Prefect (Roman Empire)

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A prefect ( Latin praefectus , from praeficere = "to set up") was a person in the Roman Empire who was entrusted by a magistrate or the emperor with the performance of a certain task in administration or the military. Prefects usually came from the senatorial or knight class .

Prefects from the senatorial class

  • Praefectus urbi  : senior senator, formal deputy of the emperor for the city of Rome and commander of the Cohortes urbanae . In late antiquity , the prefects of Rome and Constantinople were among the highest dignitaries in the empire.
  • Praefectus aerarii militaris: three senators who held the praetur and administered the aerarium militare (pension fund for the veterans) (since 6 AD)
  • Praefectus aerarii Saturni  : two senators who administered the state treasury; first praetors to be, former quaestors since Claudius
  • Praefectus alimentorum: Senator, responsible for the alimenta (fund for the care of needy children; since Trajan )
  • Praefectus frumenti dandi: two, later four praetors, for the free distribution of grain in Rome (from 22 BC)
  • Praefectus feriarum Latinarum causa: nominal representative, while the Roman magistrates were at the Latin festival on Mons Albanus , mostly a young member of the senatorial class

Prefects from the knighthood

  • Praefectus Aegypti  : governor of Egypt , the highest-ranking office available to a knight (later the second highest after the Praetorian prefect)
  • Praefectus annonae  : responsible for the grain supply of Rome (since Augustus ). The office also existed for other cities in the Roman Empire
  • Praefectus civitatis  : governor of a region that was not (yet) included in the actual provincial administration. A well-known example is Pontius Pilate , Prefect of Judea .
  • Praefectus gentis  : administrator of nomadic tribes in Roman North Africa
  • Praefectus vehiculorum: Head of the cursus publicus , the state transport system (probably since Augustus)
  • Praefectus praetorio: the Praetorian prefect , whose office was transformed into the head of the civil imperial administration in late antiquity .
  • Praefectus vigilum  : Commander of the vigiles in Rome
  • Praefectus legionis: in the early and high imperial period, commander of one of the legions stationed in Egypt (corresponds to the legatus legionis in other legions), from the 3rd century on all legions
  • Praefectus castrorum  : Commander of a legionary camp , usually ascended from the career of the centurions
  • Praefectus cohortis and Praefectus alae: Commander of an auxiliary force unit ( cohort or Ala ), up to the rule of Claudius also often a career post for deserving centurions, then almost exclusively awarded to knights . Due to the small number of Alae milliariae (1000 strong), the post of Alen Prefect was only rarely awarded and was very highly regarded in the army. At the same time, as individual traditional careers show, it was also the stepping stone to the highest offices in the empire. The commander of an Ala milliaria was therefore ranked above the commanders of the rest of the auxiliary troops . It is believed that the praefectus of the 1000-strong cavalry unit in Aalen Castle also acted as deputy governor of the Raetia province .
  • Praefectus classis: Commander of one of the Roman fleets
  • Praefectus orae maritimae: Commander entrusted with the defense of a sector of the sea coast.
  • Praefectus fabrum  : personal adjutant of a Roman magistrate or governor, the post is occupied from the republican period until the end of the 2nd century AD

Other prefects

  • Praefectus collegii: Head of a professional association
  • Praefectus iure dicundo: entrusted with jurisdiction


Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anne Johnson (German adaptation by Dietwulf Baatz ): Römische Kastelle , von Zabern, Mainz 1987, ISBN 3-8053-0868-X , p. 32 f, Marcus Junkelmann: Die Reiter Roms. Part II, von Zabern, Mainz 1991, ISBN 3-8053-1139-7 , p. 83.