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City management in ancient Roman Empire
#1
Ave Civitas;
I am searching for information concerning the governing machinery of Roman cities.
I know that both Rome and Constantinople had Praefects, but did lesser cities (Caesarea of Cappadocia, CaesarAugustus of Terraconnesis, Alexandria of Egypt) also have a similar single person authority.
I also understand that both Rome and Constantinople as well as many other cities had their own curia, responsible for management of the city, they had the Duumviri [sometmes more than two officials] (almost like a consul I think) who oversaw the city senates (curia) proceedings, and there were also aedile with a host of responsibilities and quaestors beneath them as assistants.
My understanding of their positions is somthing like this:
Aedile were comissioners, street comissioners, Sacred buildings commissioners, etc.
Curatores were like managers, perhaps lower in position than the Aedile, but responsible for facets of the Aedile’s jobs
Quaestors were the goffer guys.
My question is in three parts:
Part I: Are my understandings of the Aedile, Curatores, and Quaestors correct?
Part II: Where were there city governors? If there were, where did they fit into this hierarchy?
Part III: Where did the curatores and Quaestors fit into the hierarchy?
Thanks for your consideration,
I have learned so much from you site.

Tom Chelmowski
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
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#2
Basically, you have it right. Unfortunately, that does not say very much given how much variety there was in detail.

Rome and Alexxandria were exceptional cities. Their populations were far larger than those of most others, and the emperors had a vital interest in them being quiet and cooperative. Few other cities had any appointed government official running them until the later second and third century, and even then the post of IIRC 'curator', 'rector' or 'corrector' was technically a temporary office, a civil servant set over a city unable to fulfill its obligations until that situation was rectified. It did not become officially permanent until the fourth century, and then not everywhere.

In the Roman Empire of the Principate, most cities were self-governing entities subject to Roman rule as states, not individual citizens. Thus they often kept their own institutions and names for officials. Technically, there was a distinction between subject cities (civitates stipendiariae, literally 'tax-paying cities') completely subject to the authority of Rome, allied cities (civitates foederatae) which were subject to rome by the terms of a historical alliancec they once made, and free cities (civitates liberae) which in theory interacted with Rome as independent states, though of course from a much inferior position, and were not subject to the jurisdiction of the Roman government. Subject cities often had to mould their systems of government according to the guidelines laid down at the establishment of a province - the lex provinciae. However, leges provinciarum were not standardised. Allied and free cities were free to regulate themselves.

Municipiae and Coloniae (cities whose entire citizen body held Roman citizenship) had a defined structure and specific titles, For these, the quaestores managed finances, the aediles managed public order and administreation, and the government was headed by the duumviri who were also the chief judges (sometimes Aerdiles could have jurisdiction in specific fields). All offices were annual. Every five years, duumviri quinquennales were elected who oversaw the census. This was the highest local office.

Many cities in the Latin West modelled their government on this structure even though they were not Roman citizen settlements. It was a familiar pattern from Roman Italy, and was also sometimes copied in the greek East, where traditional Greek titles replaced the Latin ones (Duumviri - strategoi, archontes or grammateis, Quaestor - tamias, Aedile - agoranomos). However, in the Greek cities, traditional patterns also often persisted. There is much more varioety in the urbanised East than in the West, where cities were largely a Roman innovation.

Traditionally, the quaestorship is the most junior magistracy, with the aedileship and duumvirship following, and the duumir quinquennalis being the highest.

If a city had a curator for a specific task such as aqueducts, baths, or other public projects (Rome had curators for water supply and the frain dole), these were appointed by the duumiviri. I don't think this was common in the average-sized cities, though. Despite often having the same title, the imperially appointed temporaray (later permanent) city curatores must not be confiused with these. Where they existed, they were the mnost senior official in the city, superior to the duumviri.

Another important aspect that must not be forgotten is the curia, the city council. Former magistrates became members of this upon payment of a set sum (which could vary depending on the size of the city). In order to quaslify, they had to meet a minimum wealth requirement. The city council was the place where big decisions were made, consensus on policies hashed out, and candidacies decided. Often, only members could run for higher magistracies and while technically, laws were passed in the general assembly of citizens, the curia decided on the agenda and formulated the bills to be submitted.

Note that all magistracies as well as membership in the curia were unpaid positions. Holders were expected, sometimes even legally required, to make private payments for games, festivals, and other expenses to benefit the community. The curia was also collectively liable for the city's finances and tax revenues, and could be required to make up any shortfall of collections when the money was sent to Rome. That was an important aspect in the decline of the system in financially harder tiomes, when falling revenues met rising taxes and a shrinking tax base in the third century.

