I would like to know whether the Roman senate sent replacements for deceased governors (due to illness, accident, war, ...) immediately after hearing of their death or was content to entrust the province to the senior officers present.

When Crassus died in Syria, Cassius (quaestor) took charge of the province until a new proconsul arrived. But was the new governor sent immediately?

I have several options in mind:

  • The province was left to the senior officer (quaestor or senior legate?) until the following year
  • A magistrate in Rome (Praetor/Consul) immediately left office to take control of the province (in this case, were praetors/consuls suffect elected?)
  • A former magistrate was sent to control the province for what was left of the year, being a kind of "proconsul suffect"
  • A former magistrate who was supposed to get a province anyway the following year left sooner and thus ruled the province for a longer period of time than scheduled
  • A governor of a nearby province could control the "empty" province as well as his own
  • Everyone in the province had to make do till a new governor arrived
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    "Immediate" in the ancient world could be quite a long time, even without any delay in choosing a new magistrate and sending him. There are usually junior magistrates that would take up any slack in the interim.
    – Oldcat
    Sep 17, 2015 at 17:36
  • Good point. But I'm trying to understand the legal theory behind provincial governement (in case of disagreement between the quaestor and a praetorian legate for example)
    – Laveran
    Sep 18, 2015 at 7:40
  • There's not a lot of wiggle room there - Roman positions were rank ordered firmly. A consul in his year wins all. A praetor level legate would beat out a quaestor from the same territory. A person from another province would have no authority, absent a special command of some sort.
    – Oldcat
    Sep 18, 2015 at 22:37
  • @Oldcat As the legate's authority came solely from the proconsul, whereas the quaestor's authority came from being elected, one can argue that a legate's position ended with the proconsul's death
    – Laveran
    Sep 20, 2015 at 8:47

1 Answer 1


Talking specifically about Syria after Crassus' death, Cassius had to take care of the province for about next two years. The new proconsul - the well-known Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus who was consul in 59 B.C. together with Caesar - was sent only in 51 B.C. But this should be considered as an absolutely critical situation (e.g. in 52 B.C. Pompeus Magnus was consul sine collega). Under normal circumstances the senate would find a new candidate much earlier.

  • Yes, I'm thinking of the Scipiones in Spain, too. When Publius and Cnaeus were killed, Scipio Africanus was sent very quickly to replace them. But the circumstances were far from normal...
    – Laveran
    Sep 18, 2015 at 7:50
  • @Laveran This is politics. Scipiones were really powerful family, so Scipio Africanus got proconsul assignment without prior being a counsul. Yet Cassius was only a quaestor, not even curule aedile as Africanus, and Longinus is still inferior to Scipio. Moreover, it was Marcus Crassus' idee fixe to get Syrian proconsulate and to fight against Parthia. After he and his son Publius had died, it seems Roman nobles had no dream of this assignment.
    – Matt
    Sep 18, 2015 at 9:16
  • @Laveran After the defeat in the Battle of Carrhae Romans only tried to defend themselves. This is too much risk, and too little glory. I guess no one wanted this job.
    – Matt
    Sep 18, 2015 at 9:32
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    Also with Cassius doing a good job stabilizing the situation, the need for replacement was lessened. If the crisis had gotten worse, likely someone would have been dispatched to cover it.
    – Oldcat
    Sep 18, 2015 at 22:38

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