Front Page Titles (by Subject) 10.: THE CONSTITUTION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE — ( Chapter III .) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1
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10.: THE CONSTITUTION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE — ( Chapter III .) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 1.
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THE CONSTITUTION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE — (Chapter III.)
The constitutional history of Rome (both Republican and Imperial) has been set on a new basis since Gibbon. The impulse was given by Niebuhr; and this branch of history has progressed hand in hand with the study of inscriptions on stone and metal. No one has done so much for the subject as Mommsen, whose Römisches Staatsrecht (3 vols.) occupies the same position for Roman constitutional history as the work of Bishop Stubbs for English. Another recent work of importance is E. Herzog’s Geschichte und System der römischen Staatsverfassung (2 vols.). Madvig’s Verfassung und Verwaltung des römischen Staates was retrogressive. The works of Mispoulet and Willems may also be mentioned. Of great value for details is O. Hirschfeld’s Untersuchungen auf dem Gebiete der römischen Verwaltungsgeschichte. For the imperial procurators see “Procurator” in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities, new edition.
It would be endless to enumerate the writers from whom material for the constitutional history is drawn; but attention must be called to the importance of inscriptions and coins which fill up many gaps in our knowledge. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (edited by Mommsen and others) is the keystone of Mommsen’s Staatsrecht. The Corpus is not yet complete, and must be supplemented by the collections of Orelli-Henzen and Wilmanns.
The most important collections of coins are Eckbel’s Doctrina Numorum Veterum (8 vols.), which appeared in 1792 — some years too late for Gibbon, — and Cohen’s Descriptions des monnaies frappées sous l’Empire romain communément appelées Médailles impériales, 2nd ed. 1880-92.
For a short account of the Imperial constitution I may refer to Mr. Pelham’s article on the Principate in Smith’s Dictionary of Antiquities, and to the Student’s Roman Empire, chaps. ii. and iii. Here it will be enough to draw attention to a few important points in which Gibbon’s statements need correction or call for precision.
(1) P. 76. — “He was elected censor.”
The censorship of Augustus was only temporary; it was not considered one of the necessary prerogatives of the princeps, for that, as Gibbon says, would have meant the destruction of the independence of the senate. It must be remembered that in the theory of the principate the independence of the senate was carefully guarded, though practically the influence of the princeps was predominant. Augustus discharged the functions of censor repeatedly; not, however, under that name, but as præfectus morum. Gibbon is wrong in stating (p. 83) that the censorship was one of the Imperial prerogatives. He was followed in this by Merivale.
(2) P. 77. — “Prince of the Senate.”
The view that the name princeps meant princeps senatus held its ground until a few years ago, when it was exploded by Mr. Pelham. Princeps, the general, non-official designation of the emperors, meant “first of the Roman citizens” (princeps civium Romanorum or civitatis), and had nothing to do with the Senate.
(3) P. 80. — “Lieutenants of the Emperor.”
The provinces fell into two classes according as consulars or prætorians were admitted to the post of governor. But this distinction must not be confounded with that of the titles pro consule and pro prætore, which were borne by the governors of senatorial and Imperial provinces respectively. The representative of the emperor could not be pro consule, as his position depended on the proconsular imperium of the emperor himself. A vir consularis might be pro prætore. The full title of the Imperial lieutenant was legatus Augusti pro prætore.
In the dependent kingdoms were placed procuratores, of equestrian rank.
(4) P. 82. — “Consular and tribunitian powers.”
Gibbon’s statements here require correction, though the question of the exact constitution of the power of the princeps is still a matter of debate.
Augustus at first intended to found the principate as a continuation of the proconsular imperium with the consulate, and he held the consulate from 27 to 23 But then he changed his mind, as this arrangement gave rise to some difficulties, and replaced the consular power by the tribunitian power, which had been conferred on him for life in 36 , after his victory over Sextus Pompeius. Thus the principate depended on the association of the proconsular with the tribunitian power; and Augustus dated the years of his reign from 23, not from 27 After this be filled the consulship only in those years in which he instituted a census.
(5) P. 83. — “Supreme pontiff.”
He became Pontiff in 12 Besides being Pont. Max., Augustus belonged to the other sacerdotal colleges. He was augur, septemvir, quindecimvir.