The Roman provinces (Latin
: ''provincia'', pl. ''provinciae'') were the administrative regions of Ancient Rome
outside Italy that were controlled by the Romans under the Roman Republic
and later the Roman Empire
. Each province was ruled by a Roman appointed as governor.
A province was the basic and, until the tetrarchy
(from 293 AD), the largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside Italy
. The word ''province'' in Modern English
has its origins in the Latin
term used by the Romans.
Provinces were generally governed by politicians of senatorial
rank, usually former consuls
or former praetors
. A later exception was the province of Egypt, which was incorporated by Augustus
after the death of Cleopatra
and was ruled by a governor of only equestrian
rank, perhaps as a discouragement to senatorial ambition. That exception was unique but not contrary to Roman law, as Egypt was considered Augustus's personal property, following the tradition of the kings
of the earlier Hellenistic period
The Latin term ''provincia'' also had a more general meaning of "jurisdiction".
The Latin word ''provincia'' originally meant any task or set of responsibilities assigned by the Roman Senate
to an individual who held ''imperium
'' (right of command), which was often a military command within a specified theatre of operations
. Under the Roman Republic
, the magistrates
were elected to office for a period of one year, and those serving outside the city of Rome, such as consuls
acting as generals on a military campaign
, were assigned a particular ''provincia'', the scope of authority within which they exercised their command.
The territory of a people who were defeated in war might be brought under various forms of treaty
, in some cases entailing complete subjection ''(deditio
)''. The formal annexation
of a territory created a province, in the modern sense of an administrative unit that is geographically defined. Republican-period provinces were administered in one-year terms by the consuls and praetors
who had held office the previous year and were invested with ''imperium''.
Rome started expanding beyond Italy during the First Punic War
. The first permanent provinces to be annexed were Sicilia
in 241 BC and Corsica et Sardinia
in 237 BC. Militarized expansionism kept increasing the number of these administrative provinces until there were no longer enough qualified individuals to fill the posts.
The terms of provincial governors often had to be extended for multiple years ''(prorogatio
)'', and on occasion, the Senate awarded ''imperium'' even to private citizens ''(privati
)'', most notably Pompey the Great
Prorogation undermined the republican constitutional
principle of annually-elected magistracies and the amassing of disproportionate wealth and military power by a few men through their provincial commands was a major factor in the transition from a republic to an imperial autocracy
List of republican provinces
* 241 BC – Sicilia
(Sicily) taken over from the Carthaginians
and annexed at the end of the First Punic War
* 237 BC – Corsica et Sardinia
; these two islands were taken over from the Carthaginians and annexed soon after the Mercenary War
, in 238 BC and 237 BC respectively
* 197 BC – Hispania Citerior
; along the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula
; part of the territories taken over from the Carthaginians
* 197 BC – Hispania Ulterior
; along the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula; part of the territories taken over from the Carthaginians in the Second Punic War
* 147 BC – Macedonia
was annexed after a rebellion by the Achaean League
* 146 BC – Africa
(modern day Tunisia
and western Libya
) home territory of Carthage
; annexed after the destruction of Carthage in the Third Punic War
* 129 BC – Asia
, formerly the Kingdom of Pergamon
, in western Anatolia
), bequeathed to Rome by its last king, Attalus III
, in 133 BC
* 120 BC – Gallia Narbonensis
(southern France); prior to its annexation it was called Gallia Transalpina
(Gallia on the other side of the Alps
) to distinguish it from Gallia Cisalpina
(Gaul on this same side of the Alps, in northern Italy). It was annexed following attacks on the allied Greek city of Massalia (Marseille
* 67 BC – Creta et Cyrenae
was bequeathed to Rome in 78 BC. However, it was not organised as a province. It was incorporated into the province of Creta et Cyrenae when Crete
was annexed in 67 BC.
* 63 BC – Bithynia et Pontus
; the Kingdom of Bithynia
(in North-western Anatolia – Turkey) was bequeathed to Rome by its last king, Nicomedes IV
, in 74 BC. It was organised as a Roman province at the end of the Third Mithridatic War
(73–63 BC) by Pompey
, who incorporated the western part of the defeated Kingdom of Pontus
into it in 63 BC.
* 63 BC – Syria
; Pompey annexed Syria
at the end of the Third Mithridatic War.
