Horum iudex proprius erat praefectus fabrum. Vegezio e la praefectura fabrum.


  • Alberto Cafaro


Vegetius and the praefectura fabrum
The post of praefectus fabrum was granted by a magistrate cum imperioon the basis of trust, loyalty, and competence. In general, the appointeeshave been described as ‘senior officers on the staff’ of the appointingmagistrates. However, little is known about the tasks attached tothe post, even if the praefectura fabrum is well attested both in literarytexts and inscriptions. The Epitoma rei militaris is the only extant sourcedevoting a passage to the duties of the prefects of engineers. In spite ofbeing a detailed description of the post, this passage has generally beendismissed – notably by H. Maué and B. Dobson – as untrustworthy or the Epitoma’s composition, the praefectura fabrum was no more than arelic, or a name in ancient texts and inscriptions. According to Vegetius,the prefect led the corps of technicians attached to the legions. Moreover,he was put in charge of siege machines and the supply of projectilesand other materials. Even if this description and what is known about thepraefectura fabrum are not consistent, a re-examination of the passageand of the text as a whole is needed. In fact, the Epitoma reveals a deeperknowledge of the importance attached to the post than expected in sucha late source. A focus on this text will offer some useful insights on thesources available to Vegetius, and to what they stated about the tasksattached to the praefectus itself. In addition to this, it will be possible totrace the duties of the post back to its origins and investigate on how thepraefectura fabrum became the institutional and political office whichwe known from the available sources.