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This webpage reproduces an article in the
American Journal of Philology
Vol. 36, No. 3 (1915), pp323‑331.

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p323  The So‑Called Callium Provincia

The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, under the caption callium provincia, Vol. III, p174, line 16​a has the following examples: Curt. 3.4.5 qui callibus praesiderent. Tac. Ann. 4.27 Cutius Lupus quaestor, cui provincia vetere ex more colles (sic cod., Cales Lipsius) evenerant. Suet. Jul. 19 provinciae . . . minimi negotii, i.e. silvae callesque (del. Willems, le sénat de la république Romaine II.576, n. 5).

To judge from the plan of the Thesaurus, one would expect this to be a complete list of the references to the "province" during the period covered by the giant lexicon. In point of fact, it is rather more than complete, for the example from Curtius may at once be eliminated. The passage refers to the operations of Arsames, "qui Ciliciae praeerat," against Alexander the Great, and obviously can have no reference to a Roman provincia callium. After saying in 3.4.4 sed longe utilius fuit angustias aditus, qui Ciliciam aperit, valido occupare praesidio, "but it would have been far better to hold the narrow passes opening into Cilicia with a strong guard", the historian continues in 3.4.5 nunc paucis, qui callibus praesiderent, relictis ipse retro concessit, "as it was, however, the satrap withdrew, leaving a few men to hold the footpaths". Further comment seems superfluous, tempting as it is to enlarge upon the necessity of examining the context of citations and the exact meaning of the citations themselves.

On the other two passages (the one from Curtius is the peculiar property of the Thesaurus) various articles in our Dictionaries of Antiquities have been based, as well as sundry obiter dicta in our other books of reference. For example, in Daremberg and Saglio's Dict. des Ant. G. Humbert says, basing his statement on Suet. Jul. 19.1, that the care of the forests and pastures regularly belonged to the censors, but was on that occasion assigned to Caesar and his colleague.

H. Stuart Jones, in his Companion to Roman History, p313, remarks: "the broad trackways by which they (the herds  p324 of cattle) marched — e.g. from Reate and Samnium to Apulia — were called calles publici and the maintenance of order was assigned to officials of high standing: praetors, quaestors, even at times a consul". That this alleged assignment of the "province" to a consul is based on Suet. Jul. 19, and to quaestors on Tac. Ann. 4.27, seems obvious. What the authority is for saying that it was assigned to praetors is not apparent, and the statement lacks support, unless the author has access to material not available to the compiler of the article callis in the Thesaurus, and to the writer.1

E. S. Bouchier, in his revision of Arnold's Roman Provincial Administration, p49, makes the statement: "when, for instance, they (the senate) expected the election of Caesar, they took care to provide beforehand that he and his colleague should have the unimportant province of the roads and forests." Since the two books last mentioned have appeared within the last year or two, the writer's dissent from the views which he has quoted from them seem to offer sufficient justification for a brief discussion of an old problem.

Mommsen took Suetonius's provinciae in a different sense, and in his History of Rome, IV.512, Eng. trans. says: "constitutionally it devolved on the senate to fix the functions of the second consular year of office before the elections of consuls took place; accordingly it had, in prospect of the election of Caesar, selected with that view for 696 two provinces in which the governor should find no other employment than the construction of roads and other works of utility". The writer of the article Callium provincia in the third edition of Smith's Dictionary of Antiquities, citing Mommsen, maintains that the words of Suetonius can hardly have the meaning which the great German scholar gave them. This is true enough, if Mommsen's language be regarded as a literal translation. It is, however, a very good paraphrase and gives the true sense of the Latin, which may be rendered literally  p325 as follows: "provinces involving little activity, that is mere woods and pastures".

That Mommsen is right in regarding the provinciae as districts to be governed by Caesar and his colleague at the close of their term of office, and not as a sphere of duty assigned them during their consulate, would seem too evident to warrant discussion, were it not for the persistence of contrary opinions. As a matter of fact, no consular function which could be indicated by silvae callesque existed, so far as we know, and the greater number of those who take provinciae in that sense assume that a sphere of duty properly belonging to a quaestor (or according to Humbert, to the censors) was, for the purpose of humiliating Caesar, assigned (in advance of the elections) to him and his future associate in office.

