Roman diocese

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Original dioceses of the Roman Empire, created by emperor Diocletian (284–305)
Dioceses of the Roman Empire around 400 AD

The word diocese (Latin: dioecēsis, from the Greek: διοίκησις, "administration") means 'administration,' 'management,' 'assize district,' 'management district.' It can also refer to the collection of taxes and to the territory per se.

The earliest use of "diocese" as an administrative unit is found in the Greek-speaking eastern parts of Anatolia. 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. In the mid-third century 3rd century A.D. the word was applied to temporary districts within proconsular provinces of the 'populus,' like Asia and Africa which were more internal and less threatened. Starting with Gallienus, 253-268 these proconsuls were directly appointed by the emperor rather than being chosen by lot from among the senators. Often these proconsuls, who frequently served for more than one year, were attended by correctores assigned to districts, dioceses,' into which the larger provinces were divided.[1] However these subdivisions of provinces are not to be considered the antecedents of the later 'vicariate' dioceses created sometime between 298 and 313/14 which were regional conglomerates of provinces and numbered from 4 (Britain and Macedonia) to 21 (Oriens including Egypt until 370 or 380) and in total number from 101 in the Verona List if June 314 (from 47 in 284) to 118 in 395 in the Notitia Dignitatum.

The vicariate dioceses were governed by officials with the title of agens vices praefectorum praetorio, which is the 'official' title, because it appears in full or as avpp on inscriptions which give the office holder's career ladder or in Latin cursus honorum. The title means he who stands in for, acts on behalf of, represents, or manages instead of the praetorian prefects. There are in other types of written sources variations of this title and circumlocutions such as 'those who judge for the emperor' (i.e. have appellate jurisdiction) and others sources such as, vicaria praefectura (substitute prefecture) and vicarius praefectorum (vicar of the prefects), vicarius illustrissimae praefecturae per dioceses (vicar of the most illustrious prefecture), administrans vices praefectorum (administering for the prefect), curans or gerens vicariam praefecturam (taking care of or administering the substitute prefecture), pro praefectis dioceses sibi creditas temperarunt (who regulate dioceses entrusted to them on behalf of prefects), qui vicariam egerint praefecturam (who controlled the substitute prefecture). The word 'vicarius' by itself is frequent and is the most common, informal abbreviation of the other longer titles.

Vicariate Dioceses[edit]

The appearance of the 'vicariate' dioceses marks an important change in the way the Empire would be governed for more than 100 years - regionally. Although the provinces headed by governors remained as before the 'workhorse' administrative units, control and coordination of the activities of governors and the monitoring of the Treasury (the Res Summa or Sacrae Largitiones) and Crown Estates (Res Privata) were entrusted to the vicars, i.e. whereas the focus of the former was on the local populations within a province which provided the resources the State needed, the latter attended primarily to the routine operations of the imperial administration. The administrative policy of the Constantinian dynasty, which ruled from 306-363, was "regionally based centralism."[2] The dioceses' potential was not realized fully, even if it had been conceived, until the last obstacle to any overhaul or major change in the administrative apparatus, Licinius, emperor in the East, was removed in late 324. The diocesan-centered policy was very gradually reversed in fits and starts from the 360s towards a prefect/governor-centered two-tier policy (as it was prior to the creation of dioceses which created an intermediate level) in response to the serious challenges facing the Empire from within and without.[2] The dominance of the praetorian prefects was a gradual and uneven process - it was part reaction to events, partly the personalities involved, sometimes the result of a deliberate policy decision - and only completed in the 440s after decades of intra-bureaucracy turf wars with the Treasury, the Crown Estates and to a lesser extent with the masters of the offices. The existence of a set of 'fiscal' regional dioceses from the late 280s in no way implies that the creation of the judicial/supervisorial administrative 'vicariate' was an inevitability though their pre-existence may have influenced the decision to expand the innovation with more regional units.

Substitutes on the Provincial Level and in the Military[edit]

The use of substitutes or representatives for regular officials had a long history in the Empire. On occasion proconsular provinces during the Principate 27 AD to 284 AD subject to administrative reforms were governed by praetors who were one rank lower than consuls (both were the senior level officials of the Republic and Early Empire). To these provinces governors with extraordinary functions began to be sent who were not proconsuls but equestrian vicarii.[1] Sometimes financial procurators of the equestrian order were substituted for the regular equestrian governors smaller provinces. They were called praesidial procurators (the most common terms for governor in the Later Empire were praeses, rector, moderator, iudex ordinarius). The use of ad hoc substitutes, vicarii, became common during the Crisis of the Third Century.

The use of substitutes can be seen in the military sphere with one type of general officer, the dux, who became a fixture in the Later Roman Empire but whose origins are earlier. The title was given to an officer who was acting in a temporary capacity at a higher than usual rank.[3] In the last decade of the 4th century a few duces appear with provinces as part of their titles. This suggests the post was becoming permanent and being territorialized along the borders (the duces' command often covered a perimeter province and one or more behind it inland). This development coincided with the removal of military command from governors who were acquiring more financial duties from the financial procurators. The governors were charged with the management of a new tax assessment system slowly introduced by Diocletian from the year 287. Also a new separate tax, the Annona Militaris, for calculating the army's pay and food supply, was placed under the sole control of the prefects who managed it through the governors (and later vicars) and the officials of the Treasury for some decades until the 320s (the placement of army logistics was a way of putting a strangle hold on the military). The entire competencies exchange process was not perfectly synchronized; and took it took 30 years (compare the 10–20 years 287-306 it tool to introduce the new tax system after massive sets of censuses and property assessments).The system of duces and removal of governors military command were completed very early in the reign of Constantine. The removal of the Treasury officials from participation in the collection of regular in kind taxes was not completed until around 330. The officials of the Treasury, the Res Summa, continued to play a big role until Constantine narrowed their competencies in mid-320s. The result of these exchanges of duties between governors, procurators and generals was the eventual elimination of financial procurators except for those of the Crown Estates (Res Privata).


The completion in 330 marks the entry of the dioceses and vicars as major players in imperial administration for a hundred years; and concludes forty-five years of off-and-on innovations which set the administrative structure of the Later Empire for two hundred years until Justinian I undertook major reforms some of which are: he published a new Code of Laws, issued laws to strengthen the office of governor by forbidding sale of these offices, issued a standard set of instructions (mandata) to guide governors and abolished the remaining diocese in the East, Jones op. cit. pp. 278–283 (Jones suggests ibid "It might have been wiser, instead of abolishing the vicars, to have improved their quality by giving them better salaries, to have entrusted them with military powers to deal with internal disorders and a more effective appellate jurisdiction, which is what he did when he restored the diocese of Oriens in part covering northern Syria in 542 and Pontica in 548, ibid p. 294; however, these are not vicars in the old sense but two regional governors with extraordinary powers civil and military auhtority).

The 'vicariate' or 'civil dioceses' were made up of regional groupings of from 4 to 20 provinces. In turn, they were included within territorial praetorian prefectures created circa 325–330. Numbers of provinces ranged from 100+ to 120 at the beginning of the 4th and the end of the century. 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). They were not, however, the first regional supra-provincial management districts: this honor belongs to the 'fiscal' dioceses which preceded the 'vicariates' by 10–25 years from 298 to 313/14.

The model for the 'vicariate' dioceses is the 'fiscal' diocese of the Treasury (Res Summa or Res Summarum, from 318–19 the Sacrae Largitiones) headed by a rationalis, chief accountant or comptroller. The pre-existing Egyptian financial district was the model for the 'fiscal' diocese. In 286 it included Crete and Cyrenaica; the former was detached in 294 and joined to Achaia. Other 'fiscal' dioceses make their appearance within a few years suggesting that an empire-wide system was put into place under Diocletian.[4] The fiscal district also 'housed' the regional and provincial officials of the Crown Estates (Res Privata) under a manager, magister, subordinate to the comptroller (until the 350s). Until the late 320s or perhaps as late as 337 the comptrollers of the Sacrae Largitiones had provincial-level procuratores[5] It is uncertain the pace of the abolition. The discontinuance left the comptrollers without field managers, a situation which had a negative effect on the comptrollers to the benefit of the vicars and governors.

The 'general consensus' date for the creation of dioceses has been the year 298 or by 298 during the First Tetrarchy of 293–305.[6] The date was chosen by Theodor Mommsen. The source for the 'traditional' date is Lactantius' reference in De Mortibus Persecutorum 7.4, a work dated to 314/315, 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 ). 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. A number of scholars date creation post-305 to 312 (a time of civil wars among contenders for the throne). The year 313/4 has been proposed.[7] 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 who still had commands.

Various motives have been suggested for the creation of dioceses if the date 298 is accepted: to supervise 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;[8] if for the year 313, control of regions and demarcation of territorial rule between Constantine and Licinius (co-emperors until 324) at their 'Summit' in February have been suggested.[9]


The diocesan vicars who appeared chronologically in the middle of (circa 298) or towards the end of this matrix of changes (313/14), therefore, are an expression of one type among others of ad hoc, extraordinary, and temporary substitutes (vicarii) posts which were made permanent, in this as applied to a supra-provincial administrative unit invented for them, the diocese. Their appearance did not emerge from a vacuum but was rather one of a number of on-going experimentation and innovation in governance undertaken to find solutions to challenges in the decades from the 260s through the early years of the 4th century. The vicars when they appeared were 'dropped' into an existing system. Only in the years 325-330 were their full set of responsibilities were decided as part of the diocesan-centered administrative policy of the Constantinian Dynasty, Errington, op. cit. p. 292.

The governance 'system' itself had not been rationally planned but was the result of several centuries of evolution. Lines of authority were at critical junctures porous and responsibilities somewhat confused. No real concerted attempt was made to overhaul and rationalize the system. Diocletian added to the bureaucratic system and did a major overhaul of the fiscal and judicial aspects of it. Constantine rationalized the competencies of top echelon in the years 325-329 without changing the structure; the results had a richocet effect on the vicars which made them effective heads of the diocesan administration in ways that they had not been before. Sets of administrative interdepartmental overlaps, inherited and developed, existed to bind the staffs of discrete departments together by joint task-bundling, collective accountability, but also to restrict independent decision-making which was severely restricted to a few top officials and the emperor(s) which left officials often wondering what to do (Jones, Later Roman History, pp. 376–377; Age of Constantine, Ed. Noel Lenski, Christopher Kelly, 'Law and Society,' pp. 184–192 and Ruling the Later Roman Empire, pp. 206–210).

Note must be taken of the existence and relationship of the previously-created regional fiscal managers to the diocesan vicars for understanding the history of the intermediate tier of imperial governance. The three sets of officials worked together as a reflection of the senior palatine level. The vicar had superior authority and was senior to the three in authority from the beginning though initially all three had the same rank. The vicar's relationship to his 'colleagues' therefore was as ringmaster and not as sole arbiter since the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata were independent ministries. Policies were set at the very top of the administrative pyramid by the senior officials and emperors. Prefects and vicars could not interfere with the conduct of their normal operations. Cooperation among the three regional chiefs was expected.

The vice-prefects, the presumed models for diocesan vicars, first appear during the Severan Dynasty, 193–235, as commanders of Praetorian Guard units for absent praetorian prefects. From the late 290s a few vice-prefects on special assignments outside Rome. Although very little is known about them or their activities (8 are known between 298-312) they appear to be 'trouble-shooters' tasked with putting right the affairs of a region after a rebellion (Egypt in 298), military campaign (in Morocco 298), supervising the division of provinces or heading up (Numidia and Libya 303) and the persecution of Christians (303 AD in Asia). Diocesan vicars retained the role of 'trouble-shooter' even after they were institutionalized and 'domesticated' but as regional internal administration supervisors. The ad hoc type of vice-prefect was fazed out in the 320s in favor of the use of comites provinciarum, chosen from among Constantine's closest confidants. The first appears in 316. About 20 served in 6 regions and a province (Spain, Africa, Macedonia, Asia, Oriens and Achaea); and unlike vicars their terms at times lasted for two years or more. The last was count of the Spains in 340. Their place was taken by mid- to high-ranking deputies from among the regular ranks of the bureaucracy on special assignment.

