A collector of prefectures

The inexorable rise of Sextus Petronius Probus

Pierfrancesco Porena

In order to overcome the immense size of the late Roman Empire, the Emperor Constantine (306-337) divided it into several regional praetorian prefectures. Comprising Gaul, Italy, Illyricum, Africa and the East, these vast administrative zones were governed for short periods by praetorian prefects who were based outside the imperial palace. In the 4th century the prefecture of Illyricum lay at the heart of the empire’s defense. The latter was placed under considerable strain in the period 368-388, when the Goths crossed the Danube and Gaul was usurped. During these twenty difficult years, Valentinian I and his sons Gratian and Valentinian II relied on the effective but questionable administration of the praetorian prefect Sextus Petronius Probus. A man adored by his clients and hated by almost everyone else, the powerful senator not only dominated the political scene, he also succeeded in doing something quite unprecedented – holding the praetorian prefect four times.

Autore/i e indice


Pierfrancesco Porena teaches Roman History and Latin Epigraphy at the Department of Humanities at the University “Roma Tre”. His research focuses on roman Italy and its cities, on the administration of the later Roman Empire (Le origini della prefettura del pretorio tardoantica 2003), on the Ostrogothic kingdom (L’insediamento degli Ostrogoti in Italia 2012; Cassiodorus’ Variae translation project directed by A. Giardina, Roma 2014 ff.). As Director of the Project “Les préfets du prétoire de l’Empire romain tardif. Une élite face à la crise” (PPRET), funded by the “Chaire Gutenberg 2019” at the UMR 7044 Archimède (Université de Strasbourg), he published the epigraphic database online “PPRET Inscriptions. Inscriptions pertaining to the Praetorian Prefects from 284 to 395 AD” (2022), which is a useful tool for understanding Probus’ career.



  • 1. The regional praetorian prefectures;
  • 2. The puzzle of Illyricum;
  • 3. The four praetorian prefectures of Petronius Probus;


Literary and epigraphic sources;



Index of  Personal Names.

Versioni e acquisto

  • Edizione cartacea

    pp. X-310 isbn: 9788800864176

    • € 32,00
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      su Mondadori Store

  • Edizione digitale

    pp. 320 isbn: 9788800864183

    • € 26,99
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Università e saggistica – Storia