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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Province

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The word prouincia, the derivation of which is unknown, has originally no territorial application. Prouincia is in fact ‘a sphere of duty,’ whether that be in an office or court, like that of the urban praetor at Rome, or that of a governor of a vast district. It is only because it came to be generally associated with the rule of large districts out of Italy, that it ultimately obtained the territorial sense of ‘subjugated territory out of Italy under Roman government’ (R. Ogilvie, Horae Latinae, 1901, p. 229). The original wide sense of the word had not, however, died out in the classical period.

The Roman Empire grew by that inevitable process of expansion which is the lot of all great Empires. For the first two and a half centuries of the Republic expansion had been confined to Italy (see Roman Empire). With the conclusion of the First Punic War (241 b.c.) a new situation had arisen. Having worsted a foreign people in a long-continued contest (264-241 b.c.), they found it necessary to maintain a stand beyond the bounds of Italy. The war itself had led to the construction of the earliest Roman fleet, and now the problem of governing overseas dominions faced them. One of the conditions of peace between Rome and Carthage was that Carthage should evacuate Sicily. This condition having been complied with, all of Sicily except Syracuse and its territory, which remained in the possession of King Hiero, the ally of Rome, became the first Roman province, Prouincia Sicilia, governed by an annual praetor, elected for the purpose, over and above the regular establishment of two praetors, who remained in the city of Rome.

During the Republic at least, the same method was always carried out in taking over a province. The Senate appointed commissioners (legati), usually (if not always) ten in number, who left Rome together for the country in question, and studied its circumstances on the spot. The normal Greek-speaking country of that time consisted of a number of πόλεις (ciuitates, ‘city-States’) with their territory surrounding them. Such of these States as had especially favoured Rome during the preceding war might receive preferential treatment. Individual States, e.g., might be allowed to enter into a special, individual foedus (treaty) with Rome, and thus join the class of ciuitates foederatae. Such a reciprocal treaty presupposed that the two parties to the treaty were in a sense on an equality. Subject States prized this position very highly. But the majority of the communities were treated as subjects in the fullest sense. After the commissioners, in consultation with the victorious general, had studied the conditions fully, they made a report to the Senate, which thereupon drafted a lex prouinciCE, which remained for the future the statute regulating the conditions under which that province was to be governed, the taxes to be paid, etc. For each Roman province there was in existence a special statute of this nature. The text of none is extant.

Our chief knowledge of provincial government during the Republic concerns Sicily and Cilicia. In the speeches of Cicero against Verres (70 b.c.) there is much information about the government and administration of Sicily, in which Cicero himself had been quaestor. From Cicero’s letters we learn much of the details of his own government of the province Cilicia, where he was governor in the year 51-50 b.c. For the Imperial period we have the correspondence between Pliny, governor of Bithynia-Pontus, and the Emperor Trajan (c._ a.d. 113). The experience of the Republic was invaluable to the Empire. For the most part, no doubt, the conditions in the provinces were the same in both periods, with the exception that in the later period extortion by governors was for various reasons much less frequent. In this article we must confine ourselves as far as possible to the Empire, under which the Apostolic Church came into existence.

In the middle of the 1st cent. a.d. the Roman provinces encircled the Mediterranean. The senatorial provinces, those belonging to the Senate and people by the arrangement of January, 27 b.c., were eleven in number-Asia, Africa, Hispania Baetica, Gallia Narbonensis, Sardinia et Corsica, Sicilia, Macedonia, Achaea, Creta et Cyrenae, Cyprus, Bithynia et Pontus. These were in a peaceful state, and, with the exception of Africa, had no army. Asia and Africa were governed only by ex-consuls with three legati each, and were in a class by themselves. The others could be governed by expraetors, but all were entitled proconsuls (see Proconsul); each had one legatus. Asia comprised roughly the western third of the country we call Asia Minor, Africa corresponded roughly to the territory of modern Tunis, Hispania Baetica to Andalusia, and Gallia Narbonensis to the south-eastern quarter of France. The important Imperial provinces, which required the presence of an army, were twenty-one in number: Suria (Syria), Hispania Tarraconensis, Germania Superior, Germania Inferior, Britannia, Pannonia Superior, Pannonia Inferior, Mcesia Superior, Mcesia Inferior, Dalmatia, Lusitania, Gallia Aquitanica, Gallia Lugudunensis, Gallia Belgica, Galatia, Pamphylia, Lycia, Cilicia et Syria et PhCEnice, Numidia, Cappadocia,_ each governed by a legatus Augusti pro praetore, and Egypt, governed by an equestrian praefectus aegypti, acting for his master the Emperor, who reigned as king of Egypt. Some further Imperial provinces of less importance were governed by procuratores (see under Government, Procurator). It is inexact to speak of Judaea as a province at this period. It remained from the beginning down to the time of Vespasian a client-State, whether ruled by one king or by a number of princes, or by a Roman procurator in company with an ἀρχιερεὺς καὶ ἐθνάρχης. The king was subordinate to the governor of the province Syria. The procurator’s position, however, was like that of the praefectus aegypti. He took the place of the highest ruler (the Emperor), but neither Judaea nor Egypt was part of the Roman Empire in the strict sense of the term (T. Mommsen, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. iii.: ‘Juristische Schriften,’ 1907, p. 431, n._ 1, contradicting his earlier work, The Provinces of the Roman Empire, Eng. tr._, vol. ii. p. 185).

