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On this page: Praefectus Sociorum – Praefectus Urbi – Praefectus Vigilum


•Britain. (Zosimus, ii. 33.) These praefects were the proper representatives of the emperor, and their power extended over all departments of the state: the army alone was not subject to their jurisdiction. (Walter, Gesch. des Rom. Reclits, §§ 269, 341 ; Gibbon, Decline and Fall, c. 17.)

PRAEFECTUS SOCIORUM. [exerci-tus, p. 497, b.]

PRAEFECTUS VIGILUM. [exercitus, p. 510 a 1

PRAEFECTUS URBI, praefect or warden of the cit}r, was originally called Cusios Urbis. (Ly-dus, De Magistr. i. 34, 38.) The name Praefectus Urbi does not seem to have been used till after the time of the Decemvirs. The dignity of Gus­tos Urb is, being combined with that of Princeps Senatus, was conferred by the king, as he had to appoint one of the decem primi as princeps sena-tus. (Liv. i. 59, 60 ; Dionys. ii. 12.) The func­tions of the custos urbis, however, were not ex­ercised except in the absence of the king from Rome ; and then he acted as the representative of the king ; but whether he also had the right to convoke the. assembly of the populus, is doubtful, but on any emergency he might take such mea­sures as he thought proper ; for he had the im-perium in the city. (Tacit. Annal. vi. 11 ; Liv. i. 59, iii. 24.) Romulus is said, to have con­ferred this dignity upon Denter Romulius, Tullus Hostilius: upon Numa Martius, and Tarquinius Superbus .upon Sp. Lucretius. During the kingly period the office of warden of the city was pro­bably for life. Under the republic the office and its name of custos urbis remained unaltered ; but in 487 b. c. it was elevated into a magistracy, to be bestowed by election. (Lydus, De Magistr. i. 38.) The custos urbis was, in all probability, elected by the curiae, instead of whom Dionysius (viiL 64) mentions the senate. Persons of consular rank were alone eligible ; and down to the time of the Decemvirate every praefect that is mentioned occurs previously as consul. The only . exception is P. Lucretius in Liv.y (iii. 24), whose name, however, is probably wrong. (Niebuhr, ii. p. 120, note 255.) In the early period of the republic the warden exercised within the city all the powers of the consuls, if they were absent: he convoked the senate (Liv. iii. 9 ; Cell. xiv. 7. § 4), held the eomitia (Liv. iii. 24), and, in times of war, even levied civic legions, which were commanded by him.

When the office of praetor urbanus was insti­tuted, the wardenship of the city was swallowed up in it (Lydus, De Mens. 19, De Magistr. ii. 6) ; but as the Romans were at all times averse to dropping altogether any of their old institutions, a praefectus urbi, though a mere shadow of the former office, was henceforth appointed ever}r year, only for the time that the consuls were absent from Rome for the purpose of celebrating the Feriae Latinae. This praefectus had neither the power of convoking the senate nor the right of speaking in it ; as in most cases he was a person below the senatorial age, and was not appointed by the people, but by the consuls. (Gell. xiv. 8.) When Varro, in the passage of Gellius here referred to, claims for the praefectus urbi the right of con­voking the senate, he is probably speaking of the power of the praefect such as it was previously to the institution of the office of praetor urbanus. Of how little importance the office of praefect of the city had gradually become, may be inferred


from the facts, that it was always given to young men of illustrious families (Tacit. Annal. iv. 36), and that Julius Caesar even appointed to it several youths of equestrian rank under age. (Dion Cass. xlix. 42, xliii. 29, 48.) During the empire such praefects of the city continued to be appointed so long as the Feriae Latinae were celebrated, and were even invested with some kind of jurisdiction. (Tacit. Anna!, vi. 11 ; Suet. Nero, 7, Claud. 4 ; Dion Cass. liv. 1 7 ; J. Capitol. Antonin. Phil. 4.) On some occasions, however, no praefectus urbi was appointed at all ; and then l>is duties were performed by the praetor, urbanus. (Dion Cass. xli. 14, xlix. 16 ; comp. Becker, Handb. der Rom. Alterth. vol. ii. pt. ii. p. 146.)

An office very different from this, though bear­ing the same name, was instituted by Augustus on , the suggestion of Maecenas. (Dion Cass. Iii. 21 ; Tacit. I. g. ; Suet. Aug. 37.) This new praefectus urbi was a regular and permanent magistrate, whom Augustus invested with all the powers necessary to maintain peace and order in the city. He had the superintendence of butchers, bankers, guardians, theatres, &c. ; and to enable him to exercise his power, he had distributed throughout the city a number of milites stationarii, whom we may compare to a modern police. He also had jurisdiction in cases between slaves and their masters, between patrons and their freed men, and over sons who had violated the pietas towards their parents. (Dig. 1. tit. 12. s. 1. § 5—14 ; 37. tit. 15. s. 1. §2.) His jurisdiction, however, became gradually extended ; and as the powers of the ancient republican praefectus urbi had been swallowed up by the office of the praetor urbanus, so now the power of the praetor urbanus was gradu­ally absorbed by that of the praefectus urbi ; and at last there was no appeal from his sentence, ex­cept to the person of the princeps himself, while anybody might appeal from a sentence of any other city magistrate, and, at a later period, even from that of a governor of a province, to the tri­bunal of the praefectus urbi. (Vopisc. Florian. 5^ 6 ; Suet. Aug. 33 ; Dion Cass. Iii. 21, 33 ; Dig. 4. tit. 4. s. 38.) His jurisdiction in criminal mat­ters was at first connected with the quaestiones (Tacit. Annal. xiv. 41, with tjie note of Lipsius) ; but from the third century he exercised it alone, and not only in the city of Rome, but at a distance of one hundred miles from it, and he might sen­tence a person to deportatio in insulam. (Dig. 1. tit. 12. s. 1. § 3 and 4.) During the first period of the empire and under good emperors, the office was generally held for a number of years, and in many cases for life (Dion Cass. Iii. 2J, 24, Ixxviii. 14 ; J. Capitol. Antonin. Pius, 8 ; Lam-prid. Commod. 14 ; Vopisc. Carin. 16) ; but from the time of Valerian a new praefect of the city oc­curs almost every year.

At the time when Constantinople was made '.the second capital of the empire, this city also received its praefectus urbi. The praefects at this time were the direct representatives of the emperors, and all the other officers of the administration of the city, all corporations, and all public institu­tions, were under their control. (Cod. 1. tit. 28. s. 4 ; Sjmimach. Epist. x. 37, 43 ; Cassiocl. Va-riar. vi. 4.) They also exercised a superinten­dence over the importation and the prices of pro­visions, though these subjects were under the more immediate regulation of other officers. (Cod. 1.

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