History of the Provinces of the Roman Empire
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Our digital history of the provinces of the Roman Empire focuses on the largest administrative and territorial units of the Roman Empire. As such, provinces were generally governed by Rome’s political upper crust: senators, consuls, and praetors who had held office and were invested with imperium, the right of command. An exception was the province of Egypt, which was absorbed into the Empire by Augustus after Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra died, and was considered his personal property, in the manner of the earlier Hellenistic kings.
Rome began expanding beyond Italy as a consequence of the First Punic War with Carthage, a rival Mediterranean power. Sicilia was added to the empire in 241 BCE, as were Corsica and Sardinia a few years later. Over time, Rome kept expanding until there were no longer enough qualified officials to administer its new possessions.
Emperor Diocletian introduced the tetrarchy in 284 AD. This scheme of governance created a western and eastern emperor, each with a junior emperor. These four emperors ruled a different quarter of the empire, all under Diocletian. Then, he divided the empire again, into almost a hundred provinces.
Although the tetrarchs were soon gone, the four administrative areas were restored in 318 by Emperor Constantine, who also created his own capital, Constantinople. By this time, Rome itself had not been the imperial residence since 286, when Diocletian moved the seat of government to Mediolanum (modern Milan); he himself lived in Nicomedia. Provincial administration continued to evolve in the 4th century, with further variations on the theme of Eastern-Western co-emperors. Provinces and dioceses were split into new ones, much as the prefecture of Illyricum was abolished and reformed. With the rise of Odoacer in 476 and the downfall of the Western Roman Empire, the seat of government of what remained of the empire was permanently transferred to Constantinople, and Rome was left to the barbarians.
In the Eastern Roman Empire, Justinian discontinued the strict separation of civil and military authority that Diocletian had established in some provinces. This process continued with the establishment of the Exarchates in the 580s and ended with the creation of the Byzantine theme system in the 640s. These developments replaced entirely the older administrative arrangements of the provinces.
That said, here’s our assortment… please enjoy! When you’re done perusing a map, click the ⇠ back arrow link in the upper left of your screen (not the < link), and you’ll be back here. Any problems, please get in touch at [email protected]
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Provinces: Index | The Principate | Exploitation | Africa: Society • Culture • Carthage: Society • Culture • Religion • Power • Economy | Arabia: Society • Culture • Power | Armenia | Asia Minor: Society • Religion • Power | Britain: Power | Egypt: Society • Culture: Medicine | Power | Economy | Gaul: Society: Celtic Gaul: Power: Struggle • Conquest | Economy | Greece: Regions | Judea: Society • Dispersion | Literature: Josephus | Power: Rebellion | Parthia: Culture • Power | Sicily | Spain | Syria
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