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The Roman system of provincial administration to the accession of Constantine the Great, being the Arnold prize essay for 1879 online

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the norm for the municipal charters of Roman and Latin towns
in the provinces; and in the law of Malaga published under
Domitian we find the following clause : ' In the case of money
demanded in the name of the municipium from any citizen 6 or
settler 7 , if the sum is not less than 1000 sesterces, and not so
great as to [come within the jurisdiction of the proconsul, let
the duumvir or prefect decide about it 8 ] .' It appears then that
the more important civil cases and the great mass of the

1 Cic. in Verr. iii. 22, 24, 25. * Ib. iv. 15, 40.

3 The existing fragments of the Lex Rubria are printed ; C. I. L. i. p. 115.

4 This can be made out from 116 of the law ; C. I. L. i. p. 119.

5 This is a conjecture of Mommsen, but is supported by the analogy of
the Pro Cluentio, 64-66.

6 ' Municeps.' T ' Incola.'

8 69 of the Lex Malacitana ; C. I. L. i. p. 260. The words in brackets
are the certain supplement of Mommsen.


criminal cases would regularly come before the Roman gover-
nor, and the minor civil cases, the ordinary law business of daily
life, before the duumvirs of the towns of Roman constitution, or
the other local magistrates of non-Roman towns; while the
difficulties of having two different codes of law existing side
by side gradually disappeared, as the provincial towns adopted
the Roman law in preference to their own \ and so paved the
way for the bestowal upon them of the regular municipal

In the performance of his judicial functions the governor
was armed with absolute powers. In theory, though no doubt
this was much mitigated in practice, the provinces were per-
petually under martial law. The governor was, in the first
place and before all, commander-in-chief, and the rods and
axes which had to be laid down on his return to Rome
attended him everywhere throughout his province. So he
could punish with imprisonment or death ; and no one, unless
he were a Roman citizen, would in strictness have a right of
appeal. This was perhaps the chief advantage of being a
Roman citizen in the provinces, and the one most coveted by
the provincials. In civil cases, however, it appears that some-
times a second trial was allowed by a new governor, on
security for double the amount at issue being deposited by the
appellant 2 .

The governor had also large powers in the matter of finance. Finance.
It was the quaestor who kept the accounts ; but it depended
mainly upon the governor whether the sums transmitted to Rome
were large or small 3 ; and it was in his power to remit 4 and
probably to impose taxation. Above all, his dealings with the
farmers of the taxes were most important for the welfare or
misery of his province. In Cicero's opinion the right manage-

1 Cic pro Balbo, 8 ; Ortolan's Roman Law, Part I. 187.

2 Cic. pro Flacco, 2 1 .

3 In Sicily, for instance, this would depend upon how the tithes were sold ;
and the whole of the Verrines shows the influence the governor had in this
respect. * Cic. in Verr. v. 9 ; ad Fam. iii. 7.


ment of these gentry was the prime difficulty of a governor.
It was dangerous and troublesome to quarrel with them ; and
on the other hand, if left to their own devices, there was no
hope for the provincials 1 . There are indications that Cicero
himself was not resolute enough to control them as he should
have done 2 ; just as he was certainly too indulgent to those
other harpies of the provinces, the Roman bankers.
Absolute The authority possessed by the governor was then, in its
thegover- reference to the provincials at all events, essentially absolute.
".^ sautho ~It was recognised to be such by the Romans themselves 3 ; and
the restrictions which they sought to put upon his action shows
this in a clear light. It was apparently illegal, or at all events
invidious, for a governor to buy anything in his province ; and
to obviate the necessity of his doing so, he was provided with
everything that he could be supposed to want at the public
expense 4 . Why was this ? ' Because they thought it a theft,
not a purchase, when the seller could not sell at his own price.
And they knew very well that if a provincial governor wanted
to purchase something that was in another man's possession,
and was allowed to do so, that it would come to this, that he
would get whatever he pleased, whether it was for sale or not,

1 Ad Qu. Fr. i. i. 13.

2 Cic. ad Att. vi. i. 16; vi. 2 and 3. Such phrases as 'cumulate
publicanis satisfactum,' ' publicanis in oculis sumus,' ' publicanos habeo
in deliciis ' are significant.

