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Roman Provincial Administration Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History; 46 BC to 54 AD Notes

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Roman Provincial Administration Strategies employed in governing the provinces The Augustan Settlement


The Augustan settlement of 23 BC divided the provinces of the empire into two groups; the first which were supposedly the most troublesome provinces the new princeps kept for himself the other he gave back to the senate and people of Rome to govern as they always had done under the Republic. However this division was merely to maintain constitutional propriety under which the fledgling principate could grow; the evidence shows that the emperor gave instructions to both types of provinces equally and took it upon himself to change their status freely, as Suetonius tells us: "Augustus kept for himself all the more vigorous provinces- those that could not be safely administered by an annual governor; the remainder went to the senatorial governors chosen by lot. Yet, as occasion arose, he would change the status of provinces from imperial to senatorial and paid frequent visits to both sorts" (DA 47).


The only real difference between them was the title of their governors and the way in which they were chosen. The imperial provinces were ruled by legates or procurators chosen personally by the emperor and could expect to spend several years in the post and in the senatorial provinces proconsuls were chosen by lot and served a term of only one year in the old republican manner. These two types of governor did not differ in the imperium they exercised in their provinces nor in the way they received their overall instructions; the emperor made all the regulations now and unlike under the republic proconsuls were not responsible to the senate. This division of the provinces did not, in reality, actually show a division of responsibility and authority.

The Emperor


Under the Principate all responsibility for governing the provinces ultimately rested with the emperor himself and the evidence shows that the early emperors were industrious in their personal involvement. Augustus answered all correspondence sent to him by the governors personally, as the story of him removing a legate for illiteracy shows, and as soon as he was given maius imperium in 23 he wrote to the governors with instructions and produced edicts for the peoples of the provinces.


It was from this that the habit of emperors to issue mandata was born; the first epigraphic evidence of which is from the reign of Tiberius and are addressed to Sextus Strabo, legate of Galatia and Germanicus Caesar, proconsul in the East.

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