There is a truly esxcellent introductory book on the subject by Frank Ausbüttel: Die Verwaltung des römischen Kaiserreiches. But I don't think it is out in English, unfortunately. Another one we need to get translated...
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
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#3
Sir,

Thank you for your reply.

You seem to be well versed in Roman history. Arcane topics in Roman history.

Unfortunately, though I loved history, economics drove me to other pursuits in College. I don't bedrudge them, they allowed me to be where I am today, 60 and 5 years retired.

But, because I did not follow my love of history and I am not enrolled in college (nor anywhere near a College that offers a degree in Classical history) I have to rely on the library and book purchases to fill my reading needs.

I agree. It is unfortunate that all books are not available in every language, or that not all people read every language.

I was fortunate to live in Germany for some time and was able to visit many of the archeological sites, and just returned from 10 weeks in Eastern Europe, I wish I could just hop aboard an airliner and zip off to any museum as I choose.

Thanks again for your answer. It was very informative. I will, or course, continue my search.

Tom
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
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#4
Ave Civitas,

+ I think I have just one more question concerning the management of Roman cities.

+ I am writing here in particular of the defense of Nisibis, but I guess it would apply to many cities.

+ I seems to me that the governing mechanism for cities would be a bit cumbersome during a crisis.

+ I have on file part of an on-line document that states:
" -- Jacobus whom I named just now was at once bishop, guardian, and commander in chief -- "

+ There was also a Ursicinus, a Roman officer, who was governor of Nisibis.

+ These look like smart moves on the Emperor's part, like Republican Rome had, to appoint a single person authority during a crisis. But, I have three questions:

1. Were they "Military Governors" and not within the circle of "Civil Administrators" and so not subject to the results of their debates? -- or --

2. Was his position in Nisibis a "One time, special assignment" because of the Persian threat? -- or --

3. Was this Standing Operating Procedures because it was a border fortress and always needed a single point of authority?

Thanks again for your help.

Me.
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
Reply
#5
Quote:1. Were they "Military Governors" and not within the circle of "Civil Administrators" and so not subject to the results of their debates? -- or --
2. Was his position in Nisibis a "One time, special assignment" because of the Persian threat? -- or --
3. Was this Standing Operating Procedures because it was a border fortress and always needed a single point of authority?

1. Who is 'they' exactly?
2. Ursicinus was the "master of cavalry" (magister equitum) who had his headquarters in Nisibis.
3. We can't be sure if this had been the regular headquarters or if Ursicinus selected it just for this occation. But since it was a strategically very important fortification (well, ancient city to be exact), it made sense. It was garrissoned by V Parthica into the 5th c.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
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#6
Hello Valerius.

Do you fellows never sleep? Smile

About who "They" were in my previous message.

The "they" were Jacobus (Who was identified as Bishop, guardian and commander in chief) and Ursicinus (whom you identified as the MOH).

You answered my question concerning Ursicinus, he was there as commander of cavalry. But do you have any idea who this Jacobus was (besides a bishop). He then is the "They - as military governors - " I refered to above. And were "they" subordinate to the city Duumviri and Curia decisions (during a siege?)

I didn't explain this before, but I am researching for a novel I am writing about a soldier in the Roman Army and it starts in the year AD 336. I don't want to just write an adventure novel with a lot of flashing swords and flying arrows. I have read some books that make gross errors.

I want one that people who are serious about history can read - and not toss it over their shoulders once they read the part about Attila attacking the Normans in the battle of Dublin. :lol:

Am I asking too detailed of questions? You guys have been great aids and I don't want to wear out the welcome mat.

But I do have another question now.

If Ursicinius was MOH when the Persian army arrived, would he have been made responsible for the defense of the city (since he was cavalry and defensive works mainly infantry?) or would the equivelant of an Urban Cohort per Nisibis been responsible.

I am trying to get a handle of how cities were organized for defense, their internal chain of command, ultimate decision makers, etc.) and though my personal library grows by the month, there is still much I would like to know.

Thanks again for you help.

Me
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
Reply
#7
Quote:Do you fellows never sleep? Smile
Hardly. Not enough anyway. Big Grin
About who "They" were in my previous message.