3 Cic. in Verr. iv. 17 ; ad Qu. Fr. i. i. 8.

* It is commonly said that the governors were not salaried in this period,
and in the strict sense they were not. In theory the provincial as the
urban magistrates were sufficiently compensated for their labours by the
glory of being allowed to serve their country. But besides that they had
no expenses of maintenance or travel (Dio Cassius, lii. 1 5 ; Cic. in Verr. v.
5, vi. 18 and 32; Mommsen, ii. 338), the sums allowed them for the
expenses of the administration were on so lavish a scale that it was easy to
save largely out of them, and probably few governors acted like Cicero in
refusing to keep what thus remained over, either for himself or his retinue
(Cic. ad Att. vii. i. 6). The vasarium or outfit of Piso, governor of Macedonia,
was 1 8 million sesterces. Cic. in Pis. 35: 'Nonne sestertium centies et
octogies, quod, quasi vasarii nomine, in venditione mei capitis ascripseras,
ex aerario tibi attributum, Romae in quaestu reliquisti ?'


at whatever price he chose to give for it V The same thing
is illustrated by the story Cicero tells of the conduct of Lucius
Piso, when praetor of Further Spain 2 . He had lost his gold
ring ; so he sent for a goldsmith, while seated on his tribunal
at Corduba, and weighed him out the necessary amount of
gold. He then ordered the man to set up his bench in the
forum, and there and then make the ring in the presence of
every one. This was affectation no doubt, but affectation is not
often so significant. The fact is that in his province the
governor was a king ; the praetor of Sicily indeed lived in
Hiero's palace 3 . Cicero takes credit to himself that he did not,
like other governors, make difficulties about admitting any one
to audience, and employed no chamberlain whose interven-
tion it was first necessary to secure 4 . He speaks exactly as-
a Louis XIV might have spoken. A formidable and impressive
figure must a governor, even a good one, have been to the
provincials, holding as he did in his hands the issues of life and
death, and all powerful for worldly weal and worldly woe.
They familiarised themselves with that austere figure later on,
when better protected against its will. They even came close
enough to it to discover that if the sword was steel the rest of
the figure was sometimes of clay ; but they never quite lost
the spell, in this period so strong, of the

Heart-shaking sound of consul Romanus.-

SECTION III. The Governor s Subordinates.

i. The provincial quaestors were perhaps originally instituted
with the idea of lessening the power of the governor by sub-
ducting from it all financial functions 5 . In Sicily there were
two quaestors, and one in every other province. We do not

1 Cic. in Verr. v. 5. * Ib. v. 25. s Ib. vi. 12.

4 Cic ad Alt. vi. 2. 5 ; cf. ad Qu. Fr. i. i. 8. 25.

5 This is Mommsen's view, ii. 67.


The certainly know their full number before Sulla 1 ; but only that

he raised it to twenty ; and Caesar after him to forty. When
the quaestor left Rome he took with him the chest containing
the money which was to supply all the expenses of the adminis-
tration, and into which the taxes of the province were paid : of
all these at the end of his term of office he had to render
account 2 . He had his own jurisdiction, corresponding to that
of the aediles at Rome 3 ; or the governor could if he pleased
delegate to him his judicial authority. Thus we find young
Caesar sent round Baetica by his praetor for the administration
of justice 4 . The quaestor also had military duties, partly con-
nected with the levying and equipment of troops 5 , and partly
with the direct leadership of men, at all events in times of
emergency 6 . Cicero left his quaestor as governor of the pro-
vince, in the interval between his own departure and the arrival
of his successor 7 ; and under the Empire we find a quaestor
governing a province for ten years continuously 8 . The quaes-
tors were not directly appointed by the governors, but assigned
to the different provinces by lot 9 . Caesar and Pompey were
guilty of a considerable irregularity when they directly appointed
their quaestors without the previous observance of this form 10 .
Though their appointment was of this fortuitous character, the
Romans laid great stress upon the almost paternal relationship
which existed or should exist between the quaestor and his
superior u . This was natural enough, considering that the
quaestors were always quite young men at the outset of their
career; but it had important practical consequences. It was,
for instance, an impossible impiety for a quaestor to give
evidence against the consul or praetor under whom he had

1 Mommsen, iii. 360, note, 369, note. Tac., Ann. xi. 22, gives a sort of
history of the quaestorship

* Cic. in Verr. ii. 14. 3 Gaius, i. 6 ; Marquardt, i. 390.

4 Suet. Jul. 7 ; Cic. Div. in Caec. 17. * Plut. Sert. 4.

Cic. Phil. x. 6. 7 Cic. ad Alt. vi. 6. 3. Suet. Otho, 3.

9 Marquardt, i. 388, and his authorities. lo Cic. ad Art. vi. 6. 4.

u Add to Marquardt's references, Pliny, Epist. iv. 15.


served in a province *. At the same time it was expected of
him that he should exercise some sort of control upon a tyran-
nical superior 2 ; and the governor was accustomed to take his
advice in important matters 3 . On the other hand, his superior
could quash a legal decision of his 4 , and could even (though
this would be an extreme course), if he chose, dismiss him 6 .