* 63 BC – Cilicia
was created as a province in the sense of area of military command in 102 BC in a campaign against piracy
. The Romans controlled only a small area. In 74 BC Lycia
(to the east) were added to the small Roman possessions in Cilicia. Cilicia came fully under Roman control at the end of the Third Mithridatic War
(73–63 BC), reorganised by Pompey in 63 BC.
* 58 BC – Cyprus
was annexed and added to the province of Cilicia
, creating the province of Cilicia et Cyprus
* 46 BC – Africa Nova
– Algeria), Julius Caesar
annexed eastern Numidia and the new province called Africa Nova (new Africa) to distinguish it from the older province of Africa
, created in 146 BC, which became known as Africa Vetus (old Africa). The territory remained the direct part of the Roman Empire except for a brief period when Augustus
restored Juba II
(son of Juba I
) as a client king (30–25 BC).
(in northern Italy
) was a province in the sense of an area of military command, but was never a province in the sense of an administrative unit. During Rome's expansion in the Italian peninsula
, the Romans assigned some areas as provinces in the sense of areas of military command assigned to consul
s and ''praetor
s'' (not proconsuls or ''propraetors'' as in the case of administrative provinces) due to risks of rebellions or invasions. This was applied to Liguria
because there was a series of rebellions, Bruttium
) and to Gallia Cisalpina because of perceived risks of rebellion.
In the early days of the Roman presence in Gallia Cisalpina, the issue was rebellion. Later, the issue was risk of invasions by warlike peoples east of Italy. The city of Aquileia
was founded to protect northern Italy from invasions. Gaius Julius Caesar
granted the inhabitants of this region Roman citizenship and incorporated the region into Italy.
Imperial provinces during the ''principate''
In the so-called Augustan Settlement
of 27 BC, which established the Roman Empire
, the governance of the provinces was regulated. Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus
, having emerged from the civil wars
as the undisputed victor and master of Rome, officially laid down his powers and, in theory, restored the authority of the Roman Senate
. Octavian himself assumed the title "Augustus
" and was given to govern, in addition to Egypt, the strategically-important provinces of Gaul
Under Augustus, Roman provinces were classified as either public or imperial, depending on whether power was exercised by the Senate or the emperor. Generally, the older provinces that had existed under the Republic were public. Public provinces were, as they had been under the Republic, governed by a proconsul
, who was chosen by lot among the ranks of senators who were ex-consuls
, depending on the province that was assigned.
The major imperial provinces were under a ''legatus Augusti pro praetore
'', also a senator of consular or praetorian rank. Egypt and some smaller provinces in which no legions were based were ruled by a ''procurator
'' (''praefectus'' in Egypt), whom the emperor selected from non-senators of equestrian
The status of a province could change from time to time. In AD 68, of a total 36 provinces, 11 were public and 25 imperial. Of the latter, 15 were under ''legati'' and 10 under ''procuratores'' or ''praefecti''.
During the ''principate
'', the number and size of provinces also changed, through conquest or the division of existing provinces. The larger or most heavily garrisoned provinces (for example Syria
) were subdivided into smaller provinces to prevent one governor from holding too much power.
List of provinces created during the ''principate''
* 30 BC – Aegyptus
, taken over by Augustus
after his defeat of Mark Antony
and Cleopatra VII
in 30 BC. It was the first imperial province in that it was Augustus' own domain as the Egyptians recognised him as their new pharaoh
. Its proper initial name was Alexandrea et Aegyptus. It was governed by Augustus' ''praefectus'', Alexandreae et Aegypti.
* 27 BC – Achaia
(southern and central Greece), Augustus separated it from Macedonia
(senatorial propraetorial province)
* 27 BC – Hispania Tarraconensis
; former Hispania Citerior
(northern, central and eastern Spain), created with the reorganisation of the provinces in Hispania by Augustus (imperial proconsular province).
