The word 'diocese' (Latin: dioecēsis, from the Greek word Greek: διοίκησις, "administration") means 'administration,' 'management,' 'assize district,' 'management district.' It can refer to the collection of taxes or to the territory per se. The earliest use of "diocese" as an administrative unit is in the Greek-speaking East. Three districts, Cibyra, Apamea, and Synnada, were added to the Province of Cilicia in the time of Cicero, who mentioned the fact in his epistles.[1] In the 3rd century A.D. the word was applied to temporary districts, 'dioceses,' within proconsular proconsular provinces and assigned to officials called 'correctors,' whom the proconsuls brought with them (CAH XII, p. 161). At other times proconsular provinces subject to administrative reforms were governed by praetors. At other time governors with extraordinary functions began to be sent to these provinces, but they were not proconsuls but 'vicarii,' stand-ins, from the equestrian order, ibid. The use of 'vicars' for regular officials became common especially during the period post-260 when the empire's unity and survival was threatened by internal unrest, tribal invasions and wars (the breakaway Gallic Empire, 260-274, the regime of Zenobia and her father in the East from 267-273, frequent usurpations, revolts in some provinces, the breakaway regime in Britain, 286-296, several wars with Persia, and giant tribal raids into Gaul, northern Italy, the Balkans and Asia Minor in the decades of the 250s-280s). However, these 'dioceses,' subdivisions of provinces, are not to be considered antecedents of the later 'vicariate' dioceses which were conglomerations of provinces headed by permanent officials, vicars, who originate from stand-ins of prefects.

The 'vicariate' or 'civil diocese' governed by a vicar of the prefects was a specific administrative division in a defined territory in the Later Roman Empire which is generally reckoned to have begun with the reign of Diocletian in 284. The dioceses initially numbered 12 (a 13th was added by 327 when Moesia was divided into Dacia and Macedonia and Egypt was detached from Oriens in 370 or 380). A diocese was made up of a regional grouping of from 4 to 20 provinces. In turn they were included within praetorian prefectures headed by praetorian prefects whose number fluctuated between 3 to 4 (with a 5th, Africa, in 335-337) until fixed at 4 in 395. The appearance of the vicariate dioceses marked a major new way of governing the empire, regionally (viewed by some historians as foreshadowing the European nation-state). They were not, however, the first regional districts, dioceses properly-speaking: this honor belongs to the 'fiscal' dioceses which preceded the 'vicariate.'

The 'general consensus' date for the creation of dioceses has been the year 297 during the First Tetrarchy of 293–305 (for a list of scholars' choices for the dates, Wiewiorowski, The Judiciary of Diocesan Vicars in the Later Roman Empire, English Edition, 2016, p. 92 note 23). The date was chosen by Mommsen (1817–1903) the great German Classicist. The source for the 'traditional' date is Lactantius' reference to "vicarii praefectorum" who are mentioned together with the regional comptrollers of the Treasury, rationales, and managers of the Crown Estates, magistri, as a triad who were working in tandem to further Diocletian's greed to raise revenue for his vast expenditures during the First Tetrarchy, 293-305 (De Mortibus Persecutorum, 7, 4 a work dated to 314/315). It has been argued that these 'vicarii prafectorum' were diocesan vicars within defined territories as they appear in the Verona List dated to June 314: this date is the terminus ante quem. Others argue that the "vicarii praefectorum" were ad hoc, extraordinary vice-prefects on special assignments without formal districts and not the permanent vicars of regional districts on the grounds that no district is mentioned with any of those known pre-313/14, such as vicar of vice-prefect of Africa or of the Spains. Others have argued the co-existence of the two types for the period prior to 313/14. The year 313/4 has been proposed.[2] In any case it is not known which one or if Lactantius was thinking of both, although as court orator to Diocletian from about 295-303 and tutor in Trier to Constantine's son Crispus from 309, he was certainly in a position to know. The Verona List of vicars and dioceses of June 314 provides the latest date for the creation of the twelve vicariate dioceses. If vicars existed before 313 they had military command as did prefects and some governors which still had commands.

Another regional 'diocese,' the 'fiscal' of the Treasury, (Res Summa/Summarum from 318-19 the Sacrae Largitiones), and the most likely the model the 'vicariate' diocese is the Egyptian financial district (which included Cyrenaica and Crete in 286). It 'housed' the regional and provincial officials of the Crown Estates (Res Privata). The SL has lost its provincial-level procurators by 330 but still had minor officials in many cities and towns to look after it affairs. The RP had a vast network of local officials who directed the affairs of those imperial estates under direct management (most were let out to private individuals) and a provincial managerial level to supervise. This set of fiscals 'preceded' the vicariate by 10-25 years reckoned from 297-313/14. The existence and relationship of the regional fiscal managers to the diocesan vicars is essential for understanding the history of the intermediate tier of imperial governance. The diocese's competencies were for the most part fixed in the years 325-330 (Jacek Wiewiorowksi, The Judiciary of Diocesan Vicars in the Later Roman Empire, 2016, pp. 62-73) by the Constantinian Dynasty, 306-363, R. Malcolm Errington, Roman Imperial Policy form Julian to Theodosius, 2006, pp. 261-265) and their importance continued down to the 440s before a slow decline set in (L. E. Alexander Franks, Review of Wiewiorowksi in Byzantinisch Zeitscrift, 2016, Band 109, Heft 2, pp. 988-994). These three officials worked together cooperatively to coordinate the governance of the diocese (the vicar with higher authority was the senior of the three; he was responsible for the overall annual diocesan budget). However, the vast amount of the actual administrative work for the prefecture was done by unpaid liturgists and village heads (both taxpayers - a conflict of interest!) under the immediate supervision of the governors. Appointment of paid imperial officials at the local level would have required a huge expansion beyond the capacity of the Ancient State to fund. The salaried imperial bureaucracy in the 4th century, 30-40,000 much larger than previously, was incredibly small by modern standards. Its mostly based in 125 provincial, diocesan and capital cities cities and towns, and therefore, out of sight for most of the time to the vast majority of the Empire's inhabitants.

Various motives have been suggested for the creation of 'vicariate' dioceses: to assist in the division of provinces begun slowly from the early 290s to introduce the new tax assessment and collection system (which may have begun in 287 and involved a series of censuses every 5 years which took 15 years to complete and which gave the empire a budget in the modern sense for the first time); provide 'relief' officers to overburdened prefects (there were only 2); and process and vet state business for the palatine level. A few date creation post-305 to 312 (a time of civil wars among contenders for the throne); if for the years 313/14 control of regions and demarcation of these zones between emperors has been suggested (Zuckerman, op. cit. pp. 636-637).

Vicars of dioceses originated from ad hoc deputy commanders of the Praetorian Guard, agens (agentes, plural) vices praefectorum praetorio of the Praetorian Guard when the prefects were absent from Rome. The deputies first appear during the Severan Dynasty, 193-235. Beginning in the late 290s other vice-prefects appear performing duties outside the capital (while others continued to command the remaining Guard units in Rome). Although not much is known about them or their activities, vice-prefects appear to have been 'trouble-shooters' or commissioners to put the affairs of a region right, a role that the diocesan vicars perhaps brought with them and retained even after they were 'domesticated' by being institutionalized as the heads of the main governance district until the end of the 4th century or early 5th. The ad hoc type of vice-prefect was fazed out in the 320s

The creation of permanent diocesan vicars outsourced' the prefects' authority, however this authority was superior (i.e. appealable, not final), not supreme (final) in effect creating a set of mini-prefects who were located in existing provincial see cities.Their authority can be most likened to proconsuls' of the three small provinces whose role within a province is exact same as a vicars - superior authority - over a group of provinces; indeed the former substituted from time to time for absent vicars). The diocesan, SL, and PR staffs mirrored the administrative set-up at the palatine top level but it was on a much simpler and reduced scale: these mini-palatine administrative conglomerates were information magnets and processing centers for the higher level, and from the early 3430s added to by the appointment of a senior agent of a Master of the Offices (head(s) of State Security, Administration Oversight and Communication) as diocesan heads of office, a resident governor, often a general, and at some see cities imperial armories and mills.

The vicars' main task was to control and coordinate the activity of governors: post-325 their writ was extended to oversight of the SL and RP (though without being able to interfere with their routine operations since the two fiscal departments were independent).The appearance of the vicars as imperial 'presences' further diminished the already somewhat reduced prestige of governors since there numbers had already been doubled from 47 in 284 to 100+ in 305 (or 313/14).

The vicars' main role in the beginning years was as appeal judges with general administrative oversight. They also had first instance ordinary jurisdiction (like governors and some other officials in the administrative courts). They were overseers of the regular courts, keepers of the global diocesan budget set by the prefects for the prefecture and the SL and RP, and guarantors of liturgical assignments (determined by the prefects issued by the governors to the liturgists) and quarter-masters general of the armies. The importance of vicariate financial oversight can be found in CTh. 1, 12, 2 (319) which although addressed to the proconsul of Africa is pertinent since the posts were functionally interchangeable.

The vicars were given greater responsibilities and more clearly defined roles in respect to financial matters after Constantine's reforms of 325-329 which clarified the palatine ministries competencies, the results of which had a ricochet affect on the vicars making them the effective heads of diocesan finances as executive managers, but as not policy-makers. Prior to 325 the regional comptrollers of the SL were ubiquitous and involved in almost every aspect of imperial finance (Delmaire, R. op. op. cit. 197, 204, 245). Afterwards they were restricted to the supervision of money taxes (in kind taxes under the prefects may have amounted at this time to 80% of the global budget) and placed in a secondary status relative to the vicars (Franks op. cit. p. 991). However, they were not without influence and power for the rest of the 4th century since their departments (and the RP) provided the emperors with the most valuable and coveted part of their income. Emblematic of the enhanced status of vicars the word 'diocese' circa 330 ceases to be used for the 'fiscal' and is reserved solely for the 'vicariate' (Delmaire p, 171; Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 55, note 71 quoting CTh. 2, 26, 1 of 330).

The death of Constantine in 337 brings to a close the period of major administrative changes that began with Diocletian. These innovations fixed the Roman Empire's basic governance structures for two centuries; and were the products of pre-285 structures, innovations and competencies being mixed, remolded and adapted over a period 50 years (A.H.M. Jones, LRE, 1964, p. 207-208 for pace of commutation; pp. 401-410 'Centralisation' and the rise of the prefects; for and overview of administrative developments, The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, Ed. Noel Lenski, 'Law and Society,' Christopher Kelly, p. 184-204, The Cambridge Ancient History, XIII, The Late Empire A.D. 337-425, 'Emperors, government and bureaucracy,' pp. 138-184, Christopher Kelly; and Peter Heather, 'Senators and senates,' 'Institutional change,' p. 188-189, David S. Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay, 180-395, 1994, pp. 367-372).

