Roman province

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Roman provinces under Trajan (117 AD). The provinces of Mesopotamia and Assyria only existed for a few months.

The Roman provinces were administrative units of the Roman Empire .

For individual provinces and an overview, see:

historical development

Originally the Latin term Provincia ("task, obligation") described an area of ​​responsibility in the administration of the city of Rome . With the acquisition of additional areas, these became separate tasks of the state administration, i.e. provinces in the later sense. By the 1st century BC BC there were no fixed administrative units, but the magistrates were each assigned an area of ​​responsibility (provincia) , the layout of which could change and which was not necessarily spatially defined. In the time of the Roman Republic, administrators of the provinces were usually consuls or praetors , either during their term of office or immediately afterwards, then as propraetors or proconsuls.

The first provinces in the strict sense were 241 BC. The island of Sicily , which was conquered during the First Punic War , and from 237 BC onwards. BC Sardinia . Rome sent a praetor with a small contingent to each of these islands to secure them. After the Second Punic War , the Iberian Peninsula followed . 81 BC In BC, Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix passed a law that obliged praetors and consuls to take over a province the following year after taking on their municipal office, the borders of which they, as governors, were no longer allowed to cross with troops. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus established in 52 BC With the provincial law finally the governorship as an independent office. Towards the end of the Roman Republic, when Gaius Julius Caesar died in 44 BC. BC, Rome regularly had 18 provinces.

The provincial division of the empire was changed and reformed several times during the imperial era . Augustus divided the provinces into imperial and (modern so-called) " senatorial ". These were still administered by proconsuls, while the governors in the imperial provinces were Legati Augusti pro praetore ("Emperor's envoy instead of a praetor"), because de iure the emperor himself was the governor in these areas and was only represented by the legates . The province of Egypt was administered by a praefectus Aegypti who was not a senator.

This system existed for about three centuries. From 285, under Emperor Diocletian , 12 (later 15) dioceses were introduced as the higher level of structure , headed by vicars, and under Constantine I the Praetorian prefecture . The hierarchical order was prefecture - diocese - province. The late antique provinces, which were often newly delimited at the time of Diocletian and his successors, were usually smaller than the older administrative units due to the division, the total number was increased to around 120 and thus almost doubled. In addition, the governors were now deprived of command of the troops stationed in the province, so that from then on they were purely administrative officials. With the end of antiquity came the end of the Roman provinces, in the west already in the 5th / 6th centuries. Century, in the east only in the decades after the Arab expansion (from 632).

Principles of Roman Provincial Administration

One of the principles of Roman provincial administration was to preserve the existing administrative and legal institutions in the respective area / country as far as possible (if they existed at all, which was mostly not the case in the provinces outside the Mediterranean region).

Subject to the Roman administration

These tasks were organized around the governor by means of a small staff. Tax collection, which was the responsibility of quaestors or procurators , was so difficult to enforce across the board, especially in large provinces, which is why licenses to collect the money were granted to the local elites, who thus incurred the tax liability of their surroundings and the taxes for further payment themselves moved in. The cities ( civitates and poleis ) in particular played an important role, regardless of whether they officially belonged to the province or were formally independent ( civitas libera ).

For the population of the provinces - unless they belonged to the upper class, who lost some of their privileges - this was usually an improvement in the situation, as they were no longer exposed to the arbitrariness of local despots . The mere fact that local authorities could not impose the death penalty - every Roman citizen (such as the apostle Paul ) could appeal to the propaetor (in imperial times up to the emperor), every free provincial resident up to the governor - led many provincials to one legal security never known under Roman rule . The local elites, in turn, benefited from Roman backing, often gaining Roman citizenship and in some cases rose to the Senate.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of the population was better off under Roman rule than before can also be attributed to the fact that in the almost 700 years of Roman provincial administration there were only a few uprisings against Rome (e.g. Pannonian uprising , the Boudicca uprising and also the Jewish uprisings ).


The main problem of the Roman provincial administration during the republic was the exploitation of the provinces by the governors.

Since Roman politicians did not receive a salary during the time of the republic and had to pay for the very expensive election campaign and the administration out of their own pocket, they were often highly indebted after their term of office had expired. When they came to a province as governor, they tried to reorganize themselves financially; Since they usually only acted as governors for a year, they were often unscrupulous in doing so. The Romans said: "Poor he came to the rich province, rich he left the poor." The province, on the other hand, could sue in Rome, but if it did not have such a good trial lawyer as Marcus Tullius Cicero in the case of the Sicilian governor Gaius Verres in the year 70 BC BC, their chances were often slim. During the imperial era, the situation of the provinces improved, as the emperor, who did not want to ruin the empire, controlled his governors in his own interest and the time of the election campaigns in Rome was over.

See also


Web links


  1. ^ Eckhard Meyer-Zwiffelhoffer : Imperium Romanum. The history of the Roman provinces. CH Beck, Munich 2009, p. 13f.