lots to determine which should do duty in Rome and which should go to the provinces. With the increase in the number of provinces (B.C. 146-120) the Senate began to prolong (prorogare) the imperium of outgoing magistrates, who then ruled the provinces allotted them as proconsuls or propraetors. The more important provinces—those in which military operations were in progress or in prospect—were commonly assigned to the outgoing consuls. A lex Sempronia (C. Gracchus) provided that the Senate should indicate annually, before the election of the consuls, which provinces were to be assigned to them. The consuls-elect then drew lots for these provinces. The system of governing the provinces through such promagistrates was made general by Sulla (about B.C. 80). The new criminal courts (quaestiones) established by him, together with the older civil courts, kept all the praetors (now eight in number) busy at Rome during their first year of office, and all the provinces (now ten in number) were allotted to proconsuls or propraetors. The consuls continued to draw lots for the consular provinces before taking office: the praetors drew lots during their year of office. With the further increase in the number of provinces (B.C. 64 there were fourteen or fifteen) recourse was had to various expedients. Two or more provinces were not infrequently assigned to a single proconsul, or a proconsul or propraetor was left in his province for two or more years. Exceptionally, an outgoing praetor or even a private citizen might be invested with proconsular powers, but only by a vote of the Comitia. Iulius Caesar restored the equilibrium between the urban magistracies and the provincial promagistracies by a further increase in the number of praetors.

Under Augustus a division of provinces was made between the emperor and the Senate. He reserved to himself those provinces in which it was necessary to maintain a considerable armed force, and assigned to the Senate those which were pacified. The senatorial provinces (ten in number) continued to be allotted to the ex-magistrates: Africa and Asia to ex-consuls, the rest to ex-praetors. All of the senatorial governors bore the title of proconsul, but those of consular rank had twelve fasces, those of praetorian rank but six. With the multiplication of the city magistracies and the decrease in the number of available provinces, governorships were no longer obtainable by the outgoing magistrates at the expiration of their regular terms, but only after a legal interval of five years, and then in the order of seniority. Under Tiberius the actual interval averaged about thirteen years.

Under the governors served:

  • 1. Legati, lieutenants, usually nominated by the governor and appointed by the Senate. The governor assigned to them their duties, and had the power of dismissing them (see Legatus);
  • 2. comites or contubernales, a staff of military and administrative assistants, appointed by the governor with the approval of the Senate, and removable at his pleasure;
  • 3. apparitores, etc., secretaries, clerks, copyists, interpreters, attendants and messengers, engineers (architecti), physicians, and priests.
All these (with the possible exception of the medici) were public employés, paid by the treasury. The governor might also take with him, at his own expense, as many clients and slaves as he saw fit; but until late in the republican period he was not permitted to take his wife.

The provincial quaestors, or treasury officials, were magistrates of subordinate rank, but of independent tenure and powers. They were elected, not appointed; and were responsible only to the treasury and the Senate. The number of quaestors annually elected at Rome had increased with the organization of new provinces, so that, even at the close of the republican period, the quaestors-elect drew lots for Italian or provincial duty, and proquaestors were rarely needed. Under the Empire these officials were gradually replaced by imperial procurators (q. v.).

The quaestors, legates, and comites constituted the governor's council. See consilia, under Magistratus.

In the provinces of Caesar the emperor himself was proconsul. The governors were his appointees and lieutenants, legati Augusti pro praetore. Their authority was as ample as that of a proconsul, but since it was a delegated authority they had but five fasces (legati quinquefascales). Their military aids (legati legionis) and their officers of justice (legati iuridici) were appointed by the emperor. The interests of the imperial fiscus were guarded by procurators.

Early in the imperial period there appears another type of imperial province, in which the emperor rules not as proconsul, but as sovereign proprietor, and not through a legatus, but through a viceroy (praefectus) or steward (procurator). Many of these provinces were ruled for a time by tributary kings or princes, and with the extinction or deposition of the original dynasty the resident procurator of Caesar becomes procurator et praeses or procurator pro legato. In nearly all of these provinces there was some obstacle, either in the temper of the inhabitants (as in Egypt and Iudaea) or in the topography (as in the Alps), or in the backward stage of civilization (as in Thrace and Mauretania) to the introduction of the ordinary provincial administration.

Organization and Government.

