Province, Roman

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Province, Roman


(in Latin provincia), any of the territories outside of Italy that were subordinate to ancient Rome. The provinces were administered by Roman governors (proconsuls or propraetors), who embodied the military, administrative, and juridical power of Rome.

The first Roman provinces were the island of Sicily (from 241 B.C.) and the islands of Sardinia and Corsica (from 227 B.C.). By the end of the republican period, there were approximately 20 provinces, and during the imperial period, approximately 50. During the republican period, the provinces were regarded as the domain of the Roman people, and a considerable portion of the land was taken from the local population and handed over to Roman colonists. In addition, inhabitants of the provinces were obligated to maintain Roman governors and troops. Publicans, who bid at auctions for the right to collect taxes in the provinces, unrestrainedly ruined the local population. A policy of forced romanization was carried out. Roman domination provoked protests in the provinces, which at times led to revolts, such as those of the Lusitanians, Celtiberians, and other Spanish tribes during the second and first centuries B.C. and the revolt led by Bar Kochba in Judea.

The basis for provincial policy during the empire was laid down by Julius Caesar, who won over the provincial upper class by granting to entire communities and certain individuals the rights of Roman or Latin citizenship. Caesar also admitted citizens from the provinces to the Senate and enacted a law (59 B.C.) against extortion in the provinces. In fact, from the time of Augustus, at the end of the first century B.C., all the provinces came more and more under the control of the emperor, despite the division, in 27 B.C., into senatorial and imperial provinces. The gradual process of equalization between Italy proper and the Roman provinces, a process which reflected the interests of the empire’s slaveholding aristocracy, found expression in the edict of the emperor Caracalla (A.D. 212), according to which all free inhabitants of the empire received the rights of Roman citizenship. The process culminated in the administrative reform of the emperor Diocletian (third century A.D.), according to which the entire Roman empire, including Italy, was divided into administrative units. The borders of these new provinces did not coincide with those of the former provinces.


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