The creation of permanent diocesan vicars 'outsourced' the power of the praetorian prefects who alone spoke for the emperor as his representatives, vices sacra iudicantes, CTh. 11, 30, 16 331) but it was superior not supreme because vicars' decisions could be appealed whereas the decisions of emperors and prefects could not be (though from 365 supplicatio to the emperor from a prefect's decision was allowed).. They had little discretionary power and were not policy-makers.[10] Praetorian prefects, urban prefects, vicars and proconsuls (and counts of provinces during their period of existence from 316-340) had first instance ordinary jurisdiction. Since they could not overturn the decisions of a lower court except on appeal they could have intervened in case of an irregularity in the lower courts. First instance jurisdiction provides a mechanism for this and for them to take a case for cause.

The vicars were from the beginning subordinate to prefects as seen in a law of 328 Constantine addressed to the prefect Aemilianus in Italy, "your vicars" (11, 16, 4). However, the exact degree of subordination is not entirely clear and is debated (Wiewiorowski, op. cit. pp. 40–41). They are described as "having a share of the prefects' authority" as if they possessed an independent power in its own right derived from the prefects' ("...technically independent of their jurisdiction, the vicars became in practice their subordinate administrative agents," William G. Sinnigen, 'The Vicarius Urbis Romae and the Urban Prefecture,' Historia, vol 8, No. 1 1959 p. 98; "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; cf. CTh. 11, 30, 9 = CJ 7, 62,16 (321); CJ 1, 54, 6, 2; CTh. 1, 15, 7 (377); Cledonius, “Tu autem vicarius dixeris et tua privigelia non reliquia, quando propria est jurisdictio quae a principe datur. Habes enim cum praefectis aliquam portionem,” 6, 15; Pallu de Lessert op. cit. p. 10 cites the Theodosian Code and Cassiodorus. He states the authority of the vicars derives from the emperor’s supreme judicial power and not from the prefects,”La vicaire jouit en ces matieres d’une competence proper; il n’est pas un delegue du prefet du pretoire;” “representatives with equal rights” (Noetlichs, op. cit. p. 74). Prefects could not overturn a vicar's verdict, appoint or dismiss him (provisional dismissal of a governor was allowed the prefect at the end of the century as one example of the rise of the prefects).

The vicars' main task was to control and coordinate the activity of governors (Southern, op. cit. p. 165). They were also supposed to protect governors from the intimidation of powerful, perhaps hostile, and unfamiliar local 'notables' (CTh. 1, 1, 15, 1, 325; it was a long-standing rule that governors could not serve in their native provinces or where they were legally domiciled to prevent collusion and influence Danielle, Slootjes, The Governor and His Subjects in the Later Roman Empire, 2006, p. 25). The vicars' presence further reduced the governors' prestige (the number of governors had increased from 47 to 100+ by 305 and 120 bye 395): their presence, however, could shore up the authority of the governors Slootjes, op. cit. pp. 39–43). Unfortunately for governors reduced prestige did not mean lessened responsibility or work load (for which they had only a staff of 100): they seem to have been under considerable pressure during their one-year terms of office and frequently in the cross-hairs of irate emperors (J-M Carrie et D. Feissel, Les gouverneurs dans l'antiquite tardive,' Antiquite Tardive, 2002; on pressures and manipulation of governors, Slootjes, pp. 79–104; Jones. op. cit. p. 399-400, on gubernatorial extortion and under-the-table deals, although all by no means were corrupt).

The vicars' role in the early years was mainly as appeal judges with general administrative oversight. As stated until the 320s they were less directly involved in financial matters because of the ubiquity of the comptrollers of the Sacrae Largitiones who were involved in almost all aspects of imperial finance (Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 197, 204, 245). The two officials were of the same rank although the vicar's authority was superior. The relationship of vicars to comptrollers may be illustrated by comparing it to that of governors with the controller of Egypt who received orders transmitted from prefects through governors which they executed, which in turn could trigger a response from them to the governor ( Lallemand, Jacqueline, L’aministration civile de l’Egypte de l’avenement de Diocletian a la creation du diocese (284-382) 1964, p. 86). The operational relationship prior to the changes made by Constantine was a kind of diarchy. An aspect of the vicars' responsibilities in fiscal matters before Constantine's major reforms of 325-329 may be illustrate this from a law in 319 (CTh. 1, 12, 2). Although addressed to the proconsul of Africa, the law is, nevertheless, pertinent because the posts of vicar and proconsul were virtually interchangeable: indeed the latter on occasion substituted for the vicars (Africa and Asia). The emperor instructed the proconsul to familiarize himself with all aspects of the administration and investigate the fraudulent reports of governors, comptrollers and the prefect of the Annona. They were in actuality on 'front-line' of tax collection supervision not vicars (praefectiani and vicariani were forbidden in normal circumstances from interfering with the tax collection activities of the lower levels unless deputed to do so; the former were sent out annually to stimulate the efforts of the governor and the latter to collect arrears Jones, p. 405, 457). This remained the operational 'rule' until 370s when the prefects and vicars are seen to intervene more in the affairs of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata.

Broadly speaking, even though vicars were charged with exercising overall administrative control over the diocese which included the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata[10][11] they had to do it with a mixed armature of direct authority over the various components of the prefecture, i.e. the provinces and municipalities; and limited control measures in targeted areas over the Treasury and Crown Estates which were independent ministries. They did this as overseers of the regular courts which had jurisdiction in criminal and civil matters over imperial staff (except palace staffs which were directly under the emperor), as keepers of the global diocesan budgetd set by the prefects for the prefecture and the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata, as guarantors of liturgical assignments (determined by the prefects issued by the governors to the liturgists) and as quarter-master generals of the armies. The appearance of vicars diminished further the already somewhat reduced prestige of governors whose importance had been already lessened 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).

Another important task of vicars was to monitor the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata over which they had extraordinary jurisdiction in fiscal debt cases from between 327-329 CTh. 11, 30, 28 of 359 which refers to a ruling of Constantine which can be surmised to have been made 30 years previously: the vicars (and governors) also had jurisdiction over Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata staffs in criminal and civil suits, over Res Privata tenants in major criminal cases and the assimilation of confiscated property to the Res Privata which had to receive the approval of a governor (Jones, op. cit. p. 481-482). From 330-on the comptrollers are not seen to intervene in direct tax collection due them except on rare occasions when their offices were seen to lean ('une forte main') on the governors and vicars, Delmaire, op. cit.p. 245. The comptrollers did not have the bear responsibility for collection, but had the ultimate for delivery (the special taxes in gold paid by senators, the golden crown and follis or gleba, were collected by the censuales, roll keepers of the Senate). To ensure proper performance by the governor the palatine counts of the Sacrae Largitiones could fine the governors and vicar for lax performance of duties relating to the Sacrae Largitiones, although this seems to have seldom occurred. The orator Libanius in Syria wrote twice on behalf of governors to have fines rescinded, once requesting the count of the Orient to intervene with the count of the SL, Delmaire, R., "the counts were able to slap fines on the governors," p. 90, governors, their staffs and curiales, ” p 244, from an edict of the emperor of Leo of 468, CJ, 10, 23, 3 and 4.

The comptrollers bereft of a permanent provincial-level staff post-330 gradually lost importance to the agents, the palatine, sent annually from central command to verify the governors' efforts. These agents, forbidden to have direct access to the provincials (though they did it anyway often) were supposed to work through the governors according to the written instructions they brought with them and which the governors had copies of (Delmaire, op. cit. p. 204–205, 244–245). Despite diminution until the end of the 4th century the comptrollers remained a critical link between governors, vicars and the palatine-level counts of the Sacrae Largitiones, as agents of surveillance (Delmaire, p. 204 ibid) and collectors of fiscal debt in the first instance, CTh. 6, 30, 4 (379) without the interference of the governor but in 398 the responsibility was handed over to the governors CJ 10, 19, 6. From time to time they pressured the vicars when stronger measures against governors were in order.

The comptrollers had the responsibility to assemble the collected taxes, store and distribute them, operated the mints, levied fines, and judged Sacrae Largitiones fiscal cases in first instance. They were responsible for transporting, storing and distributing the gold taxes collected for their department. They were able to keep importance and influence during the 4th century in spite of restrictions and demotion since they (and the Res Privata) provided the emperors with the most valuable and coveted part of their income, gold and silver. The three sets of officials, power ratios and competencies changed and defined, worked together, the vicar having superior authority being the senior of the three as ringmaster but not as sole arbiter:[10] the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata were independent ministries whose policies were set at the very top of the administrative pyramid by the senior officials and emperors, however, the prefectures could not interfere with their normal routines. Cooperation among the three regional chiefs was expected.

Post 330 CE[edit]

Post 330 the vicars were more clearly in control of diocesan finances - tax debt owed the prefecture was already under their jurisdiction - after the diminution of the comptroller's role and the shift of appeals to the prefecture. These measures had a ricochet effect the vicars who became more clearly senior to rationales in fiscal matters.[10] The changes had centralized tax debt appeal in the prefectures. The Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata administrative courts continued to have first instance jurisdiction (Jones, op. cit. p. 485-487), the retention of which was one way to prevent prefectural meddling in the affairs of these two departments which were independent in their internal operations (though they could not issue orders of any kind on their own authority to the provincials - these had to be approved by the emperor or a prefect, Delmaire, op. cit. 68 Delmaire, p. 68, “Ces edits sont pris de la proper autorite du comite, mais l’autorite de l’empereur ou du prefet du pretoire est necessaire quand ils doivent etre appliques par des instances provinciales sur lesquelles le comte n’a pas directement autorite, comme d’est le cas pour le tariff de Seleucie ): appeal authority allowed the prefecture oversight at all levels. The shift of appellate jurisdiction to the higher courts of the prefecture brought the financial affairs of the three ministries together at the end of the process - the collection of debt on appeal - and the starting point, the prefect's budget composition for all three ministries without compromising the immediate authority of the two fiscal departments who retained first instance jurisdiction, i.e. immediate control. This arrangement lasted until 385 when appeal jurisdiction was restored to the counts of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata who until this time acted in an advisory capacity in the prefectural courts and the emperors.

Likewise from 330 the vicars' competencies were for the most part fixed (by 337 according to Jacek Wiewiorowksi, The Judiciary of Diocesan Vicars in the Later Roman Empire, 2016, pp. 62-73). Their leading role was given expression by the Constantinian Dynasty (which lasted until 363) which "...favored a regionally-based centralism."[2] Circa 330 the word 'diocese' pertains only to the 'vicariate.' and ceases to be generic and becomes particular to a specific administrative unit (Delmaire op. cit. p. 171; Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 55, note 71 quoting CTh. 2, 26, 1 of 330). From 337 the vicars were in their 'salad days' in the 4th century with some carry over into the next.[10] The changes 325-330 were intended to break apart the prefects' powers thereby decentralizing the palatine level administration. It was done not structurally but by re-arrangement of competencies.

The vicars' duties were in sum: control and coordination of the activities of governors, as overseers of the regular courts, keepers of the global diocesan budget set by the prefects for the prefecture and the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata, as guarantors of liturgical assignments (determined by the prefects issued by the governors to the liturgists) and quarter-masters general of the armies. Their supervisory role was facilitated by the fact that the offices of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata were located in the diocesan see city in all but a few cases (Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily). This is before they were given a few selective direct powers over the Sacrae Largitiones, the collection of in kind taxes and the State Post. Until the 360s their staffs were warned off from participation in actual tax collection - their task was supervision; however interventions of the vicars appear more frequently as the emperors went on revenue drives to make ends meet and increase ability to meet external challenges and larger tribal incursions. The list of competencies, however, remained formally on the books (Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 299). The causes of their decline must be discerned from other circumstances which affected their importance and performance.