In the republican period the main lines of the provincial organization were fixed by the Senate, and the details were worked out in each province by a special committee of senatorial legates. The constitution thus framed was the lex provinciae. The normal unit of local government was the city or town. If there were no cities, local government districts were created by combining several villages or even, as in Spain and Gaul, by adopting the existing tribal districts. In such districts towns gradually grew up, sometimes about a marketplace, sometimes about a Roman garrison. In other cases the nuclei of municipal organizations were furnished by Roman colonies. The effect of Roman rule was gradually to develop, where it did not previously exist, the Graeco-Latin municipal system. This development was largely due to the method of government instinctively adopted. It was always the Roman practice, while maintaining a strong central control, to leave the immediate management of local affairs to the local authorities, and to throw upon them as much of the provincial and even of the imperial business as they could manage—particularly the conscription of soldiers and the collection of taxes. Only where there were no trustworthy local authorities was a prefecture or local dictatorship established. In the imperial period municipal self-government was secured and enlarged, in proportion as the provinces were Romanized, by special charters and general laws. See Municipium.

For the administration of justice the provinces were divided into much larger districts or dioceses (conventus). To the municipalities was left only a petty civil and criminal jurisdiction.

In the original demarkation of the municipal districts and judicial circuits the Romans retained the older native divisions only where the people submitted readily to the Roman rule. Where this was not the case the older political or racial connections were purposely severed; hostile communes were placed under the rule of those more friendly to Rome or under that of Roman colonies, and connubium and even commercium were suspended between different portions of the same province. But the Romans made no such innovations for the sake of innovation, or even for the sake of uniformity.

In the government of a province the governor was subject to no limitations except those expressly imposed by Roman legislation. In theory the provincials had no political or religious organization, no law, and no rights. They were conquered subjects of the Roman people (dediticii), holding their lives and their property at the pleasure of Rome. The authority of the governor was in principle absolute: he had imperium militiae. (See Magistratus.) Upon the exercise of his governmental power, however, certain restrictions were imposed, at first by Roman tradition and custom, and later, in many cases, by written law. In criminal matters he was sole judge of the law and the facts, but he was expected to administer criminal justice publicly and at stated places and times, to hear evidence and argument, and to consult his councillors. In the exercise of his civil jurisdiction he was expected, after hearing the pleadings and discovering the point at issue, to refer the decision to a iudex or arbiter.

In the absence of any provincial law (for the provincials had lost their own law and had no share in the civil law of Rome) he was obliged to lay down the rules which the iudex was to apply; but this he was expected (and ultimately required) to do in a general way, by a public edict, at the beginning of his term of office. He was bound to adhere to his own edict, and his successor generally reënacted it, with such emendations and additions as seemed advisable. These provincial edicts were, in general, admirably drawn, and they constituted an important element in the development of the ius gentium. See Edictum; Ius.

Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire.

Such special laws as were passed at Rome for the protection of the provincials were intended primarily to safeguard the proprietary interest of the Roman people, to prevent the governors from so impairing the resources of the provinces as to lessen their value to Rome. By a series of laws the governors were forbidden to extort money or goods from the provincials, directly or indirectly. They were forbidden to accept gifts, and to purchase anything beyond current supplies. For oppression and maladministration they were liable to criminal indictment after their return to Rome. Such charges were originally tried by the Senate; then by a standing committee of the Senate; later by a regular court with a large bench of iudices (quaestio repetundarum). The governors were also expected to protect the provincials against the tax-farmers (publicani) and the speculators (negotiatores), but as a rule governors, publicans, and speculators acted in concert. When the provincials were unable to meet the exactions of the governor and the publicans, the speculators advanced the necessary sums at usurious interest; and if their loans were not repaid when due, troops were placed at their disposal for the collection of principal and interest. The transfer of the iudicia from the senatorial to the equestrian order (C. Gracchus) tended to force the governors into such a concert, because the publicans and speculators belonged to, and exercised a controlling influence in, the equestrian order. The short terms allotted to the provincial governors made their robberies more rapid, and the prospect of criminal prosecution forced them to steal on a larger scale that they might purchase their acquittal at Rome without sacrificing more than the moiety of their gains. That the governors should make their fortunes out of the provinces was so much a matter of course that the few honourable exceptions were matters of special note and record. Even the free and allied cities were not secure against robbery by the provincial ring. Some of them paid subsidies, which brought them into relations with the publicans and speculators: nearly all of them were bound to furnish recruits and, in case of need, to provide free quarters for the legions, which placed them at the mercy of the governor. The sale of protection against the quartering of troops was an important source of illegal revenue.

