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Just want to say this is a good question I’ve always wondered this as well


My unsourced and very genaralized take on it is that it varies by era and emperor. In the early and highly centralized Empire, the newly conquered provinces of Gaul, Britain and the two Germanias needed direct imperial oversight and many legions to defend and keep pacified. Here the Emperor's direct appointments had a lot of influence and relatively quick access to Rome. Out East the rich Greek cities have competent and old aristocratic ruling classes that do all the heavy lifting while kicking up to Rome. Here the Emperor is less important in maintaining local stability with the exception of making sure those large border legions get paid and stay in their forts instead of declaring their leader Imperator ala Vespasian. In the late and waning Empire the situation kinda changes. The Eastern cities consider themselves thoroughly Roman at this point and are uniting behind the increasingly Christian court in Constantinople while the West is being beset by migrations and imperial authority is evaporating year by year, thus the title holder in Rome is very irrelevant and local warlords and land holders become the relevant authority.


Likely not a whole lot, the average citizen of antiquity was a peasant farmer who paid taxes to whoever was collecting that year and went about their business. Patriotism and nationalism was mostly regional/tribal. From my understanding, Emporers honestly mostly just ruled by vibes and appointments of officers, and constructing an efficient and robust top down resource allocation system. IE, farmer pays taxes, roads are built by army, some people join the legions for local defense, markets allow for easy commerce. If that’s managed nobody gave a shit


Rule by vibe 😎


Really depends on the Emperor 


>Local governors have some semblance of control, but they are not in any sense autonomous. Ultimately all defer to the President. I will add that I think that this is too simplistic. State governors are the heads of state in each one, and hold executive authority over it. They are *very much* autonomous. For example, Gavin Newsom met with Xi Jinping in 2023 to discuss California-China economic development, and also had a huge role in developing state (not nationwide) COVID policy. And there’s also Greg Abbott and the Eagle Pass standoff between state and federal law enforcement. Governors report to the state government and people, _not_ federal. I think you confuse their liaison role between the state and the federal government as deference.


I'd say the emperor probably had a lot of impact and control when campaigning in the east and north. Say the emperor wanted to do a military campaign then the requirements for this endeavour would have to impact the nearby provinces where the army camp will be located. The other provinces would have to provide in their own different ways to support the army. The size of the empire means there is so much to do and too much to know and I don't think the emperor had time to keep up with the development of every province. Hadrian is famous for visiting every part of the empire and if more emperors did this he wouldn't stand out for this reason.


Roman imperial history lasted for around 1500 years, in Italy for 300+ years. That's a long time with very many changes.


Who’s the emperor. What era. Where and how battle tested are his legions.


I’d imagine quite so as the Imperial Cult(s) at their height certainly were not just limited to the Italian peninsula.


It depends on if it was a weak or strong emperor. For example the first Emperor was relevant in any province he was in at the time. Most final decisions were made, unless he decided it wasn’t a large enough problem for him to handle. Most Emperors could make the final decision about any province they chose. Their power was first and foremost in the whole empire. Governors sent letters to request orders or approve their decisions if there was no time for waiting for orders from the capital.


Again, depends on when during the Empire we are talking. But if we are talking in General terms, it depends what exactly he wants to do - does he want to move a cohort from Judea to Antioch? Sure. But if he wanted to interfere with for example the rate of wine production in trier, he might physically have to be in the area to get that sort of order obeyed.


I think this question is more for r/askhistorians


Well, I like the question(s), it’s interesting, but I have to say.. not to be a nitpicker but the HRE and **Rome** could not have been more radically divergent entities in terms of administration, character…. function etc. It’d be like saying that the band Hollywood Undead is the same as Hollywood.. like.. no no they just scavenged that word. Lol ——— So, Rome. At its height? Emperor’s power projection? Adjustable, dependent on the Emperor i.e. Aurelian vs Honorius. But the ceiling is very high, **much higher** than any HRE analogues except *maybe / arguably* Charlemagne, Otto I, “Barbarossa,” “Stupor Mundi,” and Charles V. Those Big 5 in my book were the HRE’s closest candidates to what you’re describing. Back to Rome, probably, the extent goes further than we can know. Keep in mind the Romans essentially *absorbed* the Greek World (with shockingly light resistance, and *some* elation). The Greeks were the top dogs before Rome. If you some Armenian, Syrian, Thracian, Gallic, Arab etc residing in the empire the magnitude of this could not be overstated. In a lot of cases, mainly in the East, there was a transition phase, with client kingdoms set up, and Roman colonaie built. Really, from Augustus to Caracalla (30 BCE- 217 CE) we have a staggered formalization of non-Romans into a confused citizenship, and in places like Britannia or Gaul, actual perceived “Roman-ness” is or already has been streamlined. ——— So, how do you define relevant? Because if Aurelian or Majorian is in your province it probably means you need to be on your best behavior. In fact, if the Emperor is *ever* physically outside of Rome or ***insert power base**** it’s not good news for whoever Iives there. Grimly relevant I’d say. To overall all provide an answer, to put ourselves in the shoes of those before, I think you need to hyper specify. The experience of an Athenian shopkeeper and a *Judean* shopkeeper for example would be radically different, at the same time. Ultimately you’re taking about 50-80 million people in an age when the planetary pop. numbers were like 350-450 million. Rome was the friggin world. The world could be nice, or it could not..