* 27 BC – Hispania Baetica
; former Hispania Ulterior
); created with the reorganisation of the provinces in Hispania by Augustus (senatorial ''propraetorial'' province). The name derives from Betis, the Latin name for the Guadalquivir
* 27 BC – Lusitania
in Spain), created with the reorganisation of the provinces in Hispania by Augustus (imperial proconsular province)
* 27 BC – Illyricum
, Augustus conquered Illyria
and southern Pannonia
in 35–33 BC. Created as a senatorial province in 27 BC. Northern Pannonia was conquered during the Pannonian War (14–10 BC). Subdivided into Dalmatia
(a new name for Illyria) and Pannonia, which were officially called Upper and Lower Illyricum respectively in 9 BC, towards the end of the Batonian War
. Initially a senatorial province, it became an imperial ''propraetorial'' province in 11 BC, during the Pannonian War. It was dissolved and the new provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia were created during the reign of Vespasian
(69–79). In 107 Pannonia was divided into Pannonia Superior
and Pannonia Inferior
– imperial provinces (proconsular and ''propraetorial'' respectively).
* 27 BC or 16–13 BC – Aquitania
(south-western France) province created in the territories in Gaul
conquered by Julius Caesar
; there is uncertainty as to whether it was created with Augustus’ first visit and the first census
on Gaul or during Augustus' visit in 16–13 (imperial proconsular province)
* 27 BC or 16–13 BC – Gallia Lugdunensis
(central and part of northern France) province created in the territories in Gaul conquered by Julius Caesar; there is uncertainty as to whether it was created with Augustus’ first visit and the first census on Gaul or during Augustus’ visit in 16–13 (imperial proconsular province)
* 27 BC or 16–13 BC – Gallia Belgica
south of the Rhine river, Belgium
, part of northern France and Germany west of the Rhine
; there is uncertainty as to whether it was created with Augustus’ first visit and the first census on Gaul or during Augustus' visit in 16–13 (imperial proconsular province)
* 25 BC – Galatia
, Turkey), formerly a client kingdom, it was annexed by Augustus when Amyntas
, its last king, died (imperial propraetorial province)
* 15 BC – Raetia
(imperial ''procuratorial'' province)
* 12 BC – Germania Magna
, lost after three Roman legions were routed in 9 AD
* 6 AD? – Moesia
(on the east and south bank of the River Danube part of modern Serbia
, the north part of North Macedonia
, northern Bulgaria
), Conquered in 28 BC, originally it was a military district under the province of Macedonia. The first mention of a provincial governor was for 6 AD, at the beginning of the Batonian War
. In 85 Moesia was divided into Moesia Superior
and Moesia Inferior
(imperial proconsular provinces).
* 6 AD – Judaea
, imperial ''procuratorial province'' (reverted to status of client kingdom in 41 AD and became province again in 44 AD; renamed Syria Palaestina
in 135 AD and upgraded to proconsular province).
* 17 AD – Cappadocia
(central Anatolia – Turkey); imperial ''propraetorial'' (later proconsular) province.
* 42 AD – Mauretania Tingitana
); after the death of Ptolemy
, the last king of Mauretania, in 40 AD, his kingdom was annexed. It was begun by Caligula
and was completed by Claudius
with the defeat of the rebels. In 42 AD, Claudius divided it into two provinces (imperial ''procuratorial'' province).
* 42 AD – Mauretania Caesariensis
, (western and central Algeria
), after the death of Ptolemy, the last king of Mauretania, in 40 AD, his kingdom was annexed. It was begun by Caligula and was completed by Claudius with the defeat of the rebels. In 42 AD Claudius divided it into two provinces( imperial ''procuratorial'' province).
* 41/53 AD – Noricum
, north-eastern Slovenia
and part of Bavaria
), it was incorporated into the empire in 16 BC. It was called a province, but it remained a client kingdom under the control of an imperial procurator. It was turned into a proper province during the reign of Claudius (41–54) (imperial ''propraetorial'' province).
* 43 AD – Britannia
; Claudius initiated the invasion of Britannia. Up to 60 AD, the Romans controlled the area south a line from the River Humber
to the Severn Estuary
. Wales was finally subdued in 78. In 78–84 Agricola
conquered the north of England and Scotland. Scotland was then abandoned (imperial proconsular province). In 197 Septimius Severus
divided Britannia into Britannia Superior
and Britannia Inferior
. Imperial provinces (proconsular and ''propraetorial'' respectively).
* 43 AD – Lycia
annexed by Claudius (in 74 AD merged with Pamphylia
to form Lycia et Pamphylia
* 46 AD – Thracia
(Thrace, north-eastern Greece, south-eastern Bulgaria and European Turkey), it was annexed by Claudius (imperial ''procuratorial'' province).
