The provinces of Roman Republic



Towards the end of the 2nd century BC, the organization of the Roman state was far more complex than it was during the Punic wars. Its center was still in Rome, with the normal arrangement of the city-state, with a large territory scattered throughout Italy, is full-fledged citizenship who lived dispersed throughout the territory. Around Rome were gathered other city-states associated with it various contracts: the first and nearest to Rome were the Latin cities, followed by Latin colonies scattered throughout the peninsula, and then farther Italic cities – Etruscan, Greek, Umbrian, etc.. Although in all matters of foreign policy they were constituted as a single unit, the members of the alliance were not united by any blood ties and constitution of these communities united with Rome were often very different to each other. A single principle, consistently carried out, was the foundation on which the community has rested: the Roman state consisted of only Roman citizens and Roman allies and no one else.

roman senate

The Senate of Roman Republic

So long as war lasted, all was plain enough. The Roman military authority, the consul or praetor, settled all matters autocratically. But after the First Punic War, Rome had to face a new and serious problems of governance. South-western part of Sicily, and Corsica and Sardinia, were foreign Carthaginian possessions, and residents were Carthaginian subjects or vassals. On these islands there were Carthaginian cities were commercial offices, administrative centers and fortresses. However, the local government was not remarkable. The population had to give Carthage a certain portion of their income, which is a sign and symbol of their subordinate position. When Rome made ​​peace with Carthage, but not with the cities and nations of the conquered territory, the islands became part of the Roman state. Then came the question: What place in the constitutional framework of the Italic federation to give these new areas?

The map of Roman provinces

The map of Roman provinces

It was not likely that Rome will want to include them in Italic federation: the locals were too primitive in their political and social ideas and the level of their culture was very low. It was impossible to imagine them as allies. These people did not have an independent political life, which is why it was impossible for them to enter into a peace treaty as a foedus aequum1. The simplest solution to Rome was to accept the situation and looking at the country as the area under military rule. Rome every year there referred to the military magistrate.

Roman praetor and the soldier

Roman praetor and the soldier

So that territory was, according to the Roman public law, procclaimed to provinces of the Roman magistrate whose edicts apportioned population related to the central government in Rome. Rome simply took the place of Carthage. Now the governor and army of Carthage were  replaced by Romans, while the people worked the land and keep livestock the same as before, giving part of their income to the supreme power, represented by the praetor and his financial assistant, quaestor. One part of the money was spent there, and the other sent the State treasury in Rome. So these overseas possessions belonged to Rome and not to federation, and now the Roman state consisted not only of its citizens and allies, but also of subjects. According to the Roman terminology, these subjects were dediticii2.

The Roman quaestor

The Roman quaestor

But it was not so easy when the rest of Sicily, which had previously belonged to the Greeks, became part of the Roman state after the Second Punic War and the fall of Syracuse. Here, as in Italy, were the ancient Greek cities whose population was at a high cultural level. The Romans, however, were reluctant to deviate from the principles that are set. Those Greek cities that have hitherto been Roman allies had not change their status, and they were in the same position as Massalia (Marseille) and Saguntum (near Valencia), while other parts of the island became a Roman province. Such a solution came because that part of the island for almost 50 years was not run as a group of independent city-states, but rather as a territory of the Hellenistic monarchy which Syracuse was the capital. Tyrant of Syracuse Hieron I considered residents his subjects who had to give him a contribution of income from their land and to pay tax on its livestock and income from trade and crafts.

The helmet of Hieron I

The helmet of Hieron I

During Hieron I’s reign he took advantage of the defeat of Carthaginian power in Sicily (in 480) to greatly increase the power of Syracuse. The Roman people replaced Hieron, and all Sicilians, except residents of allied cities, became their subjects. The praetor and quaestor worked on behalf of the Roman people in the provinces and they had the full military, administrative and judicial power.

The same situation was in Macedonia and Asia (former kingdom of Pergamum). These kingdoms were similar to Hieron’s in Sicilia, with its own state organization. And there the praetor replaced the king and the royal decrees and laws have turned into Praetorian edicts. And there the praetor was the supreme judge and decided in all cases. Some cities have the status of Roman allies, such as the Phoenician coastal cities that are betrayed Carthage and formed an alliance with Rome in the Third Punic War.

Hannibal Fighting a Roman Legion in the Alps by School of Raphael --- Image by © Araldo de Luca/CORBIS

Hannibal Fighting a Roman Legion in the Alps by School of Raphael — Image by © Araldo de Luca/CORBIS

Since the end of the 2nd century BC, the situation in the provinces became more complex. Rome then had plenty of allies and a lot of them were located in the provinces outside of Italy. With the fact that they were living in the territories that were under the authority of the praetor, these allies were not much different from the subjects. In fact, the Romans tried to descend them to that level, rather than to raise the level of subjects to allies. The same feeling Romans had for a number of independent cities in Greece and the Greek islands, as well as some parts of Asia Minor. Hellenistic monarchs in the East, and the kings of Numidia and Mauritania have not fared better: they were ordinary Roman vassals and their foreign policy was entirely depended on the will of Rome. Most careful among them were not even trying to act independently, but, before make any decision, wanted to know what is the opinion of Rome.

The Roman imperator

The Roman imperator

Forming of the Roman provinces as a part of state was of paramount importance to the political development of Rome and Italy. Rome could, for all the incomes, to rely mainly on their new lands, but the problem arose because Roman citizens were reluctant to go to war in distant parts of the world. Rome began with stricter requirements of fulfilling military obligations, and soon he treated his allies in Italy same as overseas allies – began to interfere in local affairs and to ask for unquestioningly obeying to the will of Rome. Problems are piling up and the conflict of Roman citizens and allies was inevitable.

Roman rule brought to provinces not a law nor justice. Hellenistic kings took care of the mood of his subjects, if for nothing else then for their own safety. But the Senate and the Roman magistrates considered the provinces as the lands of the Roman people (praedia populi Romani), in whose progress they pay a little attention. In truth, there were honest governors who wished well to their provinces, but they were often, as the sole rulers of a large territory whose mandate was often lasted just a year, prone to corruption.

 

The coin of Roman Republic

The coin of Roman Republic

It was often convenient to governors to rob residents for their personal benefit and they used every opportunity for personal enrichment and advancement of a political career. It was not uncommon for the inhabitants of the province to complain to Senate, but it was almost impossible to conduct an investigation that would prove any wrongdoing of the mighty governor. The wealthier Greek cities were able to achieve success, but for the majority of the population living outside these cities all complaints were hopeless.

by M. Rostovtzeff, “Rome”

 

  1. A foedus aequum was a bilateral agreement recognizing both parties as equals obliged to assist each other in defensive wars or when otherwise called upon, in perpetuity
  2. The dediticii existed as a class of persons who were neither slaves, nor Roman citizens (cives}, nor Latini (that is, those holding Latin rights), at least as late as the time of Ulpian. The civil status of dediticii was analogous to the condition of a conquered people who did not individually lose their freedom, but as a community lost all political existence as the result of a deditio, an unconditional surrender

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