The fates of the fifteen vicars varied. The decline has been attributed to incremental administrative centralization by praetorian prefects from the 380s; the gradual take-over of the Treasury and Crown Estates ministries by the same and the palace chamberlains respectively; a reversion to two-tier governance in practice, the general commutation of taxes in the 5th century from kind to gold in the 5th century which made collection and delivery , if not computation, much easier, and abandonment or loss of dioceses to invaders. By 450 the Spains, Africa, and Pannonia were lost to invaders, the diocese of Britain having been abandoned in 410. The two Gallic dioceses were still in some operation south of line from Cologne to Boulogne served by one vicar under the prefect of the Gauls in Arles. The diocese of Italy had had two vicars: the vicar in Milan (of Italy) was discontinued. The vicars in Rome continued to function fully as did those of Oriens and Egypt. Thrace, Dacia, Macedonia, Pontus and Asia were slipping into redundancy. The last, Egypt, was abolished in 539 (for the rise of dioceses 340-410 and first indications of vicariate decline post as exemplified by the situation in Asia, Denis Feissel, 'Vicaires et proconsuls d'asie du iv au v siècle, Antiquite Tardive 6, 1998, pp. 103-104; the rise of the prefecture in the last decades of the 4th century that contributed to the decline of the Treasury and the Crown Estates after a 60-year struggle, Roland Delmaire, Les Largesses sacrees et res private, 1989 vols I & II, pp. 703-714). The consensus is that events in the 5th century had a very negative impact on the intermediate level governance which was effective in the 4th: it is mentioned much less post-440. Despite its manifest failings it was instrumental in keeping the vast empire together and a professional army supplied.

The scholarly world has debated the degree to which dioceses were successful, and if so, why and whether their rise and decline was inevitable because of some 'design' flaw such as a lack of sufficient authority to perform what was expected of them ('design flaw' in Wiewiorowski, for the thesis of imperial and highest officials' loss of confidence in the judiciary of the vicars in the very last years of the 4th century with the result that vicariate was a mere embellishment after the first few decades of the 5th, pp. 292-293, 299 for a review of first and appeal authority of vicars., ibid, pp. 91-93; for a different assessment of Constantine's expedited appellate system John Noel Dillon, The Justice of Constantine, Law, Communication and Control, 2012; Franks, op. cit. p. 991 suggests the increase in the importance of the fiscal role post-325 and the various procedural and regulatory means of control available to vicars over the administration counter-balanced any defects on the judicial side so - vicars were in their 'salad days' into the early decades of the 5th century); inability to control governors and territories too large to manage, Noetlichs, 'Zur Entstehung der Diocese als Mittelinstanz des Spatantiken Verwaltungssystem,' Historia 31: 70-81, 1982). Some fell prey to invasion and occupation in the West which saw the entire supra-provincial administrative structure of the Roman State disappear except in Italy. Were dioceses incapable of responding effectively to challenges in the 5th century and/or were they gradually bypassed because circumstances in governance dictated change in all but a few dioceses, Italy, Egypt and Oriens (Wiewiorowski, op.cit. pp. 298-303 (in regard to this question care must be taken not to anachronistically prejudge the efficacy of dioceses in the 4th, Franks ibid)?


Civil dioceses

The history of the 'vicariate' diocese is part of the administrative developments that took place from 285 to 330 A.D. They are the products of an awareness on the part of the government that stronger measures were needed to counteract the centrifugal forces that had almost torn the Empire apart in the years 260 275 (the Gallic Empire and the breakaway state of Zenobia in the East); and in Britain, 286-296.

Diocletian took a number of measure to strengthen the empire. He established mints near heavy concentrations of troops. He divided the 47 provinces beginning with the division of Italy in the early 290. By the end of his reign in 305 there were 100 or just over. Smaller provinces were more effective and easier to govern. They were given more financial duties in addition to the judicial and administrative responsibilities they already had . Military commands were gradually removed from them. The emperor ended arbitrary army requisitions (plundering) which had become almost the norm during the years of crises, 250-280 by instituting a separate tax (the Annona Militaris). He revised tax system which gave the empire a regular budget in the modern sense. Due to debasement of the coinage 80% of tax was collected in kind (a common practice previously but no so prevalent when services could be paid in good gold and silver coinage). This required enormous effort. Liturgists, richer private citizens, had to be pressed into service to carry out this out. He changed the relationship of the imperial government to municipalities in tax matters. During the Principate the government had issued demands which the cities allocated as they wished. From his reign the government issued and allocated the demands; and tried to police the whole process at every level for each taxable community to hold it to its collective responsibility (Cam Grey, Constructing Communities in the Late Roman Countryside, 2011 pp. 185, 189, 195-196). He took military supply and logistics away from the military and gave it to the civilian administration in order to get a strangle hold on the army. It is claimed this caused log jams since supply was placed in the control of reluctant liturgists and contracting services directly with local populations (R. Mitthof, Annona Militaris: Die Heresvorsorgung im spatantiken Aegypten, 2001, pp. 276-287; the classic work is, D. van Berchem, L'anonne militaire, Memoires de la Societe Nationale des Antiquaires de France, X, 117-20). He tried to recreate a stable coinage; rebuild the army after years of campaigns (estimated strength of which varied from 389,704 + 45,562 in the fleets under Diocleitan, according to John Lydus, a 6th-century bureaucrat of the prefecture of the East and 645,000 in Agathias (CAH XII, p. 123)). He began much needed infrastructure repairs after years of neglect; tried to centralize the administration of justice with the governors ( by banning the use of governor appointed judges, iudices pedanei to take cases in their place - with little effect; there were municipal courts which handled minor civil and criminal cases); began the separation of civil administration from military command from governors (which Constantine completed in 312 at which time prefects were stripped of active command); made liturgies obligatory (free services provided the state and cities by private citizens either monetarily or in labor and supplies); and furthered 'professionalization' of the bureaucracy with salaried men of free birth (for a review of Diocletian's measures, CAH XII, The Crisis of Empire 193-337; Roger Rees, Dicocletian and the Tetrarchy, 2004; Alan Watson, Aurelian and the Third Century, 999; David Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay, 180-395, 2004; Pat Southern, The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine from Severus to Constantine; and numerous works in French, German and Italian).


Diocletian created 'fiscal' dioceses early in his reign - not surprising considering that fiscal concerns along with defense were uppermost in imperial concerns. Previously smaller temporary districts, dioceses, had been carved from large provinces: the fiscal and the vicariate dioceses are the opposite, a larger administrative unit made up of a conglomeration of provinces. The erection of sets of regional fiscal officials for the palatine chiefs of the SL and RP pre-figures the same for the prefects and marks decisive steps towards governance of the Empire regionally.

The 'fiscal dioceses' of the Treasury were headed by senior comptrollers (rationales in Latin) who reported to the Treasury, the Res Summa (from 318 titled the Sacrae Largitiones). The Treasury raised revenue from many types of taxes paid in specie: inheritance, sales, excise, import, 'voluntary' contributions made on an emperor's accession and 5th anniversary levied on cities and senators, an annual supplemental property tax on senators, a business tax paid in gold on certain classes of business men and women, and a gold levy in lieu a recruit for the army. The Treasury paid cash stipendia to officials and soldiers and the accession donatives of the latter. It produced and collected clothing for the court, military and civil service. It operated the state armories, mints and mines; funded and maintained for imperial palaces and other structures.

The fiscal 'diocese' was not an invention of Diocletian but rather the already extant fiscal jurisdiction of the Dioketes of the Res Summa in Egypt, Cyrenaica and Crete (detached in 294 and joined to Achaia). There is list of the earliest (Delmaire, R. Les largesses sacrees et res private, Parte I, 1989, pp. 171, 181-182) In 286 this official appears with a new title, katholikos. His duties were the same (CAH XII, Alan K. Bowman, 'Egypt from Septimius Severus to the Death of Constantine, p. 320). There are references to two more early in the 290s (Delmaire, op. cit. p. 181). Even though the record is incomplete for all regions the early period, it is assumed they were empire-wide under Diocletian (Delmaire, pp. 183–185; pp. 171–204 on the regional-level fiscal officials). A subordinate manager (magister) of the Crown Estates, the Res Privata, assisted him (during the 350s they were elevated to the same rank as the comptrollers). Both officials are attested to in Egypt in 298 (two SL procurators assisted the comptroller). Both officials are attested to in Egypt in 298 (two SL procurators assisted the comptroller). The 'fiscal' diocese 'housed' the Crown Estates region (the Res Privata; more specifically the lands leased were the RP; those under direct imperial management were called the 'patrimonium'), though the jurisdictional lines within it were not the same for both. They reported to their palatine superiors who were attached to the emperor's personal entourage and responded to the requests of the governors through whom the prefects transmitted their orders pertaining to financial matters. The magistri were junior to the comptrollers until the 350s. However, they remained closely connected as they provided the bulk of the emperors' income in gold and silver. In the West half the revenue of the RP was directed to the SL which was still in charge of both departments into the 5th century. The two fiscal ministries in many respects were two sides of the same coin as they operated in tandem (the SL in the West supervised the RP and received some of its income): officials from one department sometimes performing duties for the other (A.H. M. Jones, LRE, Vol. II, 1964 pp. 1414-1416; P.S. Barnwell, Emperors, Prefects and Kings, The Roman West, 395-565, 1992, p. 31).

The three regional officials made up a triad of senior regional officials in an intermediate tier. They had the same rank as equestrian perfectissimi but the vicar had superior authority (his post was raised to senatorial status in 326 - those of the SL had to wait; the SL Katholikos for 10 years in Egypt and the others till the 360s to the end of the century). The evolution and fates of all three regional officials are intertwined to converge in decline from the mid-fifth century as the prefects and palace administration gained more direct control over the SL and RP respectively and the prefects bypassed the vicars in favor of greater direct contact with (ibid, pp. 703-714; Jones, Later Roman History, pp. 279-283).