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. These were the products of pre and post-285 structures, innovations and competencies being mixed, remolded and adapted over a period of 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 question when prefectures became administrative has been the subject of much debate. The 'consensus' suggests the early regional prefectures from 325-330 were more spheres of control which served Constantine's dynastic plans rather than the fully developed administrative prefectures as suggested by the 5th century author Zosimos who it is suggested by modern scholar was thinking about them as they had evolved by the end of the 4th century. It has been suggested that a more administrative character appears from the early 340s and even more with the accessions of Valentinan I and Valens in 364 (Kelly, Christopher (2006). "Bureaucracy and Government". Ed. Lenski, Noel. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-52157-4; Morrison, Cécile, ed. (2007), Le Monde byzantin tome 1: L'Empire romain d'Orient, 330-641 French Edition {{ISBN| 978-2-13-059559-5, Timothy Barnes, Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Roman Empire, 2011, pp. 293–298). If this scheme is correct it gives credence to the view that that primary administrative engine was the diocese until the last third of the 4th century after which the prefecture 'takes over.'

However, there is one more development that must be paid attention to. In the early 340s a last adjustment was made which had an important effect on vicars. It was decided to appoint senior agents, agentes in rebus (men of affairs, state investigators) from the master of the offices as heads of office in the prefectures, dioceses and two proconsulates. The Master of the Offices as the Head of State Security, Administration Oversight, Communications and, from the 340s, Inspector-General of the State Post, and Foreign Affairs. These outside 'plants, were not members of staff. This decision bound the diocese (and indirectly the other units of the diocese) to the MO. The main tasks of the Office Head, the princeps, was to monitor the performance of the staff; and to vet and countersign everything that came in and went out. The 'outsider' post also opened up a direct alternative channel of reporting to the palace. The presence of this senior courier/bureaucrat, the Gate-Keeper, familiar with many aspects of the imperial administration could have been a valuable asset to the vicar who also relied on the institutional continuity and memory of the several permanent staff heads and senior secretaries. The placement of a 'foreign' presence is but one of many checks-and-balances built into the system intended to clamp the several parts together and to promote mutual interdepartmental surveillance and accountability.

Lastly for understanding the role of the imperial superstructure above the provincial level (that would disappear after the collapse of the Empire in the West) it must be noted that the vaster amount of the actual administrative work was done by unpaid municipal liturgists and village heads (who were themselves taxpayers) under the immediate supervision of governors. The superstructure issued the orders, set the policies and goals that made the whole system go. It had evolved in response to the needs of a huge imperial State with a large professional army. Once that State ceased to exist, the superstructure disappeared or contracted. It numbered only 30-40,000, three or four times larger than previously and was incredibly small by modern standards. Mostly based in 125 provincial, diocesan see cities and in the capital(s) and, it was, therefore, out of sight for most of the time to the vast majority of the Empire's inhabitants - statutory size of the governor's and vicar's staffs were 100 and 300 respectively. Appointment of paid imperial officials at the local level to directly govern would have required a huge expansion beyond the capacity of the ancient state to fund. The diocesan, Sacrae Largitiones, and Res Privata were simpler versions of the administrative set-ups at the palatine top level: they were less complex with fewer departments: these office conglomerates located were information magnets for provincial and local administrations and processing centers for the palatine level. This fact did not preclude direct contact with the imperial court.

The fate of the fourteen dioceses was varied and dependent on internal administrative and policy changes during the 5th century; and external factors such as loss of territory due to occupation by tribal invaders). Decline has been attributed to incremental administrative centralization by praetorian prefects especially from the 380s as seen in the gradual take-over of the Treasury and Crown Estates ministries by the prefects and the palace chamberlains respectively after 450; a reversion to more two-tier governance prefects to governors in financial administration including the placement of prefectural tax officials with governors; more direct judicial appeals from governors to prefects; the general commutation of taxes in the 5th century from kind to gold which made collection and delivery, if not computation, much easier thereby lessening the importance of the intermediate tier; 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 degree of operation south of line from Cologne to Boulogne served by one vicar under the close control of the prefect of the Gauls in Arles. The diocese of Italy had had two vicars: the vicar in Milan (of Italy) who was discontinued and the vicar in Rome who continued to function fully as did those of Oriens and Egypt. These three with important duties connected to defense and provisioning the imperial capitals maintained importance in spite of the changes which diminished the other (Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 301). 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 century.

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 as suggested by Wiewiorowski who sees the emperors' and highest officials' loss of confidence in the judiciary of the vicars in the very last years of the 4th century so after first few decades of the 5th they were mere embellishments, Wiewiorowski, op. cit. pp. 292–293, p 299 but he does not examine the fiscal role of the vicar; Franks for a review of first and appeal authorities of vicars, ibid, pp. 91–93; for a different and favorable assessment of Constantine's expedited appellate system, John Noel Dillon, The Justice of Constantine, Law, Communication and Control, 2012; and Franks, op. cit. p. 991 who suggests the increase in the importance of the vicars' fiscal role post-325 and the various procedural and regulatory means of control available to vicars over the administration counterbalanced any defects on the judicial side and "Everything points to vicars being in their 'salad days' until at least the end of the end of the 4th century with some carry over into the next (Franks. op. cit. p. 992); or to their inability to control governors and the territories were too large to manage.[12] It is possible from the evidence that a number of factors and contingencies affected the dioceses. Some fell prey to invasion and occupation in the West which saw the entire supra-provincial level administrative structure of the Roman State disappear except in Italy post-476 where it lasted virtually intact until the Byzantine invasion of 535. A good question is whether the effectiveness of the dioceses may have been undercut to some degree by the increased reliance on mercenaries - could this outsourcing of defense disrupted the normal operations of the civil administration which was designed to support a professional Roman army (whose gradual disappearance in the 5th century was a primary cause, if not the cause, for the collapse of the Western Empire)? Were dioceses incapable of responding effectively to challenges in the 5th century or were they gradually bypassed because circumstances in governance had changed except in the dioceses of Egypt, Oriens and vicar of Rome who ruled the southern part of the former diocese of Italy.[13]

Civil dioceses[edit]

The history of the 'vicariate' diocese is one of a number of important administrative developments that took place from 285 to 330 A.D. The developments were the products of an interventionist regime during the reign of Diocletian followed by a more evidently concerted policy undertaken by Constantine (Diocletian and the Tetrarchy, Roger Rees, 2004, pp. 22–23, 27, 90. Some or these preceded the creation of dioceses which is variously dated between 298 and 313/14.

In regard to Diocletian's reforms these seem to be the products of a government, "...working steadily towards its intended goal; or perhaps it suggests a rather arbitrary series of makeshift reactions"..."Whether or not there was any coherent political philosophy, or indeed government collegiality, are controversial questions," p. 39). After the death of Constantine the administrative structure was more or less fixed although the competencies within it were shifted about to get the desired or at least acceptable results. There appear to be three major clusters of reforms: starting with empire-wide censuses that took a decade or more to complete and the creation of regional fiscal dioceses Diocletian in the mid-290s instituted a series of reforms many of which dealt with fiscal matters and with increasing government efficiency; Constantine's reorganization of the palatine administration and the final removal of military command from prefects and governors; and nn the years 325-330 a partial rationalization of the administration system already in place. The government's primacy concern was fisal. It faced an enormous challenge since much the greater part of state revenue by far was derived from taxes on agriculture production, rural property, persons (head tax) and animals - responsibility for these were the sole preserve of the prefects from 325.

Diocletian established mints near heavy concentrations of troops. He divided the 47 provinces beginning with the division of Italy in the early 290 into eight districts. By the end of his reign in 305 there were 100+ provinces (the number varied and went up to 120). Smaller provinces were more effective and easier to administer by governors who were given more judicial and financial responsibilities as their military commands were removed. The emperor ended the arbitrary army requisitions (plundering) which had become almost the norm during the years of crises and increasing high inflation which devalued the currency in the years 250–280 by instituting a separate tax (the Annona Militaris) whose collection and administration he placed with the prefects. He undertook censuses done by region with provincial variations in preparation for the introduction of a tax assessment system which gave the empire a regular budget in the modern sense for the first time. Due to debasement of the coinage 80% or more of tax came to be collected in kind (a common practice previously, but not so prevalent when goods and services could be paid in a stable gold and silver coinage). Even so, in-kind taxes were from time to time converted to payment in gold or silver, adaeratio, especially if it involved the payment of arrears - it was simply easier to do and did not involve expensive land transport charges associated with the movement of bulk goods). At times soldiers' in kind pay was converted to gold payments. Beginning in the reign of Constantine taxes were occasionally commuted to gold. The pace picked up modestly during the reigns of Valentinian I (364-375) and Valens (364-378) and quickened towards end of the 4th century as the treasuries accumulated more precious metal, Jones. op. cit. pp. 460–461. He tried to recreate the tri-metal stable coinage of bronze, silver and gold dating from the Augustan period, but this failed. If was in fact never restored although the gold aureus minted at 62 to the pound and lowered to 72 to the pound kept its value for centuries.

He transferred responsibility for military supply and logistics 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.[14] He rebuilt the army after years of campaigns had sapped its strength (estimated strength of which varied from 389,704 + 45,562 in the fleets under Diocletian, according to John Lydus, a 6th-century bureaucrat of the prefecture of the East, to 645,000 by Agathias).[15]

He began much needed infrastructure repairs on roads, bridges and other public facilities after years of neglect. He 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), but this overloaded the dockets of gubernatorial courts; he 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 by employing more salaried men of free birth (the service had evolved gradually and in stages from mostly freedmen and slaves characteristic of large aristocratic households to something resembling the civil service of pre-modern times with civil service exams) w.[16]

The emperor's interventionist policies changed the relationship of the imperial government to the municipalities in tax matters. During the Principate the government had issued tax demands, indictiones, which the city councils allocated as they wished. From his reign the government not only issued and but also allocated the demands which was seen as n encroachment on local rights. The imperial bureaucracy tried to police the whole process at every level for each taxable community in order to hold it to its collective responsibility.[17] He tried to recreate the tri-metal stable coinage of bronze, silver and gold dating from the Augustan period, but this failed. If was in fact never restored although the gold aureus minted at 62 to the pound and lowered to 72 to the pound kept its value for centuries.

He made the collection and distribution of taxes in kind an hereditary obligation. The new system with top-down direction required enormous effort by richer locals who were members of the city councils and leading members of society. Also they were pressed into service to carry out liturgical duties for the State and their municipalities at their own expense, a long time practice that went back centuries. These were made obligatory and hereditary, and were much resented: the liturgist was released from personal obligation to perform which was passed on to his heir: liturgies were personal involving payment or service, or patrimonial i.e. attached to property as a kind of tax, Jones, ibid. pp. 452, 724. The richer liturgists tried to shirk their duties by passing them on to the poorer or to attain senatorial rank which exempted them for their performance. The prefects drew up, the vicars guaranteed and governors assigned according to the orders they received (CTh. 11, 16, 4, 328 and passim) the performance of munera/leitourgia and munera sordida. There were two types of liturgies: financial charges, munera patrimonialia, and the personal munera personalia. The latter was “the exercise of a responsibility and sometimes physical work” such as corvees, road work, construction, burning lime, bread-making, and others, munera corporalia called sordida from the late third century. Other liturgical obligations included the repair of roads and bridges and other facilities, extra provision of supplies and animals for the army, timber and transport of food stuffs to the capitals cost of which was reimbursed (Jones. op. cit. p. 410). There were equivalent municipal liturgies (ibid. pp. 725. 732, 749; CAH XII, pp. 365–366). Public works, opera publica were paid for by rich, sometimes with central government help or under its direction: city walls, public buildings, baths, fiscal buildings, aqueducts, auditoriums, dye works, camps, churches, workshops, prisons, storehouses, martyries, palaces, colonnades, lighthouses, bridges, harbors, porticoes, Senate houses, circus, amphitheaters, gubernatorial residences, stables, temples and towers (Clyde Pharr, The Theodosian Code, 1948, p. 592) These were paid for in the Early Empire by the state, cities and private individuals. In the Later Empire private largess for public projects practically ceases. The state (or the emperors) during the Later Empire actively distributed funds for new buildings and repairs of older structures from the revenues of crown properties

Fiscal dioceses[edit]

Diocletian created 'fiscal' dioceses early in his reign - not surprising considering that that fiscal concerns were uppermost in the minds of the rulers. The creation of sets of regional fiscal officials for the palatine chiefs of the 'Res Summa' and 'Res Privata' in the years 286-290s for the whole Empire was certainly an innovation but not a policy to govern the regionally.

