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Provinces (Roman)


Gold piece showing a Roman magistrate with two lictors.
Gold piece showing a Roman
magistrate with two lictors (©!!)
Roman provinces: administrative units in the Roman empire. Their number increased steadily, partly because the Romans conquered more territories, partly because large provinces were split up.

The first Roman province, Sicily, was conquered after the First Punic War (241 BCE), and the Senate decided that it had to be ruled by a praetor. This meant that civil (not military) law was applied -at least under normal circumstances- and that the new territories were governed by magistrates who served a limited time. The Romans did never change these principles, even when the governors were no longer praetors.

It should be noted, however, that the Latin word provincia is in fact a military expression, indicating that a certain region was a general's responsibility. The first provinces were ill-defined, and it was only during the late republic that provinces started to have clearly defined borders.

When the emperor Augustus changed the empire into a monarchy, he was made governor of almost all provinces with legions, and used legati (representatives) to rule them. At the same time, the other provinces were governed by proconsuls, appointed by the Senate. So, there were two types of governors:

  • Proconsuls. Usually, these men were former praetors. They governed the senatorial provinces and typically served twelve months. Only the rich provinces Asia and Africa were entitled to a proconsul who was an ex-consul.
  • Legati Augusti pro praetore. These men served in the emperor's provinces with the armies (the imperial provinces). Usually, their term in office lasted thirty-six months, although the emperor Tiberius preferred longer terms.
There was a third group of governors. In several provinces, prefects were appointed from the equestrian order (the 'second class' of the Roman elite, after the senators) were appointed. These provinces  were either very unimportant (e.g., Judaea), or exceptionally important (e.g., Egypt). In the first case, ruling the province was below the dignity of a senator; in the second case, the emperor feared that a senatorial governor would become too powerful.
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no legions
1 legion
2 legions
3 legions
4 legions

Roman provinces, 14 CE

Senatorial
Former consuls
Senatorial
Former praetors
 
Imperial
Former consuls
Imperial
Former praetors
Imperial
Procurators
Africa
Hispania Baetica
 
Hispania Tarraconensis
Lusitania
Raetia
Asia
Gallia Narbonensis
 
Germania Superior
Gallia Aquitania
Alpes Maritimae
 
Sicilia
 
Germania Inferior
Gallia Lugdunensis
Alpes Cottiae
 
Macedonia
 
Dalmatia
Gallia Belgica
Alpes Poeninae
 
Achaea
 
Pannonia
Sardinia et Corsica
Noricum
 
Creta et Cyrenaica
 
Moesia
Galatia
Thracia
 
Cyprus
 
 Syria
Cilicia
 
 
Pontus et Bithynia
 
 
 
Prefect
         
Aegyptus
During the first century of the empire, the Romans conquered several new provinces. At the same time, there was a tendency to divide the largest provinces into smaller units. For example, Syria was divided into three smaller provinces. In this way, no governor could ever command a very large force. The result is shown in the second table.

Roman provinces, 211 CE

Senatorial
Former consuls
Senatorial
Former praetors
 
Imperial
Former consuls
Imperial
Former praetors
Imperial
Procurators
Africa
Hispania Baetica
 
Hispania Tarraconensis
Lusitania
Sardinia et Corsica
Asia
Gallia Narbonensis
 
Germania Superior
Gallia Aquitania
Alpes Maritimae
 
Sicilia
 
Germania Inferior
Gallia Lugdunensis
Alpes Cottiae
 
Macedonia
 
Britannia Inferior
Gallia Belgica
Alpes Poeninae
 
Achaea
 
Britannia Superior
Raetia
Epirus
 
Creta et Cyrenaica
 
Dalmatia
Noricum
Mauretania Caesariensis
 
Cyprus
 
Pannonia Superior
Pannonia Inferior
Mauretania Tingitana
 
Lycia et Pamphylia
 
Moesia Superior
Thracia
 
     
Moesia Inferior
Pontus et Bithynia
 
     
Tres Daciae
Galatia
 
     
Cappadocia
Cilicia
 
     
Syria Coele
Syria Phoenicia
Prefects
     
Syria Palaestina
Arabia
Aegyptus
       
Numidia
Mesopotamia
 
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