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The name given by the Romans to the charge brought against officials for extorting money from Roman subjects or allies. Such charges were at first brought before the Senate, which heard the case itself, or else passed it on to a commission, or, again, caused it to be brought before the comitia by the tribunes. At last, in 149 B.C., a standing court of justice (See QUAeSTIO perpetua), in fact, the first in Rome, was instituted by the Lex Calpurnia, containing more precise definitions of acts liable to punishment, with forms of legal procedure, and determining the amount of the penalty. The increasing inclination of the officials to use the administration of the provinces as means of enriching themselves at the expense of the provincials led to repeated legislation with a view to increasing the penalty. The last law on the subject was Caesar's Lex Iulia, which was the basis of the procedure in such cases under the Empire. During that period, in consequence of the improved condition of provincial government, extortion on the part of officials became much rarer. Such extortion was generally punished by having to pay four times the amount extorted it was also attended with a certain degree of disgrace (infamia), even if a still more severe punishment were not added for other offences committed at the same time and (as usual) included in the indictment (e.g. the offence of laesa maiestas).
Denoted among the Romans the sovereign power of the people and the State, or that of the emperor. To detract from this sovereign power was a crime (crimen minetae maiestatis). Originally the term perduellio (q.v.) included all offences of this kind; distinctions were first made in B.C. 100 by the Lex Apuleia, which declared some offences to be treason that had previously been regarded as perduellio, such as hindering the tribunes and exciting to sedition. The idea of treason was considerably extended by the Lex Cornelia of the dictator Sulla in B.C. 80, which made it include inciting to sedition, hindering a magistrate in the exercise of his functions, and acting in a manner prejudicial to the Roman prestige or beyond the limits of one's authority. It also instituted a permanent lawcourt (see QUAeSTIO PERPETUA) to take cognisance of such cases; and made exile (interdictio aquae et ignis) the penalty. (See EXILIUM.) Caesar's Lex Iulia, B.C. 46, made perduellio pass over into crimen maiestatis, which was held to cover all actions prejudicial to the State and the existing constitution (such as treason, plots, conspiracies, sedition, illegal assumption of authority). The Julian Law also formed the basis for punishing offences of this kind under the Empire; to these were now added all those against the person and the authority of the emperor. The term was very elastic, and received whatever interpretation the emperor preferred, so that when a charge, e.g. that of embezzlement (see REPETUNDARUM CRIMEN), was brought against a man, he could often be also charged with the crimen maiestatis, especially as the accusers were rewarded if the offence was proved. After the closing of the quaestiones these cases were decided by the senate; later still, the emperor was judge, or entrusted them to the praefectue urbi. The regular penalty was confiscation, and sometimes banishment or death. Charges of treason could he brought or the trial could be continued, even after the death of the accused; and in the most serious cases the penalty had to be borne by the children, in accordance with a decree of the emperor, and even with the law at a later period.