During the Empire all the provinces were subject to taxation, even those ciuitates which had formerly been and were still liberae being now compelled to contribute. This change is traced to Pompey. Immunity of cities was an exceptional privilege in the Empire, belonging exclusively, or almost exclusively, to coloniae, in virtue of the fact that they, like the inhabitants of Italy, owned their soil. Augustus first grappled with the task of numbering the subjects of the Empire, and apportioning the fiscal burdens among the provinces and individuals in them. The census of Egypt occurred every fourteen years (a.d. 19-20 the earliest attested date), and the same or a similar arrangement was doubtless current in other provinces, though it must be remembered that the situation in Egypt was peculiar. The census-papers were the basis for the levy of the poll-tax, as well as for the fixing of the proportion of other public burdens due from each householder. The taxes were either land-taxes or imposts on the person. The land-tax in a few cases was paid in kind. The poll-tax pure and simple was rare; generally the basis of taxation was the profession, the income, or the value of the movable property. In the public provinces the stipendium (as it was called) was perhaps collected by the States themselves and by them handed over to the quaestor, while in the Imperial provinces the tributum (‘war-tax,’ properly) was paid direct to the procurator. But it must not be forgotten that the Emperor had his procuratores even in senatorial provinces: these, however, may have been specially concerned with the management of his private estates. The publicani, however, the middlemen farmers of taxes, still had their place in Nero’s time, for measures had to be taken to repress their exactions. A definite allowance (salarium) was now given to governors of provinces, and this must have lessened extortion somewhat. The legati of proconsuls had more definite jurisdiction. The legions in the Imperial provinces had their own military commanders (legatus legionis) apart from the governors. While the proconsuls held office for one year only, the Emperor’s legates were retained in office during his pleasure.

The Romanization of the provinces was a gradual process. To begin with, it was against Roman practice to give a provincial constitution to a district until it had been civilized to a sufficient extent by its own ruler (or rulers), and so was ready for the further process. Romanization itself took place through the channels of social and trade intercourse, but in the West more conscious efforts were made towards it. We can see how proud the inhabitants of South Galatia were of their Roman connexion. One of the secrets of Rome’s success was that her governors were always content to let well alone. No attempt was made to unify the type of administration throughout the Empire. In most cases slight adjustments and the gradual purifying of municipal life were sufficient to bring all the local machinery into harmony with the central government.

Literature.-The standard work for the individual provinces is T. Mommsen, Römische Geschichte, v.2 [Berlin, 1885], tr._ W. P. Dickson, The Provinces of the Roman Empire from Caesar to Diocletian, 2 vols., London, 1886: improved and cheaper edition by F. Haverfield, one of the leading authorities on this subject, do., 1909. Otto Hirschfeld’s Die kaiserlichen Verwaltungsbeamten bis auf Diocletian2, Berlin, 1905, is invaluable. Principles of administration of the provinces in general are summarized in A. H. J. Greenidge, Roman Public Life, London, 1901, chs. viii. and xi. Students will find it helpful to concentrate on one province, and Galatia is suggested on account of the masterly treatment by W. M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, London, 1899. On the fourteen years’ census in Egypt, cf. W. M. Ramsay, Was Christ born in Bethlehem?, London, 1898, and G. Milligan, Selections from the Greek Papyri, Cambridge, 1910, pp. 44 ff., 72 f.; both provide texts and mention other relevant literature.

A. Souter.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Province'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/p/province.html. 1906-1918.

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