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Proconsul (Latin proconsul , from pro consule “instead of a consul”) mostly referred to a governor in the Roman Empire .

Originally, proconsul in the Roman Republic was the name for a consul whose empire was extended (prolonged or prorogated) beyond the regular period of one year. Proconsuls were mainly used in wars when the number of regular empire holders (consuls and praetors ) was insufficient to lead the army or a successful general should keep his command. Usually they were entrusted with the administration of a province.

As the number of provinces continued to grow, proconsuls also worked there alongside regular magistrates and propaetors . The dictator Sulla then systematized around 80 BC. The provincial administration: Since then, only proconsuls and propaetors should take over the governorship of a province (usually one year) following their regular magistrates. In the civil wars of the following decades, however, there were numerous exceptions, e. B. Extensions of the term of office; so was Julius Caesar same for five years proconsul of three provinces (later extended by five years), while Pompey his Spanish province through legacies left to manage.

At the end of the 50s BC It was stipulated that there had to be an interval of at least five years between magistrate and promagistration. This also eliminated the direct temporal continuity of consulate and proconsulate.

When the provinces were reorganized under Augustus , they were divided into imperial and so-called senatorial ones. While the governor of an imperial province was a legatus Augusti pro praetore , the governors of the senate provinces , who were always appointed for a year, held the title of proconsul, regardless of whether they had already been consul or praetor. Nominally, the Senate was independent in granting the proconsulate; in practice, however (as in the case of the imperial provinces anyway) no one was selected who was not acceptable to the emperor.

In republican times, a governorship was often abused to exploit the province economically and to improve one's own fortune, which was weakened by election campaign costs. Some of these grievances continued into the imperial era; however, in order to prevent them from doing so, the proconsuls now received a high salary, and the provincial residents could now turn to the emperor for remedial action. This seems to have improved the situation.

In the further course of the imperial era, the exact definition of "proconsul" became more and more blurred, so that in late antiquity almost every administrator of a province could be called this informally. Officially there were only two proconsules in the 5th and 6th centuries AD , namely those of Asia and Achaia ; under Justinian I , the proconsules of Armenia, Cappadocia and Palestine were added for a few years (Nov. Iust. 30. 31. 103). In the 7th century, the name disappeared along with most of the late Roman structures.

Well-known proconsuls and propaetors

  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus (209 BC, defeat against Hannibal at Venusia)
  • Gnaeus Cornelius Dolabella (80 BC, Province of Macedonia, was sued by Caesar for abuse of office at the beginning of his political career as the most prominent Sullan)
  • Sallust (46 BC, province Africa nova, exploited his province particularly shamelessly)
  • Gaius Verres , notorious for his exploitative leadership in the province of Sicily
  • Gaius Iulius Caesar , Propretor in Spain and Proconsul in Gaul

See also