bishop province dioceses division
DIOCESE, from the Greek Stotkno-ts - primarily mean-ing administration, then the territorial circumscription in which administration was exercised - was first used to denote the Greek provinces of the Roman empire, or more properly the portion of a province ruled by a proprEetor. Thus Cicero had, besides Cilicia, three " dioceses " in Asia. Bingham (lib. ix. c. 1) says that the division of the empire iuto clerical dioceses was in the time of Constantine, whereas the division into provinces was much anterior. He goes on to show that the primitive church followed exactly the example of the empire in her territorial arrange-ments. As in every metropolis of each province there was a magistrate with authority over the magistrates of each city, so in every metropolis there was a bishop, whose authority extended over the entire province, who was thence called " metropolitan," or " primate," as being the first or principal bishop of the province. And everywhere the episcopal sees were under the authority of the bishop of the civil metropolis, except in Africa, where the primate was usually the senior bishop of the province. The term " diocese," however, was sometimes used in the mare com-prehensive, and the terrn province in the less comprehen-sive sense, as appears from the Yotitia dignitatum drawn up, as it would seem, in the time of the emperors Arcadius and Honorius (see Bingham, toc. cit.) The territorial division, however, as given in the Totitia, was purely civil. But Bingham tells us that, though we have no equally ancient account of the ecclesiastical division of the empire, yet if we compare the fragmentary bits of in-formation which may be picked out of the acts of and subscriptions to the earlier councils with later notices, it will be seen that the ecclesiastical very exactly followed the civil distribution.
It may be mentioned that, before the 4th century, the term " parisli" - z-apooda - was often used indiscriminately with the word " diocese," a, circumstance which has caused ecclesiastical antiquarians to expend much erudition in showing that, despite the confusion of ternas, the thing intended corresponded to our idea of a diocese, and not to our idea of a parish.
The uncertainty with regard to the number and circum-scription of the English ecclesiastical dioceses under the Romans is great, and the information attainable fragmen-tary. At the council of Arles, held in the year 314, the bishop of York, the bishop of London, and the bishop " de colonia Lindi," probably Lincoln, are recorded to have been present. But the changes in the number and terri-torial circumscription following the Saxon invasion - and not yet finally completed - were so great that volumes of minute antiquarian investigation would be needed to trace - in so far as it may be still possible to trace - the progress of nomenclature and delimitation of the various dioceses of Britain from the first establishment of them to tb.e present day.
The division of dioceses found to be too large to be con-veniently administered by one bishop was practised from very early times, as may be seen by the decrees of a council held in Portugal about the middle of the 6th century. Another reason for dividing a diocese, and establishing a new see, has been recognized by the church as duly exist-ing " if the sovereign should think fit to endow some principal village or town with the rank and privileges of a, city" (Binghain, lib. xvii. c. 5). But there are canons for the punishment of such as might induce the sovereign so to erect any town into a city, solely ith the view of becoming bishop thereof. Nor could any diocese be divided without the consent of the primate.
In the countries more immediately subjected .to the B,oman pontiff the multiplication of dioceses has been excessive, the number of them in the apostolic dominions being no less than 68, while the Roman Church reckons in the whole of Europe (exclusive of the English, but inclusive of the Irish sees) 578 sees.