The establishment of the Empire greatly improved the position of the provincials. The theory that the provinces must not be so exploited as to lessen their productivity was now enforced, not only in the provinces of Caesar, but in those which were nominally under the control of the Senate. A careful census of the provinces and the abandonment of the wasteful and oppressive system of tax-farming made it possible to lessen the burden of the provincial taxes and yet increase the revenue. All the provincial governors, including the proconsuls, received not only their outfit and a liberal allowance for expenses, as in the Republican period, but a salary. The extension of municipal rights and of Roman citizenship gave the provincials much more effective protection against arbitrary and unjust treatment. The systematic organization of the cult of Rome and of the divi Augusti led to annual meetings of delegates from the localities, and to these assemblies (communia, concilia, κοινά), whose character and duties were at first purely religious, some representative functions were conceded, especially the right of petition. Under Tiberius they became something very like advisory administrative councils. Charges against the governors formulated by such bodies received serious consideration. Tacitus and Pliny mention twenty-seven trials of ex-governors, with but seven acquittals.

Public Works.

Even under the Republic much had been done to develop the resources of the provinces by the building of roads, the improvement of harbours, the establishment of colonies, etc. Under the Empire all these things were done on a larger scale and with more consistency of purpose. For an account of the imperial postal system, see Cursus Publicus.

Defence of the Frontiers.

With the pacification and gradual Romanization of the provinces the troops were gradually removed to the frontier. The frontier line (limes), even in those portions most exposed to barbarian inroads, was a road rather than a wall, and served primarily for the rapid concentration of troops. These were quartered in forts (castella). The road itself was protected, where it was deemed necessary, by ditches and palisades, and frequently by a broad zone of waste country, in which no settlements were tolerated. The movement of persons across the line was strictly controlled, as was also, for revenue purposes, the transit of goods.

General Development.

In judging the results of Roman conquest and rule, it must never be forgotten that the suppression of brigandage and piracy, and of the interminable wars which formerly raged between the petty States of the ancient world, gave to industry and commerce an unexampled security, which went far to balance the spoliation of the provinces even in the worst period of misgovernment. With the administrative reforms of the early Empire and the effective defence of the frontiers, the majority of the provinces grew rapidly in wealth, comfort, and civilization. The contributions of the ruder, non-Hellenic provinces to the art, literature, and science of the Roman world grew steadily in importance. Provincials played a prominent part in the government of the Empire: they gave it not only the bulk of its troops, but a constantly increasing number of military leaders, administrative officers, and jurists. In the end they furnished the majority of its emperors.

Later Empire.

In the course of the third century the military and the civil government of the provinces began to be assigned to different officers, the former to duces, the latter to praesides or correctores. Under Diocletian this separation of powers became general. At the same time the larger provinces were subdivided and grouped for administrative purposes into a dozen dioceses, each under a vicarius, and these, again, into four great prefectures—Gaul, Italy, Illyricum, and the Orient.

Roman Provincial Organization.

