Chief Roman Provinces (with dates of their acquisition or organization): Total, 32. Many of the main provinces were subdivided into smaller provinces, each under a separate governor—making the total number of provincial governors more than one hundred. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

1) Western.
Spain (205-19 B.C.).
Gaul (France, 120-17 B.C.).
Britain (A.D. 43-84).
2) Central.
Rhaetia et Vindelicia (roughly Switzerland, northern Italy15 B.C.).
Noricum (Austria, Slovenia, 15 B.C.).
Pannonia (western Hungary, eastern Austria, northern Croatia, north-western Serbia, northern Slovenia, western Slovakia and northern Bosnia and Herzegovina. A.D. 10).
3) Eastern.
Illyricum (northern Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and coastal Croatia, 167-59 B.C.).
Macedonia (northern Greece, modern Macedonia, 146 B.C.).
Achaia (western Greece, 146 B.C.).
Moesia (Central Serbia, Kosovo, northern modern Macedonia, northern Bulgaria and Romanian Dobrudja 20 B.C.).
Thrace (northeast Greece, A.D. 40).
Dacia (Romania, A.D. 107). \~\

Africa proper (Libya, former Carthage, 146 B.C.).
Cyrenaica and Crete (74, 63 B.C.).
Numidia (Algeria, small parts of Tunisia, Libya, 46 B.C.).
Egypt (30 B.C.).
Mauretania (western Algeria, Morocco, A.D. 42). \~\


1) In Asia Minor (Anatolia, modern Turkey)
Asia proper (western Turkey133 B.C.).
Bithynia et Pontus (northern Turkey, south of the Black Sea, 74, 65 B.C.).
Cilicia (southeast coast of Turkey, 67 B.C.).
Galatia (central Turkey, 25 B.C.).
Pamphylia et Lycia (southwest Turkey, 25, A.D. 43).
Cappadocia (eastern Turkey, A.D. 17).
2) In Southwestern Asia.
Syria (64 B.C.).
Judea (Israel, 63 - A.D. 70).
Arabia Petraea (A.D. 105).
Armenia (A.D. 114).
Mesopotamia (A.D. 115).
Assyria (A.D. 115). \~\

Sicily (241 B.C.).
Sardinia et Corsica (238 B.C.).
Cyprus (58 B.C.). \~\

Websites on Ancient Rome: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity ; Forum Romanum ; “Outlines of Roman History”; “The Private Life of the Romans”|; BBC Ancient Rome; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; Lacus Curtius; The Roman Empire in the 1st Century; The Internet Classics Archive ; Bryn Mawr Classical Review; De Imperatoribus Romanis: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors; British Museum; Oxford Classical Art Research Center: The Beazley Archive ; Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Internet Classics Archive ; Cambridge Classics External Gateway to Humanities Resources; Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy;
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Ancient Rome resources for students from the Courtenay Middle School Library ; History of ancient Rome OpenCourseWare from the University of Notre Dame / ; United Nations of Roma Victrix (UNRV) History

Sovereign Roman State

To understand properly the history of Rome, we must study not only the way in which she conquered her territory, but also the way in which she organized and governed it. The study of her wars and battles is less important than the study of her policy. Rome was always learning lessons in the art of government. As she grew in power, she also grew in political wisdom. With every extension of her territory, she was obliged to extend her authority as a sovereign power. If we would comprehend the political system which grew up in Italy, we must keep clearly in mind the distinction between the people who made up the sovereign body of the state, and the people who made up the subject communities of Italy. Just as in early times we saw two distinct bodies, the patrician body, which ruled the state, and the plebeian body, which was subject to the state; so now we shall see, on the one hand, a ruling body of citizens, who lived in and outside the city upon the Roman domain (ager Romanus), and on the other hand, a subject body of people, living in towns and cities throughout the rest of Italy. In other words, we shall see a part of the territory and people incorporated into the state, and another part unincorporated—the one a sovereign community, and the other comprising a number of subject communities. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

The Roman domain proper, or the ager Romanus, was that part of the territory in which the people became incorporated into the state, and were admitted to the rights of citizenship. It was the sovereign domain of the Roman people. This domain land, or incorporated territory, had been gradually growing while the conquest of Italy was going on. It now included, speaking generally, the most of Latium, northern Campania, southern Etruria, the Sabine country, Picenum, and a part of Umbria. There were a few towns within this area, like Tibur and Praeneste, which were not incorporated, and hence not a part of the domain land, but retained the position of subject allies. \~\

