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Diocese of Asiana (Byzantium)

Author(s) : Giftopoulou Sofia (3/10/2005)
Translation : Velentzas Georgios

For citation: Giftopoulou Sofia, "Diocese of Asiana (Byzantium)",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=7627>

Ασίας Διοίκησις (Βυζάντιο) (2/6/2007 v.1) Diocese of Asiana (Byzantium) (2/15/2007 v.1) 

1. From the Province of Asia to the Diocese of Asiana

Under the Administrative Reformation by Diocletian (284-305) the wide administrative divisions of the Roman Empire were divided into smaller territories, the provinces. The new provinces in the region of Asia (territories of the west and south Asia Minor as well as the Aegean Islands) formed the Diocese of Asiana of the prefecture of Oriens (praefectura praetorio per Orientem) in 314.1 To the north and east of the unofficial geographical division of the Diocese of Asiana were the provinces that formed the Diocese of Pontica. In the southeastern corner Pamphylia of Asiana bordered Isauria. The Mediterranean Sea lay to the south and the Aegean west of the diocese.

The commanders of the provinces of Asiana were accountable to the vicar of Asiana, who was under the praetorian prefect (praefectus praetorio) and actually carried out the duties of the deputies (agentes vicarii) in the Late Roman Province of Asia.2 The vicar of Asiana was responsible mainly for supervising the economy, the justice and the road system of the provinces.3 The mint of Asiana was in Kyzicos, the metropolis of the Province of Hellespont.

The fact that the territory of the Late Roman province of Asia coincided with the Diocese of Asiana, as it happened with the posts of the deputy of Asia and the vicar of Asiana, but also the cultural superioriy of the Early Byzantine province of Asia and its cities, are reflected in the frequently used name of the diocese: Diocese of Asia.

2. The Provinces of Asiana

The Diocese of Asiana consisted of the historical regions of Caria, Lydia, Pisidia, Lycia, Pamphylia, Phrygia, Asia and the Aegean Islands as autonomous provinces. During the administrative reforms carried out in the 4th century the united Phrygia and Caria were divided into Phrygia Pacatiana and Phrygia Salutaris. In the early 4th century the united Lycia and Pamphylia was divided by Constantine I (306/324-337). The establishment of the Province of Lykaonia in territories of the provinces of Pisidia of the Diocese of Asiana, Isauria of the Diocese of Oriens and Galatia of the Diocese of Pontica took place in 370 and was carried out by Emperor Valens (364-378). The regions finally formed eleven administrative divisions. It should be pointed out that this was the smallest number of provinces forming a diocese, although they were the most densely populated provinces of the entire empire. As regards ecclesiastical administration, it should be mentioned that the provinces of the Hellespont and Asia formed the single ecclesiastical province of Asia at least until 325, as it happened with the provinces of Phrygia. From 348 onward, the ecclesiastical geography of the provinces of Asiana coincided with their political geography.

3. Reforms

The reforms of Justinian I (527-565) in the provinces of Asiana originally concerned the replacement of the vicar of Asiana with the comes of Phrygia Pacatiana for the period 535-548/553, when the eparch was assigned additional judicial jurisdictions and the governors of the provinces became more independent than the governors of the dioceses in financial matters. The substitutes of the vicars had military jurisdictions as well. The vicars had already lost a large part of their initial power: in the third fourth of the 4th century they lost many judicial jurisdictions, while from the 5th century on they lost economic jurisdictions. They gradually became decorative parts of the administrative mechanism.4 In the first decades of the 6th century they retained jurisdictions of minor importance as well as the supervision of the road system.

At the same time a new administration was established, the quaestura iustiniana exercitus, which was assigned the provinces of Caria and the Islands of the Diocese of Asiana in 535. This was due to the way the troops on the Danube were provisioned; as a result, the Carians and the islanders would have a serious burden, since from then on they would address their requests to the quaestor in Moesia. The reform was de facto abolished against the judicial jurisdictions of the quaestor.

The ranks of the eparch of the praetorio and the vicars of the dioceses subjected to him were abolished in the 7th century. The dioceses were immediately dissolved. The provinces that had formed the Diocese of Asiana came under the themes of Opsikion and Thrakesion from the third fourth of the 7th century onward, while the harbours came under the naval Theme of Kibyrrhaiotai after 719-720.

4. Cities and Economy in Asiana

According to a novel (imperial decree) of 535, the proconsul of Asia was included in the list of those paying the highest annual contributions to the imperial treasury; the same list also included the comes Orientis. The comes of Phrygia Pacatiana and Galatia I, who had just replaced the vicars of Asiana and Pontica, and the vicar of the Long Wall paid as much as the consuls of the provinces.5 The single fact that the consul of the province of Asia paid more than the other consuls and comes, that is, an amount equal to that paid by the comes of the Diocese of Oriens, clearly shows that its cities and citizens prospered.

The provinces of Asiana were densely populated and their cities prospered thanks to, among other factors, the transcontinental transit trade that directed their goods from their markets to Rome and Constantinople. The numerous harbours in south and west Asia Minor, such as Ephesus, Kyzicus, Perge, Myra and, finally, Rhodes – a city and emporion with low custom duties already from Antiquity – secured sufficiency of goods produced in the prefecture of Oriens or imported from the East. Although of minor importance at first, Phaselis, Olympos, Miletus and Cibyra were significant harbours for a long time. The midland cities of Sardis, Laodikeia, Synada, Ikonion and Antioch also prospered, despite the advantage the coastal cities had in transactions.

1. The Roman/early Byzantine empire was geographically arranged according to its Asian and European territories, which formed the prefecture of Oriens and the prefectures of Illyricum and of Italy respectively. The administration of the wider territories was assigned to the prefect. The establishment of the institution of the dioceses, six per prefecture, under the official vicar, is safely dated from 314. See Zuckerman, K., ‘Sur la liste de Vérone et la province de grande Arménie, la division de l’Empire et la date de création des diocèses’, Travaux et Mémoires 14 (2002), pp. 617-638, especially from p. 617 on and p. 636.

2. See RE 2 R 8 (1958) s.v. Vicer (Enssiln, W.), 2015-44.

3. See Jones, A.H.M., The Later Roman Empire 284-602 I (Oxford 1964, reprinted 1990), p. 373.

4. See Jones, A.H.M., The Later Roman Empire 284-602 I (Oxford 1964 reprinted 1990), p. 374, note 21.

5. Schöll, R. (edit.), Corpus Juris Civillis v. tertium: Novellae (Dublin - Zürich 10 1972), pp. 80-81. The comes of Anatolis and the proconsul of Asia pay the largest amounts. The comes of Phrygia Pacatiana and Galatia I as well as the vicar of the Long Wall pay as much as the consuls, while smaller amounts are paid by the potentates. It should be added that the dioceses of Egypt and Thrace, whose provinces are included in the list with the lowest amounts paid, generated even smaller income.


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