The Res Privata, the Crown Estates, supplied income to the emperors from rent and taxes on leased or managed imperial lands which until 366 could be paid in kind or in gold or silver: afterwards only in the latter. It operated clothing mills and dye works. The greater part of the land was leased to private individuals. This was the res privata proper; that part managed directly by imperial officials was the patrimonium. Prior to 366 RP rent and taxes could be paid in kind or in gold and silver; afterwards in specie only. The discontinuation of in kind payments may have come about as the consequence of imperial financial duress occasioned by the extravagances of Julian, the cost of his ruinous Persian War and the massive need for gold and silver to pay two accession donatives of Jovian in 363 and Valentinian I and Valens in 364 to 600,000 soldiers (83,334 pounds each year, a sum equal to 25% of imperial revenue estimated 300,000 pounds of gold per annum (Hugh Elton, Warfare in Roman Europe Ad 350-425, 1996, pp. 118-125) who embarked measures to restore financial health including revenue drives (Noel Lenski, Failure of Empire, Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century, 2002, pp. 264-307).

The two fiscal departments were under the direct control of the emperor. They supplied them with the greater part of the gold and silver revenue until the very late 4th or early 5th centuries. The income and revenue were spent within the diocese as needed or directed to the emperors. The heads of the SL and RP which were held accountable for the collection and distribution of the revenue due their ministries whether their agents collected or not. Most of the emperors' income in gold and silver came from the SL and RP before the commutation of the prefects' in kind land taxes (75% of total tax) got under way more rapidly very late in the 4th in the early 5th centuries (Jones, op. cit. pp. 445, 460-462), a trend which eventually contributed to making redundant the palatine and regional fiscal departments and the dioceses (Jones, p. 412). The income from the RP was at the emperor's discretion and munificence: personal gifts, civic donations, palace expenses. It was used regularly to supplement the regular budget of the prefects.

The duties and functions of the two regional officials and the vicars converged and overlapped at some points operationally. These provided mutual checks on each other in a system that was constructed to "ensure that senior office holders might police the actions of their colleagues." (The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, Ed. Noel Lenski, 'Law and Society,' Christopher Kelly, p. 191; 184–192 for a general description of administration changes in the years 284–337).

Before 325 the regional rationales were ubiquitous and involved in almost every aspect of tax collection (Delmaire, op. cit. p. 197. 204, 245), it seems, except for the Annona Militaris which was solely under the prefects as quarter-masters general of the army. Constantine changed this. He confined the SL and its regional rationales to oversight of money tax collections in precious metals at a time when the gold coinage, the solidus (fixed at 72 to the pound by Constantine in 309), was contributing to the stabilization of imperial finances. He split the treasury into three parts, each prefect, SL and RP having his own (the accounts were always separate pre- and -post division). He transferred appeal jurisdiction over SL and RP fiscal debt cases between 327-329 to the prefects and vicars (the governors already pronounced sentences of confiscated property for assimilation to the RP) - CTh. 11, 30, 28 of 359 refers to an earlier lost law; 14 of 327 and 18 of 329. He abolished the remaining provincial SL procurators of the comptrollers which left the SL without a field force to supervise collection its own taxes (Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 208-209, 213). The rationales continued to have numerous minor agents to look after their affairs in many cities: these were the largitionales civitatum or urbium singularium (in Italy and Gaul there were also had regional largitionales). The comptrollers' collection duties largely devolved upon the governors who already had responsibility for the prefects' tax revenues. The rationales remained responsible for the actual collection performed by others, and personally for distribution to the designated SL provincial, diocesan or palatine treasuries. Their staffs, transport service (the bastaga) and guards transported specie. They conducted first instance trials for debt, and directed the special agents of the SL who were sent annually from central command to stimulate the governors' tax collection efforts for the SL (Delmaire, pp. 204-205). The comptrollers watched the vicars and governors and themselves were watched by the vicars. They plus the RP managers were conveniently located almost everywhere in the diocesan see cities. In one case, diocese of Africa, the diocese managed the SL accounts (CTh. 1, 15, 7 378), a clear case of encroachment during a period, the 370s to 382 when governors were supervising the collection of RP rents - which led to massive arrears, a very poor policy decisions since they didn't have the staff to do it. One year later the first reference appears of 'diocese' to denote a region governed by a vicar, reserved thereafter exclusively vicariate dioceses(Delmaire p, 171; Wiewieorowski, op. cit. p. 55, note 71 quoting CTh. 2, 26, 1 of 330).

Constantine's reforms on the other hand had left the RP intact, possibly because it already had a vast network of provincial and local managers to accomplish the tasks set for it (not without complaints of corruption which may have been one reason for most of the RP to be let to private individuals for secure rent/tax income and less managerial headaches). Until the 360s it managed the collection of income. From then on the governors were assigned to supervise the collection for periods (Jones, op. cit. p. 413, Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 703-14). The government's policy swung back and forth between gubernatorial and RP supervision. By the end of the century it lay with the governors in the West and jointly in the East (Jones. op. ci. p. 414). Towards the end of the 4th and beginning of the 5th centuries vicars are occasionally seen involved in direct supervision of RP rents and the regular tax on RP land which was owed the prefecture (Jones, ibid). Eventually the RP fell under the power of the Palace senior chamberlain (Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 710-714).

After the reforms the two fiscal ministries and the regional districts remained independent: the prefects and their agents could not interfere with their normal routine operations unless given permission or instructed to do so. The prefects possessed brakes on the two fiscal departments: they could not independently issue instructions, orders, time tables, dispatch deputies or initiate actions of any kind involving provincials without the prior approval of themselves or the emperor (Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 64-65, 68). The prefects set policy and tax rates for the SL and RP with imperial approval. SL and RP staff were forbidden from interacting with the provincial tax payers -they were present themselves with their instruction and work through the governors who in turn could not interfere with their work unless they transgressed. The administrative triangulations at every level and check-and-balances are typical of the system which used a scatter-gun approach of group accountability and culpability (backed up by threats of fines for whole departments) to maintain control of an out-of-sight and distant bureaucracy. The prohibition to stay away from the SL and RP applied even more strictly to the Master(s) of the Offices, Ministers of Internal Security, were forbidden from having anything to do with the SL and RP (A. Giardina, Aspetti della burocrzia nel basso imperio, 1977 pp. 59-60). From the 340s they were 'represented' permanently by their agents who were appointed as heads of the office in the prefectures, dioceses and two of three proconsular provinces; and by field inspectors of the public post who were stationed in diocesan and provincial see cities and other towns such as ports. These several administrative arrangements set up a series of overlapping triangulations by which independent departments of State cold be 'clamped' together by shared duties at discrete junctures.

Until the 360s the RP with its vast local agents and staff was able to collect its own rents and taxes. Perhaps because of the duress in imperial finances in the mid-360s governors were assigned supervision of the collection of RP rents (lands paid rent and regular tax referred to as 'rent'). The result was massive arrears in the 370s and int the early 380s. Preoccupied with financial matters the government's policy swung back and forth from gubernatorial supervision or not. By the end of the century it lay with the governors in the West and jointly in the East (Jones. op. ci. p. 414). This is important in respect to vicars because they are seen occasionally to be more directly involved in this matter at the behest of prefects who were trying to assume control over the RP (Jones, ibid) as they had been given in respect to fiscal debt matters of the SL by Constantine who gave them appeal jurisdiction. The prefects succeeded in taking over the SL in the mid-fifth century but the RP was more successful in fending them off; however, it fell under the power of the palace senior chamberlain (Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 71-714).


The praetorian prefects were the superiors of the diocesan vicars. In fact in 328 Constantine refers to them as "your vicars," addressed to Aemilianus, pretorian prefect in Italy (CTh. 11, 16, 4).

The praetorian prefect by the reign of Diocletian had evolved from being a commander of the Imperial Guard to being vice-regent, "a kind of grand vizier" (Jones, op. cit. p. 371). The post had acquired important judicial, financial and administrative authority over the entire administration. Diocletian did not address the problem of task overload as a result. This was left to Constantine in the year 325 after the defeat of Licinius in late 324. He kept the 'canonical' number of prefects at two even during the Tetrarchy: the Caesars had to do without. Constantine I broke with precedent by appointing Bassus in 318 as the third prefect for his son Crispus who had been put in charge of Britain and Gaul in 317. The number increased to four by 331, if not earlier. A fifth for Africa existed in the years 335-337. After the emperor's death in 337 the number reverted to three, one for each of his three son successors. Numbers varied from three to four until four as the 'canonical' number was fixed in 395 for Gaul, Italy, Illyricum and the East: These four existed from 342/43 to 361, from 375-379 and from 388-391.

Constantine in 325 divided the Treasury previously under the count of the SL into three one each for the SL, the RP and the prefects (dating Delmaire, op. cit. p. 703). The accounts prior to 325 had been separate. Prefects were given sole control over the regular land tax: the SL was removed from further involvement in this aspect of finance. The collection of SL taxes was assigned to the governors oversight of whom in this matter was shared between the vicars and comptrollers (Delmaire, op. cit. p. 163, 199, 204-205, 243-24). Importantly the emperor transferred appeals of SL and RP debt to the courts of the prefecture sometime between 327-329. These cases were exclusively under the prefecture until 385. He removed the SL removed from involvement with the state post, the cursus publicus (the service was a privately operated empire-wide transport system of ways stations, rest stops and draught animals funded and maintained by obligations laid on private persons which could be used by government agents and departments - and private citizens with influence- the inspection and use of which, however, was from the early 340s placed under the Masters of the Offices).

The prefects supplied the army with payments in kind, weapons and other needed items. They funded the operation and repair of the public post, the construction and repair of roads, harbors and state granaries; the operation and supply of State armories, and the supply of State mills (operated by the SL and RP). The prefects (also vicars, governors and urban prefect(s) and proconsuls) had first instance and appellate jurisdiction in civil, criminal and debt cases (owed the prefecture and from 327-329 appeals of debt from the first instance verdicts of the rationales and magistri). Their verdicts could not be appealed (although from 365 injured parties were allowed a supplicatio to the emperor, CJ, 1, 19, 5). The prefecture had jurisdiction over soldiers in criminal and civil suits - criminal cases of soldier defendants were transferred to the courts martial in 355 and civil in 413 (Jones, op. cit. pp. 487-489). The prefects vicars and governors appear not to have had disciplinary control over the master(s) of the offices provincial state post inspectors. Constantius II in 359 threatened to place them under the prefects if not controlled (Jones, p. 389). In 317 Constantine transferred jurisdiction over senators accused of criminal offense to the courts of the governors from the urban prefect of Rome; in 364 civil cases in which senators were plaintiffs were also transferred to governors. In 376 a final reassignment was made: criminal cases of senators resident within 100 mile distance from Rome were transferred back to the urban prefect and a panel of five senators; civil suits involving senators went to the urban prefect of Rome in the suburbicarian portion of the Diocese of Italy which included the large islands with an option that cases could be sent to the praetorian prefect in Milan (Jones, op. cit. pp. 490-491). In all other regions the prefectures controlled cases criminal and civil cases involving senators either as plaintiffs or defendants. The legislation of 376 marks the last major upgrade to affect the vicars' role judicially. It is also one sign of further centralization of the administration under praetorian prefects: another during this decade was the experiment of having governors supervise the collection of RP rents which set off a 'turf' war with the SL and RP that lasted off-and-on for 75 years (Franks, op. cit. pp. 992).

