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The Emperor, The Senate and the Provinces*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2012

Fergus Millar
The Queen's College, Oxford.


Our sources for the constitutional settlement and division of the provinces in 27 B.C., and the modification of the settlement in 23 B.C., are notoriously brief and inadequate. Neither Augustus in the Res Gestae nor Velleius Paterculus mentions the provincial aspects of either settlement. The earliest source is Strabo (840): ‘(Caesar) δίχα διεῖλε πᾶσαν τὴν χώραν καὶ τὴν μὲν ἀπέδειξεν ἑαυτῷ τὴν δὲ τῷ δήμῳ (military provinces for himself, peaceful ones for the People)…ἑκατέραν δὲ τὴν μερίδα εἰς ἐπαρχίας διένειμε πλείους, ὡν αἵ μὲν καλοῦνται Καίσαρος, αἵ δὲ τοῦ δήμου. καὶ εἰς μὲν τὰς Καίσαρος ἡγεμόνας καὶ διοικητὰς Καῖσαρ πέμπει, διαιρѽν ἄλλοτε ἄλλως τὰς χώρας…εἰς δὲ τὰς δημοσίας ὁ δῆμος στρατηγοὺς ἤ ὑπάτους…(list of public provinces)…τὰς δὲ ἄλλας ἐπαρχίας ἔχει Καῖσαρ, ὧν εἰς ἃς μὲν πέμπει τοὺς ἐπιμελησομένους ὑπατικοὺς ἄνδρας,εἰς ἃς δὲ στρατηγικούς, εἰς ἃς δὲ καὶ ἱππικούς…’Then there is Suetonius (Div. Aug. 47) : ‘provincias validiores et quas annuis magistratuum imperiis regi nec facile nec tutum erat, ipse suscepit, ceteras proconsulibus sortito permisit.’ Finally there is the account in Cassius Dio (LIII, 12, 2–3): ‘τὴν μὲν φροντίδα τήν τε προστασίαν τѽν κοινѽν πᾶσαν ὡς καὶ ἐπιμελείας τινòς δεομένων ὑπεδέξατο, οὔτε δὲ πάντων αὐτòς τѽν ἐθνѽν ἄρξειν, οὔθ' ὅσων ἄν ἄρξῃ, διὰ παντòς τοῦτο ποιήσειν ἔφη, ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν ἀσθενέστερα ὡς καὶ εἰρηναϊα καὶ ἀπόλεμα ἀπέδωκε, τὰ δὲ ἰσχυρότερα … κατέσχε, λόγῳ μὲν ὅπως ἡ μὲν γερουσία ἀδεѽς τὰ κάλλιστα τῆς ἀρχῆς καρπῷτο….’

These are the only accounts of the division of the provinces in 27. For the settlement of 23 our evidence is even poorer, a single sentence in Cassius Dio (LIII, 32, 5) ‘… τήν τε ἀρχὴν τὴν ἀνθύπατον ἐσαεἱ καθάπαξ ἔχειν ὥστε μήτε ἐν τῇ ἐσόδῳ τῇ εἴσῳ τοῦ πωμηρίου κατατίθεσθαι αὐτὴν μήτ' αὕθις ἀνανεοῦσθαι, καὶ ἐν τῷ ὑπηκόῳ τὸ πλεϊον τѽν ἑκασταχόθι ἀρχόνων ἰσχύειν ἐπέτρεψεν’.

The paucity of the sources—combined with the fact that they are mainly in Greek—has led to insoluble problems about how Augustus' position was described at the time, or (alternatively) what the nature of his imperium vis à vis the provinces was. None the less there is a fair consensus of opinion about the division of the provinces itself, and the nature of the administrative pattern which it produced. This can be summarized as follows:

Augustus undertook the administration of a large provincia, comprising Spain, Gaul and Syria, for a period of ten years, possibly with proconsular authority. He governed these provinces through legati appointed by, and responsible to, himself. The other provinces were governed by pro-magistrates responsible to the Senate. Down to 23 Augustus was also consul. In 23, while retaining his provincia, he abandoned the consulate and accepted imperium mains, which gave him superior authority to pro-magistrates, and enabled him to intervene outside his provincia when necessary. In normal circumstances, however, control of the provinces was divided between the Emperor and the Senate.

