Prefect: Roman official, appointed by a magistrate or the emperor.
The word praefectus means "the one who stands in front" (of others). The prefect was an official who was appointed by a magistrate, for a fixed period and a special task (mandatum). Originally, this was a military task; for example, the auxiliary troops were commanded by a prefect, and the praefectus castrorum was the garrison commander. Under the empire, the emperor was the only one who was allowed to appoint prefects; from now on, civil prefects became popular. However, the connection with the military usually remained present.
The following prefects of senatorial rank are known.
- Praefectus feriarum Latinarum causa. A minor office for a young senator; he represented the consuls during the Latin festival on the Alban mount.
- Praefectus frumenti dandi. Four former praetors who were responsible for the distribution of food to the Roman people.
- Praefectus aerarii militaris. A former praetor, responsible for the pensions of the legionaries. There were three of them.
- Praefectus aerarii Saturni. Two former praetors, whose task it was to guard the state treasury.
- Praefectus urbi. A former consul who served as mayor of Rome.
- Praefectus alimentorum. A former consul who was responsible for the financial support of orphans.
The following prefects of equestrian rank are known.
- Praefectus Aegypti. The governor of Egypt, which was not an ordinary province, but the emperor's personal possession. Usually a former praefectus annonae.
- Praefectus annonae. Responsible for the food supply of Rome. His superior was the praefectus urbi.
- Praefectus civitatium. This prefect was appointed by the governor of a province to rule a part of it. The most famous example is the praefectus Judaea between 26 and 36: Pontius Pilate.
- Praefectus vehiculum. Responsible for the public roads.
- Praefectus vigilum. Responsible for Rome's seven cohorts of firemen.
- Praefectus praetorio.
The title could also be used for municipal adminstrators: an example is the prefect of the religious objects mentioned in many inscriptions from Lepcis Magna in Libya (e.g., IRT #323).