After the completion of major reforms in the years 325-329 the prefects remained ( after the "fragmentation of the praetorian prefects vast area of responsibility, the foreshadowing of regional prefectures, and promotion of high-ranking military and civil offices" Kelly, op. cit. p. 191) as chief finance officers, chief justices, quarter-master generals of the army, and, by reason of being vice-regents, heads of government or 'prime ministers': in their own spheres the vicars mirrored this rearrangement as deputies or substitute prefects. The prefects lost any control they had had over the Treasury, Crown Estates, the imperial secretariats, the state security apparatus, the palace administration, the imperial guard. They remained in overall charge of the budgets (composed by region ("the prefect was responsible for the tax demands within his prefecture, all orders for payment issued form him, but the product of the collection went to different treasuries," Delmaire, op. cit. p. 243). They had been stripped earlier in 312 of active military command. Vicars did not have military command (if created post-312). However they led minor military campaigns against Isaurian brigands in Isauria on the mid-350s, Asia in 363 (when the vicar was slain in an ambush) and led an army operating against the Sueves in northwest Spain in 418 at the same time the Visigoths were decimating the Vandals and Alans. The count of the Orient at the end of the 4th century commanded the fleet in Seleucia. the port for Antioch.

The exact nature and purpose of the early territorial prefectures of Constantine has been much discussed. The 'general consensus' seems to be that they may not have been 'territorial' as claimed by the 5th century historian Zosimus as clearly seen as such in the late 4th century Notitia Dignitatum which gives a detailed listing of the administrative organization of the empire with some missing pieces (Kelly, op. cit. p. 186). They may not have been 'fully administrative' either. The early prefectures may reflect more Constantine's dynastic hopes than administrative interests, an aspect which appears in the 340s under Constans and Constantius I; and more evidently so from the 360s (Joachim Migl, Die Ordnung der Amter, Pratorianer und Vikariat in der Regionsverwaltung des Romishcen Reiches von Konstantin bis zur Valentiischen Dynastie, 1994; for the view that they correspond to Constantine's dynastic ambitions, Timothy Barnes, Constantine, Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire, 2011, for the thesis the prefectures reflect emperors' dynastic concerns less than administration and administrative growth in the 340s, pp. 292-298; Malcom Errington, Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius, 2006, pp. 261-262 dates the rise of prefectures post-364 stating "the Constantinan Dynasty, favored, on the one hand, a regionally-based centralism, and on the other, the gradual separation of the regions," pp. 262-263; P. Porena, Le origini della prefettura del pretorio tardoantica, 2003, believes the prefectures came into full territorial and administrative effect between 325-330). The slow evolution of the prefectures which appears to be the result of further gradual centralization from the 360s worked in favor of the dioceses as the primary governance districts until the end of the 4th and possibly the early 5th. In the absence of the emperor who alone had palatine heads of the SL, RP, the MO, praetorian prefects who governed dioceses directly (most typically of Gaul in Trier) had to rely on diocesan-level equivalent to these officials. This replicates the arrangement in dioceses governed by vicars except the former exercised supreme power and the latter, superior.

The death of Constantine in 337 brings to a close the period of major administrative changes that began with Diocletian. These innovations fixed the Roman Empire's basic governance structures for two centuries; and were the products of pre-285 structures, innovations and competencies being mixed, remolded and adapted over a period 50 years (A.H.M. Jones, LRE, 1964, p. 207-208 for pace of commutation; pp. 401-410 'Centralisation' and the rise of the prefects; for and overview of administrative developments, The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, Ed. Noel Lenski, 'Law and Society,' Christopher Kelly, p. 184-204, The Cambridge Ancient History, XIII, The Late Empire A.D. 337-425, 'Emperors, government and bureaucracy,' pp. 138-184, Christopher Kelly; and Peter Heather, 'Senators and senates,' 'Institutional change,' p. 188-189, David S. Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay, 180-395, 1994, pp. 367-372).


The vicariate dioceses came into existence sometime between 297-313/314.

Various motives have been suggested for the creation of vicars in dioceses: to assist in Diocletian's division of provinces begun in the early 290s and to facilitate the introduction of the new tax assessment and collection system which may have begun in 287 and involved a series of censuses every 5 years, Egypt excepted until 297, which took 15 years to complete and which gave the empire a budget in the modern sense for the first time); provide 'relief' officers to overburdened prefects (there were only 2); process and vet state business for the palatine level, thereby increasing administrative efficiency and reduce turn around time due to slow communications.; secure control of regions by placing officials with "supreme power" in each of them for 313/14, (Zuckermann, op. cit. pp. 627, 636); counteract the centrifugal tendencies resulting from doubling the number of provinces (D. Bowder, The Age of Constantine, 1978, p. 37); so that the prefects could delegate much of the detailed work (financial) to the 12 vicars with their attached financial departments (Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery, 1982, p. 110); supervise governors so they would have more time to supervise the cities (Pat Southern, The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, 2001 p. 164-165); provide 'relief' officers to overburdened prefects (there were only 2); process and vet state business for the palatine level, thereby increasing administrative efficiency and reduce turn around time due to slow communications. Underlying all of these is control; "control was the order of the day," (Southern, op. cit. 165). Fiscal stability may have been at the top of list of concerns: the Empire could not be administered or defended without sufficient revenue in the budget (the value of liturgical contributions not included) which went to the army by some estimates from a low of 40% to a high of 70% (Richard Duncan-Jones, Money and Government in the Roman Empire, 1994 pp. 33-46; Kenneth W. Harl, Coinage in the Roman Economy, 1996, pp. 212-228; Garnsey, Peter & Whittiker, C.R., CAH XIII, p. 316, "The whole bureaucratic machinery seems to have been intended to maximize efficiencies to ensure that the revenues from private and state land were collected and channel in accordance with government policies; The impression given in the legal codes is that the interests of the state were primarily fiscal," ibid). Conditions had changed: the empire could not be governed from the city of Rome post-284:the center was wherever the emperor(s) was residing for however a short or long period of time usually somewhere along the northern and eastern borders.

The dioceses initially numbered twelve for 100+ provinces (120 in the Notitia), each headed by a vicarius i. e. a deputy to a Praefectus praetorio ("Praetorian Prefect"). The Italian diocese had two vicars, one in Rome for the region south of the capital and for the islands, and one normally stationed in Milan for northern Italy and the Alpine regions south of the Danube as far as Vienna (Vindabona) and the Istria peninsula (when the prefect moved to the diocese of Pannonia, the vicar went to Milan: which neatly illustrates the relationship and reason for vicars, Jones, op. cit. p. 373). In 321 or by 327 the diocese of Moesia was divided into Dacia and Macedonia. In 370 or 380 Egypt was detached from the diocese of the Oriens (Cilicia, Cyprus, Syria, and Palestine) to be a diocese for reasons of establish more direct fiscal accountability with the capital and secure the food supply of Constantinople with a rapidly growing population. The large size of the dioceses preclude the idea that these could have directly administered rather than control the overall administration of regions(" diocese were less geographical administrative entities than administrative conglomerates which a new authority should supervise governors and coordinate over all regional activities," (B. Palme, 'Die Officia der Statthalter in der spatantike,' Antiquite Tardive 7, 1999, pp. 97-98; "...grouped them into large circumscriptions,: Jones, p. 373) with their small staffs. For the most part administration, judicial matters, and tax collection were left to the governors and a vast number of minor and mid-rank officials at the local level in the 2,000 city states with their surrounding territories. The largest diocese by number of provinces, not area, was the Diocese of the East, which included 20 provinces when Egypt was part of it, while the smallest, the Diocese of Britain, comprised only 4 provinces (Reviews of these developments can be found in the Age of Constantine, Ed. Noel Lenski, Bureaucracy and Government, Christopher Kelly, ibid; Kelly, Ruling the Later Roman Empire, 2004, on "the organizing principles of irregularity," pp. 208-209 i.e. overlapping; David. S Potter, The Empire at Bay, 180-395, pp.367–377; Cambridge Ancient History, volume XII, pp.170–183). the typical staff complement was 300, and 600 in Oriens. The range of diocesan activity reflects the narrow concerns and capacity of the ancient state - absent are the large scale social programs of the modern Western industrial states - it was directed towards matters of justice, revenue collection and all other business of government (Kelly op. cit. p. 145;'The impression conveyed in the legal codes is that the interests of the state were primarily fiscal"..."In general, the concerns of the government were narrow," Peter Garnsey and C.R. Whittaker, CAH XIII, p. 316). Above all defense of the empire was the primary concern, and fiscal the means to provide it.

The statutory complement of the diocesan office was 300 (600 in Oriens; and 200 in Asia probably a scribal error) dived into the senior judicial branch and the financial branches. The head of the office and the senior heads of staff, the senior assistants and other permanent career staff would have provided the expertise, continuity, stability and institutional memory for the proper conduct of business. These were very small offices in numbers to conduct administrative oversight of large regions with from 2-12 million inhabitants: the primary duty was oversight and regulation of the imperial administrative apparatus and the collection and analysis of data pertinent to this endeavor for use within the diocese or for the highest echelon. The smallness has to be put into context: the diocese's task was to control the imperial administration, the superstructure of the Roman State, not actually do the vast work of administration which was done at the municipal level by several thousand cities and towns. The main tasks of the imperial administration were to provide for defense, finances (collect revenue for operating the State) and provide for justice. Social services such as they existed were a local matter supplemented by imperial largesse.