Quote:But do you have any idea who this Jacobus was (besides a bishop). He then is the "They - as military governors - " I refered to above. And were "they" subordinate to the city Duumviri and Curia decisions (during a siege?)
No, I did not find out who Jacobus was (yet), the name being all too common unfortunately.
Jacobus, if a bishop, would be subordinate to the civic government.
Ursicinus, as a regional military commander, would be above them.

Quote:I didn't explain this before, but I am researching for a novel I am writing about a soldier in the Roman Army and it starts in the year AD 336.
I assumed as much. Good for you. Big Grin

Quote:I want one that people who are serious about history can read - and not toss it over their shoulders once they read the part about Attila attacking the Normans in the battle of Dublin. :lol:
Well, such novels are also fun to read!

Quote:If Ursicinius was MOH when the Persian army arrived, would he have been made responsible for the defense of the city (since he was cavalry and defensive works mainly infantry?) or would the equivelant of an Urban Cohort per Nisibis been responsible.
Ursicinus would take command. Civic authorities had no military responcibilities apart from policing the population.
Robert Vermaat
MODERATOR
FECTIO Late Romans
THE CAUSE OF WAR MUST BE JUST
(Maurikios-Strategikon, book VIII.2: Maxim 12)
[Image: artgroepbutton.jpg]
Reply
#8
Quote:Ave Civitas,

+ I think I have just one more question concerning the management of Roman cities.

+ I am writing here in particular of the defense of Nisibis, but I guess it would apply to many cities.

+ I seems to me that the governing mechanism for cities would be a bit cumbersome during a crisis.

The model of city government outlined was definitely designed for peacetime. While I don't know what the exact modalities were in Roman times (and I doubt we have that evidence in anmy detail), most abncient societzies unerstood the concept of 'martial law' and had provisions for special powers in times of crisis (like the dictator of Roman Republican times or the extraordinary strategoi Greek poleis elected). I also have no doubt whatsoever that Roman provincial government was quite willing to ruthlessly exploit its authority whenever it deemed necessary. Surely, no legionary legate or prefect cooped up in a city under siege would have bothered asking the city council for permission to ration supplies or use building materials as he saw fit. Everything we know of the way the Roman military behaved towards provincials says they'd have no compunction whatsoever. It is likely enough that members of the local elites could have placed themselves in a similar position of power temporarily if that were necessary.

Quote:+ I have on file part of an on-line document that states:
" -- Jacobus whom I named just now was at once bishop, guardian, and commander in chief -- "

+ There was also a Ursicinus, a Roman officer, who was governor of Nisibis.

+ These look like smart moves on the Emperor's part, like Republican Rome had, to appoint a single person authority during a crisis. But, I have three questions:

1. Were they "Military Governors" and not within the circle of "Civil Administrators" and so not subject to the results of their debates? -- or --

2. Was his position in Nisibis a "One time, special assignment" because of the Persian threat? -- or --

3. Was this Standing Operating Procedures because it was a border fortress and always needed a single point of authority?

This would be the fourth century, so there is no guarantee that Nisibis even still had a functioning city council. THe fact that a bishop can be mentioned as pretty much the unquestioned authority in the city indicates that if it did, it can't have been terribly effective (this is a common phenomenon in the later Empire - bishops or local commanders increasingly taking over the functions of government de facto).

I don't know what the status of Nisibis was exactly, but under the Roman system only very few cities had such a thing as a 'city governor' initially, and he never had military functions. The division between civilian and military function was, if anything, more strinfent in the fourth century than before. However, if Nisibis had a garrison, then that garrison would have had a commander, and as a major garrison town it could well be the seat of a senior military official ('governor' would be a misnomer, I suspect a comes or dux). *Technically* that man had no authority over civilian government, but in fact of life nobody below the level of praeses, if not vicar, was going to stop him. A great deal of things in the Roman world got done not through channels, but by dint of personal authority, force of habit, and muscle-on-the-spot. To me, this story reads like 'the bishop, who to all intents and purposes says what goes in the city, works hand-in-glove with the most senior military man on the scene'.
Der Kessel ist voll Bärks!

Volker Bach
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#9
Ave Civitas,

What a pile of information. Thanks. I will be several days sorting this out to make readable - accessable notes.

Thanks again. I am sure you will find me here again.

Are you fellows students at university, or professors. You can pour out such loads of data so quickly.

Thanks again.

Lothia.
AKA Tom Chelmowski

Historiae Eruditere (if that is proper Latin)
Reply


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