Research Article
Copyright ©Fergus Millar 1966. Exclusive Licence to Publish: The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

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1 Reimar, followed hesitantly by Boissevain, supplied 〈τῆ βουλῆ〉 at this point, from the texts of Xiphilinus and Zonaras. I am not convinced that this is justifiable.

2 For this summary I have relied mainly on Scullard, H. H., From the Gracchi to Nero2 (1963), 217–22Google Scholar, which I have used as being an accurate, clear and succinct account of the accepted view.

3 A fortiori, therefore, it is unsound to construe Augustus as the proconsul of a provincia in respect of which he got recurrent grants of public funds from the Senate; so Jones, A. H. M., JRS XL (1950), 24Google Scholar = Studies in Roman Government and Law (1960), 104.

4 See Millar, F., A Study of Cassius Dio (1964), 94 f.Google Scholar

5 In exceptional circumstances, which are not in question here, they might be specially appointed by the Emperor or the Senate, or prolonged for more than one year.

6 Pliny, Epp. VII, 16; Dig. I, 16, 2.

7 Dio LIII, 13, 2–4.

8 Dio LIII, 13, 6–8.

9 Mommsen, Staatsrecht II3, 244: ‘Die Statthalter der kaiserlichen Provinzen sind zwar auch Inhaber eines selbständigen höheren Imperium. …’

10 Tac, Ann. II, 77, 1.

11 Dig. I, 16, 8; 18, 4 (Ulpian, Lib. 39 ad edictum).

12 Philo, In Flaccum 74, διὰ τῶν πρὸς Μάγιον Μάξιμον ἐντολῶν. cf. Dig. 1, 17, 1, ‘et ita mandatis eius continetur’.

13 Tac., Ann. IV, 15, 3, ‘quod si vim praetoris usurpasset manibusque militum usus foret, spreta in eo mandata sua’.

14 IGLS v, 1998. For the view that the procurator concerned is the procurator of Syria, see JRS LIII (1963), 199.

15 Pliny, Epp. X, 22, 30, 56, 110–11. See Vidman, L., Étude sur la correspondance de Pline le Jeune avec Trajan (1960), 45 f.Google Scholar, and Sherwin White, A. N., JRS LII (1962), 120 f.Google Scholar

16 Pliny, Epp. X, 96, 7.

17 Dio LIII, 15, 4; Dig. I, 16, 6, 3; XLVII, 11, 6 pr.; XLVIII, 3, 10; XLVIII, 19, 27, 1–2.

18 Dig. XLVIII, 3, 6, 1, ‘sed et caput mandatorum exstat, quod divus Pius, cum provinciae Asiae praeerat, sub edicto proposuit. …’

19 Dig. XLVIII, 19, 5, ‘Divus Hadrianus eos, qui in numero decurionum essent, capite puniri prohibuit … verum poena legis Corneliae puniendos mandatis plenissime cautum est’.

20 Dig. XXIX, 1, 1 pr.

21 Suet., Div. Aug. 88.

22 Philo, Legatio 207, 248, 254–61, 333–4.

23 Jos., Ant. Jud. XIX, 326–7.

24 Pliny, NH IX, 9; Philostratus, VS I, 19.

25 Tac., Ann. XIV, 38, 4–5.

26 Pliny, Epp. X, 22.

27 Philo, Legatio 303–5.

28 Philo, Legatio 200–7.

29 Abbott and Johnson, Municipal Administration no. 68. The dates given here come from D. M. Pippidi, ‘Das Stadtgebiet von Histria in römischer Zeit auf Grund der ΌΡΟΘΕΣΙΑ des Laberius Maximus (SEG I, 329)’, Dacia II (1958), 227 = Epigraphische Beiträge zur Geschichte Histrias in hellenistischer und römischer Zeit (1962), 133. The full version of both texts of the inscription is published for the first time by Oliver, J. H., ‘Texts A and B of the Horothesia Dossier at Istros’, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies VI (1965), 143.Google Scholar