Critically for understanding the importance of dioceses into the 5th century is that the prefects' annual budgets were diocesan-bases budgets ("The dioceses were the great fiscal districts of the Empire. They also hosted the financial offices of the fiscus and of the res privata the rationales summmarum and the magistri (later called rationales) rei privatae,' CAH XII, p. 181, quoting Delmaire, p. 181, 'The Emperor and his new Administration,' Elio LoCascio). The financial branch of the prefecture was organized by diocese subdivided into provinces (the structure of the prefecture Oriens is the only one fully known, but is thought they all were organized similarly if not exactly). Financial correspondence was handled by the curae epistularum for each diocese with their corresponding official in the diocese (the usurpation of this function by the tractatores, accountants of the provincial branches in the East, late in the 5th century is indicative of diocesan decline).

The diocesan staffs did much of the detailed financial preparation work for the prefects (Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery, 1985, p.110) as in judicial matters. They were involved with tax delinquencies all sorts; tax evasion, fraud, financial reports; illegal transfer of exemption from liturgical obligations and supplemental tax demands to private property by claiming these were leased Crown estates which had exempt status; tax remissions, revisions, reassessments, and reallocations; the auditing of provincial tax returns; and reviewing the integrity of army roster and requisition returns (initially done by the governors and army accountants (Franks op. cit. p. 991). The vicariani, diocesan staff, were supposed to act as collectors of arrears (compulsories) only. They were forbidden participation in tax collection which was a local responsibility (there were repetitive imperial denunciations of imperial staff from the prefecture and the SL interjecting themselves in tax collection and practicing extortion, Jones, op. cit. pp. 459-60). The African diocesan office keep copies of the RP tax returns and delinquencies (CTh. 11, 28 13, 422). That year the vicar and the proconsul was ordered to forward copies of these to the SL and RP offices in Ravenna regarding a massive proposed remission of arrears on imperial property in Byzacena and the proconsular province. Most financial matters would not have required no litigation: executive orders, investigations and administrative decision would have sufficed since one of the primary duties of vicars was to enforce imperial orders, regulations, protocols and procedures. General tax remissions were rare from the 360s to the early 5th century due to imperial financial duress - there is evidence though spotty that some dioceses were more directly engaged in collecting current and back taxes owed the prefectures and directly supervising governors than monitoring, auditing and investigating these matters - in Codex Theodosianus, Egypt, 1, 14, 1 395, Africa, 15, 14 (395) and 17 (400), the Seven Provinces of southern Gaul 15, 15 (400); and of the RP in the diocese of the Orient 1, 13, 1 (394).

Although there is no way to know in fact the ratio of judicial to fiscal business which probably varied from region to region the more than 250 or so references in the Codex Theodosianus and Novels 313 to 472 A.D. to vicars and their staffs (many often couched in documents addressed to other officials) between years 313-472 suggest a plurality on judicial issues (Wiewiorowski analyzes the judicial in detail pp. 109-235 and lists 70 laws deal with "more or less important criminal and civil cases, lawsuits related to tax obligations, or issues concerning religion"..."criminal law 9, family law and affairs 9, protection of property 6, and inheritance 5," op. cit. pp. 206-214, 294-95 4 laws he examines deal with tax matters; Franks identifies 47 "on a broad spectrum of fiscal matters" of which 32 suggest major vicariate roles in a wide-range of budgetary and fiscal policy oversight, liturgies, tax collection supervision (8), and 2 in direct intervention (replacement of governors' supervision), op. cit. p. 1991; the remainder deal with imperial staff, guilds, municipalities, building construction and repairs and a miscellany of other government concerns). The increased number of entries referring to vicariate involvement in financial matters dates from the 360s on though the greater oversight role dates from the 320s and may be attributed to duress in imperial finances - selection of laws by the compilers is lopsided, "bountiful but deceptive, because of the illusion of comprehensiveness it projects" (Lenski, op. cit. p. 267).

The location of SL and RP offices together in almost everyone of the diocesan see cities (except in Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and one of the Pannonian provinces), presence of the Master of the Offices' appointee as head of diocesan office ( the MO was Minister of State Security, Administration and Communications), sometimes a general, and a governor facilitated the conduct of regional state business and made the vicars' task of monitoring the operation and health of the regional administration easier as "ringmaster, but not sole arbiter" (Franks, p. 991). Nonetheless they still had to navigate the thicket of overlapping authority and bundled tasks that hampered the civil service, and was intended to clamp the various parts of it together, but also monopolized ultimate power in the hands of the emperors and his prefects or to whomever it chose to share it with (Kelly, op. cit. pp. 225-231) and interdepartmental rivaries and jealousies, Jones, p. 601-602).


Vicars were charged with exercising overall administrative control over the diocese. The vicars' main task was to control and coordinate the activities of provincial governors They were overseers of the regular courts, keepers of the global diocesan budget set by the prefects for the prefecture and the SL and RP, and guarantors of liturgical assignments (determined by the prefects issued by the governors to the liturgists) and quarter-masters general of the armies. Although without military command taken away in 312 the governors and prefects continued to have jurisdiction over soldiers in criminal and civil cases (in 355 trials of defendant soldiers was transferred to the courts martial; and the same in civil suits officially in 413). The removal of jurisdiction in 355 is the only loss of jurisdiction for vicars until the heads of the SL and RP were allowed in 385 to receive appeals of fiscal debt owed their departments, a power they had lost sometime between 327-329 to the prefects and vicars.

Vicars of dioceses originated from the post of ad hoc deputy commander of the Praetorian Guard, agens vices praefectorum praetorio of the Praetorian Guard when the prefects were absent from Rome. However, the fiscal diocese or even the older larger proconsulate provinces of the Principate may have been the models (though the latter were not 'regional' to the extent that diocese were). The deputies first appear during the Severan Dynasty, 193-235. Beginning in the late 290s other vice-prefects appear performing duties outside the capital (while others continued to command the remaining Guard units in Rome): one was stationed in Tingis (Tangiers) in 298 to order the affairs of the province after a revolt was suppressed by the emperor Maximian, another was in Numidia and Tripolitania in 303 Africa ordering affairs there, one in 298 in Egypt with Diocletian after the suppression of a revolt there, and another in Asia Minor in 303 to head up the persecution of Christians. Four more are known before 312, two of whom were in Egypt and Asia Minor. They are little more than names or a title. Although not much is known about them or their activities, vice-prefects appear to have been 'trouble-shooters' or commissioners to put the affairs of a region right, a role that the diocesan vicars perhaps brought with them and retaianed even after they were 'domesticated' by being institutionalized as the heads of the main governance district until the end of the 4th century or early 5th.

The ad hoc type of vice-prefect was fazed out in the 320s (but the title remained the official one as seen from the epigraphic evidence -'vicarius' is a convenient abbreviation among many, 'vicaria praefectura' being one). They were gradually replaced by companions of provinces, comites provinciarum, a class of personal commissioners Constantine created in 316 to carry out various specific tasks or reforms in the provinces especially in the years 324-337 (Jacek Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 72) when he was sole emperor trying to strengthen his grip on the regions he had gained after the defeat of Licinius: the area Thrace and eastwards that became the Prefecture of the East. Some 20 are recorded in six of thirteen dioceses (Moesia was divided into Dacia and Macedonia by 327). The consensus now among scholars is that comites replaced rather than served alongside diocesan vicars. The last known was a Count of the Spains in 340. The title, comes, for reasons unknown, became standard for the vicar of the Orient. From then on the regular vicars governed dioceses without 'rivals' (cf. for an overview, Wiewiorowski, op. cit. English Edition, 2016, pp. 52–74; A. H. M. Jones, LRE pp. 104–105; Clemence, Dupont, Constantin et Les Dioceses,' Studi in Onore de. G. Donatuti, vol. 3, 1973, pp. 309–336).

After the 'demise' of the comites the emperors resort to sending fairly high-ranking palatine-level staff of the Prefecture, Treasury, Crown Estates to look into affairs in the provinces, standing practise. More use was made of the Masters' of the Offices agents, the agentes in rebus (men of state business). They acquired a sinister reputation under Constantius II, 337-361 as spies (Jones, LRE, pp. 128, 449-452, 457, 586). They are better seen as courier/bureaucrats with a wide range of knowledge about the workings of imperial administration. The Masters were titular commanders of the Imperial Guard and heads of the imperial secretariats, the scrinia. The word 'officia' in their title refers to their main duty as watchdogs of the officia (office staffs) of the prefecture and intelligence gatherers to the emperors. The Masters had had no control over the SL and the RP (Giardina, Andrea, Aspetti della burocrazia nel basso imperio, 1977, pp. 54-68). These ministries reported directly to the emperor or to the prefects. However the MO have access to information about these ministries as a member of the imperial consistory (the Cabinet), through his agents stationed in the provinces, and reports from senior agentes who were from the early 340s the heads of the offices in the dioceses, prefectures and two of three proconsulates. In this respect the diocesan see cities, mini-simulacra of the palatine administration, was focal point of information gathering and processing with the vicar as a kind of ring-master. These regional administrative clusters of the diocesan, SL and the RP regional chiefs, the master of the office's resprentatives, often resident governor and general in toto is expressive of the Constantinian Dynasty's diocesan-centered administrative policy (R. Malcolm Errington, Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Thodosius, pp. 261-262).

The creation of permanent vicars whenever it happened between 297-313/14 'outsourced' the prefects' authority, however superior (i.e. appealable, not final), to permanent on-the-spot representatives of the emperor in defined territories, rather than to ad hoc temporary appointees in 'spheres' of control, in effect creating a set of mini-prefects. Their main task was to control and coordinate the activity of governors. The appearance of the vicars diminished further the already somewhat reduced prestige of governors after their number was doubled from 47 in 284 to 100+ and military command was removed from those which still had it to make them solely civilian officials, a process which begins very slowly in the late 3rd century and seems to have been completed by Constantine shortly after he stripped prefects of any residual military command late in 312 (J.C. Mann, 'Duces and Comites in the Fourth Century,' in D.D. Johnston (ed.) The Saxon Shore (C.B.A Research Report 18) 1977, 11-15).

The vicars were the only civilian official to have superior authority within a diocese absent a praetorian prefect or emperor (or the prefect of Rome whose extraordinary jurisdiction included all Italy and the Islands until 357 with the vicar of Italy and the vicar in Rome, Jones, op. cit. p. 481-482). Even though it took a while for the new 'system' of regional officials to 'kick in' Constantine clearly showed his preference by communicating directly with the vicars in Africa during the Donatist Controversies of the second decade of the 4th century. Another important task of vicars was to monitor the SL and RP over which they had extraordinary jurisdiction in fiscal debt cases: they (and governors) also had jurisdiction over SL and RP staffs in criminal and civil suits, over RP tenants in major criminal cases and the assimilation of confiscated property to the RP which had to receive the approval of a governor (Jones, op. cit. p. 481-482).