The regional fiscal 'diocese' was not an invention of Diocletian. However these were an expansion based on a previously extant fiscal jurisdiction headed by Dioketes of the Res Summa in Egypt, Cyrenaica and Crete.[18] There is list of the earliest .[19] In 286 this official appears with a new title, katholikos. His duties were the same as his predecessor's.[20] There are references to two more early in the 290s.[21] Even though the record is incomplete for the early period, it is assumed fiscal diocese existed in all regions under Diocletian.[22] Lactantius mentions them along with their subordinate managers (magister) of the Crown Estates, the Res Privata, (he magistri were junior to the comptrollers until the mid-350s when they were elevated to the same rank as the comptrollers of the Treasury) during the First Tetrarchy, 293-305. Such an expansion would have fit in well with the taking of empire-wide censuses and the introduction of the new tax assessment system. Both officials are attested to in Egypt in 298 (two Sacrae Largitiones procurators assisted the comptroller). Both officials are attested to in Egypt in 298 (two Sacrae Largitiones procurators assisted the comptroller). The 'fiscal' diocese 'housed' the Crown Estates (the Res Privata),.[23] The jurisdictional lines were not the same for both because the Res Privata occupied estates within provinces while the jurisdiction of the Treasury was contiguous with provincial boundaries Both officials reported to respective palatine superiors who were attached to the emperor's personal entourage. The Treasury officials worked with the governors to whom the prefects transmitted their orders pertaining to financial matters and the budgets. The SL comptrollers and the Crown Estate managers received the tax demands and rent rates from the annual publication of the budgets.

The fiscal regime that Diocletian established introduced abstract measures of assessment, the caput and iugum, the combined land and head tax of the High Empire, called capitatio an assessment of a community's total tax liability. Ad hoc requisitions were scrapped and all liturgies, burdens, military recruitment and supply charges were incorporated into a single, unified fiscal vocabulary. A municipality declared its assets in a number of iuga based on individual tax returns. The resulting figure was used by the imperial censitores to assess the total tax burden, capitatio, in abstract units. Each of these capita would be earmarked as fulfilling a particular charge or liturgy. Conversion between iugum and caput was effected by means of conversion tables. The aim was to identify individuals responsible for the tax burden on field. The system of captitatio-iugatio determine the productive capacity of each field while the second, the individual responsible, was achieved by means of the origo, an administrative unit which could be laden with a proportion of a community's tax burden or a specific liturgy and which came to refer to the legal residence of those responsible for these: by means of orgiones, the landed wealth of municipalities could be compartmentalized, categorized and laden with a variety of liturgies, functiones, or fiscal burdens and enforced by the principle of collective responsibility. This was good from the government's perspective but created a static, idealized picture of agricultural activity, and the realities of economic behavior that relied on the mobility of labor. The result was a disparity between what was recorded on the tax rolls and the reality on the ground which was likely to create problems for the tax collector. The initiative to correct this disparity was place on the taxpayers form whom a constant stream of information was necessary and by providing communities with mechanisms by which they could request tax equalization, i.e. the redistribution of assets and burden of taxation, quoted from Cam Grey, Constructing Communities in the Late Roman Countryside, 2016, pp. 189-197, ISBN 978-1-107-01162-5. The vicars would be given the greater responsibility for making the system work post-330 (and of course in dioceses ruled by prefects!).

Until the 5th century the fiscal ministries supplied the emperors with the bulk of their income in gold and silver (until 366 payment of tax and rent in gold and silver to the Res Privata was optinal). In the Western half if the Empire the revenue of the Res Privata was directed to the Sacrae Largitiones which was still in charge of both departments into the 5th century, not so the Res Privata in the East whose revenue went solely to itself. The two fiscal ministries in many respects were two sides of the same coin as they operated in tandem. For example, the Sacrae Largitiones in the West supervised the Res Privata and received some of its income; and the heads and some officials from one department sometimes performed duties for the other.[24] The income was spent within the provinces or dioceses as needed or directed to the emperors. The heads of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata 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 Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata before the commutation of the prefects' in kind land tax revenue (75-80% of total income) got underway more rapidly very late in the 4th in the early 5th centuries,[25] a trend which eventually contributed to making redundant the palatine and regional fiscal departments and the dioceses.[26] The use of income from the Res Privata was at an emperor's discretion and sense of munificence: he could use it for personal gifts, civic donations, palace expenses: it was used regularly to supplement the regular budget of the prefects. For example, the giant expedition against the Vandals (a flop) was financed by the prefects, the Treasury and the Crown Estates.

The Treasury raised revenue from many types of taxes paid in gold: the aurum coronarium, supposedly a voluntary contribution 'offered' by cities on the accession of an emperor, on the 5th anniversary of the accession and the celebration of an Triumph; an equivalent tax from the senators called the aurum oblaticium (or oblatio senatoria)- these two taxes seem to have been timed to the quinquennial donative to the troops. Two taxes (to procure more gold revenue) were instituted by Constantine the collatio glebalis or folles, a property tax assessment on senators (above the amount of regular tax paid by their estates) and the collatio lustralis tax paid in gold by businessmen and -women. The latter tax was levied on assets. It is recorded the city of Edessa (now Urfa in Turkey near the Syrian border) paid 35 pounds per year or 2,520 solidi. An estimate suggests Egypt paid 1,400 pounds a year or 100,000 solidi a year[27] The aurum tironicum was a commutation of the recruit tax usually in the amount of 25 or 30 solidi per man to pay for barbarian mercenaries. Horses and mules for the army were requisitioned. Additional revenue was raised from fees, rents, leases, surcharges, licensing fees, sales tax, transit dues (the quadragisima Galliarium at 2.5%), tolls such as harbor dues and city gate tax (appropriated to the treasury by Constantine), excise tax paid by merchants, customs and import taxes, taxes on mines and quarries, fines of various sorts; tax on the means of production, mortgages, interest payments, and prostitution. The State resorted to the practice of demanding gold and/or silver from individuals at a price fixed by the government, aurum comparaticum, in order to get at private hordes.[28] The Treasury paid cash stipendia to officials and soldiers and the accession donatives of the latter. It produced, collected and distributed clothing to the court, military and civil service. The Treasury operated the state armories, mints and leased mines to private contractors; funded and maintained imperial palaces and other facilities.

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. Most of the Res Privata was actually let out to private individuals who paid rent and regular tax. Res Privata lands were exempted from supplemental levies and liturgies. The density of these estates across the empire was uneven. The percentage of Crown Property was very high in Tunisia and eastern Algeria, parts of Italy, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Palestine; within the territory of the city of Cyrrhus in northern Syria 16% of the registered land was imperial "But Cyrrhus may well have been exceptional" it had been the home of Avidius Cassius whose estates were confiscated after his rebellion against Marcus Aurelius, Jones op. cit. p. 414-416. There is little information to estimate the amount of rent and revenue paid on the imperial land.

Diocletian confiscated city lands, revenues and endowments to the Res Privata in trust. Valentinian I returned one-third of the income ostensibly for the construction of city defensive walls; and management of the funds were later returned to the cities for the maintenance of cities' fabrics. The Res Privata operated clothing mills and dye works. In the West half the Res Privata income went to the Sacrae Largitiones.[29] Prior to 366 Res Privata 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)[30] who embarked measures to restore financial health including revenue drives.[31]

The duties and functions of the two regional Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata officials and the vicars converged, and overlapped operationally at some points in particular with governors who had a hand in supervising the collection of SL taxes, and those of the RP off and on from the 370s (until this was made permanent around 400 AD). The overlaps provided officials with mutual checks on each other in a system that was constructed to "ensure that senior office holders might police the actions of their colleagues."[32]

The three regional officials made up a triad of senior regional officials in an intermediate tier. Until 326 they had the same rank as equestrian perfectissimi when the vicars were raised to senatorial status as clarissimi - the controllers of the Sacrae Largitiones had to wait; a clarissimus Katholikos of Egypt ' of the 'Sacrae Largitiones appears in Egypt in the 340s probably because of his great importance but the others had to wait till the 360s but by the end of the century all were of senatorial rank.

The evolution and fates of all three regional officials are intertwined. Their decline converges in the mid-fifth century (without suggesting absolute synchronicity) as the prefects and palace administration gained more direct control over the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata respectively and the prefects bypassed the vicars in favor of greater direct contact with governors.[33]

Before 325 the regional rationales (whose superiors and staffs resided with the emperors) were ubiquitous. They were involved in almost every aspect of tax collection it seems,[34] except for the Annona Militaris which from its inception was solely prefects' responsibility as quarter-masters general of the army. Although the prefects had lost active military command they became even more so as effective heads of the imperial commissary and logistics supply systems. They did not however have sole control over all in kind tax collection which was still shared with the Treasury. Constantine changed this. He confined the Sacrae Largitiones 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, Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata having his own (the accounts were always separate pre- and -post division). He transferred appeal jurisdiction over Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata fiscal debt cases between 327 and 329 to the prefects and vicars (the governors already pronounced sentences of confiscated property for assimilation to the Res Privata).[35] He abolished the remaining provincial Sacrae Largitiones procurators of the comptrollers which left the Sacrae Largitiones without a field force to supervise collection its own taxes.[36] The lack of provincial-level Sacrae Largitiones staff was made up by transferring their role to the governors under the control of the prefects and vicars and monitoring by the comptrollers. The rationales continued to have numerous minor agents to look after their affairs in many cities: these were the imperial officials called 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 Sacrae Largitiones 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 Sacrae Largitiones who were sent annually from central command to stimulate the governors' tax collection efforts for the Sacrae Largitiones.[37] The comptrollers watched the vicars and governors and themselves were watched by the vicars. They plus the Res Privata managers were conveniently located almost everywhere in the diocesan see cities. In one case, diocese of Africa, the diocese managed the Sacrae Largitiones accounts,[38] a clear case of encroachment during a period, the 370s to 382 when governors were supervising the collection of Res Privata rents - which led to massive arrears, a very poor policy decisions since they didn't have the staff to do it. One year after the transfer of Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata appeal debt to the prefecture the first reference appears of 'diocese' to denote a region governed by a vicar, the word reserved thereafter exclusively vicariate dioceses.[39]

On the other hand, Constantine's reforms left the Res Privata's provincial structure intact, no doubt because of the vastness of the land holdings and the desire to keep it out of the hands or influence of the prefectures. Most of the Res Privata's holdings were not actually managed by the RP but leased to private individuals (conductores). That portion under direct control was administered by a network of local managers, the actores, under the direction of provincial procurators and the regional managers, the magistri. The leased properties, the patrimonium, paid rent and regular tax but was exempt from supplemental tax demands and the performance of liturgies (which made it very attractive, if a good investment, to private parties these were in effect permanent tax holidays - but it did attract people who wanted to shift ownership of their private lands to the Res Privata surreptitiously). Tax holidays were given on the condition that lands were brought under cultivation. Until the 360s the Res Privata managed the collection of rent and taxes. However, in the 370s governors were assigned to supervise the collection from time to time.[40] Unfortunately the results were huge arrears The experiment was ended in the early 380s. The in the 390s it was resorted to again By the end of the century it lay with the governors in the West and jointly in the East with the rationales (the two laws in CJ give both so it is unclear whether the collection was joint or not).[41] Towards the end of the 4th and beginning of the 5th centuries vicars are occasionally seen involved in direct supervision of Res Privata rents and the regular tax on Res Privata land which was owed the prefecture.[41] Eventually the Res Privata fell under the power of the Palace senior chamberlain.[42]

After reforms of 325-329 the two fiscal ministries 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, however, possessed brakes on the two fiscal departments: they could not independently issue instructions, orders, timetables, dispatch deputies or initiate actions of any kind involving provincials without the prior approval of themselves or the emperor (dispostiones (administrative regulations, timetables, schedules), mandata (instructions, orders) and commonitoria (orders and memoranda) had to be confirmed, when the provisions contained in these had to be enforced by provincial authorities over whom the counts of the SL have no direct authority (but did have ways of putting the pressure on governors such as fines for poor service in collecting the income due the department).[43] Ability to do this would reversed the rationalization of competencies. The prefects (no doubt with imperial approval and input from the ministers meeting in consistory) set policy and tax rates for the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata with imperial approval. SL deputies had to present themselves with their instructions to the governors who had separate copy of these. They had to carry out their orders through the governors who in turn could not interfere with them unless they transgressed: i.e. the governors supervised the collection for the SL. The SL staff and the comptrollers monitored the governors' performance and pressured them if necessary, Delmaire op. cit. p. 203-204. SL staff in the provinces were instructed to collect arrears through the courts and staff of the governors. Often they tried to do this directly on their own which made them subject to disciplinary action or arrest if they were found out. Such was the pressure to extract taxes it may be wondered how effective the threat was since these are repetitive.