Now, while the senate would be quite within its rights in assigning to the consuls provinces to govern which demanded no great amount of protection or pacification (in the Roman sense of the term), and while they were required by the lex Sempronia to make the appointments before the election took place, it seems inconceivable that the senators would have gone so far as to assign the consuls duties to be performed during their term of office which properly belonged to a quaestor; duties too, which would have obliged them both to be absent from the city during their incumbency of the consul­ship. It is also at least an open question, whether duties of that kind were ever assigned in advance of the elections.

Moreover, since the "provinces" in question were assigned to both consuls (futuris consulibus), while the so‑called callium provincia was the function of a single quaestor, we are obliged to conclude: either that silvae callesque in the passage from Suetonius is synonymous with calles, and that the duty of one quaestor was assigned to two consuls; or that there was beside the callium provincia a silvarum provincia (to which we have no reference anywhere), and that one of these was assigned to Caesar and the other to Bibulus.

Furthermore, if the senate actually had the audacity to make such an appointment, it was wholly and immediately disregarded, for both Caesar and Bibulus remained in Rome, and the former performed all the usual duties of a consul, to  p326 say the least, during the active administration of "Julius and Caesar" (Suet. Jul. 20.2).

We therefore seem compelled to accept Mommsen's view of the nature of the provinciae as the correct one. This being so, silvae callesque is either a gloss, as Willems thought, added as a further definition of provinciae minimi negotii by some scribe, who first misunderstood the meaning of provinciae and then confused a quaestor's sphere of duty with a consul's; or, with greater likelihood, as I tried to show in PAPA XLV.XLVII ff., is a colloquial term, "mere woods and pastures", applied to such provinces as Mommsen believed Suetonius to mean, probably by Suetonius himself, possibly by the copyist of some manuscript earlier than any of those now in existence, all of which contain the phrase.

It may be urged that even if we give the words of Suetonius this interpretation, we are still obliged to admit that the action of the senate was set aside. That is true enough, but it was not done until Caesar had won the support of Pompey and Crassus and was backed by an influential father-in‑law and son-in‑law (socero igitur generoque suffragantibus, Suet. Jul. 22.1). Furthermore, it was done constitutionally and by due process of law: initio quidem Galliam Cisalpinam Illyrico adiecto lege Vatinia accepit; mox per senatum Comatam quoque (Jul. 22.1).

Of course provincia has the general meaning of a function or sphere of duty, as well as that of a Roman province. It is frequently so used metaphorically and usually in a jocose sense: for example, Plaut. Capt. 474 ipsi obsonant, quae parasitorum ante erat provincia; Cic. ad Att. ap.  Suet. Gramm. 14 sed mihi solitudo et recessus provincia est. Provincia is also used literally in this general sense, but for the most part (so far as we may judge from our incomplete lexical material) at a comparatively early period. It is frequently applied in this sense to the assignments to the consuls of military commands: for example, Livy 26.22.1 consules cum ambo Apuliam provinciam haberent; Livy 2.40.14 consules T. Sicinius et C. Aquilius. Sicinio Volsci, Aquilio Hernici (nam hi quoque in armis erant) provincia evenit. Of other functions, and at later times, this use of the word seems to be very rare; at least, the handbooks and the references upon which their accounts  p327 are based (as well as the lexicons) give us little or no information about the duties of the various officials under the title of provinciae. I would hazard the conjecture that, except in its metaphorical sense, provinciae meaning a function is almost wholly confined to the military appointments just mentioned and the "Italian quaestor­ships" to be discussed below; and that, except in accounts of the earlier history of Rome, its use as the designation of a Roman province almost wholly supplanted its other meaning. Suetonius, who frequently uses the word, always employs it of a district, except in the quotation from Cicero cited above, and in Claudius 24.2) (cited below). The former of course does not enter into the question, and the latter seems in reality to be no exception to his regular usage; for while provincia Ostiensis and provincia Gallica are peculiar in referring to districts in Italy (Cisalpine Gaul was incorporated into Italy by Augustus), the meaning of the phrases taken by themselves is clearly "the Gallic province", for example, rather than "Gallic functions" or "a Gallic sphere of duty". But whether this be so or not, Suetonius offers at most but one exception to his regular employment of provincia in the sense of a district, and the usage of Tacitus appears to be equally consistent.