The Thirty-three Tribes: Within the Roman domain were the local tribes, which had now increased in number to thirty-three. They included four urban tribes, that is, the wards of the city, and twenty-nine rural tribes, which were like townships in the country. All the persons who lived in these tribal districts and were enrolled, formed a part of the sovereign body of the Roman people, that is, they had a share in the government, in making the laws, and in electing the magistrates. \~\

Roman Colonies and Subject Communities in the Early Republic

Spread of Roman power over Italy

The colonies of citizens sent out by Rome were allowed to retain all their rights of citizenship, being permitted even to come to Rome at any time to vote and help make the laws. These colonies of Roman citizens thus formed a part of the sovereign state; and their territory, wherever it might be situated, was regarded as a part of the ager Romanus. Such were the colonies along the seacoast, the most important of which were situated on the shores of Latium and of adjoining lands. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

The Roman Municipia: Rome incorporated into her territory some of the conquered towns under the name of municipia, which possessed all the burdens and some of the rights of citizenship. At first, such towns (like Caere) received the private but not the public rights (civitas sine suffragio),—see page 64,—and the towns might govern themselves or be governed by a prefect sent from Rome. In time, however, the municipia obtained not only local self-government but also full Roman citizenship; and this arrangement was the basis of the Roman municipal system of later times. \~\

The Subject Territory: Over against this sovereign body of citizens living upon the ager Romanus, were the subject communities scattered throughout the length and breadth of the peninsula. The inhabitants of this territory had no share in the Roman government. Neither could they declare war, make peace, form alliances, or coin money, without the consent of Rome. Although they might have many privileges given to them, and might govern themselves in their own cities, they formed no part of the sovereign body of the Roman people. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

The Latin Colonies: One part of the subject communities of Italy comprised the Latin colonies. These were the military garrisons which Rome sent out to hold in subjection a conquered city or territory. They were generally made up of veteran soldiers, or sometimes of poor Roman citizens, who were placed upon the conquered land and who ruled the conquered people. But such garrisons did not retain the full rights of citizens. They lost the political rights, and generally the conubium (p. 64), but retained the commercium. These colonies, scattered as they were throughout Italy, carried with them the Latin language and the Roman spirit, and thus aided in extending the influence of Rome. \~\

The Italian Allies: The largest part of the subject communities were the Italian cities which were conquered and left free to govern themselves, but which were bound to Rome by a special treaty. They were obliged to recognize the sovereign power of Rome. They were not subject to the land tax which fell upon Roman citizens, but were obliged to furnish troops for the Roman army in times of war. These cities of Italy, thus held in subjection to Rome by a special treaty, were known as federated cities (civitates foederatae), or simply as allies (socii); they formed the most important part of the Italian population not incorporated into the Roman state. \~\

This method of governing Italy was, in some respects, based upon the policy which had formerly been adopted for the government of Latium. The important distinction between Romans, Latins, and Italians continued until the “social war”. \~\

Administration of Rome and Italy

After more than a hundred years of civil war Rome was in need of some improvement to say the least. Augustus met this need by creating certain new officers to keep the city under better control. In the first place, he established a city police under the charge of a chief (praefectus urbi), to preserve order and prevent the scenes of violence which had been of such frequent occurrence. In the next place, he created a fire and detective department under the charge of another chief (praefectus vigilum), to have jurisdiction over all incendiaries, burglars, and other night-prowlers. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

“He then placed the grain supply under a regular officer (praefectus annonae) who was to superintend the transport of grain from Egypt, and was held responsible for its proper distribution. Moreover, he broke up the “secret clubs” which had been hotbeds of disorder, and substituted in their place more orderly societies under the supervision of the government. For administrative purposes the city was divided into fourteen districts, or wards. By these arrangements, life and property became more secure, and the populace became more orderly and law-abiding. \~\

“Italy was now extended to the Alps, the province of Cisalpine Gaul having lately been joined to the peninsula. The whole of Italy was divided by Augustus into eleven “regions,” or administrative districts. In order to maintain the splendid system of roads which had been constructed during the republican period, the emperor appointed a superintendent of highways (curator viarurn) to keep them in repair. He also established a post system by which the different parts of the peninsula could be kept in communication with one another. He suppressed brigandage by establishing military patrols in the dangerous districts. It was his policy to encourage everywhere the growth of a healthy and vigorous municipal life. To relieve the poverty of Italy he continued the plan of Julius Caesar in sending out colonies into the provinces, where there were better opportunities to make a living.” \~\

