Egypt History – Roman Age Part I

By | January 10, 2022

According to, the death of Queen Cleopatra and Marc Antony eliminated any immediate or future difficulties for the definitive annexation of Egypt to Rome. I suppressed Antillo, who was the son of Antonio and Fulvia, and Cesarione, born of Caesar and Cleopatra; sent to Octavia the minor offspring of the “inimitable couple”, Augustus was able to organize Egypt as a very special section of the Roman territory. The most recent research tends to show that, in so doing, he did not go beyond the constitutional powers attributed to him or violate the norms of public law. Indeed Egypt was, like other regions, expressly assigned to Augustus in the name of the Roman people, for the organ and with the authority of the Senate. On the other hand, the new dominion, against the current opinion, constituted so little, princeps, that the latter always exercised the imperium in the name of the people and always paid the revenues from the former Ptolemaic kingdom to the tax authorities, considering them, that is, as property of the state (van Groningen). The regime established in Egypt would therefore represent a variety, undoubtedly the most peculiar but not the only one, in the administration system, a variety that does not affect or destroy the compact unity of the empire. In this province – which, strictly speaking, would not even be such, constituting a sui generis body, directly dependent on the emperor – the Senate had no interference; indeed the senators and the equites illustres they could not even enter it without special permission, very rarely granted. Thus separated from the other provinces of the Empire, Egypt was militarily occupied by some legions and administered by an equestrian grade governor, praefectus Alexandreae et Aegypti or, more often, simply praefectus Aegypti, lieutenant of the emperor who appointed and deposed it. In no case could he leave the country before the arrival of his successor. In the event of a sudden vacation, for example by death, a vice-prefect was appointed. The emperor was given the highest honors already attributed to kings, but the prefect enjoyed almost royal honors. Whether he had received an imperium as a proconsul in the juridical form of a law (van Groningen, Wenger), whether such a law did not exist (Solazzi), the fact is that he was at the head of both military and civil power, with the limitation that some final decisions had to be subjected to the emperor. Overall, the internal administrative regime of the country remained what it was under the Ptolemies, but some very important reforms, such as, for example, the institution of the conventus, cannot be silenced.. Every year the prefect, who normally resided in Alexandria, had, as in the other provinces, to hold and preside, in pre-established seasons, meetings (in Alexandria, Pelusio, Menfi or possibly in Arsinoe) for the discussion of certain processes or for the control of local administrations. The official language of public documents remained Greek, Latin being reserved only for relations with the occupying army.

To carry out the work connected with his office, the prefect had numerous collaborators alongside him, also chosen in the equestrian order: the iuridicus Aegypti or Alexandreae for judicial affairs; the idiol ŏ gus, and later also the diocetes and the procurator usiacus, for financial administration, and a number of procuratores (Alexandreaein Aegypto ad EpistrategiammarmorumNeapolis et Mausolaei Alex., etc.). All these senior officials resided in Alexandria which remained the administrative center of the whole country, although it had a separate organization. The magistrates enumerated by Strabo and already existing in the age of kings, exegetearchidicastahypomnematographerstratego at night, were not exclusively reserved for the city, but dealt with it in a more direct and special way. If Alexandria remained divided into tribes and demi, it was deprived, by Augustus, of the elected council or senate (βουλή) returned only by Septimius Severus. Naucrati, Ptolemais and, after Hadrian, Antinoe, also enjoyed certain privileges and a limited or rather illusory autonomy. In fact, they were not part of the epistrategies. During the Ptolemaic age the Thebaid alone was subjected to an epistratego with military powers; Augustus divided the whole territory into three epistrategies (Thebaid, Eptariomide and Arsinoite, Paese Basso or Delta) headed by an epistratego, to whom he attributed only civil powers. At a great distance from these knights, comes the stratego, appointed by the prefect, who, deprived of all military power, grammateus ; subordinate to him is the nomarch, with the main task of collecting taxes. The metropolises of the districts, until 202, had no autonomy; the employees or ἄρχοντες form a body, τό κοινὸν τῶν ἀρχόντων, with a well-defined hierarchy, comprising seven classes in ascending order.

The organization given to Egypt by Augustus remained in force we can say until Diocletian, since the return of an elected council in Alexandria, and the granting of it to the metropolises of names, did not affect its essence. What consequences did the Roman administration have for Egypt?

Egypt History - Roman Age 1