A territory acquired by the Romans outside the limits of Italy, subject to the payment of taxes and administered by a governor. Under the Republic, the organiza- tion of a conquered lands a province was managed by the conquering general, with the advice of a commission of ten senators, who were nominated by the Senate and received their instructions from that body. The previous administration was altered as little as possible, so far as it was not in conflict with the interests of Rome. The lex provincioe thus established fixed for the future the form of government. The first provinces were Sicily (from 241 B.C) and Sardinia with Corsica (from 231). Their number rose under the Republic to fifteen, i.e. (besides the two already mentioned), the two provinces of Spain (Ulterior and Citerior), Illyria, Macedonia, Achaia, Asia Minor, the two Gauls (Transalpina and Cisalpina), Bithynia, Cyrene and Crete, Cilicia, Syria. Their governors were either propraetors (at first praetors) or proconsuls. The Senate decided which provinces were to be consular, which praetorian; and the consuls and praetors had their respective provinces assigned to them by lot. In the case of the consuls this was done immediately after their election; in the case of the praetors, after their actual accession to office. When their year's office was completed, they proceeded as proclonsuls and propraetors to their provinces, and stayed there a year until they were relieved by their successors, unless, as frequently happened, it proved necessary to prolong their imperium.</sense> It was towards the end of the Republic (52 B.C.), that it became a rule that no consul or praetor should be allowed to be governor of a province until five years after he had ceased to hold his office. The Senate also settled for every governor his supply of money, troops, ships, and subordinates. These last included one or more legati, a quoestor, and a numerous staff. In the governor's hands was concentrated the entire administrative power over the province. He commanded the garrison troops, he had the right of raising a levy of Roman citizens and provincials alike, and of making requisitions to obtain the means for war. He also possessed jurisdiction in criminal and civil cases, in the former, with power of life and death, except that Roman citizens had right of appeal (provocatio). While it was carefully prescribed how much the governors could require from the provincials for the support of their person and attendants, their powers made it possible for them to enrich themselves by all manner of extortion, and this became the rule to a most extraordinary extent. Against such oppression the provincials had no protection, so long as the governor's office lasted. It was only on its termination that they could in earlier times lay a complaint before the Senate, which seldom led to anything; while, after 149 B.C., they had open to them the procedure of bringing a charge of extortion, which was attended with great difficulty and expense. (See REPETUNDARUM CRIMEN.) These extortions were repeated anew year after year, together with the exorbitant demands of the tax-collectors (see PUBLICANI); and the governors, when invoked against them, in spite of their authority, rarely ventured to interpose, from fear of the equestrian plutocracy. The result was, that, at the end of the Republic, the provinces were in absolute poverty. A real improvement in their condition was brought about by the regulations enforced under the Empire, when some provinces attained a high pitch of prosperity. In 27 B.C. Augustus divided the then existing provinces into imperial and senatorial. He entrusted ten, in a state of complete tranquillity, to the Senate; viz. Africa, Asia Minor, Achaia, Illyria or Dalmatia, Macedonia, Sicily, Crete with Cyrene, Bithynia, Sardinia, and South Spain. He took into his own hands the twelve which still required military occupation. These were: North Spain, Lusitania, the four provinces of Gaul (Narbonensis, Lugdunensis or Celtica, Aquitania, and Belgica), Upper and Lower Germany, Syria, Cilicia, Cyprus, and Egypt. Changes were made in this partition later on; but the provinces acquired after 27 B.C. fell to the emperor. For the senatorial provinces the governors were appointed on the whole in the ancient manner, i.e. by the lot, and for one year; but with this difference, that five, and afterwards ten to thirteen, years had to elapse after the consulship or praetorship before past consuls or past praetors proceeded to their provinces. The former received the provinces which were from the very first called consular, viz. Asia and Africa, the latter the others, which were praetorian; but both sets of governors alike were styled proconsuls, and were attended by the same retinue as heretofore. The imperial provinces, which became three times as numerous by the time of Trajan, were governed by the emperor himself through deputies whose continuance in office depended on the will of the emperor who appointed them. These deputies, according to the importance of the province, were either of consular or praetorian rank, legati Augusti pro proetore (see LEGATI), or procuratores (q.v.). Egypt alone, which was governed as an imperial domain, was under a proefectus(q.v.). The financial administration of the senatorial provinces was managed by quaestors; that of the imperial, by procurators, who also collected in the senatorial provinces the revenues directly due to the emperor. Augustus established a fixed stipend for all officers outside Rome, and thus afforded a real relief to the oppressed provincials. Considerable alleviation was also secured for them by the limitation to the employment of State tax-collectors. The same result was promoted by the longer continuance of the administration in the imperial provinces, and the greater facilities granted for bringing an indictment, by means of a regular procedure before the Senate. Moreover the emperor, after the proconsular power over all provinces had been conferred on Augustus, 23 B.C., ranked as the highest authority over all the governors, and heard complaints as well as appeals.
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