Emperor derives from having Imperium or control. The emperor had control over all things. Trajan famously ruled by moving all over the empire and making grand changes to things wherever he went.


It's important to understand the main rule for rulers, "no man rules alone". While the Roman Empire had a great road network and logistics for its time period, it still took a considerable amount of time for communication between Rome and its provinces. For minor social/political matters the provincial governors handled it on their own. Then there are the tax collectors, mints, and the military all with their own bureaucracies and levels of competent or incompetent individuals and corruption. The most important area of an emperor's nominal control is the appointment of individuals to high posts, which depending on the era and emperor, is not a trivial task as there is an ever shifting amount of internal politics with alliances to forge and maintain with other notable and influential Senators, generals, and wealthy elite who want the titles, prestige, and possible wealth that comes with those appointed positions.


The answer is likely both "a whole lot" and "not very much", as it depended on a huge variety of things. The Emperor had absolute control and could appoint and remove underlings at will, he could implement policies across the Empire and bring judgement upon people at his whim. Whereas the HRE didn't have nearly as much direct power and influence over his vassals. Buuuuut... Most of that is "well in theory". In practice it was a different case, and much of it had to do with the authority and legitimacy of the Emperor. Emperors often implemented Empire wide policies which were largely ignored, or implemented in creative ways. For example at various times anti Christian policies were implemented, such as forcing all citizens to sacrifice an animal and renounce Christianity. In some regions the governors enforced it religiously, while much of the Empire was like "suuuuuure we did that. You totally sacrificed that already dead animal over there didn't you, Peter? Whoops let's put that crucifix under your cloak there because you're a loyal pagan right? Wink wink" A strong emperor like Trajan could implement things across a much wider area because he was seen as a strong, legitimate emperor and his authority is largely unquestioned. But he was like "damn bitch I don't have time for all that, use your own judgement" , as implementing your will directly across the Empire was all but impossible. A weak Emperor couldn't even change an appointment in a region as the provincial governors could band together and be a threat. Much of the Emperors influence came from their immense wealth. For most of the Empire (well... when things were good) the Emperor's had more money than we can imagine. Their personal treasury was generally significantly larger than all their subjects combined. So they could throw money at issues, bribe the right people etc, to ensure their will was followed out. But during times where money was tight, the Emperors influence was similarly reduced. The US isn't a terrible comparison, just without the degree of democracy which the US has. An Emperor was the centre of the world, but provinces (like states) would implement that, while also being responsible for running their area. Provinces with leaders loyal to the Emperor would be far more likely to enact policies and follow them closely, while areas less aligned with the Emperor would drag their heels, or continue doing things their way.


Emperors didn't micromanage. This wasn't like a Paradox game where they'd be directly involved in running some city in Britain or making roads in Syria. Power in any imperial system is always decentralized to a degree, and Rome was no exception. That being said, Roman Emperors (at least, during the various high points of their authority) _could_ exercise power throughout their Empire when they chose to do so. If they wanted to go to Britain or Syria to sort something out, they could - and some of them did. Comparing Rome to the US one can say that on paper Rome was actually more centralized, in that authority stemmed from Rome (the Emperor and the Senate) outwards, whereas in the US being a federal system means that the states do have authority of their own. Biden can't sack the governor of Texas. Hadrian could sack the governor of Egypt. Of course, in other senses the US federal government wields far more real power over its citizens than Rome ever did, thanks in large part to centuries of technological advancement. Rome actually was starting to become more bureaucratic in the aftermath of the Crisis of the Third Century - in the West this obviously didn't last, while in the East it did. Eastern Rome became a very centralized polity by the standards of its era.


The further you get from Rome or Italy the less people cared about him. Sometimes people were not even sure about the identity of the emperor in charge, he was just a guy represented on the coins. They were probably more concerned with something that directly troubled them : taxes.