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Praetorian prefect (Latin: praefectus praetorio, Greek: ἔπαρχος/ὕπαρχος τῶν πραιτωρίων) was the title of a high office in the Roman Empire. Originating as the commander of the Praetorian Guard, the office gradually acquired extensive legal and administrative functions, with its holders becoming the Emperor's chief aides. Under Constantine I, the office was much reduced in power and transformed into a purely civilian administrative post, while under his successors, territorially-defined praetorian prefectures emerged as the highest-level administrative division of the Empire. The prefects again functioned as the chief ministers of the state, with many laws addressed to them by name. In this role, praetorian prefects continued to be appointed until the reign of Heraclius, when wide-ranging reforms reduced its power and converted it to a mere overseer of provincial administration. The last traces of the prefecture disappeared in the Byzantine Empire by the 840s.
- 1 History
- 2 List of known prefects of the Praetorian Guard
- 2.1 Julio-Claudian dynasty (2 BC – AD 68)
- 2.2 Year of the Four Emperors (AD 68 – 69)
- 2.3 Flavian dynasty (AD 69 – 96)
- 2.4 Five Good Emperors to Didius Julianus (AD 96 – 193)
- 2.5 Severan dynasty (AD 193 – 235)
- 2.6 Crisis of the Third Century (AD 235 – 285)
- 2.7 Tetrarchy to Constantine I (AD 285 – 324)
- 3 See also
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
Commander of the Praetorian Guard
Under the empire the praetorians or imperial guards were commanded by one, two, or even three praefects (praefecti praetorio), who were chosen by the emperor from among the equites and held office at his pleasure. From the time of Alexander Severus the post was open to senators also, and if an equestrian was appointed he was at the same time raised to the senate. Down to the time of Constantine, who deprived the office of its military character, the prefecture of the guards was regularly held by tried soldiers, often by men who had fought their way up from the ranks. In course of time the command seems to have been enlarged so as to include all the troops in Italy except the corps commanded by the city praefect (cohortes urbanae).
The special position of the praetorians made them a power in their own right in the Roman state, and their prefect, praefectus praetorio, soon became one of the more powerful men in this society. The emperors tried to flatter and control the praetorians, but they staged many coups d'état and contributed to a rapid rate of turnover in the imperial succession. The praetorians thus came to destabilize the Roman state, contrary to their purpose. The praetorian prefect became a major administrative figure in the later empire, when the post combined in one individual the duties of an imperial chief of staff with direct command over the guard also. Diocletian greatly reduced the power of these prefects as part of his sweeping reform of the empire's administrative and military structures.
Transformation to administrator
In addition to his military functions, the praetorian prefect came to acquire jurisdiction over criminal affairs, which he exercised not as the delegate but as the representative of the emperor. decreed by Constantine 331 that from the sentence of the praetorian praefect there should be no appeal. A similar jurisdiction in civil cases was acquired by him not later than the time of Septimius Severus. Hence a knowledge of law became a qualification for the post, which under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus, but especially from the time of Severus[disambiguation needed], was held by the first jurists of the age, (e.g. Papinian, Ulpian, Paullus[disambiguation needed]) and John the Cappadocian, while the military qualification fell more and more into the background.
The tetrarchy reform of Diocletian (c. 296) multiplied the office, there was a praetorian prefect as chief of staff (military and administrative)—rather than commander of the guard—for each of two Augusti, but not for the two Caesars. Each pretorian perfects oversaw one of the four quarters created by Diocletian, which became regional praetorian prefectures under the sons of Constantine. From 395 there two imperial courts, at Rome (later Ravenna) and Constantinople, but the four prefectures remained as the highest level of administrative division, in charge of several so-called dioceses (groups of Roman provinces), each of which was headed by a Vicarius.
The office was among the many maintained after the Western Roman Empire had succumbed to the Germanic invasion in Italy, notably at the royal court of the Ostrogothic king Theoderic the Great, who as a nominal subject of Constantinople retained the Roman-era administration intact.
List of known prefects of the Praetorian Guard
The following is a list of all known prefects of the Praetorian Guard, from the establishment of the post in 2 BC by Augustus until the abolishment of the Guard in 314. The list is presumed to be incomplete due to lack of sources documenting the exact number of persons who held the post, what their names were and what the length of their tenure was. Likewise, the Praetorians were sometimes commanded by a single prefect, as was the case with for example Sejanus or Burrus, but more often, the emperor appointed two commanders, who shared joint leadership. Overlapping terms on the list indicate dual command.
