Roman province

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Map of the Roman Empire, with the provinces, after 120 AD.

In Ancient Rome, a province (Latin, provincia, pl. provinciae) was the largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's foreign possessions (those beyond the Italian peninsula). The word province in modern English has its origins in the term used by the Romans.

Provinces were generally governed by politicians of senatorial rank, usually former consuls or former praetors. (A later exception was the province of Egypt, incorporated by Augustus after the death of Cleopatra - it was ruled by a governor of equestrian rank only, perhaps as a discouragement to senatorial ambition).

Under the Roman Republic, the governor of a province was appointed for a period of one year. At the beginning of the year, the provinces were distributed to future governors by lots or direct appointment. Normally, the provinces where more trouble was expected - either from barbaric invasions or internal rebellions - were given to former consuls, men of the greatest prestige and experience. The distribution of the legions across the provinces was also dependent of the amount of danger that they represented. In 14 AD, for instance, the province of Lusitania had no permanent legion but Germania Inferior, where the Rhine frontier was still not pacified, had a garrison of four legions. These problematic provinces were the most desired by future governors. Problems meant war, and war always brought plunder, slaves to sell and opportunities for enrichment. Sicilia (the island of Sicily) constituted the first Roman province from 241 BC, having been progressively conquered by the Republic during the First Punic War (264 - 241 BC).

The number and size of provinces changed according with internal Roman politics. During the Empire, the biggest or more garrisoned provinces (example Pannonia and Moesia) were subdivided into smaller provinces in order to prevent the situation whereby a sole governor held too much power in his hands, thus discouraging ambition for the Imperial throne itself.

With the formation of the Principate after the civil wars which ended the Roman Republican period, Augustus retained the power to choose governors for the provinces in which he and his successors held supreme military and administrative control. Thus the more strategically critical provinces, generally located along the contested borders of the Empire, became Imperial provinces. The remaining provinces were maintained as Senatorial provinces, in which the Senate had the right to appoint a governor.


List of Republican provinces

List of Roman provinces in 120 AD

  1. Hispania Baetica
  2. Lusitania
  3. Hispania Terraconensis
  4. Gallia Narbonensis (the Roman province; the term persists in the medieval and modern name Provence)
  5. Gallia Aquitania
  6. Gallia Lugdunensis
  7. Gallia Belgica
  8. Britannia
  9. Germania Inferior
  10. Germania Superior
  11. Raetia
  12. Italia
  13. Sicilia
  14. Corsica et Sardinia
  15. Alpes Poeninae
  16. Alpes Cottiae
  17. Alpes Maritimae
  18. Noricum
  19. Pannonia
  20. Dalmatia
  21. Dacia
  22. Moesia
  23. Thracia
  24. Macedonia
  25. Epirus
  26. Achaea
  27. Asia
  28. Bithynia
  29. Galatia
  30. Lycaonia
  31. Lycia
  32. Pisidia
  33. Pamphylia
  34. Cilicia et Cyprus
  35. Cappadocia
  36. Pontus
  37. Armenia Inferior
  38. Sophene
  39. Osroene
  40. Commagene
  41. Syria
  42. Iudaea
  43. Arabia Petraea
  44. Aegyptus
  45. Cyrenaica (including Creta)
  46. Numidia
  47. Africa
  48. Mauretania
  49. Baleares (province)

List of Roman Provinces till circa 400AD

Although emperor Diocletian's reform known as Tetrarchy (284-305; a western and and eastern Augustus or senior emperor, each seconded by a junior emperor (and designated successor) or Caesar, each defending and administering a quarter of the empire) was not to last, the four quarters were definitely reinstored in 318 by emperor Constantine the Great, as pretorian prefectures, though under only two emperors (final division by Theodosion in 395 AD); their two capitals, Rome (again, but in the end de facto left for Ravenna) and (since 359) Constantinople, each had a special governor, with the ancient style Praefectus Urbis.

Diocletian's original 12 dioceses (each under a Vicarius) also persisted, but three more were created by splits in the fourth century (in the Western empire Italia was split in two and in the east Egypt was detached from Oriens).

By far the most detailed information at any given time being contained in the Notitia dignitatum, from the early Vth century, it is from this authentic imperial source with indisputable authority (except for an occasional spelling mistake or omission in the process of copying) that we draw most data, as the names of the circonscription and titels of the governors given here.

It is certainly interesting to compare this with the list of military territories in the article Dux (listing both Duces, in charge of borther garrisons of limes-forticatons, AND the higher ranking Comites rei militaris, with more mobile forces, also grouped by diocesis). For the subsequent Byzantine phases, see Exarch and Thema

Praetorian prefecture of GALLIAE

In Latin, Gallia was also sometimes used as a general term for all Celtic peoples and their territories, such as all Britons, while the Germanic and Iberian provinces had a mixed, largely Celtic population.

