Magisterial powers

Each republican magistrate held certain constitutional powers. Only the People of Rome (both plebeians and patricians) had the right to confer these powers on any individual magistrate. The most powerful constitutional power was imperium. Imperium was held by both consuls and praetors. Imperium gave a magistrate the authority to command a military force. All magistrates also had the power of coercion. This was used by magistrates to maintain public order. While in Rome, all citizens had a judgement against coercion. This protection was called provocatio (see below). Magistrates also had both the power and the duty to look for omens. This power would often be used to obstruct political opponents. One check on a magistrate's power was his collegiality. Each magisterial office would be held concurrently by at least two people. Another such check was provocatio. Provocatio was a primordial form of due process. It was a precursor to habeas corpus. If any magistrate tried to use the powers of the state against a citizen, that citizen could appeal the decision of the magistrate to a tribune. In addition, once a magistrate's one year term of office expired, he would have to wait ten years before serving in that office again. This created problems for some consuls and praetors, and these magistrates would occasionally have their imperium extended. In effect, they would retain the powers of the office (as a promagistrate), without officially holding that office. A promagistrate (Latin: pro magistratu) is a person who acts in and with the authority and capacity of a magistrate, but without holding a magisterial office. A legal innovation of the Roman Republic, the promagistracy was invented in order to provide Rome with governors of overseas territories instead of having to elect more magistrates each year. Promagistrates were appointed by senatus consultum; like all acts of the Roman Senate, these appointments were not entirely legal and could be overruled by the Roman assemblies, e.g., the replacement of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus by Gaius Marius during the Jugurthine War. Promagistrates were usually either proquaestors (acting in place of quaestors), propraetors, acting in place of praetors, or proconsuls acting in place of consuls. A promagistrate held equal authority to the equivalent magistrate, was attended by the same number of lictors, and generally speaking had autocratic power within his province, be it territorial or otherwise. Promagistrates usually had already held the office in whose stead they were acting, although this was not mandatory. One should also mention here the procurator, a posting originally as a financial manager in a province, a position which held no magisterial power until Claudius gave them his power in the mid 40s AD, enabling them to administer provinces. The institution of promagistracies developed because the Romans found it inconvenient to continue adding ordinary magistracies to administer their newly-acquired overseas possessions. Therefore, they adopted the practice of appointing an individual to act in place or capacity of (pro) a magistrate (magistratu); a promagistrate was literally a lieutenant. Subsequently, when Pompeius Magnus was given proconsular imperium to fight against Quintus Sertorius, the Senate made a point of distinguishing that he was not actually being appointed a promagistrate: he was appointed to act not in place of a consul (pro consule), but on behalf of the consuls (pro consulibus).