Eparchy is an anglicized Greek word, authentically latinized as eparchia and loosely translating as 'rule over something', but has the following specific meanings, both in political history and in the hierarchy of the Eastern Churches.

ecular jurisdictions

Roman Imperial administration

Diocletianian reforms

Originally eparchy (επαρχία) was the Greek equivalent of the Latin term "provincia", one of the divisions of the Roman Empire at the third echelon. The Tetrarchy ("rule of four"), an overhaul of the imperial structure by Emperor Diocletian (284-305), divided the empire into four great areas, governed by two senior and two junior emperors, each aided by a praetorian prefect, as a sort of chief of staff. Eventually these four areas became established as praetorian prefectures:
*the praetorian prefecture of Gaul, Britain and Spain
*the praetorian prefecture of Italy and Africa (originally also including Illyricum
*the praetorian prefecture of Illyricum
*the praetorian prefecture of the East (including Thrace, Asia and Egypt)

Each of these was subdivided into dioceses, each under a vicarius, and these again into "provinciae" or "eparchies", i.e. Roman provinces (but smaller than before, in many cases resulting from the split of a pre-existing province, and thus more numerous), under governors with different ranks (in many cases praeses provinciae, but also various terms tied into the pre-Dominate vocabulary) reflecting the province's intrinsic and/or strategic importance, for which the generic Latin term "rector" was used.


In the linguistically often illogical, mixed Greco-Latin jargon of Byzantine administration, eparchy was mainly used as the literal Greek version of the Latin "praefectura" ("prefecture"), i.e. the office, term or resort (rather Latin "provincia" in the widest sense, not necessarily territorial) of any "praefectus", or governor, and not tied to a particular type of administrative division.

Modern Greece

The term "eparchia" was revived as one of the administrative sub-provincial units of post-Ottoman independent Greece, the country being divided into "nomarchies" ("Prefectures"), of which in turn some are subdivided into "eparchies".


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Church hierarchy

The christian Church (before the split into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) adopted elements of temporal administration as introduced by the reforms of Diocletian and part of its terminology, as convenient for internal use:

Notwithstanding the primacies of the Apostolic Sees of Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, the bishoprics of one civil province were grouped together in church provinces, also called eparchies, under the supervision of the metropolitan, usually the bishop of the provincial capital. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 accepted this arrangement and orders that: "the authority [of appointing bishops] shall belong to the metropolitan in each eparchy" (can. iv), i.e. in each such civil eparchy there shall be a metropolitan bishop who has authority over the others.

Later in Eastern Christendom, after a process of title-inflation, multiplying the numbers of dioceses, metropolitans and (arch)bishops and reducing their territorial size, the use of the word was gradually modified and came to refer to the diocese of a bishop. This usage is prevalent in Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy and the Eastern Catholic Churches.

The name Eparchy was, however, not commonly used except in Russia, as the usual term for a diocese. The Russian Orthodox Church in the early 20th century counted 86 eparchies, of which three (Kiev, Moscow, and St. Petersburg) were ruled by bishops who always bore the title "Metropolitan"Fact|date=September 2008, and fourteen others under archbishops.Fact|date=September 2008 In 1917 an All-Russian Sobor restored the patriarchate and Saint Tikhon was elected the first Patriarch of Moscow since the 17th century.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Eparchy — • Originally the name of one of the divisions of the Roman Empire Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Eparchy     Eparchy     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Eparchy — Ep arch*y, n. [Gr. ? the post or office of an ?.] A province, prefecture, or territory, under the jurisdiction of an eparch or governor; esp., in modern Greece, one of the larger subdivisions of a monarchy or province of the kingdom; in Russia, a …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • eparchy — [ep′är kē, ep′är΄kē] n. pl. eparchies [Gr eparchia < eparchos: see EPARCH] 1. a) in the Byzantine Empire, an administrative district b) in modern Greece, a political subdivision of a province 2. Eastern Orthodox Ch. a diocese eparchial… …   English World dictionary

  • eparchy — noun (plural chies) Etymology: Greek eparchia province, from eparchos prefect, from epi + archos ruler more at arch Date: 1796 a diocese of an Eastern church …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • eparchy — eparchial, adj. /ep ahr kee/, n., pl. eparchies. 1. (in modern Greece) one of the administrative subdivisions of a province. 2. (in ancient Greece) a province. [1790 1800; < Gk eparchía prefecture, province. See EPARCH, Y3] * * * …   Universalium

  • eparchy — noun a) one of the districts of the Roman Empire at the third echelon b) one of the administrative sub provincial units of post Ottoman independent Greece See Also: eparch …   Wiktionary

  • eparchy — diocese of an Eastern church Ecclesiastical Terms …   Phrontistery dictionary

  • eparchy — n. diocese of an Eastern church …   English contemporary dictionary

  • eparchy — [ ɛpα:ki] noun (plural eparchies) a province of the Orthodox Church. Origin C18: from Gk eparkhia, from eparkhos (see eparch) …   English new terms dictionary

  • eparchy — ep·archy …   English syllables

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