1902 Encyclopedia > Province


PROVINCE (provincia, etymology uncertain), in the Roman sense, may be defined as the department or sphere of duty assigned to one of the higher magistrates (the con-suls and praters). But when, with the spread of the Roman arms, the government of conquered countries grew to be one of the most important duties of the higher magistrates, the term province, from designating the govern-ment of a conquered country as one particular duty of a Roman magistrate, came to be used generally as a designa-tion of the country itself. It is to province in the sense of a subject territory lying outside of Italy and governed by Roman magistrates that the following remarks will apply. As distinguished from Italy, the provinces paid tribute to Rome, for, at least from the time of the Gracchi, it was a recognized constitutional principle that the pro-vinces were the estates of the Roman people and were to be managed for its benefit. Under the republic the con-stitution of a province was drawn up by the victorious Roman general assisted by ten commissioners appointed by the senate from its own body, and the province was henceforth governed on the lines laid down in this constitution or charter (lex provincial). For administrative purposes the province was divided into districts, each with its capital, the magistrates and council of which were responsible for the collection of the district taxes. For judicial purposes the province was divided into circuits (conventus), and in the chief town of each circuit the governor of the province regularly held assizes.

Cities taken by the sword were destroyed, and their lands were turned into Roman domains and were let out by the censors at Rome to private persons, who undertook to pay a certain proportion of the produce. Royal domains, such as those of Syracuse, Macedonia, Pergamum, Bithynia, and Cyrene, were also confiscated. On the other hand communities which surrendered without offering an obstinate resistance were usually allowed to retain their personal freedom and private property, and their chief town was left in the enjoyment of its territory and civil rights, but all the lands were subjected to a tax, consisting either of a payment in kind (vectigal) or of a fixed sum of money (tributum, stipendium), and in some cases a custom-duty (portorium) was levied. It is to this latter class of communities (the civitates vectigales or stipendiarix) that the large majority of the provincial states belonged. In a better position were those states whose freedom was guaranteed by Bome on the ground of old alliances or special loyalty. Their freedom was recognized either by a treaty or by a decree of the Boman people or senate. As a decree of the people or senate could at any time be recalled, the position of the free states without a treaty was more precarious than that of the treaty states (civitates fcederatx). The latter, though not allowed to meddle in foreign politics, enjoyed a certain amount of internal freedom, retained their lands, paid no taxes, and were bound to render those services only which were expressly stipu-lated for in the original treaty, such as furnishing ships and troops, supplying corn at a certain price, and receiving Boman officials and soldiers en route. Amongst these treaty states were Massilia (Marseilles), Athens, Rhodes, and Tyre. The privileges of the free but not treaty states were somewhat similar, but, as stated, more precarious. All political distinctions, save that between slave and freeman, disappeared when Caracalla bestowed the Roman franchise on the whole empire.

Provincial Diets. —Apart from the government by Roman officials, every province appears to have had, at least under the empire, a provincial assembly or diet of its own (concilium or commune), and these diets are interesting as the first attempts at representative assemblies. The diet met annually, and was composed of deputies (legati) from the provincial districts. It arranged for the celebration of religious rites and games, especially (under the empire) for the worship of the emperor, the neglect of which was severely punished. The actual celebration was under the conduct of the high priest of the province, a person of much dignity and importance, perhaps the forerunner of the Christian bishop. The diet also decreed the erection of statues and monuments; it passed votes of thanks to the outgoing governor, or forwarded complaints against him to Rome; and it had the right of sending embassies direct to the senate or the emperor."

