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A military diploma, or certificate of successful military service, granting citizenship to a retiring soldier and the dependents he had with him at the time. The key phrase is "est civitas eis data" where civitas means citizenship. Roman military diploma Carnuntum 02.jpg
A military diploma, or certificate of successful military service, granting citizenship to a retiring soldier and the dependents he had with him at the time. The key phrase is "est civitas eis data" where civitas means citizenship.

In the history of Rome, the Latin term civitas (Latin pronunciation:  [ˈkiːwɪtaːs] ; plural civitates), according to Cicero in the time of the late Roman Republic, was the social body of the cives, or citizens, united by law (concilium coetusque hominum jure sociati). It is the law that binds them together, giving them responsibilities (munera) on the one hand and rights of citizenship on the other. The agreement (concilium) has a life of its own, creating a res publica or "public entity" (synonymous with civitas), into which individuals are born or accepted, and from which they die or are ejected. The civitas is not just the collective body of all the citizens, it is the contract binding them all together, because each of them is a civis. [1]

Rome Capital of Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Cicero 1st-century BC Roman lawyer, orator, philosopher and statesman

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher, who served as consul in the year 63 BC. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.


Civitas is an abstract formed from civis. Claude Nicolet [2] traces the first word and concept for the citizen at Rome to the first known instance resulting from the synoecism of Romans and Sabines presented in the legends of the Roman Kingdom. According to Livy [3] the two peoples participated in a ceremony of union after which they were named Quirites after the Sabine town of Cures. The two groups became the first curiae, subordinate assemblies, from co-viria ("fellow assemblymen," where vir is "man," as only men participated in government). The Quirites were the co-viri. The two peoples had acquired one status. The Latin for the Sabine Quirites was cives, which in one analysis came from the Indo-European *kei-, "lie down" in the sense of incumbent, member of the same house. City, civic, civil all come from this root. Two peoples were now under the same roof, so to speak. [4]

Claude Nicolet was a 20th-21st century French historian, a specialist of the institutions and political ideas of ancient Rome.

Synoecism originally the amalgamation of villages in Ancient Greece into poleis, or city-states

Synoecism or synecism, also spelled synoikism, was originally the amalgamation of villages in Ancient Greece into poleis, or city-states. Etymologically the word means "dwelling together (syn) in the same house (oikos)." Subsequently, any act of civic union between polities of any size was described by the word synoikismos. The closest analogy today is the incorporation of a city; in fact, "incorporation" is often used to translate synoikismos, in addition to the Latinized synoecism. Synoecism is opposed to Greek dioecism, the creation of independent communities within the territory of a polis.

Sabines ancient Italic tribe

The Sabines were an Italic people that lived in the central Apennine Mountains of ancient Italy, also inhabiting Latium north of the Anio before the founding of Rome.

Civitas was a popular and widely used word in ancient Rome, with reflexes in modern times. Over the centuries the usage broadened into a spectrum of meaning cited by the larger Latin dictionaries: [5] it could mean in addition to the citizenship established by the constitution the legal city-state, or res publica, the populus of that res publica (not people as people but people as citizens), any city state either proper or state-like, even ideal, or (mainly under the empire) the physical city, or urbs. Under that last meaning some places took on the name, civitas, or incorporated it into their name, with the later civita or civida as reflexes.

Types of civitates

As the empire grew, inhabitants of the outlying Roman provinces would either be classed as dediticii, meaning "capitulants", or be treated as client kingdoms with some independence guaranteed through treaties. There were three categories of autonomous native communities under Roman rule: the highest, civitates foederatae ("allied states"), were formed with formally independent and equal cities, and sealed by a common treaty ( foedus ); next came the civitates liberae ("free states"), which indicated communities that had been granted specific privileges by Rome, often in the form of tax immunity (hence liberae et immunes); the final, and by far most common group, were the civitates stipendariae ("tributary states"), which while retaining their internal legal autonomy were obliged to pay tax.

