prov'-ins (medhinah, "jurisdiction"; eparchia (English Versions of the Bible, province) (Acts 23:34; 25:1)):

1. Meaning of the Term

2. Roman Provincial Administration

(1) First Period

(2) Second Period

(3) Third Period

3. Division of Provinces

4. Province of Judea

5. Revenue


1. Meaning of the Term:

Province (provincia) did not originally denote a territorial circumscription in Roman usage, since the employment of the word was much more ancient than any of the conquests of the Romans outside of Italy. In the most comprehensive official sense it signified a magistrate's sphere of administrative action, which in one instance might be the direction of jurisdiction at Rome, in another the management of military operations against a particular hostile community. When the imperium was conferred upon two consuls at the beginning of the Republic, and upon a praetor in 367 BC, and finally upon a second praetor in 241 BC, it became necessary in practice to define their individual competence which was unlimited in theory. When the Romans extended their control over lands situated outside of Italy, it became expedient to fix territorial limits to the exercise of authority by the magistrates who were regularly sent abroad, so that provincia signified henceforth in an abstract sense the rule of the governor, and in a concrete sense the specified region entrusted to his care; and with the development and consolidation of the Roman system of administration, the geographical meaning of the word became more and more significant.

2. Roman Provincial Administration:

The history of Roman provincial administration in the more definite sense commences in 227 BC, when four praetors were elected for the first time, of whom two were assigned to the government of the provinces. Three periods may be distinguished in the history of the system of provincial administration:

(1) from 227 BC to Sulla,

(2) from Sulla to Augustus, and

(3) the Empire.

(1) First Period.

During the first period, provision was made for the government of the provinces by means of special praetors, or, in exceptional circumstances, by consuls, during their term of office. Accordingly, the number of praetors was increased from four in 227 BC to eight at the time of Sulla.

(2) Second Period.

In accordance with the reforms of Sulla all the consuls and praetors remained at Rome during their year of office, and were entrusted with the administration of provinces a subsequent year with the title proconsul (pro consule) or propraetor (pro praetore). The proconsuls were sent to the more important provinces. The senate determined the distinction between consular and praetorian provinces and generally controlled the assignment of the provinces to the ex-magistrates. Julius Caesar increased the praetors to sixteen, but Augustus reduced them to twelve.

(3) Third Period.

In 27 BC, Augustus as commander-in-chief of the Roman army definitely assumed the administration of all provinces which required the presence of military forces and left the other provinces to the control of the senate. There were then twelve imperial and ten senatorial provinces, but all provinces added after 27 BC came under imperial administration. The emperor administered his provinces through the agency of personal delegates, legati Augusti of senatorial, and praefecti or procuratores of equestrian, rank. The term of their service was not uniform, but continued usually for more than a single year. The senatorial administration was essentially a continuation of the post-Sullan, republican regime. The senatorial governors were called proconsuls generally, whether they were of consular or praetorian rank; but Africa and Asia alone were reserved for exconsuls, the eight remaining senatorial provinces being attributed to ex-praetors. The financial administration of each imperial province was entrusted to a procurator, that of each senatorial province to a quaestor.

3. Division of Provinces:

The provinces were divided into smaller circumscriptions (civitates) for the purposes of local government. In the older provinces these districts corresponded generally with the urban communities which had been the units of sovereignty before the advent of the Romans. Under Roman rule they were divided into different classes on the basis of their dignity and prerogatives, as follows:

(1) Coloniae:

Roman or Latin colonies established after the model of the Italian commonwealths.

(2) Civitates Foederatae:

Communities whose independence had been guaranteed by a formal treaty with Rome.

(3) Civitates Liberae:

Communities whose independence the Romans respected, although not bound to do so by a formal obligation.

(4) Civitates Stipendiariae:

Communities which had surrendered to the discretion of the Romans and to which limited powers of local government were granted by the conquerors as a matter of convenience.

The civitates stipendiariae, and in some cases the colonies, paid taxes to the Roman government, the greater part of which was in the form either of a certain proportion of the annual products of the soil, such as a fifth or tenth, or a fixed annual payment in money or kind.

4. Province of Judea:

Judaea became a part of the province of Syria in 63 BC, but was assigned in 40 BC as a kingdom to Herod the Great, whose sovereignty became effective three years later. The provincial regime was reestablished in 6 AD, and was broken only during the years 41-44 AD, when Herod Agrippa was granted royal authority over the land (Josephus, Josephus, Antiquities XIX, viii, 2). The Roman administration was in the hands of the procurators (see PROCURATOR) who resided at Caesarea (Josephus, BJ, II, xv, 6; Acts 23:23,33; 25:1) in the palace of Herod the Great (Acts 23:1-35). The procurators of Judea were subject to the authority of the imperial governors of Syria, as is evident from the deposition of Pontius Pilate by Vitellius (Josephus, Ant, XVIII, iv, 2; Tacitus, Annals vi.32). The procurator was competent to exercise criminal jurisdiction over the provincials in cases involving a capital sentence (Josephus, BJ, II, viii, 1), but he was bound to grant an appeal by Roman citizens for trial at Rome (Acts 25:11). A death sentence by the Sanhedrin required the sanction of the procurator, as appears in the process against the Saviour. Under Roman rule cities like Caesarea, Sebaste, and Jerusalem became organs for local government, like the urban communities in other parts of the Empire.

5. Revenue:

The revenue of Palestine under Claudius is said to have been 12,000,000 denarii (about ,400,000, or 500,000 British pounds (in 1915); compare Josephus, Ant XIX, viii, 2). In addition to the ground tax, the amount of which is not known, a variety of indirect contributions were collected on auctions, salt, highways, bridges, etc., which constituted, no doubt, the field of activity in which the publicans gained their unenviable reputation.


The reader may be directed to Marquardt, Romische Staatsverwaltung, I, 497-502, 517-57, for a general discussion of the Roman system of provincial administration, and to the same volume, pp. 405-12, for the provincial government of Palestine.

George H. Allen

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'PROVINCE'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.