The Roman Empire was made up of several geographic territories called provinces. Each province fell under the control of a provincial governor. There were 3 types of provinces and several classifications of governor. In 180 AD Provincial governors were still mainly drawn from the Senate. The provincial types were broken down as follows:
Imperial Provinces Governed by Senators
The emperor was the
Proconsul of all provinces with any significant military force,
with the exceptions of Africa and Aegyptus. In 180 AD there
appears to have been 28 Imperial provinces. Those provinces
with at least one legion stationed in them had a senatorial
governor called a Legatus Propraetore Augusti (imperial legate
of praetorian rank). The imperial governors were technically
below the level of a senatorial proconsul and had five lictors
instead of six.
This formal distinction had no real significance
since the legate was the representative of the governor, but
officially they were lower in rank because they were subordinates
of the Emperor, who was theoretically the actual governor.
In provinces with one legion, the legate in charge of the
province (normally of praetorian rank) also controlled the
legion himself. In provinces with more than one legion, like
the Germanies, Syria and Cappadocia, each legion was commanded
by its own legate of praetorian rank, while the province as
a whole was commanded by a legate of consular rank who could
dictate general control over the entire army stationed there.
These governorships were completely at the whim of the Emperor
and could serve anywhere from 1 to 5 years.
Imperial Provinces Governed by Equestrians
The Emperor also
had under his control a number of smaller, but potentially
difficult provinces that did not need an entire legion. These
provinces were put under the control of governors of equestrian
status. Under the early Empire their title was Praefectus
like that of the governor of Egypt, but later the title became
procurator. New conquests generally fell into this equestrian
category but most were later changed in status to reflect
varying conditions in Roman control. Like the other Imperial
provinces, the governors could serve any length of time up
to 5 years or longer.
Much like the Senatorial
province of Africa, the equestrian province of Aegyptus was
an exception to the rule of Legions stationed only in Imperial
provinces. Egypt was not a normal province like any other.
It was considered the personal possession of the Emperor and
the governor, the Praefectus Aegytpi was considered the highest
ranking equestrian post during the early empire. Later, the
post would fall second to that of the Praetorian command,
but its position was still very prestigious.
Duties of the Governor
The governor of
any Roman province had four major tasks. First, he was responsible
for taxes and financial concerns. As the emperor's personal,
or the Senate's financial agent, he had to supervise
the local authorities and the private tax collectors. A governor
could mint coins and negotiate with wealthy institutions like
temples and money-lenders that could advance the money.
The second task
was that of the chief accountant. He inspected the books of
major cities and various operations and supervised large scale
Aside from these
financial duties, the governor was the province's supreme
judge. The governor had the sole right to inflict the death
penalty and capital cases were normally tried before him.
Appeal was not impossible, but getting to Rome and an audience
with the Emperor was expensive. Appeal was unlikely to change
matters anyway, as a Governor wouldn't generally take
the chance of convicting someone who the Emperor would not
like to be convicted. The governor was also supposed to travel
through the main districts of his province to administer justice
in the major towns.
Finally, as previously alluded to, he commanded an army. In
the more important provinces, this could consist of legions;
but elsewhere, there were only auxiliaries. As a part of his
standing orders, the governor had the authority to use his
legion to stamp out organized brigands in the area without
need for Imperial approval.
had at his disposal a various number of advisers and staff,
who were known as his comites ('companions'), the number depending
on his social standing and rank. Military Legates relied heavily
upon their Tribunus Augusticlavii and others could have Senatorial
Quaestors or non magistrate Procurators.