The Provincial Governor.—The provinces were administered by governors sent direct from Rome, who held office for a year. From the formation of the first provinces in 227 B. c. down to the time of Sulla (82 B.C.) the governors were prartors (see PR^TOR) ; from the time of Sulla to that of Augustus the praetors remained in Rome during their year of office, and at the end of it assumed the government of a province with the title of propraetor. This applies, however, only to provinces which were in a settled state and could consequently be administered without a large military force. A province which was the seat of war, or was at least in a disturbed state, was committed to the care either of one of the consuls for the year or of a commander specially appointed for the purpose with the title of proconsul, who might be one of the consuls of the pre-ceding or of a previous year, or else a former praetor, or even, in rare cases, a private individual who had held neither consulship nor praetorship. Thus the distinction between consular (or pro-consular) and praetorial (or propraetorial) provinces varied from year to year with the military exigencies of different parts of the empire. At the close of the republic, however, we find even such a peaceful province as Asia administered by a proconsul. In the earlier period of the republic the senate either before or after the elections determined which provinces were to be governed by con-suls and which by praetors, and after their election the consuls arranged between themselves by lot or otherwise which of the provinces nominated by the senate each should have, and similarly with the praetors. But in order to guard against partiality the Sempronian law of 123 B.C. provided that the senate should yearly nominate the two consular provinces before the election of the consuls, and that the consuls should after their election but before their entry on office arrange between themselves which of the two provinces each should have. The Pompeian law of 53 B.c. enacted that no one should hold the governorship of a province till at least five years after his consulship or praetorship. This law was repealed by Caesar after the battle of Pharsalia, but was re-enacted under Augustus ; it severed the connexion which had previously existed between an urban magistracy and the governorship of a province, and turned the latter, from the mere prolongation of a Roman magistracy, into an independent office. Like magistracies at Rome a provincial governorship was regularly held for one year ; but, unlike them, it could be prolonged, formerly by a vote of the people, later by a decree of the senate. The Julian law of Caesar (46 B.c.) enacted that the governorship of a consular province should be held for two, that of a praetorian province for one year. The necessary supplies of men and money were voted to the governor by the senate. His staff consisted of one or more lieu-tenants (legati), a quaestor, and numerous subordinates. The lieu-tenants were nominated by the senate from men of senatorial rank ; if they proved incompetent, the governor dismissed them ; if they showed ability, he entrusted them with military or judicial functions. As to the quaestor, see QUAESTOR. Besides these the governor took with him from Rome a number of young men of the upper classes to assist him in the government. These were known as the companions (comités) or suite of the governor, some-times, but incorrectly, as the praetorian cohort (see PRAETORIANS). These members of his suite were chosen by the governor himself, who was responsible for them, but they were maintained at the expense of the state, and under the empire received regular pay. In addition there was a crowd of beadles, clerks, couriers, criers, doctors, dragomans, &c, not to speak of freedmen and slaves for the personal service of the governor. Under the republic the governor was not allowed to take his wife with him to his province ; under the empire he might do so, but he was answerable for her conduct. Before setting out for his province the governor, clad in the purple military robe of his office, offered sacrifice on the Capitol ; then immediately after receiving the imperium or military command he marched out of the city (for the imperium could only be exercised outside of Rome and was forfeited by staying in the city), preceded by his sergeants (lictores), and accompanied by his suite. He was bound to travel direct to his province ; the means of transport were supplied partly by the state, partly by the pro-vinces through which he travelled. His year of office began from the day he set foot in his province, but the time of arrival varied with the length and difficulty of the route. In the hands of the governor all powers military and civil were united. He commanded all the troops in the province, and had power to raise levies of Roman citizens as well as of provincials, and to make requisitions of war material. He possessed both criminal and civil jurisdiction ; as criminal judge he had the power of life and death, and from his sentence none but Roman citizens could appeal ; as civil judge he was guided partly by the charter of the province (lex provincial), partly by the edict which it was customary for him to issue before his entrance on office (compare PRAETOR), partly by the original laws of the country so far as their validity was acknowledged by the charter or by the governor's own edict. Under the empire Gains wrote a commentary on the provincial edict, and it is usually supposed that this was a general edict drawn up for use in all the provinces and superseding all separate edicts for the different pro-vinces. Mommsen, however, is of opinion that Gaius only com-mented on the edict of a particular province.