Although provincia seems to be rarely, if ever, applied to the various duties of the several Roman magistrates, we are well informed about them, and it seems affect to say that we know of no function of the consuls, praetors, or censors which could with any propriety or naturalness be spoken of either as silvae callesque, or as calles.

It remains to consider whether there was a quaestor's "province" called callium provincia. Since the silvae callesque of Suetonius may be eliminated with almost as much confidence as the callibus of Curtius, we have left in testimony to the existence of such a function only the passage in Tacitus, Ann. 4.27. Here Lipsius proposed to read Cales instead of calles, and the emendation was accepted by Mommsen and others, who believe that the four "Italian quaestors" appointed in 267 B.C. were quaestores classici and that their headquarters were at Ostia (provincia Ostiensis), at Ariminum (provincia Gallica), at Cales, and at some other place unknown. This is state positively by Mommsen, Staatsr. 2.571, (except that he  p328 thought that the headquarters of the Gallica provincia might have been Ravenna), by Schiller in Müller's Handbuch 4.1.85 (also with a reservation about the headquarters of the Gallica), in Di Ruggiero's Dizionario Epigrafico, s.v. Cales, and elsewhere. On the other hand, the subject of the "Italian quaestors" is handled with the greater caution which the nature of the evidence makes advisable by Abbott in his Roman Political Institutions, p209.

As a matter of fact, our information about these quaestors is very scanty. Their supposed title of quaestores classici is supported only by Joh. Lydus, de Magistr. 1.27, and as Abbott says, the nature of their functions is not perfectly clear. Suet. Claud. 24.2, collegio quaestorum pro stratura viarum gladiatorum munus iniunxit detractaque Ostiensi et Gallica provincia curam aerari Saturni reddidit, justifies the conclusion that one of them was stationed in Ostia and another in Gaul. These provinces were called respectively Ostiensis and Gallica, and it is reasonable enough to suppose that the headquarters of the latter was at Ariminum or at Ravenna. Mommsen (Staatsr. 2.571) assumes that a third quaestor had charge of a district in southern Italy, extending far enough eastward to include Brundisium, and that its headquarters were at Cales, "die älteste lateinische Colonie in Campanien und als diese Quästuren gegründet wurden, ohne Frage die römische Hauptstadt Campaniens". Unfortunately the only support for this opinion is Lipsius's emendation of the passage in Tacitus, and while the change from calles to Cales is a comparatively easy one, it is a question whether it is necessary or warranted. Furneaux, in his edition of the Annals, says: "the manuscript text has little to recommend it, for the passage in Suet. Jul. 19 has no reference to Italian quaestorial districts or to any one definite locality". With the last part of this statement the writer's opinion is fully in accord, and it is certainly true that no support for calles can be derived from Jul. 19. But after all, since the manuscripts are unanimous for calles, the burden of proof surely rests on those who would change the reading, and the evidence for a quaestorial "province" with its headquarters at Cales is hardly strong enough (if it exists at all) to justify substituting Cales for the traditional reading.

 p329  Orelli, in his edition of Tacitus, makes a statement which is also a pure assumption, but is no less probable than that of Mommsen, with the additional advantage of demanding no change in our text. He says that calles Italiae was a term applied to the wooded district extending from the Campanian frontier (a tergo Campaniae) towards the Adriatic, and that because of the revenue yielded by the herds of cattle which were pastured there a quaestor was put in charge of it. His first statement is apparently confirmed by Cic. pro Sest. 12 neque umquam Catilina, cum e pruina Appennini atque e nivibus illis emersisset atque aestatem integram nactus Italiae callis et pastorum stabula praedari coepisset . . . concidisset. The second too perhaps derives some support from the fact that in imperial times the district in question was administered by the emperor's procurators; see Pelham, Class. Rev. X.6, whose statement, however, that Suetonius tell us in Suet. Claud. Claud. 25 (= 24) that Claudius substituted procurators for the quaestor, does not seem to be quite exact, although such a supposition is probable enough. Hence to assume the existence of a quaestor's "province" connected with the calles Italiae does not seem unreasonable, directly supported though it is, only by the single reference in Tacitus. That there were quaestorial functions to which we have merely an occasional and cursory reference appears from Cic. Vatin. 12 in eo magistratu (= quaestura) cum tibi magno clamore aquaria provincia sorte obtigisset, missusne sis a me consule Puteolos, ut inde aurum exportari argentumque prohiberes?