* 47 AD? – Alpes Atrectianae et Poeninae
(between Italy and Switzerland
), Augustus subdued its inhabitants, the Salassi, in 15 BC. It was incorporated into Raetia. The date of the creation of the province is uncertain. It is usually set at the date of Claudius' foundation of Forum Claudii Vallensium (Martigny), which became its capital (imperial ''procuratorial'' province).
* 62 AD – Pontus
(the eastern half of the Kingdom of Pontus
) together with Colchis
annexed, later incorporated in the Province of Cappadocia
(probably under Emperor Trajan
* 63 AD – Bosporan Kingdom
incorporated as part of the Roman province of Moesia Inferior
. In 68 AD Galba
restored the Bosporan Kingdom as a client kingdom.
* 63 AD? – Alpes Maritimae
(on the French Alps
), created as a protectorate by Augustus, it probably became a province under Nero
when Alpes Cottiae became a province (imperial ''procuratorial'' province)
* 63 AD – Alpes Cottiae
(between France and Italy), in 14 BC it became a nominal prefecture which was run by the ruling dynasty of the Cotii. It was named after the king, Marcus Julius Cottius. It became a province in 63 (imperial ''procuratorial'' province).
* 72 AD – Commagene
, its client king was deposed and Commagene was annexed to Syria.
* 72 AD – Lesser Armenia
, its client king was deposed and Lesser Armenia was annexed to Syria.
* 72 AD – Western mountainous parts of Cilicia
, formed into three client kingdoms established by Augustus
, were disestablished, and merged with the imperial province of Cilicia
* 74 AD – Lycia et Pamphylia
(reigned AD 69–79) merged Lycia
, annexed by Claudius
, and Pamphylia
which had been a part of the province of Galatia
* 83/84 AD – Germania Superior
(southern Germany) The push into southern Germany up to the Agri Decumates
created the necessity to create this province, which had been a military district in Gallia Belgica when it was restricted to the west bank of the River Rhine (imperial proconsular province).
* 83/84 AD – Germania Inferior
south of the River Rhine
, part of Belgium
, and part of Germany west of the Rhine) originally a military district under Gallia Belgica, created when Germania Superior was created (imperial proconsular province).
* 106 AD – Arabia
, formerly the Kingdom of Nabataea, it was annexed without resistance by Trajan
(imperial ''propraetorial'' province)
* 107 AD – Dacia
"Trajana" (the Romanian regions of south-eastern Transylvania
, the Banat
, and Oltenia
), conquered by Trajan in the Dacian Wars
(imperial proconsular province). Divided into Dacia Superior
and Dacia Inferior
in 158 by Antoninus Pius
. Divided into three provinces (Tres Daciae
) in 166 by Marcus Aurelius
: Porolissensis, Apulensis and Malvensis (imperial ''procuratorial'' provinces). Abandoned by Aurelian
* 103/114 AD Epirus Nova
(in western Greece and southern Albania), Epirus was originally under the province of Macedonia. It was placed under Achaia in 27 BC except for its northernmost part, which remained part of Macedonia. It became a separate province under Trajan, sometime between 103 and 114 AD and was renamed Epirus Nova (New Epirus) (imperial ''procuratorial'' province).
* 114 AD – Armenia
, annexed by Trajan, who deposed its client king. In 118 Hadrian
restored this client kingdom
* 116 AD – Mesopotamia
) seized from the Parthians and annexed by Trajan, who invaded the Parthian Empire in late 115. Given back to the Parthians by Hadrian in 118. In 198 Septimius Severus
conquered a small area in the north and named it Mesopotamia. It was attacked twice by the Persians (imperial ''praefectorial'' province).
* 116 AD – Assyria
, Trajan suppressed a revolt by Assyrians in Mesopotamia and created the province. Hadrian relinquished it in 118.
Under Septimius Severus
* 193 AD – Numidia
, was separated from Africa Proconsularis
by Septimius Severus
(imperial propraetorial province).
* 194 AD – Syria Coele
and Syria Phoenice
, Septimius Severus divided Syria
into these two units in the north and the south respectively. Imperial provinces (proconsular and propraetorial respectively).
* 214 AD – Osrhoene
, this kingdom (in northern Mesopotamia, in parts of today's Iraq, Syria and Turkey) was annexed.
