Ancient History & Civilisation

7. THE ROMAN CONFEDERACY

From Ariminum and Pisa to Rhegium and Brundisium, the whole of Italy was now bound together in the Roman federation. The main lines of policy which wrought this crowning achievement of the early Republic have already been described (Chapter IV, 7), but it is well to consider the completed organization which endured nearly two hundred years until all the inhabitants of Italy received full franchise after the Social War. The two guiding principles of Roman policy were incorporation and alliance. Peoples covered by the former principle became in some sense citizens of Rome; communities grouped in alliance remained in theory independent states, whose members were politically allies (socii) and legally aliens (peregrini). But both classes alike were subject to military service under the Roman government.

First then the citizens, who fall into two clearly-defined classes: full citizens and half-citizens. The full citizens constituted three groups, two originating direct from Rome, the third formed by incorporation: (a) Those who lived in Rome itself or who had been granted individually (viritim) allotments of 3–7 iugera of public land annexed during the conquest of Italy. All these were enrolled in the four urban or thirty-one rustic tribes. (b) The Roman colonies, which comprised about three hundred Roman citizens and their families and were founded on ager publicus. The colonists formed a garrison, not least to protect the coast against hit-and-run raids, and this duty excused them military service in the Roman army. At first they constituted a strong contrast to the older inhabitants who were generally made half-citizens; but they gradually mingled. In early days they must have been subject to some local military authority and control, but its precise nature is uncertain, while the civil competence of magistrates must have been small. Later, however, when after 183 BC the size of new colonies was increased (p. 290), municipal authority was vested in praetors or duoviri. The early citizen colonies were all on the coast (Ostia; Antium 338; Tarracina 329; Minturnae and Sinuessa, 296; Sena Gallica c. 290; and Castrum Novum Etrurii, 264); and they were few in number, because the colonists found it difficult in practice to exercise their rights as Roman citizens, so that Romans preferred to share in Latin colonies which formed autonomous states. (c) Communities incorporated into the Roman state: oppida civium Romanorum, as Tusculum and cities like Lanuvium, Aricia and Nomentum, which were incorporated when the Latin League was dissolved. Called municipalities, in imitation of the proper municipalities of half-citizens, they retained their local magistrates,25 who had, however, limited judicial and financial power. Their proximity to Rome involved supervision by the Roman praetors, while they were not allowed to mint money. But they exercised full political rights in Rome and were registered in the tribes. Occasionally a new tribe would be established to include newly incorporated communities (e.g. the tribes Quirina and Velina for Sabines and Picentes in 241), but generally these were enrolled in neighbouring tribes and new ones were formed only for Roman citizens who received viritane allotments. Finally, another group may be mentioned, namely centres in country districts, Conciliabula and Fora, formed by Roman citizens, originating from Rome. They had incomplete self-government and in time were often transformed into municipalities.

Secondly there were the incorporated cives sine suffragio, who enjoyed only the private rights of provocatio, commercium and conubium; they could not vote in the Roman assemblies or stand for office and were not enrolled in the thirty-five tribes. The earliestmunicipia had been willing allies with full local autonomy (p. 103), but gradually the status of municeps came to be regarded as an inferior limited franchise which was given to conquered peoples (e.g. Sabines and Picentes) before they were considered ripe for full citizenship. Thus their conditions varied considerably. Some were allowed no local government (e.g. Anagnia, which was taken in 306, and Capua after 211); but the majority were allowed to keep their magistrates, local municipal councils and popular assemblies. Roman law was encouraged but perhaps was not enforced. Jurisdiction was divided between the local magistrates and the Roman praetor, who exercised it in Rome itself or else locally through deputies (praefecti); it is uncertain whether such prefects or circuit judges were sent to all municipalities. The local magistrates had fairly extensive powers and their variety was maintained (e.g. meddix at Cumae, dictator at Caere, aedile at Fundi); the local authorities were not adapted to the Roman model as quickly as those of the allies. Local languages persisted and local cults survived, though under supervision by the Roman pontiffs. With certain exceptions, the municipalities were not allowed to mint money, but they enjoyed the civil rights of conubium andcommercium with other Roman citizens. By this training in citizenship they were gradually raised to the privileges of full citizenship, which the Sabines, for instance, received in 268; by about 150 they had disappeared as a class. Thus full or half-citizenship was granted to a large part of central Italy from Latium to Picenum, from sea to sea, including the south of Etruria and the north of Campania.