Administration of the Provinces

Roman stndards

During the reign of Augustus the number of provinces was increased by taking in the outlying territory south of the Rhine and the Danube. The new frontier provinces were Rhaetia, Noricum, Pannonia, and Moesia. The provinces were not only increased in number, but were thoroughly reorganized. They were first divided into two groups,—the senatorial, or those which remained under the control of the senate; and the imperial, or those which passed under the control of the emperor. The latter were generally on the frontiers, and required the presence of an army and a military governor. The governors of the imperial provinces were lieutenants (legati) of the emperor. Appointed by him, and strictly responsible to him, they were no longer permitted to prey upon their subjects, but were obliged to rule in the name of the emperor, and for the welfare of the people. The senatorial provinces, on the other hand, were still under the control of proconsuls and propraetors appointed by the senate. But the condition of these provinces was also greatly improved. The establishment of the new government thus proved to be a great benefit to the provincials. Their property became more secure, their commerce revived, their cities became prosperous, and their lives were made more tolerable. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

Suetonius wrote: “After having thus set the city and its affairs in order, he added to the population of Italy by personally establishing twenty-eight colonies; furnished many parts of it with public buildings and revenues; and even gave it, at least to some degree, equal rights and dignity with the city of Rome, by devising a kind of votes which the members of the local Senate were to cast in each colony for candidates for the city offices and send under seal to Rome against the day of the elections. To keep up the supply of men of rank and induce the commons to increase and multiply, he admitted to the equestrian military careera those who were recommended by any town, while to those of the commons who could lay claim to legitimate sons or daughters when he made his rounds of the districts he distributed a thousand sesterces for each child. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.): “De Vita Caesarum--Divus Augustus” (“The Lives of the Caesars--The Deified Augustus”), written A.D. c. 110, “Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum,” 2 Vols., trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1920), pp. 123-287]

“The stronger provinces, which could neither easily nor safely be governed by annual magistrates, he took to himself; the others he assigned to proconsular governors selected by lot. But he changed some of them at times from one class to the other, and often visited many of both sorts. Certain of the cities which had treaties with Rome, but were on the road to ruin through their lawlessness, he deprived of their independence; he relieved others that were overwhelmed with debt, rebuilt some which had been destroyed by earthquakes, and gave Latin rights or full citizenship to such as could point to services rendered the Roman people. I believe there is no province, excepting only Africa and Sardinia, which he did not visit; and he was planning to cross to these from Sicily after his defeat of Sextus Pompeius, but was prevented by a series of violent storms, and later had neither opportunity nor occasion to make the voyage.

“Except in a few instances he restored the kingdoms of which he gained possession by the right of conquest to those from whom he had taken them or joined them with other foreign nations. He also united the kings with whom he was in alliance by mutual ties, and was very ready to propose or favour intermarriages or friendships among them. He never failed to treat them all with consideration as integral parts of the empire, regularly appointing a guardian for such as were too young to rule or whose minds were affected, until they grew up or recovered; and he brought up the children of many of them and educated them with his own.”

With the division of the provinces, the administration of the finances was also divided between the senate and the emperor. The revenues of the senatorial provinces went into the treasury of the senate, or the aerarium; while those of the imperial provinces passed into the treasury of the emperor, or the fiscus. The old wretched system of farming the revenues, which had disgraced the republic and impoverished the provincials, was gradually abandoned. The collection of the taxes in the senatorial as well as the imperial provinces was placed in the charge of imperial officers. It was not long before the cities themselves were allowed to raise by their own officers the taxes due to the Roman government. Augustus also laid the foundation of a sound financial system by making careful estimates of the revenues and expenditures of the state; and by raising and expending the public money in the most economical and least burdensome manner. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

Claudius Governance of the Provinces


It is to the credit of Claudius that he was greatly interested in the condition of the provinces. He spent much time in regulating the affairs of the East. The kingdom of Thrace was changed into a province, and governed by a Roman procurator. Lycia, in Asia Minor, also was made a province, as well as Mauretania in Africa. One of the most important changes which he made was the restoration of the kingdom of the Jews to Herod Agrippa. This he did out of respect for this people, and to allay the bad feeling which had been stirred up during the previous reign. But Claudius especially showed his interest in the provinces by extending to them the rights of Roman citizenship. The civitas was granted to a large part of Gaul, thus carrying out the policy which had been begun by Julius Caesar. If we except the scandals of the court, the reign of Claudius may be regarded as inspired by prudence and a wise regard for the welfare of his subjects. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