30 New text in Anatolian Studies IX (1959), 84 f,. = SEG XIX, 765.

31 Abbott and Johnson no. 130 = FIRA 2 I, 86.

32 I ignore here the question of prisoners who had appealed. Compare the discussion in this volume (pp. 167 ff.) by P. D. A. Garnsey.

33 Jos., Bell. Jud. II, 77–8; Ant. Jud. XVII, 297.

34 Jos., Ant. Jud. XVIII, 88–9.

35 Jos., Bell. Jud. II, 243–6; Ant. Jud. XX, 131–6. Pace Smallwood, E. M., ‘Some Comments on Tacitus, Annals XII, 54’, Latomus XVIII (1959), 560Google Scholar, I believe that Tacitus' account of these events is just wrong, and cannot be combined with the narrative in Josephus.

36 Tac., Hist. IV, 13.

37 Jos., Vita 407–9.

38 Jos., Bell. Jud. III, 398.

39 Suet., Dom. 16; Dio LXVII, 16, 2. Compare the precisely similar case of a seer sent from Egypt in 41, Dio LIX, 29, 4.

40 See, e.g., O'Brien Moore, ‘Senatus’, P–W Supp. VI, 79–5.

41 Pliny, Epp. X, 72–3.

42 Tac., Ann. XIII, 4, 3.

43 Tac., Ann. IV, 37, 1.

44 CIL III, 7086 = IGR IV, 336 = Abbott and Johnson no. 73. The fragmentary earlier part of the inscription may (as supposed in IGR) contain a letter of the proconsul enclosing the ἐντολαί and s.c.

45 FIRA 2 I, 47, 48.

46 Dig. XXXVI, 1, 27; Ulp., Reg. 24, 28.

47 See Riccobono, S., Il Gnomon dell' Idios Logos (1951), esp. pp. 86–7Google Scholar, also Taubenschlag, R., The Law of Greco-Roman Egypt in the Light of the Papyri2 (1955), 32.Google Scholar

48 Cavenaille, Corp. Pap. Lat. 200, 202, 203 (restored), 205 (restored).

49 SEG IX, 8; Ehrenberg and Jones no. 311. cf. F. de Visscher, Les édits d'Auguste découverts à Cyréne (1940), 137 f. I do not share the view of Brunt, P. A., ‘Charges of Provincial Maladministration under the Early Principate,’ Historia X (1961), 189Google Scholar, that this procedure soon lapsed.

50 Tac., Ann. II, 43, 2. cf. 111, 12, 1.

51 Tac., Ann. XV, 22, 1–2.

52 ILS 5163 = FIRA 2 1, no. 49; Oliver, J. H., Palmer, R. E. A., ‘Minutes of an Act of the Roman Senate,’ Hesperia XXIV (1955), 320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

53 Tac., Ann. IV, 43, 1–6.

54 Dio LXXII, 12, 2. See Grosso, F., La lotta politica al tempo di Commodo (1964), 552.Google Scholar

55 See Magie, D., Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950), ch. XXVIII, n. 7Google Scholar.

56 Suet., Div. Aug. 66; Dio LIII, 23, 6.

57 SEG XVIII, 555; XX, 15, where the bibliography to date is given.

58 I cannot follow the view of Oliver, J. H., ‘The Main Problem of the Augustus Inscription from Cyme,’ Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies IV (1963), 115Google Scholar, modified in ‘Augustan, Flavian and Hadrianic Praefecti Iure Dicundo in Asia and Greece’, AJPh LXXXIV (1963), 162, that this refers to a ‘prefecture’ of a Praefectus iure dicundo in a Greek city.