The vicars are variously characterized as 'mini-prefects' (M.F. Hendy, Economy and State in Late Rome and Early Byzantium, 1989, pp. 373-379); as deputies who "...seem to have deputized for the praetorian prefects in all their manifold functions," Jones op. cit. p. 47) and "duplicated" the work of prefects (Wieworowski, op. cit. p. 301).The were in the beginning mainly judicial counterparts to the fiscal regional officials - judicial authority covered civil, criminal and fiscal matters as defined during this period and as modified by Constantine and subsequent emperors. Is unclear "the degree of subordination of these officials to the Praetorian Prefects, at least in some judicial matters is also uncertain" (Kelly op. cit. p. 185; vicars' verdicts could not be arbitrarily overturned by prefects they had to be appealed appeal). To state that vicars duplicated the prefect's competencies is not quite correct since the vicars did not carry out the same set of judicial and financial duties in the same way as the prefects since they labored under tighter restrictions on their discretionary powers and possessed superior, not supreme authority. Most importantly they were not policy-makers or originators of law.

Vicars were not part of the imperial bureaucracy which was termed 'militia inermis' - 'unarmed military service' (those who were enrolled as stipendiaries in a fictional legion, Adiutrix I). Their post was a dignitas, an honor, bestowed on private citizens. Governors and vicars usually served one year terms. These appointments are often regarded by the ancient sources as revolving-door magistracies handed out to persons of higher social rank without experience in governing which suggests that the men appointed were basically unfit. Ancient authors loved to point the finger at bumbling magistrates. There are reports of legal advisors apprising ignorant governors of the law. However, it would be mistaken to believe that the higher levels of the imperial bureaucracy was composed entirely of amateur incompetents. Analysis of 330+ entries in the Prosopography of the Roman Empire (those with sufficient information) reveals that most men had had several years experience - non necessarily sequential without breaks - in a variety of junior posts as legal counsels (assessores), some had experience on the financial side which was 'not fashionable' and less favored than the judicial/administrative but tended to be more of actual career to the holders, and one or more governorships before appointment as vicar. The 'careers' of most ended with the vicariate - a significant minority, however, went on to serve in the highest palatine offices whether as proconsuls, urban or as praetorian prefects, counts of the two fiscal ministries or as master of he offices (the holders of these latter three offices typically served two or more years limiting the number of candidates for these posts).

Vicars were handicapped in the beginning by having been 'dropped' into a pre-existing web of a somewhat porous "administrative system that was not rationally planned and lacked and clearly-defined hierarchy of offices" (Jones, op. cit. 377; cf. Kelly Ruling the Later Roman Empire, pp. 186-231, "...blurred spectrum of responsibilities;" "...waste of time caused by duplication, cross-checking, the transfer of personnel, the short tenure of posts, the uncertainties of appointment and advancement, and the arbitrary division of tasks..." p. 229; T. F. Carney, Bureaucracy in Traditional Society: Roman-Byzantine Bureaucracies viewed from Within, 1971). Constantine tried to disentangle the web of overlapping and unclear lines of authority by making departmental competencies more defined in the years 325-331 but the system was never more than partially rationalized and remained a patchwork (Jones, op. cit. p. 377). Constantine's re-alignments placed the vicars more clearly at the apex of the diocesan administration.

The vicars were in the beginning of the same rank, the equestrian grade perfectissimus, as their regional counterparts of the SL and RP and most governors. In 326 vicars were raised to the senatorial rank of clarissimus (the prefect of the Annona of Rome was given senatorial rank in the same year; and it has been argued that the palatine chiefs of the SL, RP and the MO were all made comites, imperial companions, as part of an administrative consolidation and competencies specialization program at the palatine level which strengthened the institution of central, Kelly, Age of Constantine, pp. 190-191) while Constantine was in Italy and at the time that vicars were being moved more decidedly into the driver's seat as diocesan heads by being given more control over the finances of the diocese. In 372 they were elevated a step higher to spectabilis where they remained when Valentinian I sorted out all higher officials into three classes within which there rankings by precedence. From the 306s the regional SL and RP comptrollers (and palace officials) were being elevated to senatorial status as grade-inflation picked up speed. Further elevation of senators is a sign that their influence had peaked as central headquarter officials surpassed began to surpass them in rank at the end of the 4th and in the early 5th centuries as centralization picked speed. Nonetheless the vicars remained the senior ranking civilian officials with highest authority in the dioceses until their demise.

Judicial Powers and Restrictions on the Authority of Vicars

The vicars' main role in the beginning years was as appeal judges, i.e. with extraordinary jurisdiction. They also had first instance ordinary jurisdiction (like governors and some other officials in the administrative courts).Right of appeal from a governor's decision was and refused a confessed criminal, in cases of debt to the state as a tactic to postpone payment and might not be made on a preliminary issue (Jones. op. cit. p. 482). They had concurrently ordinary jurisdiction which they were expected to use with restraint: first instance jurisdiction was the province of governors who were expected to take the cases and not pawn them off of the appeal judges (which they often did anyway). Most appeal cases went to the vicars' courts, emperor's intention during the 4th century and well into the fifth century (Jones p. 481-83; Wiewiorowksi, The Judiciary of Diocesan Vicars in the Later Roman Empire, 2016 p. 41; for an argument that the competencies were not sorted out until the mid-4th century, Joachim Migl Die Ordnung der Amter, Pratorianer und Vikariat in Der Regionalverwaltung des Romischen Reiches von Konstantin bis zur Valentinischen Dynastie, 1994, pp. 64-65, 67; Seston, Diocletian et la tetrarchie, 1946, pp. 339; on the uncertainty of the vicars' degree of subordination in judicial matters to prefects, Christopher Kelly, The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, Ed. Noel Lenski, 'Law and Society,' Christopher Kelly, p. 185).

In 331 Constantine confirmed the routing of appeals (CTh. 11, 30, 16). The emperor confirmed he would receive appeals from the intermediate judges. Only the four prefects besides himself were given authority to render a final verdict on his behalf "vice sacra.' The routing of appeals was not on a strict vertical ladder. It was forked as a Y. An appeal went from governor to vicar or to urban prefect to emperor or from governor to prefect should a vicar refuse the case whoever was nearest and had jurisdiction (CTh. 1, 16, 6 and 7, 331). A case from a governor of Britain would go to the vicar, and if denied, would go to the prefect in Trier (to whom appeals were sent from the diocese of Gaul which e governed directly). The ruling remained, at least on the books, the standard procedure for two centuries (Jones, op. cit. 485-486). It was modified for first time in 365 when appeals of a prefect's verdict was allowed to the emperor (which rather nullified a purpose of Constantine's ruling which was to prevent so many cases coming to him). The law of 331 "...established a three-tier system for those who wished to appeal the sentences of judges vice sacra with the exception of the praetorian prefects" (who spoke for the emperor in his place)..."...whether to appeal directly to the emperor on the basis of his and his judge's statements and the records of the case, or proceed personally to the nearest highest instance" (John Noel Dillon, The Justice of Constantine, 2012 p. 248-258; Wiewiorowski op. cit. for a detailed analysis of the laws and other documents on the judicial role of vicars passim and p. 293 for his thesis that the vicars' poorly defined judicial authority was fatal to their success). Vicars were expected to use their authority settles cases if possible and to prevent lesser and trivial suits from reaching the emperor and prefects who "were occupied with administrative and financial work and the consistory had little time for judicial work" (Jones, op. cit. 496). They also had first instance authority which allowed them to intervene in the lower courts to correct irregularities, take a case of great value, or of an important person, and to prevent intimidation of a powerful person of a governor (CTh. 1, 15, 1, 325). First instance was to be used sparingly and for cause as the emperors and prefects wanted the provincial courts to close cases as much as possible. Litigants, however, to get a more definitive verdicts more immediately and to lessen the expense of the appeal process or a more favorable judge, tried to have vicars take their cases from the provincial courts per saltim thereby circumventing the regular appeal process, "to bypass the rules" (Jones, op. cit. pp. 293). It seems that governors pressed as they were by administrative duties in particular with "raising the revenue" were only too happy to pass a case to a vicar and "scamped their judicial duties" (Jones, pp. 495-496). The vicars could deny an appeal but only at peril to themselves. If they did the litigants could go to the prefect directly, and if they won their case vicars could be fined for 'passing the buck,' 11, 30, 16. Judges 'passed the buck,' claiming they could not hear a case because of illness or the press of public business (Jones, p. 1211, note 59). The sending of cases to the top level 'for advice' appears to have been quite a common practice.

Although invested with authority to judge in the emperor's place (vice sacra iudicans) the vicars' was superior not supreme: they could not render final verdicts. The restriction was a stumbling-block to vicars but was probably seen as a security measure: supreme power was harbored by the emperors for themselves and for the prefects who were their vice-regents. Vicars, subordinate to the prefects from their creation, in the early decades may have had more autonomy (William G. Sinnigen, 'The Vicarius Urbis Romae and the Urban Prefecture,' Historia, vol 8, No. 1 1959 p. 98, "technically independent"; "the degree of subordination of these officials to the Praetorian Prefects, at least in some judicial matters is also uncertain" (Kelly op. cit. p. 185). Were they deputies of or substitutes for prefects and representatives of the emperors? The sources speak to both and the constitutional situation may have changed at times.

The ability to exercise superior authority depended on the restrictions placed on it and to whom it was applied. Uncertainties in law and procedure complicated matters. Numerous restrictions on their discretionary authority handicapped the vicars but it was intentional - supreme power to make final decisions was not going to be extended to distant officials, and it was carefully rationed.To have been given supreme authority would have given distant officials too much power, would have put a chokehold on much-needed information from reaching the emperor and senior ministers inviting loss of central control, in particular in regions - Britain, Gaul, Africa, Egypt and Oriens - where there had been breakaway regimes and serious rebellions between the years 260-274 and again in 286-296 (Britain) and Egypt 297-298. Theirs was to execute, not to act independently except in some emergency situations such as civil disturbances or where the law clearly allowed them to respond on their own by taking the initiative. Restriction of authority existed in part to protect the provincials arbitrary rule, rapaciousness, to stabilize operations and resist pressures from powerful local persons seeking personal advantages. Although their duties on paper seem to duplicate those of prefects, this is misleading since emperors and prefects made policy which vicars did not. Although the prefects labored under the some of the same restrictions they had the ear of the emperor as his vice-regents. Even so it was not until the end of the 4th century that they were allowed to grant tax remissions and issue tax supplemental demands contingent upon final imperial approval at the end of the 4th century.

