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time an ever-increasing importance. It had attached to it the control of affairs in the emperor's absence, criminal jurisdiction over Italians outside Rome, and the like. Sometimes ambitious men contrived to employ this position to obtain for themselves the real power in the State, and raised whom they pleased to the imperial throne, sometimes ascending it themselves. After the praetorians were disbanded by Constantine in 324, the four who were then prcefecti prcetor io were made governors of the four prefectures into which that emperor divided his dominions. Another important office under the Empire was that of the prcefectus urbi (city prefect). Such an office had existed in the time of the kings and in the early years of the Republic, to supply the place of the king or the consuls when absent. When the latter came to be represented by the praetors, it was only during theferlce Latlna: (at which festival all magistrates were present) that a prcefectus urbi Ldtlnarum was appointed. Augustus revived it in its old form. On several occasions he appointed a prcefectus urbi during his absence from the city. The city prefecture first became a standing office for the maintenance of public order in Rome after Tiberius. Subsequently the prcefectus urbi (whose authority extended a hundred miles from Rome, and who had three city cohorts to assist him) exercised, together with the police authority enforced at an earlier period by the aediles, a correlated criminal jurisdiction, which in course of time expanded so much that the city prefecture became the highest criminal authority at Rome. After the transfer of the seat of empire to Byzantium, the prcefectus urbi united in himself the military, administrative, and judicial powers in what was once the capital, and was now formed into a separate district for purposes of administration. One of the most important offices under the Empire was that of the prcefectus annoncR (corn-supply, see annona), whose duty it was to provide Rome with the necessary corn, and whose countless subalterns were distributed over the whole Empire. For the prcefectus cerarii (State chest) see
Frsetexta or praetextata (sc. fabfdd). A class of Roman tragedies, which found its materials, not in the Greek myths, but, in the absence of native legendary heroes, in ancient and contemporary Roman history. The name was derived from the fact that the heroes wore the national dress, the
tOgcl prcetexta, the official garb, edged with purple, of the Roman magistrates. Ncevim introduced them, and, following his example, the chief representatives of tragic art under the Republic, Ennius, Pacuvius,and Accius, composed, in addition to tragedies imitated from Greek originals, independent plays of this kind, which were however cast in the form they had borrowed from the Greeks. We also hear of some plays of this class I written by poets of imperial times. The i solitary example preserved to us is the tragedy of OcMvia, wrongly ascribed to Seneca (q.v.), which perhaps may date from 1 a.d. (Cp. togata.)
Praetor. Originally a title of the Roman consuls, but afterwards used to denote that magistrate to whom the administration of justice in Rome was transferred when the consulship, to which this power had hitherto been attached, was thrown open to the commons in 366 b.c. At first reserved for the patricians, it became a plebeian office as early as 337. The praetor was elected in the comltlci centilriclta, with one of the consuls presiding, on the same day and with the same auspices as the consuls, who entered on their office simultaneously with him. On account of the increase in legal business, a second prator was appointed in 242, to whom was transferred the hearing of cases between citizens and foreigners (inter clvls et peregrinos), j and between foreigners (inter peregrines), while the other decided between citizens. The latter, who ranked first, was called prcetor urbdnus (city praetor); the former, prcetor inter peregrines, and (after the time of Vespasian) praitor pSregrlnus.
The prsetors had their respective departments determined by lot after their election. While the prcetor peregrinus might have a military command also entrusted to him, the city praetor, on account of the importance of his office, might not be absent from Rome, strictly speaking, for longer than ten days. He represented his absent colleague, and also the consuls in their absence, presiding, as the highest magistrate present, at the public games, watching over the safety of Rome, summoning the comitia centuriata, holding the military levies, and the like. As early as 227 the number was further increased by two. To these was entrusted the administration of Sicily and Sardinia. Two others were added in 197 to administer the two provinces of Spain. In 149, on the establishment of the crucestifines perpfMce (j.f.),