Roman province Major Roman administrative territorial entity outside of Italy

The Roman provinces were the lands and people outside of Rome itself that were controlled by the Republic and later the Empire. Each province was ruled by a Roman who was appointed as governor. Although different in many ways, they were similar to the states in Australia or the United States, the regions in the United Kingdom or New Zealand, or the prefectures in Japan. Canada refers to some of its territory as provinces.

Prestigious and economically important settlements such as Massilia and Messana are examples of occupied regions granted semi-autonomy during the Roman Republic. The island of Malta was granted this status as a reward for loyalty to Rome during the Second Punic War. The new Romanised urban settlements of these client tribes were also called civitates and were usually re-founded close to the site of an old, pre-Roman capital. At Cirencester, for example, the Romans made use of the army base that originally oversaw the nearby tribal oppidum to create a civitas.

Marseille Second-largest city of France and prefecture of Provence-Alpes-Côte dAzur

Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is located on the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the Rhône. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 869,815 in 2016. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after those of Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.

Roman Republic Period of ancient Roman civilization (509–27 BC)

The Roman Republic was the era of classical Roman civilization beginning with the overthrow of the Roman Kingdom, traditionally dated to 509 BC, and ending in 27 BC with the establishment of the Roman Empire. It was during this period that Rome's control expanded from the city's immediate surroundings to hegemony over the entire Mediterranean world.

Malta island republic in Europe

Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. With a population of about 475,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi), Malta is the world's tenth smallest and fifth most densely populated country. Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.8 km². The official languages are Maltese and English, with Maltese officially recognised as the national language and the only Semitic language in the European Union.

During the later empire, the term was applied not only to friendly native tribes and their towns but also to local government divisions in peaceful provinces that carried out civil administration. Land destined to become a civitas was officially divided up, some being granted to the locals and some being owned by the civil government. A basic street grid would be surveyed in but the development of the civitas from there was left to the inhabitants although occasional imperial grants for new public buildings would be made.

A local government is a form of public administration which, in a majority of contexts, exists as the lowest tier of administration within a given state. The term is used to contrast with offices at state level, which are referred to as the central government, national government, or federal government and also to supranational government which deals with governing institutions between states. Local governments generally act within powers delegated to them by legislation or directives of the higher level of government. In federal states, local government generally comprises the third tier of government, whereas in unitary states, local government usually occupies the second or third tier of government, often with greater powers than higher-level administrative divisions.

Tacitus describes how the Romanised Britons embraced the new urban centres:

They spoke of such novelties as 'civilisation', when this was really only a feature of their slavery (Agricola, 21)

The civitates differed from the less well-planned vici that grew up haphazardly around military garrisons; coloniae, which were settlements of retired troops; and municipia, formal political entities created from existing settlements. The civitates were regional market towns complete with a basilica and forum complex providing an administrative and economic focus. Civitates had a primary purpose of stimulating the local economy in order to raise taxes and produce raw materials. All this activity was administered by an ordo or curia, a civitas council consisting of men of sufficient social rank to be able to stand for public office.

Defensive measures were limited at the civitates, rarely more than palisaded earthworks in times of trouble, if even that. Towards the end of the empire, the civitates' own local militias, led by a decurion, likely served as the only defensive force in outlying Romanised areas threatened by barbarians. There is evidence that some civitates maintained some degree of Romanisation and served as population centres beyond the official Roman withdrawal, albeit with limited resources.

Certain civitates groups survived as distinct tribal groupings even beyond the fall of the Roman Empire, particularly in Britain and northern Spain. [ citation needed ]

See also


  1. Smith, William (1875). "CIVITAS (ROMAN)". A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities. London: John Murray. pp. 291–293.
  2. Nicolet, Claude (1980) [1976]. The world of the citizen in republican Rome. P.S. Falla (trans.). Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. pp. 21–23.
  3. History of Rome I.13.4.
  4. Partridge, Eric (1983). "city". Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English. Now York: Greenwich House.
  5. Lewis, Charlton T.; Short, Charles (2007) [1879]. "Civitas". A Latin Dictionary. Oxford; Medford: Clarendon Press; Perseus Digital Library.

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