Municipium

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Municipium (pl. municipia) was the Latin term for a town or city. [1] Etymologically the municipium was a social contract between 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. [2]

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The distinction of municipia was not made in the Roman kingdom; instead, the immediate neighbors of the city were invited or compelled to transfer their populations to the urban structure of Rome, where they took up residence in neighborhoods and became Romans per se. Under the Roman Republic the practical considerations of incorporating communities into the city-state of Rome forced the Romans to devise the concept of municipium, a distinct state under the jurisdiction of Rome. It was necessary to distinguish various types of municipia and other settlements, such as the colony. In the early Roman Empire these distinctions began to disappear; for example, when Pliny the Elder served in the Roman army, the distinctions were only nominal. In the final stage of development, all citizens of all cities and towns throughout the empire were equally citizens of Rome. The municipium then simply meant municipality, the lowest level of local government.

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.

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization. Ruled by emperors, it had large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. From the constitutional reforms of Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, the Empire was a principate ruled from Italy, homeland of the Romans and metropole of the empire, with the city of Rome as capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided in a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus after capturing Ravenna and the Senate of Rome sent the imperial regalia to Constantinople. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to barbarian kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

Pliny the Elder Roman military commander and writer

Pliny the Elder was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian.

Creation of a municipium

The munera and the citizenship and its rights and protections were specific to the community. No matter where a person lived, at home or abroad, or what his status or class, he was a citizen of the locality in which he was born. The distinguishing characteristic of the municipium was self-governance. Like any ancient city-state, the municipium was created by an official act of synoecism, or founding. This act removed the sovereignty and independence from the signatory local communities, replacing them with the jurisdiction of a common government. This government was then called the res publica, "public affair" or in the Greek world the koinon, "common affair."

Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a state, by a market or by a network – over a social system and whether through the laws, norms, power or language of an organized society. It relates to "the processes of interaction and decision-making among the actors involved in a collective problem that lead to the creation, reinforcement, or reproduction of social norms and institutions". In lay terms, it could be described as the political processes that exist in and between formal institutions.

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.

The term municipium began to be used with reference to the city-states of Italy brought into the city-state of Rome but not incorporated into the city. The city of Romulus synoecized the nearby settlements of Latium, transferring their populations to the seven hills, where they resided in typically distinct neighborhoods. And yet, Sabines continued to live in the Sabine Hills and Alba Longa continued even though synoecized. The exact sequence of events is not known, whether the populace was given a choice or the synoecized sites were reoccupied. As it is unlikely that all the Sabines were invited to Rome, where facilities to feed and house them did not yet exist, it seems clear that population transfer was only offered to some. The rest continued on as independent localities under the ultimate governance of Rome. Under the Roman Republic the impracticality of transferring numerous large city-states to Rome was manifest. The answer to the problem was the municipium. The town would be partially synoecized. The local government would remain but to its munera would be added munera due to the city of Rome. The partial synoecism took the form of a charter granting incorporation into the city of Rome and defining the rights and responsibilities of the citizens. The first municipium was Tusculum.

Romulus one of the twin brothers of Romes foundation myth

Romulus was the legendary founder and first king of Rome. Various traditions attribute the establishment of many of Rome's oldest legal, political, religious, and social institutions to Romulus and his contemporaries. Although many of these traditions incorporate elements of folklore, and it is not clear to what extent a historical figure underlies the mythical Romulus, the events and institutions ascribed to him were central to the myths surrounding Rome's origins and cultural traditions.

Latium region of central western Italy in which city of Rome was founded

Latium is the region of central western Italy in which the city of Rome was founded and grew to be the capital city of the Roman Empire. Latium was originally a small triangle of fertile, volcanic soil on which resided the tribe of the Latins or Latians. It was located on the left bank of the River Tiber, extending northward to the River Anio and southeastward to the Pomptina Palus as far south as the Circeian promontory. The right bank of the Tiber was occupied by the Etruscan city of Veii, and the other borders were occupied by Italic tribes. Subsequently, Rome defeated Veii and then its Italic neighbours, expanding Latium to the Apennine Mountains in the northeast and to the opposite end of the marsh in the southeast. The modern descendant, the Italian Regione of Lazio, also called Latium in Latin, and occasionally in modern English, is somewhat larger still, but not as much as double the original Latium.

Alba Longa Ancient city of Latium in central Italy

Alba Longa was an ancient Latin city in Central Italy, 19 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of Rome, in the Alban Hills. Founder and head of the Latin League, it was destroyed by the Roman Kingdom around the middle of the 7th century BC, and its inhabitants were forced to settle in Rome. In legend, Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, had come from the royal dynasty of Alba Longa, which in Virgil's Aeneid had been the bloodline of Aeneas, a son of Venus.

Two orders of the municipia

The citizens of municipia of the first order held full Roman citizenship and their rights (civitas optimo iure) included the right to vote, which was the ultimate right in Rome, and a sure sign of full rights.

Roman citizenship

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

Rights are legal, social, or ethical principles of freedom or entitlement; that is, rights are the fundamental normative rules about what is allowed of people or owed to people, according to some legal system, social convention, or ethical theory. Rights are of essential importance in such disciplines as law and ethics, especially theories of justice and deontology.

The second order of municipia comprised important tribal centres which had come under Roman control. Residents of these did not become full Roman citizens (although their magistrates could become so after retirement). They were given the duties of full citizens in terms of liability to taxes and military service, but not all of the rights: most significantly, they had no right to vote.

In anthropology, a tribe is a human social group. Exact definitions of what constitutes a tribe vary among anthropologists. The concept is often contrasted with other social groups concepts, such as nations, states, and forms of kinship.

Residency is the act of establishing or maintaining a residence in a given place. Residency is a concept which heavily affects the legal rights and responsibilities that are available to a person, including eligibility to vote, eligibility to stand for political office, eligibility to access government services, responsibility to pay taxes, and on and so forth.

Duty commitment or obligation to someone or something or to perform an action on the behalf of

A duty is a commitment or expectation to perform some action in general or if certain circumstances arise. A duty may arise from a system of ethics or morality, especially in an honor culture. Many duties are created by law, sometimes including a codified punishment or liability for non-performance. Performing one's duty may require some sacrifice of self-interest.

Executive power in municipium was held by four annually elected officials, composed of two duumvirs and two aediles. Advisory powers were held by the decurions, appointed members of the local equivalent to the senate. In later years, these became hereditary.

Examples for grants of municipia

  1. Volubilis in the province of Mauretania (modern day Morocco) was promoted to a municipium by the Emperor Claudius as a reward for its help in a revolt in AD 40–41
  2. The Emperor Vespasian granted 'Latin Rights' to the provinces of Hispania (Tarraconensis, Baetica, Lusitania) in AD 73 or 74
  3. One Marcus Servilius Draco Albucianus, from Tripolitania successfully petitioned Rome to grant the status of municipium on his town [3]

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References

  1. Peter Garnsey (1987). The Roman Empire: Economy, Society, and Culture. University of California Press. pp. 27–. ISBN   978-0-520-06067-8.
  2. Frank Frost Abbott, Municipal Administration in the Roman Empire (1926), Read Books, 2007, p.8
  3. Edmondson, J., 2006, “Cities and urban life in the Western provinces of the Roman Empire, 30BC – 250AD”, in Potter, D.S, A Companion to the Roman Empire, Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, pp. 250–280