Diocese of Britanniae

Diocese of Galliae

The same plural as the prefecture, though only containing half of Gaul proper, spread over several modern countries : In France:

  • Lugdunensis I
  • Lugdenensis II
  • Lugdunensis III
  • Lugdunensis IV

all of Belgium and Luxemburg and the Netherlands south of the Rhine:

Germany west of the Rhine:

Switzerland ('Helvetic' tribes) :

Diocese of Viennensis

Named after Vienna city (now Vienne), and entirely in present France; originally part of Caesar's newly conquered province of transalpine Gallia (but a separate diocesis from the start)

Diocese of Hispaniae

Again a plural; the Latin Hispania means the entire Iberian pensinsula: -In present Spain :

... plus the mediterranean islands :

- modern Portugal is in

  • Lusitania which covers a neighbouring part of Spain

-in modern Morocco

Praetorian prefecture of Italia et Africa (western)

  • Originally there was a single diocese of Italia, but it got split north-south.

Diocese of Italia annonaria

This name refers to taxes in kind ...

Diocese of Italia suburbicaria

The name names neighbouring Rome, the old capital, which was to see the emperor move to Ravenna in the other diocese

It includes the islands, which had long not been considered Italian, givan there different ethnic stock (e.g. Sicily was named after the Siculi) and history of piracy :

Diocese of Africa

(note above that the western most part was in the other western diocese)

Prefecture of ILLYRICUM (eastern, but disputed since 337)

Named after the former province of Illyria, roughly Yugoslavia, named after barbarous tribes, whose name was no longer preserved.

The original diocese of Moesiae (again a plural) was split in two dioceses : Macedonia and the latest aquisition, Dacia..

Diocese of Pannoniae

Again a plural This had been the only diocese in the eastern quarters of the tetrarchy not belonging to the cultural Greek half of the empire (the same goes for Dacia), and was transferred to the western empire when Theodosius fixed the final split in 395

Diocese of Dacia

The fierce people for which it was named, also on the Danube border, conquered by Traian, was the last aquisition in Rome's expansive phase, and would even by deliberately abandoned again.

Diocese of Macedonia

Prefecture of ORIENS ('the EAST')

As the rich home territory of the increasingly predominant eastern emperor, the Eastern prefecture would persist as the core of the Byzantine Empire (the new name of the eastern empire, after the latinzed original Greek name of he new capital, sic), long after the fall of Rome. Its pretorian prefecture would be the last to survive, but was transformed into an essentially internal minister.

Diocese of Thraciae

The eastern-most corner of the Balkans that was not part of the (western) Illyricum prefecture

Diocese of Asiana

An alternative plural form, literally 'the asian ones'. Asia (or Asia Minor) in antiquity stands for Anatolia; this diocese only covers the rich western part of the peninsula, mainly near the Aegean.

... and the ajoining (now mostly Greek) Aegean islands in the aptly named province Insulae

Diocese of Pontus

The name is latinize from Greek Pontos (Euxinos), i.e. the (Black) Sea, but is also inherited from a major hellenistic kingdom

Indeed it mainly contains parts of Asia minor near those coasts (as well as the mountainous centre of Turkey).

Diocese of Oriens

The Eastern diocese shares its geographic name with the prefecture, even after it lost its rich part, Egypt, becoming a separate diocese; but militarily crucial on the Persian (Sassanid) border and unruly desert tribes. It comprized mainly the modern Arabic Machrak (Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine/-Israel and Jordan) except for the desert hinterland :

Further it contained the southeastern coast of Asia Minor ...

... and one ajoining island, now independent :

Diocese of Aegyptus

Egypt, the rich granery and traditional 'pharaonic' crown domain of the emperors, was the only diocese (created by a split from Oriens) that was NOT under a vicarius, but whose head retained the unique title (previously at the governor's level) of Praefectus Augustalis. All but one, the civilian governors were of the modest rank of Praeses provinciae.

  • Aegyptus specifically came to designate Lower Egypt, previously two provinces, named after the pagan titles of the two emperors under Diocletian : Aegyptus Iovia (from Juppiter, for the Augustus; with the metropole Alexandria) and Aegyptus Herculia (for his junior, the Caesar; with ancient Memphis)

+Augustamnica is a part of the delta (thirteen 'cities'), split off ? - the only Egyptian province under a Corrector (lowest ranking governor)

  • Thebais is Upper Egypt; Nubia south of Philae had been abondoned to tribal people
  • Arcadia ... (NOT Arcadia in Greece)

Apart from modern Egypt, it also comprizes the former province of Cyrenaica, being the east of modern Libya (an ancient name for the whole African continent as well), split in two provinces, each under a praeses again :

(Tripolitania, western Libya, was part of the western diocese of Africa; the desert tribes of Phazania, modern Fezzan, in the south, remained outside)

External linkömische Provinz

fr:Province romaine it:Provincia romana he:פרובינקיה רומית nl:Romeinse provincie no:Romersk provins pl:Prowincje rzymskie pt:Província romana


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