Vicars could not change regulations, orders, procedures or make changes in fiscal matters - the many types processed by the diocesan staffs mentioned above - were very much restricted. Vicars could not change or order a census, issue annual tax demands, set or change tax rates and assessments, reallocate taxes, modify the imperial budget, issue orders for supplemental tax demands, grant tax remission and rebates or change orders for liturgical obligations without imperial approval except in emergencies and even then these were usually denied (Jones op. cit. p. 404). No supplemental tax demands could be levied by governors and other departmental officials on their own authority. These had to be transmitted by governors and vicars to prefects, 11, 16, 7, (356). In spite of the limitations vicars were able to exercise control over the diocesan administration by issuing executive orders or administrative decisions (Franks p. 991) and by insisting that procedures, orders, instruction, methods and regulations be followed stemming from their disciplinary power. They could even fine governors and their staffs for lax performance (and the counts of the SL and RP could fine them and governors for lax performance). Lack of sufficient discretionary authority and slow communications hampered effective responses to emergencies and leave officials confused as to what they could do. Vicars were not policy makers. They were more akin to very senior managers of policies made higher up.

Their ability to control the administration of the diocese was also complicated by the fact that governors and any other official could communicate directly with the prefects and emperor(s) even though they preferred that the routine business be collected and processed in the diocesan see cities; and that official reports, queries and legal cases be vetted by diocesan staff (policy also in regard to the SL and RP). Chaos or at the least, confusion, and working at cross-purposes was always present in this 'open communications' policy (Pat Southern, The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, 2001, 165). Also the vicar's control over governors though direct was not absolute (they could not appoint or dismiss them, but could investigate them and fine them); they had a very limited but focused power over the SL and RP sufficient to monitor them. From 327-329 to 385 vicars had appeal jurisdiction in fiscal debt cases of the SL and RP (CTh. 11, 30, 28, Franks, op. cit. p. 990). Vicars also exercised jurisdiction over the staffs of the two fiscal ministries in civil and criminal cases, and over tenants of the RP in major criminal cases until in 385 (the same year they lost control over SL staff in civil suits).

The Vicars' Financial Role

The vicars' financial role was clarified and they were given additional financial duties as a result of Constantine's reform of the palatine-level ministries in the years 325-329. The financial overlapped with the judicial and administrative since all three roles were given one official. The vicars' main financial goals were the promotion of diocesan fiscal integrity and the successful collection of taxes. The vicars were monitors, coordinators and regulators of a highly complex and cumbersome tax collection and distribution system (Franks, op. cit. p. 992); keepers of the diocesan budget; guarantors of liturgical assignments composed and issued by governors according to instructions from the prefecture, CTH, 11, 14, 4, 328 ("vicars and governors were ultimately responsible for the good functioning of the tax machine," Gilles Bransbourg, 'Fiscalite imperial et finances municipals au iv siècle,' Antiquite Tardive 6, 2008, pp. 255-296; Gaudemet p. 197-205 suggested the fiscal were the "main object of activities of diocesan vicars," 'Les constitutions au vicaire Dracontius,' Melanges d'histoire ancienne offerts a W. Seston from Wiewioroski, op. cit. p 174); and administrative watchdogs of military logistics and administration. They were 'fiscal cops' not only over the prefecture but of the two fiscal offices (Franks, op. cit. p. 991). An important example of their oversight and auditing duties can be seen in Constantine's instructions to the proconsul of Africa in 319 (CTh. 1 12. 2) - vicars and proconsuls were virtually identical in authority and at times a proconsul substituted for or governed dioceses (Africa and Asia) - that he investigate the financial reports of governors, comptrollers and the prefect of the Annona, who were responsible for the collections, for fraud. Emperor Valentinian in 366 (CTh. 11, 1,13) ordered the vicar of Africa to head a commission of inquiry concerning back taxes on lands owned by absent landowners resident in Rome, an investigation that involved local and imperial officials and the appearance of senior accountants from Rome in Africa). Of note Valentinian ordered that the collected arrears as a result of the investigation be sent to the vicar in keeping with what appears to be a main function of vicar: auditing provincial returns and collecting arrears.

Vicars were the civilian deputy quartermaster-generals of the army. They had an important role in war preparation and the supply of troops in transit across provincial and diocesan lines. The vicars of Africa and Oriens (later Egypt after it was detached and made a diocese) had special oversight duties regard to the supply of foodstuffs to Rome and Constantinople, though the prefects of Annona had direct responsibility (the vicar of the suburbicarian region and islands of the diocese of Italy was responsible for the 5-month winter months pork supply to the poor; grain, oil and wine imports for the Civil Annona belonged to the urban prefect and the prefect of the Annona subordinate to him from 331 (order given by UP but carried out by the PA's staff without interference from the UP's staff, Geoffrey Rickman, The Corn Supply of Ancient Rome, 980, pp. 199-201). They had some oversight responsibilities in regard to the maintenance of the State Post, though the first instance duty belonged to the governors as is the case in so many other administrative activities: vicars were supposed to 'hold the reigns' not doing or interfering in others' work at the lower levels.

The vicars of Africa and Oriens (later Egypt after it was detached and made a diocese) had special oversight duties regard to the supply of foodstuffs to Rome and Constantinople, though the prefects of Annona had direct responsibility (the vicar of the suburbicarian region and islands of the diocese of Italy was responsible for the 5-month winter months pork supply to the poor; grain, oil and wine imports for the Civil Annona belonged to the urban prefect and the prefect of the Annona subordinate to him from 331 (order given by UP but carried out by the PA's staff without interference from the UP's staff, Geoffrey Rickman, The Corn Supply of Ancient Rome, 980, pp. 199-201). They had some oversight responsibilities in regard to the maintenance of the State Post, though the first instance duty belonged to the governors as is the case in so many other administrative activities: vicars were supposed to 'hold the reigns' not doing or interfering in others' work at the lower levels.

The Diocesan Heads of Office

Possibly in the early 340s the monitoring of the diocesan administration was strengthened by the appointment of senior agentes in rebus, State Investigators (the 'men of affairs'), as heads of the diocesan office, principes, and of the prefectures and two of three proconsular provinces. The corps of agentes were under the direct command of the master(s) of the offices, a kind of Minister of the Interior for State Security, Administration, Communications and Foreign affairs in modern parlance. The 4th century orator Libanius describes the Masters as "the emperor's eyes" in a speech from the year 362. The post had originally been fairly minor - a tribune commander of the imperial guard and head of minor palace offices who was made head of the imperial secretariats, the scrinia (to distinguish them from the officia of all other departments of State) very early in the reign and to whom was given the title master: his post would become the second most powerful after the prefect. The MO had 1,270 agents in the East at one point. Each emperor had his own master of the offices who watchdogged the rest of the administrative apparatus (Andrea Giardina, op. cit. pp. 58-64), in the case of the prefecture directly by the aforementioned 'plants' and agents stationed in the provinces or on assignment. Forbidden from having anything to do with the SL and RP, the Masters were none the less able to get a pulse on the affairs of these two departments through the office heads in the prefecture, the agents stationed with the governors and at points on the border used for imports and by being ex-officio and member of the imperial consistory. The masters were inspectors-general of the public post and had agents stationed on assignment with the provincial governors to monitor use of the service (a role very possibly given to them at the time when the decision was made to appoint the diocesan heads).

The main task of the outsider diocesan heads of office was to scrutinize and business coming in and going of the officium. Nothing could be sent out with their approval (CTh. 6, 27, 4 (387). In 399 it was decreed that no court order for the execution of urgent matters could be fulfilled without the annotation of the princeps (6, 27, 6 399). These 'plants' from the master of the offices were not members of the diocesan staff. They had the privilege of bringing their own assistants with them during the one year term of service. They wrote confidential reports to their bosses which the prefects did not see (A. Piganiol, L'Empire chretien (325-395), 1947, p. 321) and to insure that a independent source of information flowed from the diocese to the master of the offices and the palace based on the principle of control and counter-control - double reporting - B. Palme, 'Die Officia der Statthalter in der spatantike,' Antiquite Tardive 7, 1999, pp. 108). At the end of their one year of service they returned to the palace before retirement. They could be a great help to vicars who were not professional bureaucrats as they had already had twenty years or more service in different parts of the empire and gained experience having been seconded to different parts of the administration (W. G. Sinnigen, Three Administrative Changes attributed to Constantius II, AJP, 83, 1962, pp.369–383; Roberto, Morosi, "Il princeps officii e la schola agentum in rebus,' Humanitas, 1979/80, pp. 748-779. Constantine's reforms begin a century-long off-and-on struggle between the heads of the SL and RP and the prefects who wanted to assert more control over the former, a battle won for the most part by the latter after 430, R. Delmaire, Les largesses sacrees et res privata, L'aerarium imperial et son administration du IV au VI siècle, 1989, pp.703–714; M.F. Hendy, Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy, 300-1450 A.D. 1985).


The conversion of most of the prefectures' taxes from in kind collection to payment gold (commutation, adaeratio) began very slowly under Constantine I and his successors. It picked up speed with the conversion of RP rents to gold in 366 and within the prefecture towards the end of the century. It would be a major factor in the decline of the dioceses. It was resorted to in certain circumstances (if it were more convenient to buy supplies locally rather than having to collect and transport these from a distance and proximity to military units). The process of commutation to gold was completed mostly in the West by 425 and in the East by the last decades of the century (though collection in kind never ceased and was resorted to as needed in the form of requisitions). The placement of permanent provincial-level tax collection officials directly under the prefects from the mid-5th century (instead of relying on officials sent on annual or ad hoc visitations from central headquarters) made the vicars' services and dioceses increasingly redundant. Also the greater use of direct appeal and the regulations that cases under a certain value threshold be dealt with by the vicars' courts while the most important cases be sent to the highest echelon marginalized their courts though the vicars' watchdog fiscal role continued for the rest of the 5th century in the East as seen in CJ 10, 13, 4 (468) which instructs them to make sure that the revenues of the SL were not reallocated to the prefecture by the governors and the prefects' agents.

