Asia (Asia), a Roman provincial division of the country, which we
call Asia Minor. The Roman province of Asia originated in the testamentary bequest
of Attalus (B.C. 133), the last king of Pergamum, to the Romans; and after the
rising of Aristonicus (B.C. 131--129) was put down, the province was formed (B.C.
129) in the usual way, by the consul M. Aquillius with the assistance of ten Roman
commissioners. (Strab. p. 645.) Strabo observes that the province was reduced
to the same form of polity which existed in his time; but this gives no exact
information as to the limits. Cicero (pro Flacco, c. 27) mentions Phrygia, Mysia,
Caria, and Lydia as the component parts of the province. Within these limits Aeolis
and Ionia were of course included; and probably the Dorian towns on the main..
land. But the province was not originally so exr tensive. Phrygia, which had been
in the possession of Mithridates VI., was declared free after it was taken from
him. (Appian, Mithrid. c. 57.) Cicero (Verr. Act. ii. 1. c. 38) speaks of Phrygia
(Phrygiam totam) as one of the countries which Dolabella and his quaestor Verres
plundered; and the province of Dolabella was Cilicia (B.C. 80).
In the republican period the province of Asia was generally governed by a Propraetor, who, however, is often called Praetor, and sometimes Proconsul. Upon the division of the provinces between Augustus and the Senate, the Senate had Asia, which was governed by a Proconsul. (Strab. p. 840.; Dion Cass. liii. 12.)
L. Cornelius Sulla, after the close of the Mithridatic war (B.C. 84), divided Asia into 40 Regiones, a division which was made apparently for the purpose of raising money, and particularly the heavy contribution which Sulla laid on Asia. (Plut. Sulla, c. 25; Cic. ad Q. Fr. i. 1, 11, pro Flacco, c. 14). This province contained a large number of rich towns; five hundred are mentioned in the first century of our aera, a number which must have included, as one may suppose, every place that could be called a town. These 40 regions contained as many chief towns, and they also included all the smaller towns; and the vectigalia for these several regions seem to have been let at their respective chief towns. But in consequence of the extortions of the Publicani, the dictator Caesar no longer allowed the Publicani to farm the taxes. He remitted to the Asiatic cities one third of the payments, which used to be made to the Publicani, and allowed the cities to collect the decumae from the cultivators (Appian, B.C. v. 4; Dion Cass. xlii. 6). Under this arrangement many smaller towns were placed under the larger towns, as contributory places, and reduced to the rank of dependent places (hupekooi komai. In these chief towns were the offices (archeia, grammateia, grammatophulakia) which contained the documents that related to the taxes on produce, the titles to land, and the contracts of hypothecation.
There was another division, later than that of Sulla, into conventus juridici, as in other Roman provinces, for judicial purposes, as Cicero says (pro Flacco, c. 29: ubi-jus a nostro magistrate dicitur), and for other business which it was necessary to do before a court. These were much larger than the 40 districts, and quite independent of them. The following were the chief places of these conventus, so far as we know them: Ephesus, Tralles, Alabanda, Laodicea (or the Jurisdicto Cibyratica, which contained 25 towns: see Plin. v. 28), Apamea Cibotus, Synnada; Sardes containing all Lydia, but Philadelphia in the second century was also the chief town of a Conventus; Smyrna; Adramyttium, and Pergamum. These Conventus were also called dioceses (dioikeseis: Strab. p. 629). Cicero (ad Farn. xiii. 67), when he was governor of Cilicia, mentions three dioceses of Asia, Cibyratica, Apamensis, and Synnadensis, which belonged to Phrygia, as attached to his province of Cilicia; but this arrangement appears to have been only temporary. (Strab. p. 631, mentions the Cibyratica as belonging to Asia.) The 40 regions probably disappeared altogether, for the division into Conventus seems to have been the division for all administrative purposes.
Under the empire there was a division of the cities of Asia according to rank. The chief cities were called Metropoleis (Modestinus, Dig. 27, tit. 1. s. 6, De Excusationibus). Besides Ephesus, there are mentioned as Metropoleis--Smyrna, Sardes, Pergamum, Lampsacus, and Cyzicus. Ephesus, which was always considered the chief place of the Province, was called first of all and the greatest, and the Metropolis of Asia. Metropolis (metropolis) in this sense of chief town is quite different from the earlier Greek meaning of mother or parent city. As one province contained several of these Metropoleis, the name seems to have been conferred merely as a title of honour, at least in the case of these cities of Asia. If any privilege was connected with the name, it is conjectured that the cities which had the title of Metropolis were in turns the places at which were held the great festival of Asia (to koinon Asias.).
There were also autonomous towns in Asia, towns which had the self-government (autonomia). The term autonomos corresponds to the Latin libera civitas. Such towns are sometimes described as having freedom and immunity from taxation (eleutheria kai ateleia). The second term is expressed by the Latin immunitas. The following list of autonomous towns in Asia has been made out: Alabanda, Apollonis, Aphrodisias, the island Astypalaea, Caunus, Chios, Halicarnassus (doubtful), Cnidos, Cos, Cyzicus, Ilium, Magnesia ad Sipylum, Mytilene, Mylasa, Phocaea, Samos, Stratonicea, Termera in Caria, and Teos These places received their privileges at various times and under various circumstances, so that this list, which is also probably incomplete, may not be exact as to any one time. Alexandria Troas, and Parium, were made Roman coloniae, and, as it appears, Tralles also.
The limits of the province Asia have been determined from the classical writers. In the Acts of the Apostles (ii. 9, xvi. 6), Phrygia is excluded from Asia, which means the province Asia; and in the Apocalypse (i. 4), when the seven churches of Asia are addressed, the term also seems to have a limited signification. This discrepancy may arise from Phrygia having been divided, the south and east part of it being attached to Galatia. (Strab. pp. 568,569.) But there appears to be some difficulty about this matter of Phrygia.
At the close of the 4th century Asia was divided into six divisions:
1. Asia proconsularis, a strip along the coast from Assus to the Maeander, with Ephesus the capital.
2. Hellespontus, with Cyzicus the capital.
3. Lydia, with Sardes the capital.
4. Phrygia Salutaris, the north-east part of Phrygia, with Eucarpia the capital.
5. Phrygia Pacatiana, the west part of Phrygia, extending to Ancyra of Phrygia and Aezani or Azani, with Laodicea the capital.
6. Caria, with Aphrodisias the capital.
The islands which belonged to the province of Asia were formed into a Provincia Insularum (eparchia neson), by Vespasian as it appears. In the time after Constantine it contained 53 islands, of which Rhodes was the Metropolis. (Becker, Rom. Alterth. vol. iii. pt. i. by J. Marquardt.)
This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
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