In Ancient Rome, a province (Latin: provincia, pl. provinciae) was the basic and, until the tetrarchy (from 293 AD), the largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside Italy. The word province in Modern English has its origins in the Latin 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 only equestrian rank, perhaps as a discouragement to senatorial ambition. This exception was unique, but not contrary to Roman law, as Egypt was considered Augustus' personal property, following the tradition of the kings of the earlier Hellenistic period.
The Latin term provincia also had a more general meaning of "jurisdiction".
The Latin word provincia originally meant any task or set of responsibilities assigned by the Roman Senate to an individual who held imperium (right of command), which was often a military command within a specified theater of operations. Under the Roman Republic, the magistrates were elected to office for a period of one year, and those serving outside the city of Rome, such as consuls acting as generals on a military campaign, were assigned a particular provincia, the scope of authority within which they exercised their command.
The territory of a people who were defeated in war might be brought under various forms of treaty, in some cases entailing complete subjection (deditio). The formal annexation of a territory created a province, in the modern sense of an administrative unit that is geographically defined. Republican-period provinces were administered in one-year terms by the consuls and praetors who had held office the previous year and who were invested with imperium.
Rome started expanding beyond Italy during the First Punic War. The first permanent provinces to be annexed were Sicilia in 241 BC and Corsica et Sardinia in 237 BC. Militarized expansionism kept increasing the number of these administrative provinces, until there were no longer enough qualified individuals to fill the posts.
The terms of provincial governors often had to be extended for multiple years (prorogatio), and on occasion the senate awarded imperium even to private citizens (privati), most notably Pompey the Great. Prorogation undermined the republican constitutional principle of annual elected magistracies, and the amassing of disproportionate wealth and military power by a few men through their provincial commands was a major factor in the transition from a republic to imperial autocracy.
Gallia Cisalpina (in northern Italy) was a province in the sense of an area of military command, but was never a province in the sense of an administrative unit. During Rome's expansion in the Italian peninsula, the Romans assigned some areas as provinces in the sense of areas of military command assigned to consuls and praetors (not proconsuls or propraetors as in the case of administrative provinces) due to risks of rebellions or invasions. This was applied to Liguria because there was a series of rebellions, Bruttium and to (Calabria) because of perceived risks of rebellion.
In the early days of the Roman presence in Gallia Cisalpina, the issue was rebellion. Later, the issue was risk of invasions by warlike peoples east of Italy. The city of Aquileia was founded to protect northern Italy from invasions. Gaius Julius Caesar granted the inhabitants of this region Roman citizenship and incorporated the region into Italy.
In the so-called Augustan Settlement of 27 BC which established the Roman Empire, the governance of the provinces was regulated. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, having emerged from the Roman civil wars as the undisputed victor and master of the Roman state, officially laid down his powers, and in theory restored the authority of the Roman Senate. Octavian himself assumed the title "Augustus" and was given to govern, in addition to Egypt, the strategically important provinces of Gaul, Hispania and Syria (including Cilicia and Cyprus).
Under Augustus, Roman provinces were classified as either public or imperial, meaning that their governors were appointed by either the senate or by the emperor. Generally, the older provinces that existed under the republic were public. Public provinces were, as before under the republic, governed by a proconsul, who was chosen by lot among the ranks of senators who were ex-consuls or ex-praetors, depending on the province assigned.
The major imperial provinces were under a legatus Augusti pro praetore, also a senator of consular or praetorian rank. Egypt and some smaller provinces where no legions were based were ruled by a procurator (praefectus in Egypt), whom the emperor selected from non-senators of equestrian rank.
The status of a province could change from time to time. In AD 68, of a total 36 provinces, 11 were public and 25 imperial. Of the latter, 15 were under legati and 10 under procuratores or praefecti.
During the principate, the number and size of provinces also changed, either through conquest or through the division of existing provinces. The larger or more heavily garrisoned provinces (for example Syria and Moesia) were subdivided into smaller provinces to prevent any single governor from holding too much power.
Epirus (in western Greece and southern Albania), it was placed under Achaia in 27 BC except for its northernmost part, which remained part of Macedonia.