The rest of Italy was associated with Rome by alliance, and consisted of treaty states (civitates foederatae), whose inhabitants were aliens and allies (peregrini and socii) and not Roman citizens. Each city or state was bound to Rome by a separate treaty, but while many had only the ius peregrinum, others formed a special class of allies with peculiar privileges called the ius Latinum. These allied Latins, who represent the creation of a new Latium after the destruction of the old Latin League, fall into three classes: (a) a few original federal colonies of the Latin League, namely, Signia, Norba, Ardea, Circeii, Nepete, Sutrium and Setia; (b) Latin colonies founded after the Latin War between 338 and 268 and formed partly by Roman colonists who surrendered their citizenship; (c) Latin colonies planted after 268 with restricted ius migrandi (see note 24 above), such as Firmum, Aesernia or Brundisium. All these Latin colonies had complete internal government. They were bound to Rome, not to one another, but this early mutual segregation must gradually have broken down. With Rome they had rights of conubium and commercium, and any of their citizens on migrating to Rome could obtain Roman citizenship, although after 266 he had to leave a son behind in the colony; further, a Latin visiting Rome could vote in an especially allotted tribe. Though Latin colonies had to raise and pay their quota of troops, they did this on their own authority. The number of colonists, which varied in different colonies, was large, varying from 2,500 to 6,000. It was these fortresses, linked closely with the road system, that held Italy together. They guarded southern Etruria and the Adriatic coast and formed an iron ring around the Samnites.

The remainder of Rome’s allies (civitates liberae) were bound to her by treaties, which contained varying conditions; many were bilateral (foedera aequa) but some were unilateral. Like the Latin colonies, these allies had to supply military or naval contingents, which were kept distinct from the citizen troops. The number to be supplied by each state was fixed, but normally it would not be necessary to call up the whole contingent.26 The majority of the allies were free from direct Roman supervision, although Tarentum had to maintain a Roman garrison. They had full independence in civil and ordinary internal affairs, though they tended to adapt their institutions to the Roman model and to refer their disputes to Roman arbitration. Some may have had the right to coin money, but apart from purely local coinage, they soon ceased to use this right. Their citizens were probably limited in the exercise of the rights of commercium and conubium both with Roman citizens and with other allies. In this respect their status may have varied individually in accordance with their previous history: voluntary alliance and alliance imposed by conquest would produce different privileges. Indeed, the units with which the Romans made treaties varied. Their policy was to choose the smallest existing group, either the city as in Etruria and Magna Graecia, or the tribe as among the hills of central Italy. Where an ethnic group, such as the Samnites, appeared dangerous, it was cut down to the minimum by separate alliances with the outlying members; further, it was watched by Latin colonies. Rome ever followed the policy of ‘divide and rule’, and when she had made her divisions she tended to treat each section according to its degree of civilization. Etruria, which was alien alike in language and religion, was not assimilated till after the Social War, while the more cognate Sabines were soon welcomed into Roman citizenship. But ‘divide and rule’ is only a half-truth. By this policy Rome had won the hegemony of Italy; she retained her position only because she welded the divisions into a higher unity.

Such, in brief, was the Roman confederation, ranging from Roman colonies and municipalities of full citizens through municipalities of half-citizens to the allies of the Latin name and other allies of varying privilege. The claims that Rome made on Italy were small compared with the advantages she bestowed, but she did demand some surrender of independent sovereignty and the offering of men and money. Those who received the Roman franchise merely merged their interests with a wider loyalty; of the allies some officially retained their independence, though others surrendered all individual foreign policy. In fact, however, as Rome was so much more powerful than her separate allies, her will was paramount, and she even interfered on occasion with the internal affairs of cities. The main burden imposed by Rome was military service. Both citizens and allies had to supply troops; the former provided a little under half the total force. The allied troops were kept distinct from the Roman citizens, but came under Roman command.

