Local government (ancient Roman)

Last updated

The Romans used provincial and local governments to govern conquered territories without having to rule them directly.


Although Rome ruled a vast empire, it needed strikingly few imperial officials to run it. This relatively light ruling administrative overview was made possible by the tendency to leave to local government much administrative business and to private enterprise many of the tasks associated with governments in the modern world. Especially important within this system was the city, where the magistrates, councils, and assemblies of urban centers governed themselves and areas of the countryside around them. These cities could vary enormously both in population and territory from the tiny Greek poleis of several hundred citizens to the great metropoleis such as Alexandria or Antioch. Despite these differences, these cities shared certain governmental structures and were free, in varying degrees depending on the community’s status, to manage their own affairs.

There were also important differences in the statuses of communities, which were arranged in a hierarchy of prestige, with Roman coloniae at the top, followed by municipia (some of which had full citizen rights, others, the Latin rights), and cities that had no citizenship rights at all. Cities in this last group could be tribute-paying cities (civitates), free cities (civitates liberae), and free cities with treaties (civitates liberae et foederatae)


Romans began founding coloniae in conquered territory for security, sending their own citizens out from Rome. In the earliest period, colonies fell into two classes, coloniae civium Romanorum ("colonies of Roman citizens") and coloniae Latinorum ("colonies of Latins"), depending on their respective political rights. At first, the establishment of a colony required that a law be passed in Rome in the popular assembly. During the civil discord of the late Republic and triumvirate, colonies were founded on the whim of dynasts such as Sulla and Julius Caesar without such a law.

Colonies were modeled closely on the Roman constitution, with roles being defined for magistrates, council, and assemblies. Colonists enjoyed full Roman citizenship and were thus extensions of Rome itself. Beginning in 118 BC in Gallia Narbonensis, colonies began to be established in Rome's provinces, and from this point onwards coloniae were especially used for settling demobilized soldiers and in programs of agrarian reform.


The second most prestigious class of cities was the municipium (plural municipia). Municipia had originally been communities of non-citizens among Rome's Italic allies. Following the Social War, Roman citizenship was awarded to all Italy, with the result that a municipium was effectively now a community of citizens.

The category was also used in the provinces to describe cities that used Roman law but were not colonies.


Related Research Articles

<i>Polis</i> Ancient Greek social and political organisation

Polis, plural poleis, literally means "city" in Greek. In Ancient Greece, it originally referred to an administrative and religious city center, as distinct from the rest of the city. Later, it also came to mean the body of citizens under a city's jurisdiction. In modern historiography, the term is normally used to refer to the ancient Greek city-states, such as Classical Athens and its contemporaries, and thus is often translated as "city-state". This term, a calque of the German Stadtstaat, does not fully translate the Greek term. The poleis were not like other primordial ancient city-states like Tyre or Sidon, which were ruled by a king or a small oligarchy; rather, they were political entities ruled by their bodies of citizens.

Roman citizenship Citizenship in ancient Rome

Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to free individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance.

Municipium is the Latin term for a town or city. Etymologically the municipium was a social contract among municipes, the "duty holders", or citizens of the town. The duties, or munera, were a communal obligation assumed by the municipes in exchange for the privileges and protections of citizenship. Every citizen was a municeps.

Metropole Homeland of a colonial empire

The metropole is the homeland or central territory of a colonial empire. The term was mainly used in the scope of the British, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Ottoman empires to designate their European territories, as opposed to their colonial or overseas territories.

<i>Constitutio Antoniniana</i> Edict issued by Roman Emperor Caracalla (212)

The Constitutio Antoniniana was an edict issued on 11 July in AD 212, by the Roman Emperor Caracalla. It declared that all free men in the Roman Empire were to be given full Roman citizenship and that all free women in the Empire were to be given the same rights as Roman women, with the exception of the dediticii, people who had become subject to Rome through surrender in war, and freed slaves.

Roman Italy Italian peninsula during the Ancient Rome

Italia was the homeland of the Romans and metropole of Rome's empire in classical antiquity. According to Roman mythology, Italy was the ancestral home promised by Jupiter to Aeneas of Troy and his descendants, who were the founders of Rome. Aside from the legendary accounts, Rome was an Italic city-state that changed its form of government from kingdom to republic and then grew within the context of a peninsula dominated by the Gauls, Ligures, Veneti, Camunni and Histri in the North, the Etruscans, Latins, Falisci, Picentes and Umbri tribes in the Centre, and the Iapygian tribes, the Oscan tribes and Greek colonies in the South.

Latin Rights Ancient Roman set of legal rights

Latin Rights were a set of legal rights that were originally granted to the Latins under Roman law in their original territory and therefore in their colonies. "Latinitas" was commonly used by Roman jurists to denote this status. With the Roman expansion in Italy, many settlements and coloniae outside of Latium had Latin rights.

