I am not referring to the Legati Augusti pro praetores of the Empire.

In republican Rome, provincial governors chose their own legates quite freely.

I found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legatus :

a legate could be invested with propraetorian imperium (legatus pro praetore) in his own right

An example of such rank is T. Labienus, legatus pro praetore for Caesar.

My understanding of the wikipedia quote is that the legatus pro praetore is both a legate, acting as a lieutenant for the proconsul, and a fully-empowered provincial magistrate, because he had his own imperium and not just a delegation of the proconsul's.

So could we say the legatus pro praetore is more like the quaestor, a (pro)magistrate under the command of an other promagistrate, or more like the regular legati ?

Could the proconsul "promote" a simple legate by granting him an imperium (I believe he can't) or was the senate involved (the same way it created proconsuls) ?

In the second option, did the senate have a say in the name of the future legatus pro praetore ?

Bonus question : is there any record of a legatus pro praetore serving several governors without returning to civilian life in between, or of a republican legatus pro praetore serving under no governor/consul at all ?

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    Wiki's quote sounds odd, prima facie. It's also unsourced so I wonder if it's even true. But then it might be referring to some obscure case I am missing. Sep 26 '15 at 16:04

Except for those legati created by the lex Gabinia and similar laws, all legati were appointed by the Senate. The governor couldn't just appoint them by himself - although it appears that, in practice, he nominated who he wanted and the Senate confirmed it.

The wikipedia quote is wrong in the sense that a legatus pro praetore only held delegated imperium. I don't think this has been fully explored, but my understanding of the difference between a simple legatus and a legatus pro praetore was that the latter was put in charge of the army/province by the imperator, whereas the former was simply a subordinate commander of senatorial rank. In either case, the legatus is entirely the subordinate of the imperator - hence Catulus' argument, in his speech in Cassius Dio against the lex Gabinia, that the plebs should appoint multiple independent commanders rather than allow Pompeius to appoint his own legati, since an independent imperator will fight for his own glory whereas a legatus fights for another's (and hence will not fight as well). I think Caesar expresses the same idea somewhere.

So, to clarify your question: the Senate chose the legati, probably those nominated by the imperator. The imperator could delegate imperium pro praetore to a legatus, usually if he was commanding the province or a sizeable army in his own right, and that was the imperator's call, in the field. However, certain plebiscites (starting with the lex Gabinia) allowed the imperator to name a number of legati pro praetore at the start of the campaign, who would fight pretty much independently.

The best place to look into this is Brennan's book on the praetorship or, if you read German, Kunkel and Wittmann's book on Staatsordnung und Staatspraxis.

  • Aren't you conflating policies and practices of Imperial Rome with those of Republican Rome that OP is inquiring about? Or are you using imperator in a sense other than that of Emperor of Imperial Rome? Either way your answer needs clarification on this point. Jun 4 '16 at 18:06
  • @Pieter Geerkens : I think he's using imperator in the sense of an imperium holder in charge of a war (proconsules, propraetores...).
    – Laveran
    Jun 5 '16 at 8:29
  • @David : Thanks, this clarifies things for me. One more thing : I recently read that Valerius Orca was legatus pro praetore when he was in charge of installing colonies in Italy for Caesar. So they had civilian roles as well (or maybe he was dealing with the colonies in addition to a military command ?)
    – Laveran
    Jun 5 '16 at 8:32

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