2. There were, as a rule, three legates in a consular, one in The
a praetorian province. Their appointment was an indefeasible e *
privilege of the Senate, which could vary their number at plea-
sure, and in special cases increased it to ten, and even fifteen.
The governor would however let the Senate know whom he
wished appointed, and as a rule no doubt his request would be
complied with. The governor generally proposed relatives or
friends for the office ; they were his subordinates and he was
responsible for them. If they proved incompetent he dropped
them; if the contrary, they received a district to look after,
with the fasces but without the axe, possessing jurisdiction in
civil cases but not in criminal. If a legate won a victory it was
the governor who received the credit of it, as the legate could
not take his own ' auspices 6 .' The harm an ill-disposed legate
could do was very considerable ; Verres was nearly as mis-
chievous when legate, as he was when praetor 7 ; and if the
provincials complained, the governor refused to decide the
matter himself, as not within his jurisdiction, but referred them

to Rome 8 .

3. The comites were something like our attache's or secre- The
taries of legation, young Romans of birth who were taken 00
into the provinces to learn the business of administration. So
Cicero took with him his son, his nephew, and a relation of
Atticus. Catullus was a conies of C. Memmius in Bithynia.
The comites were chosen by the governor, who was responsible
for their good behaviour. They were supported at the public

1 Cic. Div. in Caec. 18, 19. a Ib. 10. * Cic. in Verr. vi. 44.

4 Cic. Div. in Caec. 17. 5 Cic. in Verr. iv. 58.

8 Summarised from Marquardt, i. 387, and his authorities.

7 Cic. in Verr. i. 4, ii. 16. * Ib. ii. 19.


charge, and their number could be controlled by the Senate '.
A position as comes gave a man a good opportunity of
looking after any property he might possess in the pro-
vince 2 ; or was accepted with the undisguised motive of
making a little money. Catullus' object in expatriating himself
to Bithynia seems to have been nothing more respectable 3 , and
Cicero apparently transgressed use and wont when he refused
to divide the 8000 saved from the allowance made for admi-
nistration, among his subordinates*. Their influence in the
province may be gathered from the epithets applied to them by
Horace 5 ; and on the other hand from the remark of Cicero,
that Verres' retinue did Sicily more harm than would have been
done by a hundred troops of fugitive slaves 6 .

The 4. Besides other minor officials, the dragomans, interpreters,

bailifs, lictors, architects 7 (meaning rather what we should call
engineers), there were also the prefects. Strictly speaking,
these were three in number, and all of a military character 8 ;
but the prefecture, for which Scaptius asked Cicero, and which
Cicero refused to give to any Roman negotiator, seems to have
had judicial duties connected with it. The L. Volusius whom
Cicero sent to Cyprus to administer justice 9 was not a legate,
for we know the names of Cicero's four legates from another
passage 10 , but probably a praefectus, and it was for the post
which he held that Scaptius asked. Roman money-lenders
asked for these appointments for the sake of the small military
force that went with them, and which enabled them to put

1 Marquardt, i. 391, and his authorities. 2 Cic. pro Caelio, 30.

3 Catullus, ix. 9. 13, xxviii. 6. 9 ; Ellis' Commentary, p. 1.

* Cic. ad Att. vii. i. 6.

' Stellasque salubres Appellat comites ; ' Horace, Sat. i. 7. 24.

6 Cic. in Verr. iii. 10.

7 Marquardt, i. 393 : also among the attendants of a colonial commission ;
ibid. 429; see Cic. de Leg. Agr. ii. 12 and 13. Under the Empire, at all
events, local talent is used ; see Pliny, Epist. x. 49.

8 Sociorum, castrorum, fabrorum, is Watson's note to Cic. ad Fam.
vii. 5. p. 188.

9 Cic. ad Att. v. 21. 6. 10 Cic. ad Fam. xv. 4. 8.


the screw on procrastinating debtors 1 . And no doubt most
governors were laxer in giving them than was Cicero.

SECTION IV. The control of the Governor by the Senate.