Condition of the Provinces under the Republic.—Under the republic the Roman people regarded the provinces as so many estates from which they were to derive revenue. The weal or woe of the provincials was of no moment, but the development of. the materia!resources of the provinces was of great moment. Hence agriculture and commerce were encouraged, settlements were made, roads and aqueducts were constructed ; in short, the Roman aimed at exploiting his empire by a system of prudent economy as far as possible removed from the blind rapacity which has turned the empire of the Turk from a garden into a wilderness. But the Roman governors w7ere too apt to look on their provinces as their own peculiar prey ; they had usually bought their way to office at vast expense, and they now sought in the provinces the means of reimbursing themselves for the expenditure they had incurred at Rome. The annual change of governor was thus a frightful calamity to the provincials, for every year brought a repetition of the same extravagant demands to be met by the same or, as the province became exhausted, still heavier sacrifices. Redress was to be had originally by a complaint to the senate ; after 149 B.c. there was a regular court established at Rome for the trial of cases of oppression (repetundx) by provincial governors. But, even when after much trouble and expense the provincials had arraigned their oppressor, it was difficult to secure his condemnation at the hands of juries composed (as they usually were) of men who had a fellow-feeling for the offender because they had themselves committed or hoped for means of committing similar offences. Besides the governor, two classes of harpies joined in wringing the utter-most farthing from the unhappy provincials. These were the publicans or farmers of the taxes, and the money-lenders (negoti-atores), who supplied a temporary accommodation at ruinous rates of interest. Both these classes were recruited from the ranks of the Roman knights, and, since from the legislation of Caius Gracchus (122 B.C.) the juries were drawn at first exclusively and after Sulla's time (81 B.C.) partially from the knightly order, the provincial governor could not check the excesses of those blood-suckers without risking a condemnation at the hands of their brethren. Accordingly he generally made common cause with them, backing their exactions when needful by military force.

The Provinces under the Empire.—Under the empire the provinces fared much better. The monarchy tended to obliterate the distinction between Romans and provincials by reducing both to a common level of subjection to the emperor, who meted out equal justice to all his subjects. The first centuries of our era were pro-bably for some of the countries included in the Roman empire the happiest in their history ; Gibbon indeed fixed on the period from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus (96-180 A.D.) as the happiest age of the world.

Augustus, in 27 B.C., divided the provinces into imperial and senatorial. Those which, from their proximity to the frontier or the turbulance of their population, required the presence of an army were placed under the direct control of the emperor; those which needed no troops were left to be administered by the senate. (1) The senatorial provinces were ruled by an annual governor as under the republic. Of these provinces Augustus ordained that Africa and Asia should be consular, the rest praetorian; hut all the governors of the senatorial provinces were now called proconsuls. Their powers and dignities were much the same as they had been under the republic, except that they had now no troops, or only a handful to maintain order. (2) The imperial provinces were governed by imperial lieutenants (legati Cmsaris), who were nominated by the emperor and held office at his pleasure ; all of them had the power of the sword (jus gladii). For the administration of the finances these lieu-tenants had procurators under them, while the governors of the senatorial provinces continued to have quaestors as under the republic. Another class of imperial provinces consisted of those which from the physical nature of the country (as the Alpine districts) or the backward state of civilization (as Mauretania and Thrace) or the stubborn character of the people (as Judaea and Egypt) were not adapted to receive a regular provincial constitu-tion. These were regarded as domains of the emperor, and were managed by a procurator (in the case of Egypt by a praefect, see PREFECT) nominated by and responsible to the emperor.

Under the empire all provincial governors received a fixed salary. Complaints against them were brought before the senate, and the accusers were allowed a senator to act as their advocate. The lengthened periods during which the governors, at least in the imperial provinces, held office, together with the oversight exercised by the emperor, alleviated materially the position of the provincials under the empire. In order to keep himself well informed of what was passing in the empire, Augustus established a post whereby official despatches were forwarded by couriers and official persons were conveyed by coaches. The post, however, was only for the use of the Government; no private person was allowed, unless by an exceptional concession, to avail himself of
it. (J. G. FR.)

The above article was written by: J. G. Frazer.

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