As in military service, so in taxation the citizens and allies were organized separately. All Roman citizens had to pay a direct capital tax according to their capacity; at first this was levied on real property alone, but after 312 the whole personal estate of the taxpayer was included. This tax (tributum) however, was not permanent. It was only levied for military purposes in time of need, and taxpayers might later be reimbursed by the Treasury if it could afford it. The allies, on the other hand, were free from all direct taxation, although any who had settled on Roman state land naturally paid a regular rent (vectigal). Finally, citizens and allies alike were subject to a tariff in the form of customs duties (portoria).

But Rome’s gifts to Italy easily outweighed her impositions. The greatest of these was the pax Romana. Peace was substituted for war as the normal condition. Foreign invaders, except only Hannibal, were held at arm’s length, the coasts were protected by a line of Roman colonies, neighbouring cities could no longer fly at each other’s throats, and party strife within each city was quelled. Rome, who had won her hegemony at the point of the sword, now assumed the roles of judge and policeman. By skilfully grading the status of the various members of the body politic, she avoided the risk that the Italians might develop a sense of unity among themselves as a subject people under the heel of a common mistress. Instead she trained them all to look to her away from one another, and thus she obtained law and order throughout the peninsula as well as the loyal co-operation of its peoples. Rome was the head of a confederacy, not primarily a dominating military power. The pax Romana also fostered the growth of economic life. Except under the Etruscans and

MAP II

among the Greek towns of the south, commerce had been somewhat restricted. Now, protected by Roman law, it could spread throughout Italy along the Roman roads which began to link up the peninsula. The Viae Appia, Latina, Salaria, Flaminia, Clodia and Aurelia were the real arteries of the economic life of Italy, which was further united when Roman coinage began to oust local currencies. Other public works beside roads, such as bridges, aqueducts and drains benefited Italy. The roads also helped to diffuse Roman culture. The Romans did not impose their civilization on Italy, but just as they themselves succumbed to Greek cultural influences from southern Italy, so their own civilization now penetrated slowly throughout Italy. Local languages, customs and cults gradually gave place to a common culture based on the Latin tongue and Roman law, and very slowly but surely the various races of Italy became a nation.

The creation of a confederacy which gave the whole of Italy some kind of political, economic and social unity was a landmark in the political history of the ancient world. It was not an enlarged commonwealth like Sparta with her perioikoi, nor a confederation of separate sovereign states such as the Panhellenic League of Corinth founded by Philip II and upheld by Alexander; it was not a federal state of the type created by a king, as Thessaly, or a league that grew out of a cantonal commune, as the Aetolian League, or a league of cities, as the Achaean; nor was it the imperial rule of a city-state over subject communities, as the Athenian land-empire of Pericles. It was a new creation which blended many of these principles into a unique confederacy. By about 260 BC it extended for some 52,000 square miles, of which about 10,000 consisted of Roman territory; of the remaining 42,000 square miles of allied territory the Latins occupied nearly 5,000. It thus exceeded the empires of Macedonia, Carthage and the Ptolemies; it was inferior in size only to the Seleucid kingdom. The adult male Roman citizens numbered 292,000 in 264 BC. The allies, excluding the southern Greeks and Bruttians, could supply 375,000 regular troops in 225 BC; perhaps this figure should be doubled to represent the total number of adult male allies. That is, the Roman and allied adult males numbered over one million, although not all would be fit for active military service. The Roman citizens and their families numbered nearly one million, the allies double that figure; perhaps nearly a quarter of the allies enjoyed Latin rights. This total of some three million was small compared to the thirty million of the Seleucids, the ten millions of the Ptolemies, the five millions of the Carthaginian empire; it approximated to the population of Macedonia.27 But though the numbers were small, the military experience and the moral qualities of the old Roman character easily counter-balanced the hordes of Syria. Rome had become a world power, and when once the Carthaginian Empire had been broken there was no other military power in the whole Mediterranean basin that could meet her on equal terms.

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