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Romans and Semites

elsewhere — had by this time all acquired a strong Hel- lenistic tinge.

As a frontier province bordering on Parthia, the only serious rival and formidable foe of Rome, Syria was con- stituted an imperial province of which the emperor himself was the titular proconsul. As such it was placed under a legate, always of consular rank, whose term of office lasted from three to five years. Its governorship, with that of Gaul, was the most honourable and highly prized that the empire could confer. Syria in the east, like Gaul in the west, was a central seat of military control. The governor was assisted by an adequate staff among whom the pro- curators stood high as collectors of state revenue. The col- lection was made either directly or through tax farming. Under the legate's control was a strong military force of four legions, consisting in the early empire almost entirely of Italian troops. The legate of Syria was responsible for the security of Roman possessions throughout south-western Asia.

The local communities lived under a variety of govern- ments. The Greco-Macedonian colonies kept their own magistrates under whom were a senate and a popular assembly. The Phoenician city-states likewise retained their traditional oligarchical systems, and the Aramaean com- munities of the interior continued in control of their internal affairs as before. The Arabs of Horns and the Biqa were ruled by their own princes, while on the desert frontier, where the nomadic or semi-nomadic way of life was still the rule, the tribe was the social unit and the patriarchal form of administration was maintained. In Judaea the high priest, no longer a king, acted as head of the community and was nominated by the Jewish aristocracy. Throughout Rome displayed a remarkable flexibility in its dealings with these diverse communities and their leaders.

Behind this diversity of organization and control was a measure of ethnic and cultural similarity far beyond any- thing that had prevailed before. All Syrians were by this