<i>Civitas</i> Roman concept of citizenry as an entity, and by extension the city or province of the citizens

In the history of Rome, the Latin term civitas, according to Cicero in the time of the late Roman Republic, was the social body of the cives, or citizens, united by law. 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", 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.


The duumviri, originally duoviri and also known in English as the duumvirs, were any of various joint magistrates of ancient Rome. Such pairs of magistrates were appointed at various periods of Roman history both in Rome itself and in the colonies and municipia.

Sicilia (Roman province) Roman province

Sicilia was the first province acquired by the Roman Republic, encompassing the island of Sicily. The western part of the island was brought under Roman control in 241 BC at the conclusion of the First Punic War with Carthage. A praetor was regularly assigned to the island from c.227 BC. The Kingdom of Syracuse under Hieron II remained an independent ally of Rome until its defeat in 212 BC during the Second Punic War. Thereafter the province included the whole of the island of Sicily, the island of Malta, and the smaller island groups.

Social class in ancient Rome Roman hierarchical social status and afforded rights

Social class in ancient Rome was hierarchical, with multiple and overlapping social hierarchies. An individual's relative position in one might be higher or lower than in another, which complicated the social composition of Rome.

Romanization or Latinization, in the historical and cultural meanings of both terms, indicate different historical processes, such as acculturation, integration and assimilation of newly incorporated and peripheral populations by the Roman Republic and the later Roman Empire. Ancient Roman historiography and Italian historiography until the fascist period used to call the various processes the "civilizing of barbarians".

Colonia (Roman) Roman outpost established in conquered territory to secure it

A Roman colonia was originally a Roman outpost established in conquered territory to secure it. Eventually, however, the term came to denote the highest status of a Roman city.

Vicus Kind of populated place in the Roman Empire

In Ancient Rome, the vicus designated a village within a rural area (pagus) or the neighbourhood of a larger settlement. During the Republican era, the four regiones of the city of Rome were subdivided into vici. In the 1st century BC, Augustus reorganized the city for administrative purposes into 14 regions, comprising 265 vici. Each vicus had its own board of officials who oversaw local matters. These administrative divisions are recorded as still in effect at least until the mid-4th century.

Peregrinus (Roman) Free provincial subject of the Roman Empire who was not a Roman citizen

Peregrinus was the term used during the early Roman empire, from 30 BC to AD 212, to denote a free provincial subject of the Empire who was not a Roman citizen. Peregrini constituted the vast majority of the Empire's inhabitants in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. In AD 212, all free inhabitants of the Empire were granted citizenship by the constitutio Antoniniana, with the exception of the dediticii, people who had become subject to Rome through surrender in war, and freed slaves.

Switzerland in the Roman era History of Switzerland, 2nd century BC to 5th century AD

The territory of modern Switzerland was a part of the Roman Republic and Empire for a period of about six centuries, beginning with the step-by-step conquest of the area by Roman armies from the 2nd century BC and ending with the decline of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD.

A civitas foederata, meaning "allied state/community", was the most elevated type of autonomous cities and local communities under Roman rule.

The Lex Pompeia de Transpadanis was a Roman law promulgated by the Roman Consul Pompeius Strabo in 89 BC. It was one of three laws introduced by the Romans during the Social War between Rome and her Socii (allies), where some of Rome's Italic allies rebelled and waged war against her because of her refusal to grant them Roman citizenship. This law dealt with the local communities in Transpadana, the region north of the River Po,. It granted Latin Rights to these peoples as a reward for siding with the Rome during the Social War. This gave the inhabitants of the region the legal benefits associated with these rights, which were previously restricted to the towns of Latium which had not been incorporated into the Roman Republic and to the citizens of Latin colonies. They included: A) Ius Commercii, "a privilege granted to Latin colonies to have contractual relations, to trade with Roman citizens on equal terms and to use the form of contracts available to Roman citizens". It also allowed contracts and trade on equal terms with citizens of another Latin towns. B) Ius Connubii, was the right to conclude a marriage recognised by law, ius connubii of both parties was necessary for the validity of the marriage. Later it was extended to citizens of foreign communities "either generally, or by special concession". In the case of Latin rights it made marriages between citizens of different Latin towns legal. C) Ius migrationis, the right to retain one’s level of citizenship if the individual relocated to another city. In other words, it facilitated migration by the acquisition of citizenship of another Latin town. In addition to this, the law granted Roman citizenship to the magistrates (officials) of the local towns.

A civitas stipendaria or stipendiaria, meaning "tributary state/community", was the lowest and most common type of towns and local communities under Roman rule.

Roman colonies in Berber Africa

Roman colonies in Berber Africa are the cities—populated by Roman citizens—created in Berber North Africa by the Roman Empire, mainly in the period between the reigns of Augustus and Trajan. These colonies were created in the area—now called Tamazgha by the Berbers—located between Morocco and Libyan Tripolitania.