Emperor Diocletian introduced a radical reform known as the tetrarchy (284–305), with a western and an eastern Augustus or senior emperor, each seconded by a junior emperor (and designated successor) styled caesar, and each of these four defending and administering a quarter of the empire. In the 290s, Diocletian divided the empire anew into almost a hundred provinces, including Italy. Their governors were hierarchically ranked, from the proconsuls of Africa Proconsularis and Asia through those governed by consulares and correctores to the praesides. These last were the only ones recruited from the equestrian class. The provinces in turn were grouped into (originally twelve) dioceses, headed usually by a vicarius, who oversaw their affairs. Only the proconsuls and the urban prefect of Rome (and later Constantinople) were exempt from this, and were directly subordinated to the tetrarchs.
Although the Caesars were soon eliminated from the picture, the four administrative resorts were restored in 318 by Emperor Constantine I, in the form of praetorian prefectures, whose holders generally rotated frequently, as in the usual magistracies but without a colleague. Constantine also created a new capital, known after him as Constantinople, which was sometimes called 'New Rome' because it became the permanent seat of the government. In Italy itself, Rome had not been the imperial residence for some time and 286 Diocletian formally moved the seat of government to Mediolanum (modern Milan), while taking up residence himself in Nicomedia. During the 4th century, the administrative structure was modified several times, including repeated experiments with Eastern-Western co-emperors. Provinces and dioceses were split to form new ones, the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum was abolished and reformed. In the end, with the rise of Odoacer in 476 and the death of Julius Nepos in 480, administration of the effectively reduced Empire was permanently unified in Constantinople.
Detailed information on the arrangements during this period is contained in the Notitia Dignitatum (Record of Offices), a document dating from the early 5th century. Most data is drawn from this authentic imperial source, as the names of the areas governed and titles of the governors are given there. There are however debates about the source of some data recorded in the Notitia, and it seems clear that some of its own sources are earlier than others. It is interesting to compare this with the list of military territories under the duces, in charge of border garrisons on so-called limites, and the higher ranking Comites rei militaris, with more mobile forces, and the later, even higher magistri militum.
Justinian I made the next great changes in 534–536 by abolishing, in some provinces, the strict separation of civil and military authority that Diocletian had established. This process was continued on a larger scale with the creation of extraordinary Exarchates in the 580s and culminated with the adoption of the military theme system in the 640s, which replaced the older administrative arrangements entirely. Some scholars use the reorganization of the empire into themata in this period as one of the demarcations between the Dominate and the Byzantine (or the Later Roman) period. As a matter of scholarly convenience, the medieval phase of the Roman Empire is today conventionally referred to as Byzantine, named after the original name of the city that Constantine rebuilt into the new capital of Constantinople.
Achaea or Achaia (Greek: Ἀχαΐα, Akhaia; Latin: Achaia), was a province of the Roman Empire, consisting of the Peloponnese, Attica, Boeotia, Euboea, the Cyclades and parts of Phthiotis, Aetolia-Acarnania and Phocis. In the north, it bordered on the provinces of Epirus vetus and Macedonia. The region was annexed by the Roman Republic in 146 BC following the sack of Corinth by the Roman general Lucius Mummius, who was awarded the cognomen "Achaicus" ("conqueror of Achaea"). It became part of the Roman province of Macedonia, which included the whole of mainland Greece.
Achaea was a senatorial province, thus free from military men and legions, and one of the most prestigious and sought-after provinces for senators to govern. Athens was the primary center of education for the imperial elite, rivaled only by Alexandria, and one of the most important cities in the Empire. Achaea was among the most prosperous and peaceful parts of the Roman world until Late Antiquity, when it first suffered from barbarian invasions. The province remained prosperous and highly urbanized however, as attested in the 6th-century Synecdemus.
