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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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PROVINCE . This word, of unknown derivation, originally meant simply ‘a sphere of (magisterial) duty,’ and was applied, for example, to the duty of the prætor urbanus , who was never permitted to leave Rome. With the extension of the Roman Empire, and the consequently much increased number of spheres of duty outside Rome and Italy, the word came gradually to have a territorial application also. It is in this derived sense that the word is taken here. It was part of the Roman policy throughout to be in no unnecessary hurry to acquire territory and the responsibility connected with it, and it was not till the year b.c. 227 hundreds of years after the foundation of the Roman State that the first province was taken over. In that year Sardinia and Corsica became one province, Western Sicily another, and each, after the details of government had been settled by special commissioners, was put under an additional prætor elected for the purpose. Behind this step, as behind the annexation of most Roman provinces, there lay long years of warfare. Province after province was annexed, until in the time of Christ the Romans were in possession of the whole of Europe (except the British Isles, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Russia), all Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and the north-west of Africa. Most of this vast territory had been acquired during the Republic, but certain portions had not been annexed till the time of the first Emperor, Augustus. During the Republic the governors of these provinces were appointed by the Roman senate from among their own number, generally after a period of service as prætor or consul, as the case might be. They were unpaid, and had heavy expenses to bear. Few resisted the temptation to recoup themselves at the expense of the long-suffering provincials, and the vast sums acquired by an extortionate governor in his one year’s governorship may be estimated from the fact that Cicero, a just and honest man, acquired £18,000 during his tenure of the province Cilicia.

During the Empire the provinces were treated according to a notable settlement made between the Senate and the Emperor Augustus on January 1, b.c. 27. On that day it was arranged that those provinces which were peaceful and did not require the presence of an army should be under the control of the senate, who would appoint their governors; while the disturbed provinces that did require the presence of an army were to be under the Emperor himself, who was generalissimo of all the forces of the State. At the same time the Emperor retained financial interests even in senatorial provinces. The following thus became senatorial (or public) provinces: Asia ( i.e. roughly the western third of Asia Minor), Africa ( i.e. practically Tunis), Gallia Narbonensis, Hispania Bætica, Achaia, Cyprus, Creta et Cyrenaica, Macedonia, Sicilia, Bithynia, Illyricum, Sardinia et Corsica. The first two were senatorial provinces of the first rank, and were governed each by an ex-consul with the title of proconsul, and three legati under him. The others were senatorial provinces of the second rank, and were governed each by an exprætor, also with the title proconsul . All the rest of the Roman world outside Italy, namely, three-fourths of the whole, was made up of Imperial provinces, including the following: Egypt (where the Emperors, as successors of the Ptolemys, ruled as kings), Judæa, Syria-Cilicia-Phœnice, Galatia (established b.c. 25), Thracia, Pamphylia (established b.c. 25), Galliæ tres (Aquitania, Lugudunensis, Belgica), Britannia (established a.d. 43). Every new province naturally came under the Emperor’s authority. He governed his more important provinces ( e.g. Syria, Galatia) through a legatus pro prætore in each a man of consular or prætorian rank, who was paid a fixed salary in and after the time of Tiberius and his less important provinces through a procurator ( e.g. Judæa) or præfectus ( e.g. Egypt). The period of senatorial governorships was one year, that of Imperial indefinite. Each province was governed according to a definite statute, which determined the administrative procedure and defined the privileges of individual cities in it. The inhabitants were disarmed and taxed. The oppressive and unjust rule of the Republic was exchanged for a much better during the Empire; and the provinces, at least during the first three centuries of our era, were prosperous and contented.

A. Souter.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Province'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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