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Roman Rule and Governance

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The form of government in Leicester under the Romans, as at their other Stations in Britain, was briefly this. At first it was merely a stipendiary city, so called from the yearly tribute or stipend paid to the Imperial exchequer; and as such was completely under the control of the military Prefect or Governor.

About A.D. 212, however, the freedom of the city of Rome was extended to all subjects in the British Isles by the Emperor Caracalla, and from this time the inhabitants enjoyed the advantage of a local governing body. This was called the Curia or Council, and consisted of ten magistrates or decemvirs, out of whom two higher officers, more resembling the modern mayors, and called duumviri, were chosen.

The rights and interests of particular trades were protected by fraternities, from which the mediaeval Guilds were doubtless afterwards derived. Thus the fraternities of the bakers, of the smiths, and of the woodcutters are mentioned in certain inscriptions found at Roman Stations in Britain.

The prerogatives of the Imperial power were at the same time closely watched, and the collecting of the Revenue was duly carried out under the supervision of the resident Prefect, whose authority and decision were final in all matters of appeal.

Following upon the dim distance of the Celtic period, the vision of Roman Leicester stands out clearly illumined by the light of the evidence which material facts supply; but, like the momentary glimpse of a far-off mountain landscape which the lifting mists reveal, the enveloping clouds once more obscure it, and memory or imagination only may recall its vanished glory.