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(both: prē`fĕkt), in ancient Rome, various military and civil officers. Under the empire some prefects were very important. The Praetorian prefects (first appointed 2 B.C.) usually numbered two; they commanded the powerful PraetoriansPraetorians
, bodyguard of the ancient Roman emperors. Growing out of an early troop that served as bodyguard to the general commanding in Rome, they were formally organized in the time of Augustus.
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. From the 2d cent. A.D. they had juridical functions, and important legists (e.g., Papinian and Ulpian) held the post. The prefect of the city was at first a deputy for absent consuls; the office fell out of use but was revived by Julius Caesar. Under the empire this prefect had power over the summary court for the region within 100 mi (160 km) of Rome. The prefect of the watch had charge of the fire brigade set up by Augustus. Augustus also established a prefect of the grain supply. There were other officers called prefects, such as the Roman viceroy of Egypt and many other officials of Italian cities.


See L. L. Howe, The Praetorian Prefect from Commodus to Diocletian (1942).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(1) In ancient Rome, an official who was in charge of a prefecture. From the time of Augustus at the end of the first century B.C., prefects were appointed as governors, first of Egypt and later of other provinces. During the imperial period, the term prefect was applied to the chiefs of various administrative departments. In the republican period, prefects with exclusively juridical functions (praefecti iuri dicundo) assisted the praetors in judging lawsuits in the cities of Italy, and under the empire, in the provinces also.

(2) In France, an official in charge of a department as a representative of the central government. Prefects are appointed by the president of France and are considered the heads of all state institutions within the given department. A prefect exercises broad powers; in particular, he has the right to protest individual acts of the local bodies of self-government and to abrogate resolutions of the department council. In Paris the administrative authority is divided between two prefects—the prefect of the department of the Seine and the prefect of police.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. (in France, Italy, etc.) the chief administrative officer in a department
2. (in France, etc.) the head of a police force
3. Brit a schoolchild appointed to a position of limited power over his fellows
4. (in ancient Rome) any of several magistrates or military commanders
5. RC Church an official having jurisdiction over a missionary district that has no ordinary
6. RC Church one of two senior masters in a Jesuit school or college (the prefect of studies and the prefect of discipline or first prefect)
7. RC Church a cardinal in charge of a congregation of the Curia
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
I don't remember the junior school prefects being particularly respected, except by those in the lower classes, the Standard Ones to Standard Fours.
Head of Year 11, Angie Chatfield, said: "Prefects play an important role in day-to-day school life and help to promote and reinforce our school values, setting an important example for all members of our school community.
Greig captain - Laura Mooney; vice captains - Georgia Vaughan and Hannah Muldoon; prefects - Gabrielle Rennie, Molly Shearer, Sophie Steeds, Rachel O'Rourke, Iona Thompson, Luke Speirs.
The chief guest along with president, SMC, and principal pinned badges and sashes to the ceremonial heads, general prefects, house coordinators, captains and vice captains while the house counsellors did the honours for the house prefects.
From left: Almondbury Community School prefect Josh Young, U3A Y |activities organiser Ted Duggan and Huddersfield Giants Heritage Project leader Brian Heywood
She said there are some signs of bullying that parents, teachers or prefects must look out for.
Each of the school's five house groups, Ty Gwir, Ty Dewr, Ty Gobaith, Ty Ffydd, and Ty Cryf are represented by a team of seven prefects. The prefects have an important leadership role within the school which involves supporting the pastoral team during form periods, assisting with the implementation of school rules in break duties, and leading the school house system through assemblies and organising team events.
Leslie Dickson-Tetteh, president of the prefects, led the boys in three cheers for Her Majesty to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
THE Indian School has inducted a prefect and student council for 2012-13 during an investiture ceremony at its campus in Isa Town.
He said: "The process of electing the prefect body is a long one.
Summary: ALGIERS- Banks will be further involved in the financing of youth support mechanisms, following the last measure decided by the Council of Ministers imposing to banks to finance the projects approved by the regional delegations chaired by prefects, declared Wednesday Finance Minister Karim Djoudi.
Another interesting 12 months for Whitby, re-elected once again as Head Boy by his fellow prefects. He seems to have got over that nastiness a year ago when Brew R came close to toppling him.