Procurator: Roman official, appointed by a magistrate or the emperor.

The word 'procurator' is derived from the Latin verb procurare, which means 'to take care'. Rich Romans have always employed caretakers to administer large amounts of money or agricultural domains; usually, these procurators were freedmen.

When the emperor Augustus had to organize the empire at the beginning of our era, he used procurators to manage his extensive private and public domains. He had to. In the provinces that were directly under his control, he could not employ quaestors, because no senator would think of serving under someone who was technically his equal. Therefore, he made procurators responsible for the taxation. Other procurators administered Augustus' private finances and his possessions in and near Rome and in the senatorial provinces.

The procurators serving in the senatorial provinces increasingly received juridical powers, a practice that was made lawful in 53 by the emperor Claudius. During his reign, we also encounter the first procurators with the full powers of a provincial governor. For example, when Judaea was annexed in 41, a procurator was appointed as its ruler, second only to the emperor.

Other procurators were responsible for semi-financial duties, such as the mint, the management of mines, and the 5%-tax on inheritances, but also non-financial tasks, such as the education of gladiators.

The role of procurators was now very important, and from the reign of Tiberius on (and perhaps even Augustus), they were recruited from the equestrian order, the 'second rank' of the Roman elite. From the reign of the emperor Vitellius, who ruled in the year 69, onward, these equestrian procurators often served as heads of the great ministries of the Roman government. The most important ministries were:

Procurators were no magistrates, and received payment for their services. Frequently, they received names that indicate their wage: e.g., the procuratores sexegenarii received every year 60,000 sesterces. (Other procurators received 100,000, 200,000 or 300,000 sesterces.) The following table mentions examples, all taken from the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180).

Procuratores sexegenarii (42 known positions)
proc. alimentorum per Italiam
(food supply of Italy)
proc. provinciae Corsicae
(province of Corsica)
proc. fisci Alexandrini
(taxes from Alexandria)
proc. provinciae Thraciae
(province of Thrace)
epistrategos Thebaidos
(undergovernor of Upper Egypt)
Procuratores centenarii (49 known positions)
proc. aquarum urbis
(water supply of Rome)
proc. provinciae Moesiae Sup.
(province of Upper Moesia)
advocatus fisci Romae
(controller of the finances of Rome)
proc. provinciae XXXX Galliarum
(forty towns in Gaul)
proc. provinciae Sicilae
(province of Sicily)
proc. prov. Alpium Cottiarum
(province of the western Alps)
Procuratores ducenarii (33 known positions)
proc. ab epistulis Latinis
(Latin correspondence)
proc. provinciae Asiae
(province of Asia)
proc. ab epistulis Graecis
(Greek correspondence)
proc. provinciae Syriae
(province of Syria)
proc. XX hereditarium
(tax on inheritances)
idiologus Aegypti
(judge of Egypt)
Procurator trecenarius (1 known position)
a rationibus

Finally, it should be remarked that although the Roman historian Tacitus calls the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, a procurator, he was in fact a prefect. This is proved by an inscription, which is discussed here.

This page was created in 2002; last modified on 23 April 2020.