The Slavic invasions of the 7th century led to widespread destruction, with much of the population fleeing to fortified cities, the Aegean islands and Italy, while some Slavic tribes settled the interior. The territories of Achaea remaining in Byzantine hands were grouped into the theme of Hellas.Africa (Roman province)
Africa Proconsularis was a Roman province on the northwest African coast that was established in 146 BC following the defeat of Carthage in the Third Punic War. It roughly comprised the territory of present-day Tunisia, the northeast of Algeria, and the coast of western Libya along the Gulf of Sirte. The territory was originally inhabited by Berber people, known in Latin as Mauri (English: Moor; Spanish: Moro) indigenous to all of North Africa west of Egypt; in the 9th century BC, Phoenicians built settlements along the Mediterranean Sea to facilitate shipping, of which Carthage rose to dominance in the 8th century until its conquest by the Roman Republic.
It was one of the wealthiest provinces in the western part of the Roman empire, second only to Italia. Apart from the city of Carthage, other large settlements in the province were Hadrumetum (modern Sousse, Tunisia), capital of Byzacena, and Hippo Regius (modern Annaba, Algeria).Asia (Roman province)
The Roman province of Asia or Asiana (Greek: Ἀσία or Ἀσιανή), in Byzantine times called Phrygia, was an administrative unit added to the late Republic. It was a Senatorial province governed by a proconsul. The arrangement was unchanged in the reorganization of the Roman Empire in 211.Dalmatia (Roman province)
Dalmatia was a Roman province. Its name is derived from the name of an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, which lived in the central area of the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It encompassed the northern part of present-day Albania, much of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia, thus covering an area significantly larger than the current Croatian region of Dalmatia. Originally this region was called Illyria (in Greek) or Illyricum (in Latin).
The province of Illyricum was dissolved and replaced by two separate provinces: Dalmatia and Pannonia.Dardania (Roman province)
Dardania (; Ancient Greek: Δαρδανία; Latin: Dardania) was a Roman province in the Central Balkans, initially an unofficial region in Moesia (87–284), then a province administratively part of the Diocese of Moesia (293–337). It was named after the ancient Thraco-Illyrian tribe of Dardani which inhabited the region prior to the Roman conquests in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.Egypt (Roman province)
The Roman province of Egypt (Latin: Aegyptus, pronounced [ae̯ˈɡʏptʊs]; Greek: Αἴγυπτος Aigyptos [ɛ́ːɡyptos]) was established in 30 BC after Octavian (the future Roman emperor Augustus) defeated his rival Mark Antony, deposed Pharaoh Cleopatra, and annexed the Ptolemaic Kingdom to the Roman Empire. The province encompassed most of modern-day Egypt except for the Sinai Peninsula (which would later be conquered by Trajan). Aegyptus was bordered by the provinces of Crete and Cyrenaica to the west and Judea (later Arabia Petraea) to the East.
The province came to serve as a major producer of grain for the empire and had a highly developed urban economy. Aegyptus was by far the wealthiest Eastern Roman province, and by far the wealthiest Roman province outside of Italia. In Alexandria, its capital, it possessed the largest port, and the second largest city of the Roman Empire.Emilia (region of Italy)
Emilia (Emilian: Emîlia) is a historical region of northern Italy which approximately corresponds to the western and north-eastern portions of today’s Emilia-Romagna region, of which Romagna forms the remainder.Illyricum (Roman province)
Illyricum was a Roman province that existed from 27 BC to sometime during the reign of Vespasian (69–79 AD). The province comprised Illyria/Dalmatia and Pannonia. Illyria included the area along the east coast of the Adriatic Sea and its inland mountains. With the creation of this province it came to be called Dalmatia. It was in the south, while Pannonia was in the north. Illyria/Dalmatia stretched from the River Drin (in modern northern Albania) to Istria (Croatia) and the River Sava in the north. The area roughly corresponded to modern northern Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and coastal Croatia. Pannonia was the plain which lies to its north, from the mountains of Illyria/Dalmatia to the westward bend of the River Danube, and included modern Vojvodina (in modern northern Serbia), northern Croatia and western Hungary. As the province developed, Salona (near modern Split, Croatia) became its capital.Judea (Roman province)
The Roman province of Judea (; Hebrew: יהודה, Standard Yehuda Tiberian Yehûḏāh; Greek: Ἰουδαία Ioudaia; Latin: Iūdaea), sometimes spelled in its original Latin forms of Iudæa or Iudaea to distinguish it from the geographical region of Judea, incorporated the regions of Judea, Samaria and Idumea, and extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Judea. It was named after Herod Archelaus's Tetrarchy of Judea, but the Roman province encompassed a much larger territory. The name "Judea" was derived from the Kingdom of Judah of the 6th century BCE.