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 Sacrae Largitiones applied even more strictly to the Master(s) of the Offices, Ministers of Internal Security, were forbidden from having anything to do with the Sacrae Largitiones. [44] On the other hand, from the 340s the masters were 'represented' by senior agentes in rebus 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 and cities such as ports. These administrative arrangements were parts of a series of overlapping triangulations clamped independent departments of State together with shared duties at discrete junctures.

Until the 360s the Res Privata with its vast local agents and staff was able to collect its own rents and taxes, A.H. M, Jones, LRE I, p. 414. Perhaps because of duress in imperial finances from the mid-360s governors were assigned supervision of the collection of Res Privata rents (lands paid rent and regular tax referred to as 'rent'). The result was massive arrears in the 370s. Theodosius I in 382 ordered collection to be transferred back to the rationales. The same change was ordered by Valentinian II in the West. In 395 and in 399 the policy in the West had been reversed twice leaving collection in the hands of the governors. In 394 the count of the Orient was involved in RP revenue collection. The count's request for additions to his staff of 600 to carry out the collectiond. From 399 collection in the West lay with the governors under supervision of palatini (of the RP) sent down from central office; in the East it is not entirely clear from the two pieces of evidence whether it solely under the governors or in concert with the rationales of the RP, Jones, ibid.

Prefects and vicars[edit]

The post of praetorian prefect had been created by Augustus and was referred to as the praefectura, but it was a personal post without a territorial jurisdiction. 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. He was commander of the armies, an associate chief justice of the emperor, head of administration, chief quartermaster-general of the army, and head of finance. Diocletian did not address the problem of task overload (this was left to Constantine 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 to 379 and from 388 to 391.

Constantine beginning in 312 made innovations in the palatine administration but tentatively since he had an imperial colleague to deal with, Licinius, until November 325. He stripped the prefects of active military command which in any case they had not used for some time (vicars did not have military command if created post-312). The final removal separation of military command from prefects and governors created a purely civilian administration and military. The former had superior authority over the latter. There considerable evidence of friction between the two, Jones, op. cit. 376 including evidence of military attempts to encroach on the prerogatives of the civilian sphere in matters of supply procurement (such as violation of procedure by going around the civil authorities and making requisitions without their permission) and occasional illegal trials of civilians as defendants in courts-martial.

The emperor and Licinius founded the high-ranking imperial notaries who were the private corps of secretaries (and imperial emissaries). He made the Tribune of the Guards, the Scholai. He appointed him head of the imperial secretariats (the scrinia) between 313 and 315 and gave him the additional title of master of the offices. He placed the corps of imperial couriers the agentes in rebus under this tribune. He changed the name of the Res Summa, the Treasury, to Sacrae Largitiones by 319 (Kelly, op. cit. pp. 188–190 for these changes; cf. David D. Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay, pp. 71–172)

Beginning in 325 the emperor rearranged the competencies of the palatine administration in earnest with a set of changes that also affected the lower levels. He divided the Treasury into three one each for the Sacrae Largitiones, the Res Privata and the prefects (dating Delmaire, op. cit. p. 703). Previously the accounts though kept separate were administered by the Sacrae Largitiones for all (Jones. op. cit. p 411). Prefects were given sole control over the regular land tax revenue (possibly 75%–80% of the total): the Sacrae Largitiones was removed from further involvement in this aspect of finance. The collection of Sacrae Largitiones 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, 243–244). The prefects continued to administer army payments in kind (Annona Militaris), weapons supply, and the funding and building of military installations (military unit commanding officers were restricted to distribution (Southern, op. cit. 270) which they had to account for after joint auditing with the provincial - and sometimes, diocesan - staffs (Jones, op. cit. p. 405). 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 Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata (the armories and mills numbered 47 in the West; in the east 22, incomplete list; armories in the East came under the control of the MO by 390); the food supply of the capitals (in Rome this was done by the urban prefect, his subordinate the prefect of the Annona, and the vicar).

Towards the end of the reign Constantine placed the army under the control of two senior military officers, the master of the infantry and the master of the cavalry (variously dated from 325-335). Rather oddly the vicars are found leading 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.

Importantly the emperor transferred appeals of fiscal debt owed the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata to the courts of the prefecture sometime between 327–329 (CTh. 11, 30, 28- the law is dated 359 but refers to a ruling of Constantine). Debt owed the prefecture was of course already under their jurisdiction. The shift of appellate jurisdiction to the higher courts of the prefecture brought the financial affairs of the three ministries together at one point at the end of the process - the collection of debt on appeal - as a complement to the prefecture's composition of the annual budget for all three at the starting point without compromising the immediate authority of the two fiscal departments who retained first instance jurisdiction. This arrangement lasted until 385 when appeal jurisdiction was restored to the counts of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata who until this time acted in an advisory capacity in the prefectural courts. He removed the Sacrae Largitiones from involvement with the state post, the cursus publicus.[45] 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 the heads of the Sacrae Largitiones (and later the Res Privata ) and the MO were made comites. The Master of the Offices became the second-most important officer of State. Vicars and the prefect of the Annona of Rome were made governors.

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-masters general of the army, and, by reason of being vice-regents, heads of government or 'prime ministers' but not heads of administration since this responsibility had been transferred to the masters of the offices. The Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata were made independent in internal operations (their accounts had always been separate even before the prefecture was given its own treasury, the arca). Within their own jurisdictions the vicars and dioceses mirrored this rearrangement as deputies, but a step down in authority and with less discretionary power. The prefects 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).

Post the reforms from 330 the prefects (also vicars, governors and urban prefect(s) and proconsuls) had appellate jurisdiction in civil, criminal and debt cases over the prefecture, Sacrae Largitiones, and Res Privata; and selective jurisdiction over senators who until 317 were completely under the jurisdiction of the urban prefect of Rome. 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 did not have disciplinary control over staff of other ministries, over soldiers or the master(s) of the offices provincial state post inspectors. Constantius II in 359 threatened to place them under the prefects if they could not be 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 Res Privata rents which set off a 'turf' war with the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata that lasted off-and-on for 75 years.[10] One can see that changes were periodic. However, post-330 the most important competencies of and among the several ministries were more or less fixed for the rest of the 4th century. Despite this and without major formal changes the prefectures and the masters of the offices began to encroach on other ministries. In the absence of an emperor who alone had palatine heads of the Sacrae Largitiones, Res Privata, and the MO in his entourage, praetorian prefects who governed dioceses directly (most typically of Gaul in Trier) had to rely on diocesan-level equivalents. This replicates the administrative configuration in dioceses governed by vicars.

Constantine has been credited by the 5th century historian Zosimos with the creation of regional prefectures. This has been disputed as an anachronism based on the situation as it appears in the Notitia Dignitatum at the end of the 4th century (Kelly, op. cit. p. 186). The early prefectures of which there are four in 331 (five 335-337) may reflect more Constantine's dynastic hopes than administrative interests which appears in the 340s under Constans and Constantius I when there were four, the same as appears in 395 in the Notitia; and more evidently so from the 360s.[46] The slow evolution of the prefectures as administrative is therefore the result of gradual centralization from the 360s which actually worked in favor of maintaining dioceses' continuing importance for some decades as they were used to advance this development.

The death of Constantine in 337 brings to a close the period of major administrative changes that began with Diocletian. The evolutionary trajectory may be laid out as follows: two prefects without territorial prefectures until 318; prefects' military command removed in 312; command of the Guards and imperial secretariat assigned to a military tribune who becomes master of the offices but who is still subordinate to the prefects until 325 or so; creation of senior generals, the masters of the foot and cavalry; transfer of more fiscal competencies to the prefects after removal of the SL form participation; creation of 'territorial' prefectures after a fashion, which begin to come into their own from the early 340s; removal of inspection authority over the public post from the prefects to the masters of the offices and appointment of some of his senior agents as office heads in the prefecture and two proconsuls. 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.[47] Constantine's reforms also began a century-long off-and-on struggle between the heads of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata on the one side and the prefects on the other who wanted to assert more control over the former, a battle won for the most part by the latter after 430.[48]


The vicariate dioceses came into existence sometime between 297 and 313/14.

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 officials' 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;[49] counteract the centrifugal tendencies resulting from doubling the number of provinces;[50] so that the prefects could delegate much of the detailed work (financial) to the 12 vicars with their attached financial departments;[51] supervise governors so they would have more time to supervise the cities;[52] 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 the desire for control; "control was the order of the day."[53] 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%.[54] 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 Dignitatum), 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 the overall administration of regions with such a small staff (" diocese were less geographical administrative entities than administrative conglomerates which a new authority should supervise governors and coordinate over all regional activities,"[55] with their small staffs. Dioceses were for controlling the lower ends of the imperial bureaucracy and keeping an eye on the doings of the SL and RP. For the most part administration, first instance 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.[56] 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.[57] 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 under the immediate supervision of governors. Praefectiani and vicariani, the staff of prefects and vicars, were supposed and ordered to stay away from direct participation in tax collection, the former sent down to put pressure on the governors and the latter to collect arrears.[58] In regard to the purpose of all this massive effort the main tasks of the imperial administration were to finance defense, collect revenue to support 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.[59] 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[60] 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.[10] 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.[61] The African diocesan office kept copies of the Res Privata tax returns and delinquencies.[62] That year the vicar and the proconsul was ordered to forward copies of these to the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata 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 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.[63]

Although there is no way to know in fact the ratio of judicial to fiscal business - litigation was expensive in the imperial courts - 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.[64] 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".[65]

The location of Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata offices in almost every one of the diocesan see cities (except in Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily and one of the Pannonian provinces), the 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. The conglomeration of offices made the vicars' task of exercising control of the administration easier, as "ringmaster, but not as sole arbiter."[10] The diocesan see cities were, therefore, in the essential aspects mini-simulacra of the top layer of the administration minus the palace staff. They were focal points of information gathering and processing as regional command centers. They 'clamped' together the major parts of the administration at that level. They were the expression of the Constantinian Dynasty's "regionally-based centralism."[2]


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. The praetorian prefects were the superiors of the diocesan vicars. In fact, in 328 Constantine refers to them as "your vicars," addressed to Aemilianus, praetorian prefect in Italy (CTh. 11, 16, 4). There is no question they were always subordinate to prefects but retained some autonomy in judicial matters.

Substitutes of prefects 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 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 (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): Spain, Africa, Macedonia, Asia, Oriens and the province of Achaea. 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 resorted 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). The Masters stationed with the emperors in the palaces were titular commanders of the Imperial Guard and heads of the imperial secretariats, the scrinia. The word 'officia' in their title refers to offices of the prefecture, not of the scrinia. The Masters had no control over the Sacrae Largitionesand the Res Privata(Giardina, Andrea, Aspetti della burocrazia nel basso imperio, 1977, pp. 54–68). These ministries reported directly to the emperor or to the prefects.