Julio-Claudian dynasty (2 BC – AD 68)
|Publius Salvius Aper||2 BC – ??||Augustus|
|Quintus Ostorius Scapula||2 BC – ??||Augustus|
|Publius Varius Ligur||?? – ??||Augustus|
|Lucius Seius Strabo||?? – 15||Augustus, Tiberius|
|Lucius Aelius Sejanus||14 – 31||Tiberius|
|Quintus Naevius Sutorius Macro||31 – 38||Tiberius, Caligula|
|Marcus Arrecinus Clemens||38 – 41||Caligula|
|Lucius Arruntius Stella||38 – 41||Caligula|
|Rufrius Pollio||41 – 43||Claudius|
|Catonius Justus||41 – 43||Claudius|
|Rufrius Crispinus||43 – 50||Claudius|
|Lucius Lusius Geta||47 – 50||Claudius|
|Sextus Afranius Burrus||50 – 62||Claudius, Nero|
|Lucius Faenius Rufus||62 – 65||Nero|
|Gaius Ofonius Tigellinus||62 – 68||Nero|
|Gaius Nymphidius Sabinus||65 – 68||Nero|
Year of the Four Emperors (AD 68 – 69)
|Cornelius Laco||68 – 69||Galba|
|Plotius Firmus||69 – 69||Otho|
|Licinius Proculus||69 – 69||Otho|
|Publius Sabinus||69 – 69||Vitellius|
|Alfenius Varus||69 – 69||Vitellius|
|Junius Priscus||69 – 69||Vitellius|
Flavian dynasty (AD 69 – 96)
|Arrius Varus||69 – 70||Vespasian|
|Marcus Arrecinus Clemens||70 – 71||Vespasian|
|Tiberius Julius Alexander||69 – ??||Vespasian|
|Titus Flavius Vespasianus||71 – 79||Vespasian|
|Lucius Julius Ursus||81 – 83||Domitian|
|Cornelius Fuscus||81 – 86||Domitian|
|Lucius Laberius Maximus||83 – 84||Domitian|
|Casperius Aelianus||84 – 94||Domitian|
|Titus Flavius Norbanus||94 – 96||Domitian|
|Titus Petronius Secundus||94 – 96||Domitian|
Five Good Emperors to Didius Julianus (AD 96 – 193)
Severan dynasty (AD 193 – 235)
Crisis of the Third Century (AD 235 – 285)
|Vitalianus||?? – 238||Maximinus Thrax|
|Annullinus||?? – 238||Maximinus Thrax|
|Pinarius Valens||238 – 238||Pupienus; Balbinus|
|Domitius||by. 240 – ??||Gordian III|
|Gaius Furius Sabinius Aquila Timesitheus||241 – 243||Gordian III|
|Gaius Julius Priscus||242 – after 246||Gordian III; Philip the Arab|
|Marcus Julius Philippus||243 – 244||Gordian III|
|Maecius Gordianus||244 – 244||Gordian III|
|Quintus Herennius Potens||249? – 251||Decius?|
|Successianus||c. 257 – 260||Valerian|
|Silvanus||?? – c. 260||Gallienus|
|Callistus Ballista||260 – 261||Macrianus, Quietus|
|Lucius Petronius Taurus Volusianus||c. 260 – c. 267||Gallienus|
|Marcus Aurelius Heraclianus||by 268 – ??||Gallienus|
|Julius Placidianus||c. 270 – c. 275||Aurelian|
|Marcus Annius Florianus||275? – 276||Tacitus|
|Marcus Aurelius Carus||?? – 282||Probus|
|Lucius Flavius Aper||282? – 284||Numerian|
|Marcus Aurelius Sabinus Julianus||c. 283? – c. 284||Carinus|
|Titus Claudius Marcus Aurelius Aristobulus||284 – 285||Carinus; Diocletian|
Tetrarchy to Constantine I (AD 285 – 324)
|Julius Asclepiodotus||285/297||Diocletian; Constantius Chlorus|
|Constantius Chlorus||?? – ??||Diocletian|
|Ceionius Rufius Volusianus||?? – ??||Maxentius|
|Publius Cornelius Anullinus||?? – ??||Maxentius|
|Ruricius Pompeianus||?? – 312||Maxentius|
|Julius Julianus||315 – 324||Licinius|
|Junius Annius Bassus||318 – 331||Constantine I|
For praetorian prefects after the reformation of the office by emperor Constantine I, see:
- Praetorian prefecture of Italy
- Praetorian prefecture of Gaul
- Praetorian prefecture of the East
- Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
- Lesley and Roy Adkins. Handbook to life in Ancient Rome.Oxford University Press, 1993. ISBN 0-19-512332-8. page 241
- M. C. J. Miller. Abbreviations in Latin.Ares Publishers, inc., 1998. ISBN 0-89005-568-8. Pages xxcii and xcvi, sub vocibus.
- Kelly, Christopher (2004). Ruling the later Roman Empire. Harvard University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-674-01564-7.
- The existence of Varius Ligur is disputed, and is only inferred from a single passage by Cassius Dio, who identifies him as Valerius Ligur. Modern historians suggest that, if Valerius Ligur was a prefect at all, he may have been mistaken for a man named Varius Ligur, who seems to have been a more likely candidate for the office. See Bingham (1997), p42.
- Wiseman, Timothy Peter (1991). Death of an Emperor: Flavius Josephus (Exeter Studies in History). Northwestern University Press. pp. 59, 62. ISBN 978-0-85989-356-5.
- Son of Marcus Arrecinus Clemens, who was Praetorian prefect under emperor Claudius
- Whether Tiberius Julius Alexander held the office of Praetorian prefect is disputed, and rests on a fragment from a recovered papyrus scroll. If he did held the post, he may have done so during the Jewish wars under Titus, or during the 70s as his colleague in Rome. See Lendering, Jona. "Tiberius Julius Alexander". Retrieved 2007-09-06.
- Son of Vespasian, the later emperor Titus
- Syme, 66
- Syme, 67
- The later emperor Macrinus.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
- Bingham, Sandra J. (1999) . The praetorian guard in the political and social life of Julio-Claudian Rome (PDF). Ottawa: National Library of Canada. ISBN 0-612-27106-4. Retrieved 2007-05-23.
- Howe, Laurence Lee (1942). The Pretorian Prefect from Commodus to Diocletian (AD 180-305). Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.
- Miller, M. C. J. (1998). Abbreviations in Latin. Chicago, Illinois: Ares Publishers, inc.
- Syme, Ronald (1980). "Guard Prefects of Trajan and Hadrian". The Journal of Roman Studies (The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 70) 70: p64–80. doi:10.2307/299556. JSTOR 299556.