Besides the fact that in the great majority of cases a governor
owed his appointment to the Senate, there were a number of
ways in which the Senate could control and influence his action.
The Senate supplied him with the money for his troops 2 , and
it was their decision which settled how large a force his was to
be. Cicero, for instance, complained to the Senate of the in-
sufficient number of troops provided him 3 . A governor was
expected to keep up a regular correspondence with the Senate 4 ,
and was liable to have his policy altered or overridden at their
decree 5 . A governor setting out for his province received their
definite instructions, especially with regard to the conduct he
was to follow with allied states or princes 6 ; and on his return
had to give in his accounts to the Senate 7 , besides leaving one
or more copies in the province 8 . The Senate could also
bestow or refuse the coveted honours of the triumph or suppli-
catio* ; and a governor's arrangements needed their confirmation
to be valid 10 . Any extraordinary illegality on the part of a
governor could be met by their special decree u ; and it was not
apparently in the power of a governor to make requisitions
of ships or money without their consent 12 .

Here are the elements of an efficient control; yet in practice

1 Cic. ad Att. v. 21. 10. Such praefecti are of course quite different from
the prefects of islands, and other small appointments to which it was not
worth while to send a regular governor. These latter were directly appointed
by the Senate with full powers. There was, for instance, a praefect of the
Balearic Islands ; see Mommsen, ii. 74.

2 Plut. Pomp. 20. * Cic. ad Fam. xv. 2. * Cic. in Pis. 16.
5 Cf. Mommsen, ii. 269.

' Caes. B. G. i. 35 ; Cic. ad Fam. xv. 2. 4. 7 Cic. in. Pis. 25.

8 Cic. ad Att. vi. 7. 9 Cic. de Prov. Cons. 7 ; in Pis. 19.

10 Mommsen, iv. 195 ; Pompey's case. u Cic. in Verrem, iii. 39.

18 Cic. pro Flacco, 1 2 ; Mommsen, ii. 298.


inefficiency the senatorial supervision was absurdly inadequate. The Senate

of the sena- j ^ i ! / i i t

torial con- was called to two tasks at once, either of which singly would
perhaps have exceeded its powers, the management namely
of the provinces, and the struggle against the democracy. Just
when the utmost watchfulness, concentration, and unanimity
were needed for foreign affairs, the Senate was distracted and
divided by the party politics of Rome. The instinct of self-
preservation made her turn chiefly to what seemed most nearly
to concern her own welfare; and the reins of empire began
to slip from her slackened grasp. The unauthorised raid of
Manlius Vulso upon Galatia shows this at an early date ; later
on comes Gabinius' impudent entry into forbidden Egypt l .
The magistrates gained steadily upon the Senate. Extraor-
dinary and prolonged commands followed one another in quick
succession ; and such commanders did not trouble themselves
to send in reports or ask advice. Without continuous or efficient
control, the administration became a chaos. Cicero complains
of ' the neglect of provincial affairs 2 ;' and in so far as they
were attended to, they were made the stalking-horse by which
one political party attacked another. To administer rightly the
heterogeneous mass of Roman subjects needed unwearied
diligence at least, and an organisation in thorough working
order. The Senate was too much interested in the other game
it had to play to give itself this enormous trouble ; and not-
withstanding disconnected efforts here and there, the governors
were, if they chose, practically exempt from its control.

SECTION V. The control of the Governor by his Province.

Apart from the definite protection of the law, it was a great
advantage to a provincial to be under the patronage of some
powerful Roman. The governor of the province would be
careful of injuring persons thus protected : ' the Spanish
governors felt that no one could with impunity maltreat the

1 Cic in Pis. 21. 2 Cic. pro Plancio, 26.


clients of Cato V It was a common thing for whole peoples Patrons

to become the clients of the Roman generals who had first and chents -

conquered them 2 . Thus we find a Fabius patron of the Allo-

broges 3 ; the Marcelli of Sicily 4 ; and the elder Cato of Spain 5 .

This patronate was often hereditary; it was so for instance in

the case of the Marcelli, the Fabii, and the Minucii 6 ; and in

the inscriptions recording the clientship of towns or individuals

the relationship is often acknowledged on both sides as valid

for their posterity 7 . The duty of a patron to his clients was

recognised as clearly as in the old days when both patron and

client were Romans 8 . In particular a patron was expected to

further his client's interests, if any business, legal or other,

brought the latter to Rome. The patron of a provincial town

was anxious to secure its advantage 9 ; and the tie must have

been a close and real one if Bononia was specially thanked by

Octavian for joining with the rest of Italy to take his side in the

civil war, regardless of the hereditary clientship between itself

and the Antonii 10 .

But the protection of the patronate was shadowy and unsub- The
stantial compared with the privileges attached to the possession franchise.
of the Roman citizenship. The martial law under which all
other provincials lay, did not apply to him who could say with

1 Mommsen, ii. 339.

2 Cic. de Off. i. n. 35 : 'Ut ii qui civitates aut nationes devictas bello
in fidem recepissent, eorum patroni essent more majorum.' Mommsen,
Romische Forschungen, p. 361.