The creation of permanent vicars whenever it happened between 297 and 313/14 'outsourced' the prefects' authority, however it was 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, Hendy, M.F., Studies in the Byzantine Monetary Economy c. 300-1450, Cambridge University Press, 1985, pp. 375–377, ISBN 978-0-521-08852-7. Supreme power was reserved by the emperors for themselves and their prefects. Without some degrees of delegation no administration could function or meet the goals set for it such as "collection of the taxes, allocation of resources, and the administration of justice,"..." and "comparatively much less productive tasks internal surveillance, crosschecking, and supervision, p. 190). The interventionist policies of Diocletian, policies that reached right down to the municipal level; and the creation of a highly complex and cumbersome tax system eventually required the control of an intermediate tier of administration, first begun with the fiscal dioceses in conformity with what appears to have been the most important concern of the government: revenue without which nothing could be achieved. 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). Vicars are characterized as mini-prefects, Hendy, ibid, and by another definition "...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). However, care must be taken to differentiate the two officials in practice. 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.

The vicar's competencies were not finally and fully determined only towards the end of Constantine's reign in 337. This emperor from the beginning clearly showed his preference for the new officials in the regions by communicating directly with the vicars in Africa rather with governors there during the Donatist Controversies of the second decade of the 4th century the obvious explanation being that the official on the spot with overall authority judicially would take it from there in dealing with the local situation. The responsibility enhancement given to these intermediate-level officials after he became sole emperor in 324 shows his preference. This was matched by his use of counts of provinces to replace vicars when performance did not meet expectations in particular since they were chosen from among his closest associates. His sons continued his preference for a diocesan-centered administrative policy but discontinued the experiment with counts, but the title was given to high-ranking agents on special assignment, among others who received the honor, of the master of the offices.

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. No such report exists for vicars. 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 – not 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.

When created the vicars were of the same rank, the equestrian grade perfectissimus, as their regional counterparts of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata and most governors. In 326 vicars were raised to the senatorial rank of clarissimus (Pallu de Lessert, Vicaires et Comdtes D'Afrique: De Diocletien A L'Invasion Vandale, 1892, pp. 74–74 believes elevation to senatorial rank occurred around 320, “Je crois avoir montre, dans l’introduction, contrairement a l’opinion commune, que cette mesure parait remontier a l’annee 320 environ;” Delmaire, op. cit. p. 39 “depuis” from CIL 1407 and at the latest CTh. 8, 10 2; 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 Sacrae Largitiones, Res Privata 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 administration (Kelly, Age of Constantine, pp. 190–191). These measures were taken Constantine was in Italy after his defeat of Licinius in Bithynia in November 324 and the decision to found a city named after himself the following year. In 372 vicars 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 360s the regional comptrollers of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata (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.

The vicars exercised direct control over the various components of the prefecture, i.e. the provinces and municipalities; and very limited and targeted control over the Treasury and Crown Estates which were independent ministries (though the agents of these ministries had to work through the vicars and governors on matters that pertained to ordinary provincials and could not issue any order, policy-matter decision et cetera that would affect provincials prior to being approved by the emperor or a prefect). The vicars had no control over palace staffs or the master of the offices' agents within dioceses. The MO(s) was head of state security for administration and communication and he (they) were housed with the emperor(s). The vicars control methods varied: they were the only official with superior (appeal) authority within a diocese. Post-328 or 329 all fiscal debt appeals from the Treasury and Crown Estates went to them until 385 when an alternative direct route to the counts of these departments was reopened, Jones, LRE, p. 481-82; Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 707–708, possibly as a measure to expedite settlements. All criminal and civil cases involving civilians or the military were already under their jurisdiction (or to the prefects, proconsuls, and urban prefect(s) in their spheres of jurisdiction. Criminal suits involving senators were removed from the urban prefect of Rome in 317 and transferred to the prefecture. Civil cases of senators as plaintiff were removed in 364. In 376 civil cases were restored to the prefect of Rome south of the Apennines and in the islands and criminal cases within a 100-mile radius of the city, Jones, LRE, p. 490-91. In 355 criminal cases of soldiers as defendants were transferred to Courts Martial and civil cases in 413 in the East (in practice this may have occurred and Theodosius II was only recognizing it - dispatching soldiers accused of civil infractions to a provincial court was highly inconvenient), Jones, op. cit. pp. 487–88. Vicars had first instance jurisdiction: they could not overturn the verdict of lower court so first instance allowed them to intervene in a lower court should something appear amiss. They had a right to insist that regulations, protocols, instructions and orders be followed, but they could not enforce discipline over the staffs of other ministries: they could contact with their regional counterparts about the behavior of their staff (after all almost all the regional heads were located in the same city or town[10]). Paradoxically their power was reinforced by the fact that they had little discretionary authority: they could not change or order a census, annual tax demands, issue orders for supplemental demands, grant tax remissions, rebates, tax holidays, or change rates, assessments and allocations of these (they were spread out within tax districts), or change liturgical demands: they were supposed to carry orders from above and manage the diocese.[10] The removal of some authority did not greatly affect the vicars who were used by the powerful prefects in the late 4th and early 5th who were intent on getting more mileage out of the existing system and encroaching on the Treasury and Crown Estates which resisted not without some success into the 440s, Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 703–714).

Judicial Powers and Restrictions on the Authority of Vicars[edit]

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). They were expected to use first instance jurisdiction with restraint: importance of the case, value of the case, intimidation by a powerful party, irregularity, corruption of due process. The emperors expected governors to take cases and not pawn them off of the appeal judges (which they often did anyway). There are some appeals they could accept: of confessed criminal, as a tactic to postpone payment of fiscal debt, and on a preliminary issue (Jones. op. cit. p. 482). 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 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). They could fine governors and their staffs for lax performance (and the counts of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata 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 Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata). 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 Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata sufficient to monitor them. From 327–329 to 385 vicars had appeal jurisdiction in fiscal debt cases of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata.[66][10] Vicars also exercised jurisdiction over the staffs of the two fiscal ministries in civil and criminal cases, and over tenants of the Res Privata in major criminal cases until in 385 (the same year they lost control over Sacrae Largitiones staff in civil suits).

The Vicars' Financial Role[edit]

The vicars' financial role as noted was clarified and enhanced as a result of Constantine's reform of the palatine-level ministries in the years 325–329. The financial role overlapped with the judicial and administrative since all three were assigned to one official. The vicars' main financial goals were the promotion of diocesan fiscal integrity and the successful collection of taxes (Slootjes, op. cit. p. 47; Potter, op. cit. p. 371; Bransbourg, op. cit. p. 274; Southern, op. cit. p. 165; John Haldon who is of the opinion that the dioceses were primarily fiscal in nature, warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 1999, p. 8; Liebeschuetz, Antioch, City and Imperial Administration, 1972, p. 110 is of the opinion the count of the Orient duties were mainly judicial).

The vicars (and governors) provided the prefects with financial information and their staffs processed it for them.[67] The vicars were the monitors, coordinators, and regulators of a highly complex and cumbersome tax collection and distribution system[10] devised by Diocletian; keepers of the diocesan budget; guarantors of liturgical assignments composed and issued by governors according to instructions from the prefecture.[68] Vicars were 'fiscal cops' not only over the prefecture but of the two fiscal offices.[10] They were administrative watchdogs over military logistics and administration as the civilian deputy quartermaster-generals of the army. They had an important role in war preparation and the provisioning of troops in transit across provincial boundaries. Troops in transit were accompanied by provincial or diocesan staff and State Security officers of the Master of the Offices to make sure that orders were followed and civilians were not disturbed.

An important early example of their oversight and auditing duties can be seen in a law of 319 (CTh. 1 12. 2) even though it is addressed to the proconsul of Africa. The law is pertinent because vicars and proconsuls were virtually identical in authority and at times a proconsul substituted for or governed dioceses (Africa and Asia). The emperor orders the proconsul to investigate the financial reports of governors, comptrollers and the prefect of the Annona, who were responsible for the collections, for submitting fraudulent reports, a very risky activity for the perpetrators if found out - threat of capital punishment. Emperor Valentinian in 366 (CTh. 11, 1,13) ordered the vicar of Africa to head a commission of inquiry concerning back taxes on lands in the Africa owned by absent landowners resident in Rome, an investigation that involved local managers of the estates (procurators) and the appearance of the registrars of the prefects of the City and the Annona of Africa as part of the investigation and that the reports be delivered to the prefect and to as an additional precaution the imperial secretariats of the master of the offices; and that the sum collected be handed over to the diocese. 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.

The vicars of Africa and Oriens (Egypt after it was detached and made a diocese in 370 or 380) had some oversight duties in regard to the supply of foodstuffs to Rome and Constantinople, though the prefects of Annona there had direct responsibility for the management. 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 - many of his duties appear to be interchangeable and parallel to the urban prefect's in many ways, Sinnigen, op. cit. 100–109). The urban prefect of Rome and the prefect of the Annona subordinate to him from 331 were responsible for the reception, storage and transport of food stuffs to the capital.[69] 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[edit]

Possibly in the early 340s a decision was made to appoint senior agentes in rebus (State Investigators, literally 'men of affairs'), as heads (principes) of the prefectural, diocesan, urban prefects and two of three proconsular offices from the office of the master(s) of the offices.[70]. This official was a kind of Minister of the Interior for State Security, Administration, Communications and Foreign affairs all wrapped in one in modern parlance. The post of master was an add-on to the fairly minor command of tribune commander of the imperial guard and head of minor palace offices after the last of the praetorians were disbanded. His importance increased when he 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 of Constantine and the holder was given the title of 'master of the offices:" the post would become the second most powerful after the prefect. The number of stipendiary agents in the East was fixed at 1148 in 430 and by Leo, emperor, 457-474, at 1274 is attested in the 5th century: no figure is given for the West but may have been as large, Jones op. cit. p. 578. The 4th-century orator Libanius describes the masters as "the emperor's eyes" in a speech from the year 362. Each emperor had his own master of the offices who watchdogged the rest of the administrative apparatus,[71] in the case of the prefectures directly by the 'plants' and agents stationed in the provinces as inspectors of the post (from the early 340s) or on assignment.

The formal title of the heads of prefectural offices were principes agentium rebus. They were not members of the staffs whose heads they were. They had the privilege of bringing their own assistants with them during the one-year or two-year term of service. They are often misunderstood as a kind of secret police: their activities were neither policing nor secret. The agentes acquired a sinister reputation as spies and 'commissars' to carry out 'delicate missions' based on the activities of a few who were sent to ferret out traitors by Constantius II. Julian, 361-363, hated them and abolished the principes, and reduced the inspectors (praepositi, called curiosi 'snoops') to two per province. After his death the offices were restored forthwith, Jones. op. cit. p 129. It would be more accurate to say the agentes were courier/bureaucrats with a wide knowledge of the imperial administration as they were often seconded to serves terms in the imperial secretariates and within the corps of high-level notaries with the emperor. As heads of offices their knowledge of the workings of the administration, familiarity with different parts of the empire and important personages, and easy access to highest level of government could be of great help to vicars; therefore, their presence must not be construed as entirely adversarial, W. G. Sinnigen, 'Three Administrative Changes Attributed to Constantius II,' AJP, 83, 1962, pp. 369-383. The presence of the agent from the Ministry of State Security was evident to all and was deliberate. His and served as a warning to civil servants that would-be transgressors and potential abusers of office put themselves at risk, Egypt in the Byzantine World, 300-700 A.D., Editor Roger S. Bagnall, "The Imperial Presence: Government and Army,' p. 254, 2007 ISBN 978-0521-1458-9. One might call the princeps using late 20th century bureaucratic jargon a 'quality control officer' who actually played an important role.

Justice and taxation (and internal security) being the main concerns of the imperial government, the principes added another check point and block to scrutinize the activities of the administration. Since they "reported directly to the magister officiorum the government ensured a second, independent, stream of reports and indirectly controlled the administration of offices," Palme, op. cit. p. 255 (they wrote confidential reports to their bosses which the prefects did not see, A. Piganiol, L'Empire Chretien (325-395), 1947, p. 321, 1972 Edition BO7FCS5NVC, and in accord with the principle of control and counter-control - double reporting, P. Palme, 'Die Officia der Statthalter in der spatantike, Antiquite Tardive, 7, 1999, p. 108. The main task of the princeps was to vet business coming in and going out the office whatever it was. Nothing could be sent out with their countersignature (CTh. 6, 27, 4 (387) and for which they received a tidy fee as part of their 'retirement package' if head of a prefecture. 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).

