Prefect

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Prefect of the Bouches-du-Rhône departement (France) during Bastille Day ceremony.

Prefect (from the Latin praefectus, perfect participle of praeficere: "make in front", i.e., put in charge) is a magisterial title of varying definition.

A prefect's office, department, or area of control is called a prefecture, but in various post-Roman empire cases there is a prefect without a prefecture or vice versa. The words "prefect" and "prefecture" are also used, more or less conventionally, to render analogous words in other languages, especially Romance languages.

Ancient Rome[edit]

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Praefectus, often with a further qualification, was the formal title of many, fairly low to high-ranking, military or civil officials in the Roman Empire, whose authority was not embodied in their person (as it was with elected Magistrates) but conferred by delegation from a higher authority. They did have some authority in their prefecture such as controlling prisons and in civil administration.

Praetorian prefects[edit]

The Praetorian prefect (Praefectus praetorio) began as the military commander of a general's guard company in the field, then grew in importance as the Praetorian Guard became a potential kingmaker during the Empire. From the Emperor Diocletian's tetrarchy (c. 300) they became the administrators of the four Praetorian prefectures, the government level above the (newly created) dioceses and (multiplied) provinces.

As Egypt was a special imperial domain, a rich and strategic granary, where the Emperor enjoyed an almost pharaonic position unlike any other province or diocese, its head was styled uniquely Praefectus Augustalis, indicating that he governed in the personal name of the august emperor.

Police and civil prefects[edit]

Military prefects[edit]

For some auxiliary troops, specific titles could even refer to their peoples:

Religious prefects[edit]

Feudal times[edit]

Especially in Medieval Latin, præfectus was used to refer to various officers—administrative, military, judicial, etc.—usually alongside a more precise term in the vernacular (such as Burggraf).

Ecclesiastical[edit]

Saint Margaret attracts the attention of the Roman prefect, by Jean Fouquet from an illuminated manuscript

The term is used by the Catholic Church, which based much of its canon law terminology on Roman law, in several different ways.

Academic[edit]

Many college preparatory boarding schools utilize the position of Prefect as a high student leadership position.

Modern sub-national administration[edit]

Police[edit]

The Prefect of Police (Préfet de police) is the officer in charge of co-ordinating police forces in Paris and the Bouches-du-Rhônes. The local police in Japan are divided among prefectures too.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Berger, Adolf (2002). Encyclopedic Dictionary of Roman Law. The Lawbook Exchange. p. 643. ISBN 1-58477-142-9. 

External links[edit]