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1 The basic meaning of provincia is the sphere in which a magistrate (perhaps originally a magistrate with imperium) is to function. See magistracy, roman. By the 3rd cent. bc, the two consuls normally had their provinciae assigned by the senate or by mutual agreement; later allotment was normal. A law of Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (123) provided that the senate was to decide, before the consular elections, in a vote protected against tribunician intercessio, which provinciae were to be consular: this was to prevent personal or political influences on that decision. At the beginning of the year the senate would decide which provinciae were to be praetorian (and, before 123, consular): for these, the magistrates would then draw lots. Any others would be filled by designated promagistrates (see pro consule, pro praetore). By the late 3rd cent., a magistrate or promagistrate was expected to confine his activities to his provincia, except in emergencies or by special permission. By 171 this had become a formal rule, enforced by the senate. It was at various times reaffirmed in legislation on provincial administration.

Originally the two consuls normally divided all duties between them. Since they had to campaign nearly every year, a praetor with imperium was appointed and given the provincia urbana (affairs in the city, esp. legal business and the presidency of the senate and legislative assemblies when necessary). Until c.100, when consuls began to stay in Rome usually, this remained his task, but he came to specialize in civil law and in the end to confine himself to this. A second praetor was created at the end of the First Punic War, probably to supervise the newly ‐won territory of Punic Sicily and perhaps later Sardinia. In 227 two new praetors were created for these overseas provinciae and the second praetor, though freely used in fighting in the Second Punic War, was normally assigned to judicial duties in the city, in due course those affecting foreigners (hence the popular title praetor peregrīnus, ‘peregrine’). Two more praetors were created in 198/7, to command in the two newly won territories in Spain, hitherto in the charge of private citizens with special imperium. Henceforth the word provincia, although it never lost its original meaning, was mainly used for overseas territories under permanent Roman administration, i.e. it came mainly to mean ‘province’; but the two city provinciae were higher in prestige. By the second century provincial commanders were attended by quaestors. The praetor of Sicily, where the territory of Syracuse, annexed in the Second Punic War, remained under its traditional administration, was given two quaestors. Characteristically of Roman conservatism, he retained the two quaestors to the end of the republic, even after the administration of Sicily was unified on the more profitable model of the old kingdom of Syracuse.

After 197 the senate was unwilling to create more praetors (see praetor) and, so on the whole to annex more territory. Macedonia was ‘freed’ after the battle of Pydna; Numidia was not annexed after Jugurtha's defeat; Transalpine Gaul (see gaul (transalpine )), which provided the land connection with Spain, was not organized as a province until after the wars with the Cimbri and their allies (see marius) had shown the danger this presented; Cyrene was not properly organized until the 60s; and the bequest of Egypt by Ptolemy X (87) was refused by Sulla. But some annexation became necessary, or was regarded as such: Macedonia and Africa (the territory of Carthage; see africa, roman) in 146, Asia (129), Transalpine Gaul after 100. Unwillingness to create more praetors meant that the traditional city‐state system of (in principle) annual magistracies was abandoned and promagistrates became an integral part of imperial administration. New quaestors were probably created, since quaestors, at that time not even guaranteed membership of the senate, did not endanger the political system. In 123–2, Gaius Gracchus, reforming the extortion court, put a praetor in charge of it. Over the next generation, other quaestiones were established on this model, so that by c.90 most, perhaps all, praetors were occupied in Rome during their year of office. Since consuls were not involved in routine provincial government, provinces were almost entirely left to promagistrates. As early as 114, the urban praetor Marius was sent as proconsul to Spain after his year of office—a major innovation as far as our records go. By the nineties praetors serving in the city might expect to be sent overseas the following year. Major foreign wars, the Social War and civil wars added to the strain on the system, and tenures of promagistrates increased until they could reach six years. This, combined with the growth of the client army (see marius ), posed a serious danger to the republic, as Sulla soon showed.


Subjects: Classical Studies.

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