The MOs were forbidden from having anything to do with the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata,.[72] as their role was administrative oversight not fiscal control which belonged to prefects. Nonetheless. they were able to get a pulse on the affairs of these two departments through their membership in the imperial conistory (Council of Senior Ministers), through the office heads in the prefecture, dioceses, urban prefects and proconsuls; and from their agents stationed in the provinces as State Post inspectors, ports and main import border crossings. Their appointment as inspectors-general of the Cursus Publicus and as office heads in the prefecture and two proconsulates may have contemporaneous. Constantius II expected them to send in reports on the state of the provinces, Jones ibid.

The appointment of masters' men to head other departments appears to have completed a set of internal administrative safe guards which had developed over time. These consisted of various checks and balances in the form of interdepartmental personnel overlaps, operational task bundling, collective responsibility, and 'plants' from one department into another that were devised to ensure that orders and tasks were carried out, to catch out shirkers, and identify transgressors of orders, instruction, and regulations - the overlaps were in place at all three levels of the imperial bureaucracy with crisscrossing horizontally, vertically and diagonally as a type of internal policing and spying on one another, "conflicting lines of control"..."... cross-checking the conduct of their colleagues helped to reduce the likelihood that any one department or individual would be able to plan or plan to conceal actions contrary to imperial interest"..."at the cost of autonomy and security," Kelly, op. cit. pp. 190, 206, 209-210, 214; R.C. Blockley, 'Internal Self-Policing in the Later Roman Administration,' Some Evidence from Ammianus Marcellinus, Classica & Mediaevalia' 30, 1969). Also it is possible to detect a pattern of triangulation created by the overlaps: MO-prefect-diocese; vicar-comptroller-governor, vicar-comptroller-master, although caution should be exercised that these are indirect means of control or access to another department and not permission to interfere in the daily operations of independent ministries.

Overlaps also served to 'clamp' the system together. The most obvious are mentioned above. There are others such as semi-autonomy from a superior (the MO over the scrinia heads, possibly in some judicial matters the vicars from the prefects), concurrent jurisdiction such as the urban prefects had with sitting vicars, the use of separate blind reports on the same topic from two departments (for example on the contents of confiscated estates destined for the RP and the SL, reports from governors and the RP procurator), intersection between military and civilian staff (reconciliation of accounts), the composition the budget by one department for others (the prefecture for the SL and RP), investigation of one department by an official from another (distrust of internal policing), the use vicar's see city as a chokepoint and vetting station), double transmission belts (tax reports governor-vicar-prefect and where pertinent the SL; expenses' reports of static army units (limitanei) + governors to the prefecture, reports of mobile troops (comitatenses) attached to the emperors to the magistri officiorum, no appointees from the MO to head governors' staffs (the MO was concerned with fiscal matters but security and communication) and many more (listed in Franks, L.E.A., 'Enhanced Diocesan Control of Fiscal Matters from 325 A.D. and Types of Documents Routinely Used,' May 31 2016, Appendix V, Cambridge University Main Library and Christ's College Library, Cambridge).

Since the very top officials and the emperors might not know the something was amiss lower down the administrative chain there was a better chance of finding out because the cross-checks and greater numbers of persons who would be in the know was built into the system (even so Ammianus Marcellinus the historian ca 320-395, portrayed a penetrating account of "faulty sources, deliberate misinformation or the lack of reliable reports," Kelly, ibid p. 219). The original sources talk about rogue officials, official ignorance of the state of affairs in provinces and record savage imperial attacks on mid-level and smaller fry transgressors no doubt fueled in part by the inability to exercise total control over the administrative apparatus. Lack of trust in its own servants certainly did not help the emperors.

The office heads were chosen from among the senior agents with 20 or more years who were approaching retirement. The heads of prefectures served up to two years; diocesan and others for one. Although graded as non-commissioned officers the very senior received high honors as consuls in 386 and vicars in 426. Agents started off their imperial service terms as couriers but became experienced not only from serving in various regions of the empire while on assignments but also became quite knowledgeable how the imperial administration worked from service in other departments. The 'Men of State Affairs' could serve as 1) principes, heads of offices, 2) governor or 3) be promoted to the corps of notarii, the emperor(s)' personal corps of secretaries who also served the imperial cabinet, the consistory.[73]; 4) as praepositi cursus publici, asState Post Inspectors in provinces (provincial governors were responsible for funding and repairing the service); 5) be employed as archivists (chartularii) in the schola notariorum (the emperor’s personal secretarial staff); 6) or be seconded to the three imperial secretariats, the scrinia (90 staff), under the overall control of the magister(i) officiorum, and through which and from which routine business (much of it of a legal nature petitions, reports of various kinds, the annual reports of the field armies, codicils of appointments of civilian officials and military officers) arrived from the various parts of the civilian and military. Upon retirement the could be appointed as defensores civitatum, defenders of the humbler classes against the powerful, including among them city council members, the decuriones. They presided over minor cases of debt, restitution of runaway slaves, and over-exaction of taxes. They could refer more important cases to the governor, Jones, op. cit. p. 143. Retired agents could even be appointed as provincial governor.

The Decline of the dioceses[edit]

There appear to be a number of reasons for the decline of dioceses. First from the beginning and even mores so from 325 the vicars were placed in charge of a very complex and cumbersome tax collection and distribution system. This situation began to change at the end of the 4th century as the commutation the prefectures' in kind collection began to be commuted more and more to gold payment. What was the point of the separate Treasury of the SL once most the tax of the prefectures was commuted, Delamire, op. cit. pp. 703–714.

Commutation had begun very slowly under Constantine I and his successors. It picked up speed with the conversion of Res Privata rents to gold in 366 and with the taxes of the prefecture towards the end of the century. It would be a major factor in the decline of the dioceses whose major fiscal task had been coordinating a complex and cumbersome financial system based on the collection and distribution of in kind products. This said commutation had always been was resorted to in certain circumstances as payment in gold or silver was always more convenient (as in buying supplies locally for delivery nearby rather than having to collect and transport these a great distance by road, an expensive undertaking - if possible water transport was used). 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.

Another factor which contributed to the decline of vicars was 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. By-passed by the prefects (they of course could communicate directly with anyone they wanted to at any time) the vicars' services and dioceses increasingly redundant. Also the greater use of direct appeal from governors to prefect and regulations that prohibited vicars' courts from accepting cases about a certain value marginalized their courts. 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 Sacrae Largitiones were not reallocated to the prefecture by the governors and the prefects' agents. It is one of the few references to them in the East post-450 A.D. which suggests that they had lost most of their importance except in Oriens and Egypt.

The chronology of diocesan rise in importance and decline can be tracked. The trajectory was not the same for all dioceses for a variety of reasons: each diocese was faced by differing circumstances. There is upward trajectory in importance until the very early fifth century followed by a very gradual decline till 440 and then a more rapid declination post-440.[74] The decline was not uniform across the board - there is indication that the vicars of Asia and Rome were losing influence. Pontus, Macedonia, Thrace and Dacia may have declined due to their proximity to Constantinople the see of the emperor, a praetorian and an urban prefect. The vicars of Italy never common because of the presence of the prefect in Milan and later in Ravenna disappeared. Britain was abandoned in 410. Parts of Gaul and Spain were occupied by tribes as was Pannonia. The Vicar of the Seven Provinces in southern 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.[75] The diocese of the Spains may have even been re-established around 418 after the Visigoth's decimation of the tribal invaders;[76] 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.[77] If so, the attempt to recreat the diocese provides evidence for the highest imperial authorities' continuing positive attitude about having a presence with superior authority in the region.[10] The diocese of Africa was disrupted by the Vandal invasion of 429 and did not survive the peace treaties with the them in 435 and 442.

The dioceses as remained from 450 slipped into steeper decline and redundancy as did their regional counterparts of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata. The vicars' courts were increasingly bypassed in favor of direct appeal to prefects; their financial responsibilities atrophied.[78] 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.[79] 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.[80] 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.[81][10]

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 gave as motives inability to perform their financial functions, patronage and selling of offices as reasons for abolition, stock accusations even if true. 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.[82]

The Value of Dioceses[edit]

The vicars and dioceses were a product of the perceived administrative needs of their times as initiated by Diocletian which was developed and modified by Constantine in the years 325-329. The diocesan see cities for over 125 years were centers of regional administrative control and oversight. They were major players in governance: they were administrative hubs and foci for reporting and processing information the government wanted, Dioceses mirrored at the intermediate level the major components and administrative competencies of the top echelon, However, the functioning of the diocese was a restricted version as it lacked the policy-making authority. The vicars themselves can be regarded as mid-level senior management.

They diocesan see cities were major destination points for the processing and transmission of information to the palatine level from governors; reception destinations of information, court cases and reports from the regional and provincial agents of the Treasury and Crown Estates,[83] and from the municipalities. Having masses of information from the lower levels of the administration audited and processed at the regional level was intended to save upper echelon time and effort from having to deal with incomplete reports, court dockets and financial reports - it may not have; it could also hinder response time if vital information was held up or the system jammed. For the system, such as it was to work, regularity and predictability were the keys: for irregularities and emergencies direct access to the palace was always left open. The top officials who were busy with their own concerns wanted as much State business as possible taken care of and presented to them properly completed in particular considering the great distances involved. This made sense. However, in the East once Constantinople became a proper capital in 359, and the major residence of Theodosius I, and the permanent imperial residence afterwards, the proximity of the vicars in Thessaloniki, Nicomedia and Ephesus made little sense as a result of factors mentioned above.

The diocesan see cities were the 'base-camp' for 500–1000 staffers together of a vicar, comptroller of the Sacrae Largitiones, manager of the Res Privata (from the 350s titled comptrollers), governor, agents of the masters of the offices, and more than not the headquarters of an army 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.

As for the vicars, they did not come in for repeated imperial attacks on governors, the staff of the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata and the lower rungs of the imperial bureaucracy. Perhaps by the time they attained the vicariate they were know quantities; and or they were 'too close to the fire' to risk violating the trust placed on them. The lack of evidence does not mean that there were no bad men who served as vicars (Maximinus who as a barrister carried out a witch-hunt in Rome in the 360s was appointed vicar of Rome afterwards and prefect of the Gauls, Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae, Liber XXVIII); and Seronatus perhaps the last vicar of the Seven Provinces of Gaul in the late 460s early 470s was regarded at corrupt and treasonous(Sidonius Appollinaris a letter dated 468 has harsh words for Seronatus whom he accuses of maladministration, mistreatment of prisoners, excessive taxation and venality and offering provinces to the barbarians, Mathisen, R. W., Roman Aristrocrats in Barbarian Gaul, 1995, pp. 12, 84 ISBN 978-0-292-758063; Harries, Jill, Sidonius Apollinaris and the Fall of Rome 406-485, pp. 126, 224-5 ISBN 978-0-198-144724 on Seronatus; and Prospography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. I, pp. 996–96.

From the beginning the Romans ran their empire 'on the cheap.' The existence of the vicars is in its own way an example of this continuing mind set - rather than address the issue and expensive option of running the empire with permanent officials stationed in the cities, the government tried to do it by upping the efficiency of the provincial level by dividing it, packing on responsibilities on governors and supervising them by officials on an intermediate level. In this way it continued the time-worn practices of using unpaid locals - the city councils and influential rich people who chosen annually to supervise the tax collections and fulfill liturgical duties - to do their work for them. In this way they could avoid having to create a vast permanent salaried civil service to govern.[84] 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.

It has been said the history of Roman is the history of a State. The dioceses were extensions of this States central power. They were part of matrix of administrative links that marshalled resources to keep the State function and fulfilling a major goal - the defense and maintenance of the Empire. As regions were lost in the 5th century in the West resources were lost and the result was a shrinking tax base to support the professional Roman Army. As more was lost the West entered into a death spiral. Vigorous measures, better decisions, societal unity and decisive victories at critical moments in Spain in 422 against the Vandals, against the Visigoths in SW Gaul, again against the Vandals in the years 430-31, success instead of fiascos against them in 442 and 468, and in Spain in 460 when they burned Majorian's fleet, might have turned the situation around.