The chronology of diocesan rise and decline was very slow and can be tracked: upward trajectory until the early fifth century followed by a plateau and then decline post 440 (Wiewiorowski, op. cit. pp. 288-301; Franks op. cit. passim; Sinnigen, op. cit.; Jones op. cit. 280-283 for the post-450 decline but who offers only a few general remarks about vicars). Constantine and his sons' administrative policy was diocesan-centered ("... regionally-based centralism," R. Malcolm, Errington, Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius, pp. 261-262). This policy was slowly abandoned post-363 in favor of greater central control as the empire tried to deal with serious financial challenges and invasions along the Rhine and Danube from the mid-360s and for decades after. The vicars continued to play a very important role post-363 since they were enlisted in the imperial efforts to meet the challenges post-363 specifically in bringing in more revenue by more policing the activities of the intra-diocesan administration. Indeed, the sum total of source material in the Theodosian Code published in the year 438 suggests the compilers of it thought dioceses were still running on 7 if not 8 cylinders. Belief in the value of dioceses persisted even in crises or because of them. The Vicar of the Seven Provinces in South Gaul (who also managed the Diocese of Gaul) worked effectively with the praetorian prefect (located from Trier to Arles in 407) to maintain control as much as possible and wherever it existed until the very end of Roman rule in 475 (Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 74). The diocese of the Spains may have even been re-established around 418 after the Visigoth's decimation of the tribal invaders (M. Kulikowski, 'The Career of the 'comes Hispaniarum' Asterius, Phoenix 53, pp. 123-141); and may have exercised control over the peninsula except the far northwest (occupied by the Sueves) until 438 after the Vandals' departure for Africa in 429 (S. Barnwell, Emperor, Prefects & Kings, The Roman West 395-565, 1992 p. 69). If so it would provide evidence for the authorities' continuing positive attitude to having a presence with superior authority in the regions (Franks, op. cit. p. 992). The dioceses from 450 slipped into steeper decline and redundancy, as did their regional counterparts of the SL and RP, as a result of a reversion to direct prefectural-provincial rule and the commutation of taxes. The diocesan courts were bypassed more and more; their financial responsibilities atrophied (Jones op. cit. pp. 280-283). There is not much evidence for the Italian vicars post-450. The post seems to have been discontinued. The vicar in Rome continued to perform important functions for the city, southern Italy and the Islands on behalf of the prefect in Ravenna during the post-imperial period under Odoacer, 476-493, and the Ostrogothic Kingdom 493-536. Theodosius, vice-regent of Italy for the emperors in Constantinople even restored a praetorian prefect for the rump prefecture of Gaul and provided him a vicar, Gemellus, who undertook two commissions involving taxation, one concerning the army and two on judicial cases (P. S. Barnwell, pp. 163-164, p. 223 notes. 62-66. The vicars of Oriens, Egypt and Rome which continued to function at a higher level because of the important duties given them: the remaining two Balkan dioceses of Dacia and Macedonia and the Anatolian dioceses of Pontus and Asia slipped into a state of morbidity (Wiewiorowski, pp. 299-301). The dominance and proximity of Constantinople, the seat of the emperor, prefect and urban prefect and changes in taxation collection methods, judicial procedures, and governance made the Balkan and Asian dioceses redundant (Jones op. cit. pp. 280-292; Wiewiorowski, op. cit. pp. 299–301; Delmaire, op. cit, pp. 703-714; Franks, p. 992).

Regarding dioceses as functionally ineffectual and corrupted the Emperor Justinian I abolished the remaining ones in the East (Thrace disappeared early in the reign of Anastasius I 491-519). Asia, Pontus, Dacia and Macedonia were abolished in 535 and Egypt in 539 (the southern part of this diocese was from 468 governed by a dux with civil authority, a reversal of the principle established by Diocletian and completed by Constantine I that civil and military spheres be strictly separated. Justinian installed a praetorian prefect and not a vicar (the prefects and a vicar were restored for Italy). In 545 and 548 he restored the dioceses of Pontus and Asia and small Oriens. The new-stule vicars there were given vastly increased powers over all other civilian and military officials. The remnants of the intermediate tier finally withered away in the early 7th century. A truncated Eastern Roman Empire from 637 A.D. had no need for it - direct central control through provinces and the development of the military Theme system was the order of the day (for discussions of vicars' judicial powers, Jacek Wiewiorowski, The Judiciary of Diocesan Vicars in the Later Roman Empire, 2016; John Noel Dillon, The Justice of Constantine, 2016; in general, Christopher Kelly, Ruling the Later Roman Empire, 2004 pp.208–214; A.H.M. Jones, later Roman Empire, 1964, pp. 450–462 (financial), 481-486 (judicial), decline of dioceses pp. 280–283; P.S. Barnwell, Emperor, Prefects & Kings, The Roman West, 395-565 for administrative history of the period; for as assessment which stresses the importance of the diocesan fiscal responsibilities, Franks, op. cit. pp. 989-992 and Wiewiorowski, op. cit. pp. 17, 39, 55, 83, 89, 174-175 no 2 whose study mentions, p. 55, but does not include an examination of the relationship between vicars, the SL and RP).

The diocesan see cities for over 125 years had been centers of regional administrative control and oversight. They were major players in governance: they were hubs and foci where major components of the top echelon replicated at the intermediate level came together regionally. They were major destination points for the processing and transmission of information to the palatine level from governors, the regional and provincial agents of the Treasury and Crown Estates, and municipalities: given the slowness of communications having masses of information prepared beforehand saved time. They were the 'base-camp' for 500-1000 staff of the vicar, comptrollers, managers of the RP (from the 350s comptrollers), a governor, agents of the masters of the offices, and in many diocesan see cities locales the headquarters of a general. Changed conditions in the 5th century - the drift towards a two rather than three-tier imperial administration, commutation of taxes, and direct appeals - resulted in dioceses taking the back rather than the driver's seat which they had had during the 4th century century.

From the beginning the Romans ran their empire 'on the cheap.' Officials were few: unpaid locals - the city councils and influential rich people who chosen annually to supervise the tax collections and fulfill liturgical duties - did their work for them. In this way they could avoid having to create a vast permanent salaried civil service to govern (Roger S. Bagnall, Egypt in Late Antiquity, 1993, p. 62 on Diocletian's municipalization of Egypt's lower administration; and quoting Bowman, 'The Town Councils of Roman Egypt' (Am.Stud.Pap. 1, Toronto, who says this "policy of amateurism was a failure, in the sense that it combined ineffectiveness and oppression"). The 4th century saw an improvement in the imperial bureaucracy - it was more professional, free-born, salaried and pensioned and underwent a great expansion from 10,000 to 30-40,000 from the end of the 3rd to the 4th century (35-40% of the civil servants staffed the palatine and diocesan levels in 15 cities). The imperial bureaucracy was concentrated in 125 provincial and diocesan see cities and, therefore, was a distant presence to most inhabitants of the empire. In addition to the changes Anastasius' (491-518) placement of imperial tax officials in cities (491-518) further damaged the already weakened post of vicar.

Unlike repeated imperial attacks on governors, the staff of the SL and RP and the lower rungs of the imperial bureaucracy, men who served as vicars come in for little criticism until Justinian in the Novels which abolished them presents the reasons as inability to perform their financial functions and patronage. Which is not to say that there were no bad vicars, but rather the office does not appear to come in for criticism nor the diocese itself whose value must be based on a range of evidence the sum of which suggests that it was valued until the middle of the 5th century, some dioceses than others.

It has been said the history of Roman is the history of a State. The dioceses were extensions of the central power Roman emperors. As regions lost in the 5th century in the West provincial and municipal administration under new Germanic rulers continued more or less as before in most areas: however, the imperial supra-structure that in a very real was the Roman State was gone. The bureaucracy despite all its "manifest failings" played a vital part in holding the empire together, A.H.M. Jones, LRE p. 606 and went down fighting against the invaders by trying to keep the State going.

In the eastern parts of Roman Empire, dominated by Greek language and common use of Greek terminology, the vicarius was called hyparchus or exarch.[3]

Introduction of the term in ecclesiastical usage

The ecclesiastical diocesan system was formally organized in the early 4th century. The leadership of the Churches utilized the Roman terminology and methods to describe ecclesiastical administrative units and the hierarchy. Oddly the diocese came to refer to the province or the diocesan see with surrounding territory and not to the regional unit which became the archdiocese in the West or metropolitan in the East. As the Western Empire disappeared in the 5th and 6th centuries more political power often came to be vested in the spiritual offices of the bishops in each region and was a natural consequence of the collapse of the supra-provincial administrative structures of the Roman State. The senatorial aristocracy, deprived of the many imperial civil offices which it regarded as its birthright disappeared as the Empire declined and became smaller. They, especially in the provinces, continued in many places to serve as local authority to complement the authority wielded by the Church; or they became bishops themselves. The remnants of this aristocratic meritocracy of service to the State died out in the 7th century or were absorbed into the warrior leader class who served 'barbarian' kings - this new type of aristocrat became the 'ancestors' of the European nobility. The effort to put Europe back together became largely the effort of few enlightened rulers and bishops upon whom the mantel of Empire in spite of its manifest faults had fallen: beginning in the 6th century the Catholic Church organized by dioceses, and the only wholly-literate part of society left, led the counter-attack beginning to preserve and advance what was good from the Roman legacy. However, the administrative collapse of the Roman state went hand in hand with an economic one so that the standard of living reckoned by some scholars equal to Europe's in 1700 - was halved in the West between 400 and 600 A.D., a period of massive dislocations and catastrophes (and not just a 'period of transition'). Except for the Levant and the region around Constantinople it was an economic mess that took centuries to recover from in spite of academic efforts in some quarters to smooth over the catastrophe.

The Eastern Empire maintained a civilian administration which had as its ally the ecclesiastical: the two linked together for the fundamental doctrine of Caesaropapism of State Church of the Roman Empire. A millennium later as the Ottoman Empire conquered the Eastern Roman Empire (see Christianity and Judaism in the Ottoman Empire) the eastern bishops assumed political roles over their respective religious populations in place of Roman civil structure as had survived was stripped away. In modern times, many an ancient diocese, though later divided among several dioceses, has preserved the boundaries of a long-vanished Roman administrative division.

See also

  • Diocese, the ecclesiastical territory originally corresponding to a civil diocese
  • Exarch, equivalent for vicarius, in Ancient Greek terminology


  1. ^ Marcus Tullius Cicero, EB, 1911.
  2. ^ Constantin Zuckermann, "Sur la Liste de Verone...", Travaux et Memoires 14 Melanges Gilbert Dagron, 2002, pp. 618–637
  3. ^ Meyendorff 1989.


Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "article name needed". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.