Magister officiorum

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The late Roman office of the magister officiorum ( Latin literally: "Master (overseer) of the offices") can be verified for the first time under Emperor Constantine I , but was perhaps already established by Diocletian .

The magister officiorum was at the head of the court offices ( militia palatina ); among other things, the agents in rebus and the public postal system as well as most of the palace officials were subordinate to him . There was a magister officiorum at every imperial court , and even after the end of the Western Roman Empire in 476 the office continued in the west under Odoacer and the Ostrogoths ; it disappeared here together with the western Roman court in the year 554. In the 6th century it is also attested at the court of the Merovingians in Gaul ( patricius Parthenius is documented as the holder of this office in 544).

A magister officiorum often had duties and powers beyond the imperial court. He was responsible for the supervision of the imperial arms factories, and at least in East Stream he was also partly responsible for the limitanei , i.e. the border troops, which he usually did not command directly, but only supervised. He was also in command of part of the palace guard (but not of the excubitores , who were subject to their own comes , and the protectores domestici ). In exceptional cases he was also used as a military leader, for example the magister officiorum Celer in the Persian War of Emperor Anastasius in 504 . In addition to the praefectus praetorio , the head of the militia officialis , he was probably the most influential civil official in the late Roman Empire, not least because of his proximity to the emperors.

In the course of time, the office often took on the coordination of foreign policy ( for this reason, the magister officiorum was also responsible for the official translators and interpreters in the late 4th century ); one of the most important holders of the office was Petrus Patricius , who held it from 539 to 565 and in this capacity undertook several diplomatic missions for Emperor Justinian . In Italy, the office, which was still of great importance under the Ostrogoths, disappeared in the course of the Gothic Wars around 550 (it was officially abolished for Italy in 554), in Eastern Stream only during the upheavals of the 7th century.


  • Vincenco Aiello: I rapporti fra centro e periferia in epoca costantiniana. The origine del magister officiorum . In: Giuliano Crifò, Stefano Giglio (eds.): Atti dell 'Accademia romanistica Costantiniana. XIII convegno internazionale. In memoria di André Chastagnol. Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, Naples 2001, ISBN 88-495-0045-9 , pp. 137-163.
  • Manfred Clauss : The magister officiorum in late antiquity (4th – 6th century). The office and its influence on imperial politics (= Vestigia . Vol. 32). CH Beck, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-406-04802-1 .