The tribal invasions and movements disrupted the Roman imperial administration itself in ways it had not before (because the Romans chose or decided not to erase the invaders or push them back over the borders); and these disturbances and presences got in the way of its ability to marshal resources needed from the locals to protect them and the Empire. As the Roman State withered away the superstructure wound down or disappeared. The locals had to manage the best they could with the new managers as they took over. Remaining were the provincial and municipal administrations under the new Germanic rulers which continued more or less as before in most areas but in an ever more attenuated form.

The imperial bureaucracy has received a very bad press as venal, corrupt and inefficient as if no honest persons were in its employ. On the whole they seem to have been an unambitious and unenterprising class, Jones, op. cit. 605. Despite all its "manifest failings," the imperial bureaucracy had played a vital role in the preservation of the empire together. The permanent civil servants knew the procedure and the regulations far better than their transient chiefs, who were often aristocrats chosen for no better reason than birth and wealth,"..."Civil servants thus acted as a check on the rapacity and corruption of their chiefs,"..."Nor were all officials entirely lacking in enterprise and public spirit," [85]. Indeed in the West they administation went down fighting despite all odds, and when and where it could provided the administrative, legal and financial skills to the new tribal owners who were woefully lacking in knowledge and governing skills. It has been said that it was not that the invaders defeated the Romans but rather they lost. People have debated for centuries the causes for the 5th century collapse while also looking for causes that contributed to the debacle in the late 4th: the Romans seemed to be unwilling to commit the resources necessary to defeat the interlopers; they lost their war-like instincts; hoped that they could be contained (a policy of accommodation), suffered bad luck on the battlefield, were hobbled by internal divisions, especially civil wars between rivals for supreme power, and by the failure to maintain a separate Roman army in numbers sufficient to defeat the tribes within and keep out others outside the borders - The Western Empire went and with them the prefect and their vicars by the end of the 6th century in their last hold out in the West, Italy[86]

In the eastern parts of Roman Empire, dominated by Greek language and common use of Greek terminology, the vicarius was called hyparchus or exarch.[87]

Introduction of the term in ecclesiastical usage[edit]

The ecclesiastical diocesan system was formally organized in the early 4th century very soon after the so-called Edict of Milan of March 313 recognized freedom of religion. The leadership of the Churches based the new ecclesiastical administrative units and the hierarchy on Roman arrangements (and architecture for their churches). Oddly the word 'diocese' came to refer to the province of a Church headed by the bishop, the diocesan head rather to a larger regional unit made up of provinces which became the archdiocese in the West and 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 a principal ally the ecclesiastical powers of the Orthodox Church: the two together were the two aspect of the doctrine of Caesaropapism of State Church of the Roman Empire. The Ottoman Empire destroyed the remnants of the Eastern Roman Empire and other Christian Balkan kingdoms in the course of the 14th ad 15th centuries (see Christianity and Judaism in the Ottoman Empire). The eastern bishops were given control over their respective flocks to administer on behalf of the Ottomans assumed political roles. 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[edit]

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


  1. ^ a b CAH XII, p. 161
  2. ^ a b c d R. Malcolm Errington, Roman Imperial Policy from Julian to Theodosius, 2006, p. 261–262
  3. ^ Pat Southern and Karen R Dixon, The Late Roman Army, 1996, p. 59
  4. ^ Roland Delmaire, Les largesses sacrees et res privata, 1989, pp. 171–205
  5. ^ Delmaire, op. cit pp. 206–209; also A.H.M Jones, Later Roman Empire, pp. 411-437 for the Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Constantin Zuckermann, "Sur la Liste de Verone...", Travaux et Memoires 14 Melanges Gilbert Dagron, 2002, pp. 618–637
  8. ^ K. L. Noetlichs, 'Zur Entshehung der Diozesen als Mittelinstanz des spatromischen Verwaltungssystems,' Historia 31, 1982 p. 75 quoting the French historian Cuq
  9. ^ Zuckerman, op. cit. pp. 636-637
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o L. Edward Alexander Franks, Review of Wiewiorowski, Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 2016, Band 109, Heft 2, 990-992
  11. ^ Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 88 but does not examine the relationship
  12. ^ Noetlichs, 'Zur Entstehung der Diocese als Mittelinstanz des Spatantiken Verwaltungssystem,' Historia 31: 70-81, 1982
  13. ^ Wiewiorowski, op.cit. pp. 298-303
  14. ^ 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
  15. ^ CAH XII, p. 123
  16. ^ For a review of Diocletian's measures, CAH XII, The Crisis of Empire 193-337; Roger Rees, Diocletian 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.
  17. ^ Cam Grey, Constructing Communities in the Late Roman Countryside, 2011 pp. 185, 189, 195–196
  18. ^ Crete was detached in 294 and joined to Achaia
  19. ^ Delmaire, R. Les largesses sacrees et res private, Parte I, 1989, pp. 171, 181–182
  20. ^ CAH XII, Alan K. Bowman, 'Egypt from Septimius Severus to the Death of Constantine', p. 320
  21. ^ Delmaire, op. cit. p. 181
  22. ^ Delmaire, pp. 183–185; pp. 171–204 on the regional-level fiscal officials
  23. ^ more specifically the lands leased were the Res Privata; those under direct imperial management were called the patrimonium
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ Jones, op. cit. pp. 445, 460-462
  26. ^ Jones, p. 412
  27. ^ Bagnall, Egypt in Late Antiquity p. 154 (Egypt a very rich region of 5 million people of 60 million may have paid 10-12% of the business tax but this is only a guess)
  28. ^ C. E. King, The Sacrae Largitiones: Revenues, Expenditure and the Production of Coin, BAR International Seris, 1980, pp. 141–173
  29. ^ Delmaire, op. cit. pp.
  30. ^ Hugh Elton, Warfare in Roman Europe AD 350–425, 1996, pp. 118–125
  31. ^ Noel Lenski, Failure of Empire, Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century, 2002, pp. 264-307
  32. ^ Christopher Kelly 'Law and Society,' Noel Lenski (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Constantine, p. 191; 184–192 for a general description of administration changes in the years 284–337
  33. ^ P.S. Barnwell, Emperors, Prefects and Kings, The Roman West, pp. 703-714; Jones, Later Roman History, pp. 279–283
  34. ^ Delmaire, op. cit. p. 197. 204, 245
  35. ^ CTh. 11, 30, 28 of 359 refers to an earlier lost law; 14 of 327 and 18 of 329
  36. ^ Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 208–209, 213
  37. ^ Delmaire, pp. 204–205
  38. ^ CTh. 1, 15, 7 378
  39. ^ Delmaire p, 171; Wiewieorowski, op. cit. p. 55, note 71 quoting CTh. 2, 26, 1 of 330
  40. ^ Jones, op. cit. p. 413, Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 703–14
  41. ^ a b Jones. op. cit. p. 414
  42. ^ Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 710-714
  43. ^ Delmaire, op. cit. pp. 64-65, 68
  44. ^ A. Giardina, Aspetti della burocrzia nel basso imperio, 1977 pp. 59-60
  45. ^ 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.
  46. ^ 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 and 330
  47. ^ 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
  48. ^ R. Delmaire, Les largesses sacrees et res privata, L'aerarium imperial et son administration du IV au VI siècle, 1989, pp.703–714
  49. ^ Zuckermann, op. cit. pp. 627, 636
  50. ^ D. Bowder, The Age of Constantine, 1978, p. 37
  51. ^ Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery, 1982, p. 110
  52. ^ Pat Southern, The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine, 2001 p. 164–165
  53. ^ Southern, op. cit. 165
  54. ^ 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."
  55. ^ B. Palme, 'Die Officia der Statthalter in der spatantike,' Antiquite Tardive 7, 1999, pp. 97-98; "...grouped them into large circumscriptions,: Jones, p. 373
  56. ^ 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) pp. 208–209, on "the organizing principles of irregularity"; David. S Potter, The Empire at Bay, 180-395, pp.367–377; CAH XII, pp.170–183
  57. ^ 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
  58. ^ Jones, op. cit. p. 457
  59. ^ "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'
  60. ^ Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery, 1985, p.110
  61. ^ There were repetitive imperial denunciations of imperial staff from the prefecture and the Sacrae Largitiones interjecting themselves in tax collection and practicing extortion, Jones, op. cit. pp. 459-60
  62. ^ CTh. 11, 28 13, 422
  63. ^ 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 Res Privata in the diocese of the Orient 1, 13, 1 (394)
  64. ^ 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
  65. ^ Lenski, op. cit. p. 267
  66. ^ CTh. 11, 30, 28
  67. ^ Jones op. cit. p. 451 and Williams op. cit. p. 110
  68. ^ 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
  69. ^ . Orders given by Urban Prefect but carried out by the prefect of the Annona's staff. The Urban Prefect's staff were twice warned off from meddling with the prefect of the Annona's execution of his duties, Geoffrey Rickman, The Corn Supply of Ancient Rome, 980, pp. 199–201
  70. ^ Morosi, Roberto, 'Il princeps officii e la scola agentum in rebus,' Humanitas, 31/32, 1979/80, pp. 23-70
  71. ^ Andrea Giardina, op. cit. pp. 58-64
  72. ^ Giardina, op. cit. p. 64
  73. ^ Gianfranco Purpura, 'I curiosi e la schola agentum in rebus,' Annali del Seminario Giuridico della universita di Palermo, 34, 1973, pp. 165–273
  74. ^ Wiewiorowski, op. cit. pp. 288-301 sees signs of judicial decline in the 360s with more pronounced tilt at the very end of the 4th century; Franks op. cit. passim sees the first signs of decline at the end of the century due to centralization with a transition plateau circa 425, slight decline afterwards and then picking up post-450; Sinnigen, op. cit. pp. 108–109; Jones op. cit. 280–283 for the post-450 decline but who offers only a few general remarks about vicars
  75. ^ Wiewiorowski, op. cit. p. 74
  76. ^ M. Kulikowski, 'The Career of the 'comes Hispaniarum' Asterius, Phoenix 53, pp. 123–141
  77. ^ S. Barnwell, Emperor, Prefects & Kings, The Roman West 395-565, 1992 p. 69
  78. ^ Jones op. cit. pp. 280–283
  79. ^ P. S. Barnwell, pp. 163–164, p. 223 notes. 62–66
  80. ^ Wiewiorowski, pp. 299–301
  81. ^ Jones op. cit. pp. 280–292; Wiewiorowski, op. cit. pp. 299–301; Delmaire, op. cit, pp. 703-714
  82. ^ 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 an 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 Sacrae Largitiones and Res Privata
  83. ^ These were supposed to route their reports and legal requests through the vicars' office, Codex Theodosianus 1, 15, 2 348 addressed to the vicar of Africa who was pressed to send these on - whether this was ever standard practice is questionable although the Code compilers seem to take it as such by including it.
  84. ^ 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' Cam.Stud.Pap. 1, who says this "policy of amateurism was a failure, in the sense that it combined ineffectiveness and oppression"
  85. ^ A.H.M. Jones, LRE p. 606
  86. ^ Hugh Elton, Warfare in Roman Europe Ad 350-425, 1996 ISBN 0-19-815007-5; Michael Grant, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 1990, ISBN 0-02-028560-4; Bryan Ward Perkins, op. cit.; Richard S. Cromwell, The Rise and Decline of the Late Roman Field Army, 1998 ISBN 1-572249-087 Parameter error in {{isbn}}: Invalid ISBN.-X; Michael Whitby, Rome at War AD 293-696, 2002 ISBN 1-84176-359-4; David Potter, The Roman Empire at Bay, 2004, Preface and the End of Hegemony, 367-395 ISBN 0-415-10057-7; Grant examines the failures of the army, the strife between social classes, the people vs. the government, partnerships that failed, groups that opted out and complacency, and quotes Peter Salvian a 5th century Gallic write who thought "the Empire was already dead, breathing its last"...and "lacked the imagination to realize the supreme peril they were in: and if they did happen to possess such discernment, they lacked the nerve to do anything about it" p. 196.
  87. ^ Meyendorff 1989.


Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Rome § History". Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 655–684.