3 Appian, B. C. ii. 4 ; Merivale, i. 216.
* Liv. xxvi. 32 ; Cic. in Verr. ii. 49.

5 Cic. Div. in Caec. 20. Under the Empire we find a patron of Nar-
bonensis, Henzen, 6954 ; Britain, Orelli, 366 ; not to mention others.
Caesar had been patron of Baetica.

6 Minucius Rufus is mentioned as patron of the Ligurians ; C. I.L. i. p. 73.
no 199 ; a position he owed to his father having conquered the country.

7 Cic. pro Flacco, 22 ; in Verr. v. 41. The common form in the inscrip-
tions is, ' eum cum liberis posterisque suis patronum cooptaverunt "...

' liberos posterosque eorum in fidem clientelamque suam recepit.'

8 Cic. in Verrem, iii. 47 ; Plin. Ep. iii. 4.

9 Cic. ad Fam. xiii. 64. lfl Suet. Aug. 17.


St. Paul 'I am a Roman.' At least four laws were passed
to secure Roman citizens from the rods and axes of the
magistrate l ; and a lex Julia of B.C. 8 punished the magistrate
guilty of putting to death, torturing, flogging or imprisoning a
Roman citizen who had appealed, by outlawry, or, in other words,
' interdiction from fire and water V Only a Roman citizen could
appeal against a decision of the governor 3 ; and the trial of
Rabirius and the banishment of Cicero made it evident that not
even a consul, acting with the authority of the Senate, could
put a citizen to death without trial. It was a minor advantage
that the harbour or octroi duties levied by a free town were
not paid by Roman citizens 4 ; and that they had the almost
exclusive right to serve on provincial juries. The flagrant
violation of all these rights by Verres is in Cicero's eyes perhaps
his most atrocious crime, as it would be the one which would
most surely rouse the indignation of the people of Rome
Cicero says that wars have been waged (as we waged our little
war with Abyssinia) ' because Roman citizens were said to have
been ill-used, or Roman vessels detained, or Roman merchants
robbed 5 ; ' and his indignation becomes scathing and terrible,
as he relates how Roman citizens had been tortured, executed,
even crucified by the orders of a Roman governor.

Unfortunately, though the whole of Italy gained the franchise
in this period, it gained it not otherwise than at the sword's
point; and this great concession was not, for a long time,
followed by similar indulgences to the provincials. Individuals
here and there who had done Rome notable services were
rewarded with the franchise all through this period ; but Caesar
was the first Roman statesman who bestowed it upon whole
provinces. It was generally bestowed for military services.

1 A lex Valeria and three leges Porciae ; C. I. L. i. p. 71 : also, apparently,
a Sempronian Law ; Cic. in Verr. vi. 63.

2 This was the crime of 'vis publica,' mentioned by Tac. Ann. iv. 13 ;
see Church and Brodribb's note, p. 346.

8 Marquardt, i. 396, and his authorities.

4 Marquardt, ii. 263. 5 Cic. in Verr. vi. 5?.


Marius for instance, who was perhaps the first Roman general
to give it without direct senatorial authority, rewarded his Gallic
soldiers with it after Vercellae. Sulla seems to have been
liberal in this respect 1 ; and Pompey claimed the acknowledged
right of a Roman general to make it the reward of loyal service.
The oration delivered by Cicero for Cornelius Balbus, as also
that for the poet Archias, turns upon this question of the
franchise. Apparently the claim of a general to bestow it,
unless he was specially authorised by a previous law 2 , was
in strictness invalid, and actions might be brought against the
enfranchised person. But Cicero does not hesitate to assert
that ' no one ever lost his action who was proved to have been
presented with the franchise by any one of our generals V The
advantages to Rome of being able to reward distinguished
military service by so coveted a prize, are too obvious to need
recommendation by the eloquence of Cicero 4 ; more remarkable
is the fact of its being made the reward for an accuser who had
secured a conviction for extortion 5 . But Julius Caesar after all
was the first to give it with a liberal hand. He enfranchised the
soldiers of his Alaudae legion 6 ; and, if Antony may be trusted,
intended to give Sicily at all events the Latin right 7 . He also
encouraged learning by enfranchising ' all professors of medicine
at Rome, and all teachers of liberal knowledge V If this policy
had been begun earlier, and carried out boldly by a succession
of statesmen, some of the worst miseries under which the pro-
vincials in this period laboured would probably have been

Online LibraryWilliam Thomas ArnoldThe Roman system of provincial administration to the accession of Constantine the Great, being the Arnold prize essay for 1879 → online text (page 6 of 26)