According to the historian Josephus, immediately following the deposition of Herod Archelaus, Judea was turned into a Roman province, during which time the Roman procurator was given authority to punish by execution. The general population also began to be taxed by Rome. The province of Judea was the scene of unrest at its founding in 6 CE during the Census of Quirinius, the Crucifixion of Jesus circa 30-33 CE, and several wars, known as the Jewish–Roman wars, were fought in its history. The Second Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE as part of the First Jewish–Roman War, resulting in the institution of the Fiscus Judaicus, and after the Bar Kokhba revolt (132–135), the Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name of the province to Syria Palaestina and Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, which certain scholars conclude was an attempt to remove the relationship of the Jewish people to the region.Lusitania
Lusitania (; Portuguese: Lusitânia; Spanish: Lusitania) or Hispania Lusitana was an ancient Iberian Roman province located where modern Portugal (south of the Douro river) and part of western Spain (the present autonomous community of Extremadura and a part of the province of Salamanca) lie. It was named after the Lusitani or Lusitanian people (an Indo-European people).
Its capital was Emerita Augusta (currently Mérida, Spain), and it was initially part of the Roman Republic province of Hispania Ulterior, before becoming a province of its own in the Roman Empire. Romans first came to the territory around the mid-2nd century BC. A war with Lusitanian tribes followed, from 155 to 139 BC. In 27 BC, the province was created.Lydia
Lydia (Assyrian: Luddu; Greek: Λυδία, Lydía; Turkish: Lidya) was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern western Turkish provinces of Uşak, Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian. Its capital was Sardis.The Kingdom of Lydia existed from about 1200 BC to 546 BC. At its greatest extent, during the 7th century BC, it covered all of western Anatolia. In 546 BC, it became a province of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, known as the satrapy of Lydia or Sparda in Old Persian. In 133 BC, it became part of the Roman province of Asia.
Coins are said to have been invented in Lydia around the 7th century BC.Macedonia (Roman province)
The Roman province of Macedonia (Latin: Provincia Macedoniae, Greek: Ἐπαρχία Μακεδονίας) was officially established in 146 BC, after the Roman general Quintus Caecilius Metellus defeated Andriscus of Macedon, the last self-styled King of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia in 148 BC, and after the four client republics (the "tetrarchy") established by Rome in the region were dissolved. The province incorporated ancient Macedonia, with the addition of Epirus, Thessaly, and parts of Illyria, Paeonia and Thrace. This created a much larger administrative area, to which the name of 'Macedonia' was still applied. The Dardanians, to the north of the Paeonians, were not included, because they had supported the Romans in their conquest of Macedonia.Mauretania
Mauretania () is the Latin name for an area in the ancient Maghreb. It stretched from central present-day Algeria westwards to the Atlantic, covering northern Morocco, and southward to the Atlas Mountains. Its native inhabitants, seminomadic pastoralists of Berber ancestral stock, were known to the Romans as the Mauri and the Masaesyli.Beginning in 27 BC, the kings of Mauretania became Roman vassals until about 44 AD when the area was annexed to Rome and divided into two provinces: Mauretania Tingitana and Mauretania Caesariensis. In the late 3rd century, another province, Mauretania Sitifensis, was formed out of the eastern part of Caesariensis. When the Vandals arrived in Africa in 429, much of Mauretania became virtually independent. Christianity had spread rapidly there in the 4th and 5th centuries but was extinguished when the Arabs conquered the region in the 7th century.Mesopotamia (Roman province)
Mesopotamia was the name of two distinct Roman provinces, the one a short-lived creation of the Roman Emperor Trajan in 116–117 and the other established by Emperor Septimius Severus in ca. 198, which ranged between the Roman and the Sassanid empires, until the Muslim conquests of the 7th century.Roman Britain
Roman Britain (Latin: Britannia or, later, Britanniae, "the Britains") was the area of the island of Great Britain that was governed by the Roman Empire, from 43 to 410 AD. It comprised almost the whole of England and Wales and, for a short period, southern Scotland.
Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 and 54 BC as part of his Gallic Wars. According to Caesar, the Britons had been overrun or culturally assimilated by other Celtic tribes during the British Iron Age and had been aiding Caesar's enemies. He received tribute, installed a friendly king over the Trinovantes, and returned to Gaul. Planned invasions under Augustus were called off in 34, 27, and 25 BC. In 40 AD, Caligula assembled 200,000 men at the Channel on the continent, only to have them gather seashells (musculi) according to Suetonius, perhaps as a symbolic gesture to proclaim Caligula's victory over the sea. Three years later, Claudius directed four legions to invade Britain and restore an exiled king over the Atrebates. The Romans defeated the Catuvellauni, and then organized their conquests as the Province of Britain (Latin: Provincia Britannia). By the year 47, the Romans held the lands southeast of the Fosse Way. Control over Wales was delayed by reverses and the effects of Boudica's uprising, but the Romans expanded steadily northward.
The conquest of Britain continued under command of Gnaeus Julius Agricola (77–84), who expanded the Roman Empire as far as Caledonia. In the summer of 84, Agricola faced the armies of the Caledonians, led by Calgacus, at the Battle of Mons Graupius. Battle casualties were estimated by Tacitus to be around the 10,000's on the Caledonian's side and about 360 on the Roman side. The bloodbath at Mons Graupius concluded the forty-year conquest of Britain, a period that saw between 100,000 and 250,000 Britons killed. In the context of pre-industrial warfare and of a total population of Britain of c.2 million, these are very high figures.Under the 2nd-century emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, two walls were built to defend the Roman province from the Caledonians, whose realms in the Scottish Highlands were never controlled. Around 197, the Severan Reforms divided Britain into two provinces: Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior. During the Diocletian Reforms, at the end of the 3rd century, Britannia was divided into four provinces under the direction of a vicarius, who administered the Diocese of the Britains. A fifth province, Valentia, is attested in the later 4th century. For much of the later period of the Roman occupation, Britannia was subject to barbarian invasions and often came under the control of imperial usurpers and imperial pretenders. The final Roman withdrawal from Britain occurred around 410; the native kingdoms are considered to have formed Sub-Roman Britain after that.
Following the conquest of the Britons, a distinctive Romano-British culture emerged as the Romans introduced improved agriculture, urban planning, industrial production, and architecture. The Roman goddess Britannia became the female personification of Britain. After the initial invasions, Roman historians generally only mention Britain in passing. Thus, most present knowledge derives from archaeological investigations and occasional epigraphic evidence lauding the Britannic achievements of an emperor. Roman citizens settled in Britain from many parts of the Empire.Roman Syria
Syria was an early Roman province, annexed to the Roman Republic in 64 BC by Pompey in the Third Mithridatic War, following the defeat of Armenian King Tigranes the Great. Following the partition of the Herodian Kingdom into tetrarchies in 6 AD, it was gradually absorbed into Roman provinces, with Roman Syria annexing Iturea and Trachonitis.Syria Palaestina
Syria Palaestina was a Roman province between 135 AD and about 390. It was established by the merger of Roman Syria and Roman Judaea, following the defeat of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE. Shortly after 193, the northern regions were split off as Syria Coele in the north and Phoenice in the south, and the province Syria Palaestina was reduced to Judea. The earliest numismatic evidence for the name Syria Palaestina comes from the period of emperor Marcus Aurelius.Thracia
Thracia or Thrace (Θρᾴκη Thrakē) is the ancient name given to the southeastern Balkan region, the land inhabited by the Thracians.
† Italy was never constituted as a province, instead retaining a special juridical status until Diocletian's reforms.
Late Roman provinces (4th–7th centuries AD)
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities
1 Used by ten or more countries or having derived terms. Historical derivations in italics.