Roman province  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In Ancient Rome, a province (Latin, provincia, pl. provinciae) was the basic, and until the Tetrarchy (circa 296), largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy. The word province in modern English has its origins in the 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 equestrian rank only, 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 earlier, Hellenistic kings.

Republican provinces

The term provincia originally designated simply a task or duty within the Roman state. Under the Roman Republic, the magistrates were elected to office for a period of one year, and those serving outside the city of Rome, like the consuls on campaign, were assigned a particular "province", an area of authority. The term did not acquire a definite territorial sense until Rome started expanding beyond Italy during the First Punic War, and the first permanent provinces (Sicily in 241 BC and Sardinia in 237 BC) were set up.

At the beginning of each year, the provinces were distributed to future governors by lots or direct appointment. Normally, the provinces where more trouble was expected — either from barbaric invasions or internal rebellions — were given to active or former consuls, men of the greatest prestige and experience, while the rest given to praetors and propraetors.

The distribution of the legions across the provinces was also dependent of the amount of danger that they represented. In 14, for instance, the province of Lusitania had no permanent legion but Germania Inferior, where the Rhine frontier was still not pacified, had a garrison of four legions. These problematic provinces were the most desired by future governors. Problems meant war, and war could be expected to bring plunder, slaves to sell, and other opportunities for enrichment.



Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Roman province" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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