59 Pleket, H. W., The Greek Inscriptions in the ‘Rijksmuseum van Oudheden’ at Leyden (1958), no. 57Google Scholar, see pp. 61–2 and compare Syme, R., JRS XLV (1955), 159.Google Scholar

60 I cannot follow the views of Atkinson, K. M. T., ‘“Restitutio in integrum” and “iussum Augusti Caesaris” in an Inscription at Leyden’, RIDA VII (1960), 227Google Scholar, that the pronouncement of Augustus and Agrippa expresses an s.c., that the second document dates to after 23 B.C., or that ‘iussum’ is not a reference to the first document. Furthermore, as will be shown below, Imperial action in Asia was not unusual even between 27 and 23 B.C.

61 For the date see Bowersock, G. W., ‘C. Marcius Censorinus, Legatus Caesaris’, HSCPh LXVIII (1964), 207.Google Scholar

62 Jos., Ant Jud. XVI, 160–5; 162–5 = Ehrenberg and Jones no. 314.

63 See Deininger, J., Die Provinziallandtage der römischen Kaiserzeit (1965), 37, n. 1.Google Scholar

64 Jos., Ant. Jud. XVI, 172–3 = Ehrenberg and Jones no. 313.

65 Jos., Ant. Jud. XVI, 166.

66 Jos., Ant. Jud. XVI, 171.

67 Philo, Legatio 315.

68 See Magie, D., Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950), 1580Google Scholar; Syme, R., The Roman Revolution (1939), 303Google Scholar; JRS XLV (1955), 159.

69 See Smallwood, E. M., Philonis Alexandrini Legatio ad Gaium (1961), 310.Google Scholar

70 Philo, Legatio 161.

71 Jos., Ant. Jud. XIX, 286–91 = Charlesworth, Documents no. 15.

72 ILS 214 = Charlesworth, Documents no. 11.

73 Tac., Ann. XIII, 51.

74 Dig. L, 7, 5, 6, ‘praecipitur autem edicto divi Vespasiani omnibus civitatibus, ne plures quam ternos legatos mittant.’

75 FIRA 2 1, 73, 77.

76 FIRA 2 1, 76.

77 Suet., Dom. 7; Philostratus, VS 1, 21.

78 Pliny, Epp. X, 58.

79 Pliny, Epp. X, 79–80. The evidence collected by Morris, J., Listy Filologické LXXXVII (1964), 317Google Scholar, suggests that the minimum age for magistracies may generally have been lowered to 25 by Augustus.

80 Pliny, Epp. X, 83–4.

81 Pliny, Epp. X, 65, 3.

82 ILS 6092 = Abbott and Johnson no. 61 = FIRA 2 1, 74.

83 Dunant, C., Pouilloux, J., Recherches sur l'histoire et les cultes de Thasos (1957), 66Google Scholar, no. 179, ll. 7–8.

84 Jahreshefte Öst. Arch. Inst. XLV (1960–pub. 1963), Beiblatt, 42.

85 References in n. 49 above.

86 De Visscher, op. cit. (n. 49), 78, assumes that he was proconsul; Romanelli, P., La Cirenatca romana (1943), 83Google Scholar, leaves the question open.

87 Dörner, F. K., Der Erlass des Statthalters von Asia Paullus Fabius Persicus (1935); Greek text on pp. 3740.Google Scholar See Magie, Roman Rule, 545 f.

88 Atkinson, K. M. T., ‘The “constitutio” of Vedius Pollio at Ephesus and its Analogies’, RIDA IX (1962), 261Google Scholar, makes a strong case for the view that ‘constitutio’ means ‘endowment’ rather than something like ‘legal enactment’, and therefore for abandoning the view that he necessarily held some official position in the province. But even if this is correct I cannot follow her interpretation of the purpose and functioning of the endowment. I am very grateful to Dr. R. P. Duncan-Jones for discussing this with me.