Early Empire (to a.d. 117). Later Empire (End of Fourth Century).
  Date of Constitution. Assigned to— (Ranking as—) Title of Governor.   Title of Governor. Diocese. Praetorian Praefecture.
Sicilia. B.C. 241 Senate (praetorian). Proconsul. Sicilia. Consularis. Italia (vicarius urbis). Italia.
Sardinia and Corsica. B.C. 231 b. c. 27 to a. d. 6 Senate (praetorian). Afterwards usually Caesar. Proconsul. Sardinia. Praeses. Italia (vicarius urbis). Italia.
Procurator. Corsica. Praeses.
Hispania Citerior (Tarraconensis). B.C. 197 Caesar (consular). Legatus propraetore. Tarraconensis. Praeses. Hispania. Galliae.
Carthaginiensis. Praeses.
Insulae Baleares. Praeses.
Gallaecia et Asturia. Consularis.
Hispania Ulterior (Baetica). b. c. 197 Senate (praetorian). Proconsul. Baetica (with which Consularis.    
Tingitana is connected) Hispania. Galliae.
Lusitania. B.C. 27 Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Lusitania. Consularis.    
Gallia Narbonensis. B.C. 120 B.C. 27 to B.C. 22 Caesar. After B.C. 22 Senate (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Narbonensis I., II. Praesides. Gallia (Viennensis). Galliae.
Proconsul. Viennensis. Consularis.
Aquitania.   Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Novum populana. Praeses. Gallia (Viennensis). Galliae.
  Aquitanica I., II. Praesides.
Lugdunensis. B.C. 50 Separately organized B.C. 27? Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Lugdunensis I. Consularis. Gallia. Galliae.
Lugdunensis II., III., and IV. (Senonia). Praesides.
Belgica.   Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Belgica I., II. Consulares. Gallia. Galliae.
Germania Superior. Separately organized Caesar (consular). Legatus propraetore. Maxima Sequanorum Praeses. Gallia. Galliae.
Germania I. Consularis.
Germania Inferior. A.D. 17? Caesar (consular). Legatus propraetore. Germania II. Consularis. Gallia. Galliae.
Britannia. A.D. 43 Caesar (consular). Legatus propraetore. Maxima Caesariensis. Consularis. Britanniae. Galliae.
Valentia. Consularis.
Britannia I., II. Praesides.
Flavia Caesariensis. Praeses.
Alpes Maritimae. B.C. 14 Caesar. Procurator. Alpes Maritimae (including western slope of Cottian Alps). Praeses. Gallia (Viennensis). Galliae.
Alpes Cottiae (Regnum Cottii). Between A.D. 54 and 68 Caesar. Procurator. Alpes Cottiae. Praeses. Italia. Italia.
Alpes Poeninae. Second century. Caesar. Procurator. Alpes Poeninae et Graiae. Praeses. Gallia. Galliae.
Raetia. B.C. 15 Caesar. Procurator. Raetia I., II. Praesides. Italia. Italia.
Noricum. B.C. 15 Caesar. Procurator. Noricum Mediterraneum. Praeses. Illyricum occidentale Italia.
Noricum Ripense. Praeses. (Pannoniae).
Pannonia Superior. A.D. 10 Caesar Legatus Pannonia I. Praeses.    
Pannonia ripariensis Corrector. Illyricum  
Pannonia Inferior. Divided betw. A.D. 102 and 107 (consular). propraetore. or Savia.   occidentale Italia.
Pannonia II. Consularis. (Pannoniae).  
Valeria. Praeses.    
Illyricum, later Dalmatia. Between B.C. 167 and 59 b. c. 27 to B.C. 11 Senate. After B.C. 11 Caesar (consular). Proconsul. Dalmatia. Praeses. Illyricum occ. Italia.
Legatus propraetore. Praevalitana. Praeses.
Moesia Superior. Between B.C. 29 and A.D. 6 Caesar (consular). Legatus propraetore. Moesia I. Praeses. Dacia (under the direct administration of the praetorian prefect). Illyricum.
Dardania. Praeses.
Dacia mediterranea. Consularis.
Dacia ripensis. Dux.
Moesia Inferior (Ripa Thracia). Divided betw. A.D. 81 and 96     Moesia II. Praeses. Thraciae. Oriens.
Scythia. Praeses.
Dacia. A.D. 107 Caesar (consular). Legatus propraetore. Abandoned,      
A.D. 270-275      
Thracia. A.D. 46 Caesar. Procurator (under legatus Moesiae). Under Trajan, a legatus propraetore. Thracia. Consularis. Thraciae. Oriens.
Haemimontus. Praeses.
Rhodope. Praeses.
Europa. Consularis.
Macedonia. B.C. 146 Senate (praetorian). A.D. 15 to 44 Caesar. Proconsul. Legatus propraetore. Macedonia I. Consularis. Macedonia. Illyricum.
Macedonia II. Praeses.
Thessalia. Praeses.
Epirus nova. Praeses.
Epirus. Separately organized towards end of first century. Caesar. Procurator. Epirus vetus. Praeses. Macedonia. Illyricum.