Granting the existence of a "province" connected with the calles Italiae, we can hardly suppose that it was officially known as callium provincia. To judge from the two provinces of the kind which Claudius mentions, it is more probable that it was designated by a geographical adjective referring to the district as a whole, like Gallica provincia. With the elimination of Cales we have no certain example of a province named from its chief city; for Ostia, with its extensive commerce in grain and other commodities, could furnish employment enough to occupy the entire time of a quaestor, and I am not aware that we have any evidence that the provincia Ostiensis extended beyond the limits of Ostia itself.  p330 Even if a geographical adjective was not used, we should at least expect in an official title something more definite than callium provincia. That Tacitus, however, might refer to such a province by the general descriptive term calles, instead of by its full title, is indicated by the passage from Cic. Vatin. 12, where aquaria provincia can hardly be the official designation of the "province" in question. It is a descriptive term, just as the office of the curatores aquarum might conceivably be referred to as aquaria cura, instead of cura aquarum (Suet. Aug. 37). In the same way the "province" mentioned by Tacitus, whatever its official designation may have been, is referred to, with his usual conciseness, simply as calles. Its full title may have been, in default of an adjectival designation covering the entire district, Italiae callium provincia; or more probably, calles Italiae, without provincia.

It may be added for the sake of completeness that Dio, 55.4, tells us that the "Italian quaestor­ships" were established by Augustus, which is commonly regarded as an error; and that in 60.24 he says that all these quaestorial provinces, as well as the Ostiensis and Gallica, were abolished by Claudius. The second statement is confirmed by Tacitus's vetere ex more, which indicates that the office no longer existed in his time, while evenerant seems to show that the assignment was made by lot.

To sum up: it seems beyond doubt that the provinciae of Suet. Jul. 19 are not functions, but districts outside of Italy, and as Furneaux rightly says, there is absolutely no parallelism between the passages in Suetonius and Tac. Ann. 4.27, except the purely accidental occurrence of calles in both. The evidence for a province having to do with the calles Italiae is at least as strong as that for one with its headquarters at Cales, and we are therefore not justified in emending calles to Cales in Tacitus. We have no evidence at all for a province officially known as callium provincia, a term which, it will be observed, Tacitus himself does not use. It is highly probable that a quaestor was assigned the calles Italiae under some more appropriate official designation, and that Tacitus refers to this "province" when he says: cui provincia vetere ex  p331 more calles evenerant, that is, "to whom as his sphere of duty the calles Italiae had been allotted".

John C. Rolfe.

University of Pennsylvania.

Note.— Since the above was written, I have noticed the following reference to the subject in Professor Tenney Frank's Roman Imperialism, p335: "he (Caesar) refused to accept the province over 'highways and pastures,' that the senate assigned to his proconsul­ship." I am glad to find that Professor Frank agrees with me in referring silvae callesque to the proconsul­ship of Caesar, and not to his consul­ship. The rest of the sentence is not clear to me. Disease it mean that the so‑called callium provincia was given to Caesar instead of a province outside of Italy? If so, I have given reasons for doubting this, although that of absence from Rome of course would not apply to a proconsular appointment. Or does it mean a province consisting of silvae callesque, which is precisely my own opinion? In either case, "highways and pastures" is not an accurate translation of silvae callesque. Calles may mean pastures, but silvae surely does not mean highways. The only reading which could possibly be translated "highways and pastures" is semitae callesque, taking semitae as a slighting way of referring to viae. But this reading, so far as I know, is found nowhere except in harper's Lexicon, where it is incorrectly referred to Aug. 19, instead of to Jul. 19. It has absolutely no manuscript authority, nor is it, so far as I am aware, the conjecture of any scholar of repute.

The Author's Note:

1 Mr. Stuart Jones writes me that his statement was based on line 27 of the Lex Agraria (CIL I.200) and Mommsen's commentary. I am indebted to him for reference to the exhaustive article of Grenier, La transhumance des troupeaux en Italie, in Mélanges de l'école française de Rome, 1905, pp293 ff., which however does not affect my conclusions.

Thayer's Note:

a The most recent version of the TLL is online here.

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