89 See Magie, Roman Rule, 448 and n. 58.

90 Syll. 3 814 = Abbott and Johnson no. 56 = Charlesworth, Documents, Nero no. 2.

91 Suet., Tib. 52.

92 Sardis, VII, 1, 8, 1. cf. Deininger, op. cit. (n. 63), 56.

93 Syll. 3 768 = Abbott and Johnson no. 30.

94 Strabo 485.

95 Syll. 3 785 = Abbott and Johnson no. 40 = Ehrenberg and Jones no. 317.

96 Agathias 11, 17; Euseb. Chron. II, 140–1 Schoene; Strabo 579. cf. Bowersock, G. W., Augustus and the Greek World (1965), 87 and 157.Google Scholar

97 IGR IV, 33 = Ehrenberg and Jones no. 307. See Cichorius, C. A., Rom und Mytilene (1888), 55Google Scholar; Bowersock, op. cit. (n. 96), 36. The notion of an embassy to Spain depends on the view that the words ‘ἐν Ταρρακῶνι τῆς ΄|βη[ρίας]’ in IGR IV, 38, l. 8 refer to such an occasion. But cf. IV, 39, l. 13 where Tarraco is mentioned in a quite different context.

98 IGR IV, 7.

99 Syll. 3 780 = Abbott and Johnson no. 36 (there is no reference to appeal in the case, as stated there) = Ehrenberg and Jones no. 312. Sherk, R. T., ‘C. Asinius Gallus and his Governorship of Asia’, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies VII (1966), 57Google Scholar, argues (not quite convincingly) that Gallus was at the time merely an amicus principis in Rome, and not proconsul until the following year.

100 IG 2 II–III, 3175. See Bowersock, op. cit. (n. 96), 96.

101 IG v, 2, 25.

102 IGR IV, 39.

103 The Jewish people, Jos., Bell. Jud. II, 80; Ant. Jud. XVII, 300; the Greek cities, Nic. Dam., FGH 90, F 136 (9).

104 P. Oxy. 2435 verso.

105 Quint., Inst. VI, 3, 77.

106 I rely here on a preliminary collection of the evidence, which could not be published in its present incomplete state.

107 Tac., Ann. I, 53, 9.

108 Syll. 3 801 D.

109 Nesselhauf, M., Madrider Mitteilungen 1 (1960), 148Google Scholar; 1962, 288.

110 Pliny, Epp. X, 58, 65, 72.

111 Syll 3 821 = McCrum and Woodhead, Select Documents no. 463.

112 Bourguet, E., De rebus Delphicis (1905), 70.Google Scholar

113 XXII, 5, 3, 3.

114 XLVIII, 8, 4, 1–2 = Coll. I, 11, 1 (quoting full text of consultation and reply).

115 XLVIII, 16, 14; 1, 16, 10.

116 ILS 5974a.

117 OGIS 502 = IGR IV, 571 = Abbott and Johnson no. 82.

118 Eusebius, HE IV, 8, 6; 9, 1–3; Justin, 1 Apol., 68–9. See Frend, W. H. C., Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (1965), 223–5.Google Scholar

119 Tac., Ann. XVI, 10, 2. There is no reason to think, as presumed by Sherwin-White, A. N., Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (1963), 60Google Scholar, that the man had appealed.

120 Jos., Vita 424–5; cf. BJ VII, 441–50.

121 Suet., Tib. 32.

122 Suet., Tib. 30; Dio LVII, 7.

123 Tac., Ann. III, 60, 1.

124 Ins. Didyma 107.

125 Suet., Tib. 31.

126 Tac., Ann. IV, 13, 1.

127 Maiuri, A., Nuova Silloge epigrafica di Rodi e Cos (1925), no. 462.Google Scholar

128 Paton-Hicks, , The Inscriptions of Cos (1891), no. 94.Google Scholar

129 Pliny, Epp. V, 20; VI, 5; VII, 6; 10.

130 Or. XLV, 8.

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