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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.


Procurator (Lat. procurare, to take care of), generally one who acts for another. With the Romans it was applied to a person who maintained or defended an action on behalf of another, thus performing the functions of a modern attorney. Roman families of importance employed an official corresponding to the modern steward and frequently called the procurator. Later the name was applied especially to certain imperial officials in the provinces of the Roman Empire. With the establishment of the imperial power under Augustus, the emperor took under his direct government those of which the condition or situation rendered a large military force necessary. Here certain officials, known as the procuratores Caesaris, took the place occupied by the quaestor in the senatorial provinces. There were either equites or freedmen of the Caesar and their office was concerned with the interests of the fiscus (the public property) of the Caesar. They looked after the taxes and paid the troops. There were also officials bearing this title of procurator Caesaris in the senatorial provinces. They collected certain duties of the fiscus which were independent of those paid to the aerarium (the property of the senate). This organization lasted with some modifications until the 3rd century. The procurator was an important official in the reorganized empire of Diocletian.

The title remained all through the middle ages to describe various officials. Thus it was sometimes applied to a regent acting for a king during his minority or absence; sometimes it appears as an alternative title to seneschal or dapifer. It preserved its legal significance in the title of procurator animarum, who acted as solicitor or proxy in the ecclesiastical courts, and was so called because these courts dealt with matters affecting the spiritual interests of the persons concerned. The economical significance remained in such titles as procurator anniversariorum, the exactor of dues for the celebration of anniversaries; this office was assigned to laymen. The procurator draperii was entrusted with the administration of matters pertaining to the art of cloth-making. The procurator duplarum was the collector of fines in certain churches from absent canons, &c. The officials entrusted with the administration of the goods of a church were called variously procurator ecclesiae, procurator parcitatis, procurator universitatis. Bishops and bishops-elect frequently described themselves by the title of procuratores ecclesiarum. The prior of a dependent religious house was sometimes styled procurator obedientiae. The official who represented the public interests in the courts of the inquisition was known as the procurator fidei. The administrator of the affairs of a large community was sometimes called the procurator syndicus, the administrator of goods left to the poor, procurator pauperum. In monasteries the economus was, and is, sometimes described as procurator. Thus the procurator has still the administration of material affairs in every Dominican priory. Procurator di San Marco was a title of honour in the republic of Venice. There were nine official procurators and numerous distinguished persons bearing the honorary title.

The term procurator (Fr. procureur) is used in those countries whose codes are based on the Roman civil law for certain officials, having a representative character, in the courts of law. Thus under the ancien régime in France the procureurs du roi were the representatives of the Crown in all causes (see France: Law and Institutions); and now the procureurs généraux, and under them the procureurs substituts, procureurs de la république and procureurs still represent the ministère public in the courts. In Scotland the procurator is a law agent who practises in an inferior court. A procurator in Scotland has been, since the Law Agents Acts of 1873, exactly in the same legal position as other law agents. The procurator-fiscal is a local officer charged with the prosecution of crimes. He is appointed by the sheriff. He also performs the duties of an English coroner by holding inquiries into the circumstances of suspicious deaths. A common English form of procurator is proctor (q.v.).

See Sir William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd ed, 1890‑1891), and Du Cange, Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis (new ed. by L. Favre, Niort, 1883).

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