* 271 AD – Dacia Aureliana
(most of Bulgaria and Serbia) created by Aurelian
in the territory of the former Moesia Superior after his evacuation of Dacia Trajana beyond the River Danube.
:Many of the above provinces were under Roman military control or under the rule of Roman clients for a long time before being officially constituted as civil provinces. Only the date of the official formation of the province is marked above, not the date of conquest.
introduced a radical reform known as the ''tetrarchy
'' (284–305), with a western and an eastern ''Augustus
'' or senior emperor, each seconded by a junior emperor (and designated successor) styled ''caesar
'', and each of these four defending and administering a quarter of the empire. In the 290s, Diocletian divided the empire anew into almost a hundred provinces, including Italy
. Their governors were hierarchically ranked, from the proconsul
s of Africa Proconsularis
through those governed by ''consulares
'' and ''corrector
es'' to the ''praesides
''. These last were the only ones recruited from the equestrian class
. The provinces in turn were grouped into (originally twelve) dioceses
, headed usually by a ''vicarius
'', who oversaw their affairs. Only the proconsuls and the urban prefect
of Rome (and later Constantinople) were exempt from this, and were directly subordinated to the tetrarchs.
Although the Caesars were soon eliminated from the picture, the four administrative resorts were restored in 318 by Emperor Constantine I
, in the form of praetorian prefectures
, whose holders generally rotated frequently, as in the usual magistracies but without a colleague. Constantine also created a new capital, known after him as Constantinople
, which was sometimes called 'New Rome' because it became the permanent seat of the government. In Italy itself, Rome had not been the imperial residence for some time and 286 Diocletian formally moved the seat of government to Mediolanum
), while taking up residence himself in Nicomedia
. During the 4th century, the administrative structure was modified several times, including repeated experiments with Eastern-Western co-emperors. Provinces and dioceses were split to form new ones, the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
was abolished and reformed. In the end, with the rise of Odoacer
in 476 and the death of Julius Nepos
in 480, administration of the effectively reduced Empire was permanently unified in Constantinople.
Detailed information on the arrangements during this period is contained in the ''Notitia Dignitatum
'' (Record of Offices), a document dating from the early 5th century. Most data is drawn from this authentic imperial source, as the names of the areas governed and titles of the governors are given there. There are however debates about the source of some data recorded in the ', and it seems clear that some of its own sources are earlier than others. It is interesting to compare this with the list of military territories under the ''duces
'', in charge of border garrisons on so-called ''limites
'', and the higher ranking ', with more mobile forces, and the later, even higher ''magistri militum''
made the next great changes in 534–536 by abolishing, in some provinces, the strict separation of civil and military authority that Diocletian had established. This process was continued on a larger scale with the creation of extraordinary Exarchate
s in the 580s and culminated with the adoption of the military theme system
in the 640s, which replaced the older administrative arrangements entirely. Some scholars use the reorganization of the empire into themata
in this period as one of the demarcations between the Dominate
and the Byzantine (or the Later Roman) period. As a matter of scholarly convenience, the medieval phase of the Roman Empire is today conventionally referred to as Byzantine
, named after the original name of the city that Constantine rebuilt into the new capital of Constantinople
Primary sources for lists of provinces
Early Roman Empire provinces
* ''Geography'' (Ptolemy)
Late Roman Empire provinces
* ''Laterculus Veronensis
'' (ca. 310)
* ''Notitia dignitatum
'' (ca. 400–420)
* ''Laterculus Polemii Silvii
'' (ca. 430)
'' (ca. 520)
* Ancient geography
* Classical antiquity
* Early world maps
* History of cartography
* History of the Mediterranean region
* Latin spelling and pronunciation
* List of Graeco-Roman geographers
* List of historical maps
* Local government (ancient Roman)
Early Imperial Roman provinces, at ''livius.org''
* Lintott, Andrew (1993). ''Imperium Romanum''. London: Routledge.
* Mommsen, Theodor (1909). ''The Provinces of the Roman Empire''. 2 vols. London: Ares Publishers.
* Scarre, Chris (1995). "The Eastern Provinces," ''The Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome''. London: Penguin Books, 74–75.
* Westermann, ''Großer Atlas zur Weltgeschichte''
Map of the Roman Empire