AskDefine | Define proconsul

Dictionary Definition



1 an official in a modern colony who has considerable administrative power
2 a provincial governor of consular rank in the Roman Republic and Roman Empire
3 an anthropoid ape of the genus Proconsul

User Contributed Dictionary

see Proconsul



  1. (in ancient Rome) A magistrate who served as a consul and then as the governor of a province

Extensive Definition

Ancient Rome

In the Roman Republic, a proconsul was a promagistrate (like a propraetor) who, after serving as consul, spent a year as a governor of a province. Certain provinces were reserved for proconsuls; who received which one by senatorial appointment was determined by random choosing or negotiation between the two proconsuls.
Under the Empire, the Emperor derived a good part of his powers (alongside the military imperium and the tribunician power and presidency of the senate in Rome) from a constitutionally 'exceptional' (but permanent) mandate as the holder of proconsular authority over all, hence, so-called Imperial provinces, generally with one or more legions garrisoned (often each under a specific legate); however, he would appoint legates and other promagistrates to govern each such province in his name. The former Consuls (constitutionally still eponymic chief magistrates of the res publica, but politically powerless) would still receive a term as proconsul of one of the other, so-called Senatorial provinces.
The notitia dignitatum (a unique early 5th century imperial chancery document) still mentions three Proconsuls (Propraetors had completely disappeared), apparently above even the Vicars of the dioceses in protocol though administratively their subordinates as all governors; the diocesan vicars in turn were under the four praetorian prefects, since Diocletian's Tetrarchy :
  • in the eastern empire Asia ([Minor], a western part of Anatolia) and Achaia (i.e. Greece)
  • in the western empire only Africa (mainly modern Tunisia).
The many other, often new or split, provinces are under governors of various other -younger, usually less prestigious- styles: Comes, Praefectus Augustalis (unique to Egypt, the emperor's 'pharaonic crown domain'), Consularis, Praeses (provinciae), Corrector provinciae; these are not to be confused with the also territorially organised (but overlapping) and strictly military governors: Comes militaris, Dux and later Magister Militum.
Provinces that have been governed by a proconsul include: Achaea, Africa, Asia (see above for all three), Cilicia, Cyprus, Gallia Lugdunensis, Hispania Tarraconensis, Syria and Palestina.

Modern analogy

In modern speech, a leader appointed by a foreign power during military occupation or colonization is sometimes anachronistically described as a proconsul. An example of the first was Gotara Ogawa during Japan's military occupation of British Burma (1942 - 1945), of the second US general Douglas MacArthur who was referred to as the Proconsul of Japan after World War II. More recently, the Wall Street Journal described the US Civilian Administrator of Iraq as a "modern proconsul".
The term has also been used as a disparagement towards individuals, especially ambassadors, who have attempted to influence the governments of foreign countries. In one instance, former Canadian cabinet minister Lloyd Axworthy called former United States ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci "the U.S. ambassador-turned-proconsul" in an opinion piece in the April 29, 2003 Globe and Mail newspaper. Axworthy's comments were in response to Cellucci's frequent warnings to the Canadian government on domestic policy matters (such as the decriminalization of marijuana) which were often perceived by Canadians as threats, because they were.

Sources and References

proconsul in Bulgarian: Проконсул
proconsul in Catalan: Procònsol
proconsul in German: Prokonsul
proconsul in Spanish: Procónsul
proconsul in French: Proconsul (Rome)
proconsul in Italian: Proconsole
proconsul in Georgian: პროკონსული
proconsul in Latin: Proconsul
proconsul in Lithuanian: Prokonsulas
proconsul in Dutch: Proconsul
proconsul in Japanese: プロコンスル
proconsul in Polish: Prokonsul
proconsul in Portuguese: Procônsul
proconsul in Russian: Проконсул
proconsul in Slovak: Prokonzul
proconsul in Finnish: Prokonsuli
proconsul in Swedish: Prokonsul
proconsul in Turkish: Prokonsül
proconsul in Chinese: 资深执政官

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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