Achaia. B.C. 27 Senate (praetorian). Proconsul. Achaia. Proconsul, who stands directly under the praetorian prefect of Illyricum.
Asia. B.C. 133 Senate (consular). Proconsul. Asia proconsularis. Proconsul, who stands directly under the
Hellespontus. Consularis, who stands under the procon-
Lydia. Consularis. Asia. [sul Asiae.
Phrygia I. (pacatiana). Praeses. Oriens.
Phrygia II. (salutaris). Praeses.
Caria. Praeses.
Insulae. Praeses, who stands under the procon-
              [sul Asiae.
Bithynia and Pontus. B.C. 74 B.C. 65 Senate (praetorian). Proconsul. Bithynia. Consularis. Pontus. Oriens.
Honorias. Praeses.
Paphlagonia. Corrector.
Helenopontus. Praeses.
Galatia. B.C. 25 Enlarged B.C. 7 Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Pontus Polemoniacus. Praeses.    
Galatia I. Consularis. Pontus.  
Galatia II. (salutaris). Praeses.   Oriens.
Lycaonia. Praeses. Asia.
Pisidia. Praeses.
Cappadocia. A.D. 17 Caesar (after A.D. 70 consular). A.D. 18-70, procurator; afterwards, legatus propraetore. Cappadocia I., II. Praesides. Pontus. Oriens.
Armenia I., II. Praesides.
Pamphylia and Lycia. B.C. 25 A.D. 43 Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Pamphylia. Consularis. Asia. Oriens.
Lycia. Praeses.
Cilicia. B.C. 102? Fully organized b. c. 64 Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Cilicia I. Consularis. Oriens. Oriens.
Cilicia II. Praeses.
Isauria. Comes.
Cyprus. B.C. 27 b. c. 27 to b. c. 22 Caesar; afterwards Senate (praetorian). Proconsul. Cyprus. Consularis. Oriens. Oriens.
Syria. B.C. 64 Caesar (consular). Legatus propraetore. Euphratensis. Praeses. Oriens. Oriens.
Syria I. Consularis.
Syria II. (salutaris). Praeses.
Phœnice I. Consularis.
Phœnice II. Praeses.
Iudaea (Syria Palaestina). Separately organized A.D. 6. Caesar (after A.D. 70 praetorian.) A.D.6-41, 44-70 procurator; afterwards, legatus propraetore. Palaestina I. Consularis. Oriens. Oriens.
Palaestina II. Praeses.
Arabia. A.D. 105 Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Palaestina III. Praeses. Oriens. Oriens.
Arabia. Dux.
Armenia. A.D. 114 Caesar (praetorian). Legatus propraetore. Abandoned A.D. 117      
Mesopotamia (abandoned A.D. 117, reconquered...... A.D. 115 A.D. 165 Caesar. (?) —?— Osrhoëne. Praeses. Oriens. Oriens.
Mesopotamia. Praeses.
Assyria. A.D. 115 Caesar. —?— Abandoned A.D. 117      
Aegyptus. B.C. 30 Caesar. Praefectus (with consular rank). Aegyptus. Praeses. Aegyptus. Oriens.
Augustamnica. Corrector.
Heptanomis (Arcadia). Praeses.
Thebais. Praeses.
Libya inferior. Praeses.
Cyrene and Creta. B.C. 74 B.C. 67 united B.C. 27 Senate (praetorian). Proconsul. Libya superior. Praeses. Aegyptus. Oriens.
Creta. Consularis. Macedonia. Illyricum.
Africa and Numidia. B.C. 146 B.C. 46 united B.C. 25 Senate (consular). Proconsul. Tripolitana. Praeses. Africa. Italia.
Byzacena. Consularis.
Africa proconsularis. Proconsul, who stands directly under
Numidia. Consularis.   [the Emperor.
Mauretania. Caesariensis. A.D. 40 Caesar. Procurator. Mauretania I. (Sitifensis). Praeses. Africa. Italia.
Mauretania II. (Caesariensis). Praeses.
Mauretania. Tingitana. A.D. 40 Caesar. Procurator. Tingitana (connected with Baetica). Praeses. Hispania. Galliae.

With the extension of the provincial organization to Italy proper, the following additional provinces were included (about 400) in the praefectura Italiae:

    I. Under the vicarius Italiae:

  • 1. Venetia et Histria,
  • 2. Liguria,
  • 3. Aemilia,
  • 4. Flaminia et Picenum annonarium.

    II. Under the vicarius urbis Romae:

  • 5. Tuscia et Umbria,
  • 6. Picenum suburbicarium,
  • 7. Valeria,
  • 8. Samnium,
  • 9. Campania,
  • 10. Apulia et Calabria,
  • 11. Lucania et Bruttii.
Provinces 1-6 and 9 were governed by consulares; 10 and 11 by correctores; 7 and 8 by praesides.

Bibliography.—Marquardt, Römische Verwaltung, vol. i.; Person, Les Provinces Romaines sous la République; Arnold, Roman Provincial Administration; Mommsen, Roman History, vols. iii. and v.

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