Suetonius wrote: “Jurisdiction in cases of trust, which it had been usual to assign each year and only to magistrates in the city, he delegated for all time and extended to the governors of the provinces. He annulled a clause added to the Lex Papia Poppaea by Tiberius, implying that men of sixty could not beget children. He made a law that guardians might be appointed for orphans by the consuls, contrary to the usual procedure, and that those who were banished from a province by its magistrates should also be debarred from the city and from Italia. He himself imposed upon some a new kind of punishment, by forbidding them to go more than three miles outside of the city [The "relegatio" was a milder form of exile, without loss of citizenship or confiscation of property, but in this case the offenders were not banished, but confined to the city and its immediate vicinity]. When about to conduct business of special importance in the Senate, he took his seat between the two consuls or on the tribunes' bench. He reserved to himself the granting of permission to travel, which had formerly been requested of the Senate. [Source: Suetonius (c.69-after 122 A.D.) : “De Vita Caesarum:Claudius” (“The Lives of the Caesars: Claudius”), written in A.D. 110, 2 Vols., translated by J. C. Rolfe, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, and London: William Henemann, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 405-497, modernized by J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton]

“He gave the consular regalia even to the second grade of stewards [The procuratores were the emperor's agents, who performed various administrative duties throughout the empire. They were members of the equestrian ordo and were ranked on the basis of their annual stipend as trecenarii, ducenarii, centenarii, and sexagenarii, receiving, respectively, 300,000, 200,000, 100,000, and 60,000 sesterces]. If any refused senatorial rank [A common reason for this was the desire to engage in commerce, which senators were not allowed to do], he took from them the rank of eques also. Though he had declared at the beginning of his reign that he would choose no one as a senator who did not have a Roman citizen for a great-great-grandfather, he gave the broad stripe even to a freedman's son, but only on condition that he should first be adopted by a Roman eques.

Tacitus on the Down Side of Roman Imperialism

The Roman historian Tacitus put words in the mouth of an ancient Briton leader, Galgacus, who was staring down a Roman army ready to attack him, to make a point on the down sides of Roman imperialism. Tactitus wrote: “Meanwhile, among the many leaders, one superior to the rest in valour and in birth, Galgacus by name, is said to have thus harangued the multitude gathered around him and clamouring for battle: “Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans were resisted, still left in us a last hope of succour, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery. To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. [Source: Tacitus (b.56/57-after 117 A.D.), “Galgacus: On Roman Imperialism”, “Life of Cnaeus Julius Agricola,” 29-33, c. A.D. 98, translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb]

“Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace.

captured Celts

““Nature has willed that every man’s children and kindred should be his dearest objects. Yet these are torn from us by conscriptions to be slaves elsewhere. Our wives and our sisters, even though they may escape violation from the enemy, are dishonoured under the names of friendship and hospitality. Our goods and fortunes they collect for their tribute, our harvests for their granaries. Our very hands and bodies, under the lash and in the midst of insult, are worn down by the toil of clearing forests and morasses. Creatures born to slavery are sold once and for all, and are, moreover, fed by their masters; but Britain is daily purchasing, is daily feeding, her own enslaved people. And as in a household the last comer among the slaves is always the butt of his companions, so we in a world long used to slavery, as the newest and most contemptible, are marked out for destruction. We have neither fruitful plains, nor mines, nor harbours, for the working of which we may be spared. Valour, too, and high spirit in subjects, are offensive to rulers; besides, remoteness and seclusion, while they give safety, provoke suspicion. Since then you cannot hope for quarter, take courage, I beseech you, whether it be safety or renown that you hold most precious. Under a woman’s leadership the Brigantes were able to burn a colony, to storm a camp, and had not success ended in supineness, might have thrown off the yoke. Let us, then, a fresh and unconquered people, never likely to abuse our freedom, show forthwith at the very first onset what heroes Caledonia has in reserve.

““Do you suppose that the Romans will be as brave in war as they are licentious in peace? To our strifes and discords they owe their fame, and they turn the errors of an enemy to the renown of their own army, an army which, composed as it is of every variety of nations, is held together by success and will be broken up by disaster. These Gauls and Germans, and, I blush to say, these Britons, who, though they lend their lives to support a stranger’s rule, have been its enemies longer than its subjects, you cannot imagine to be bound by fidelity and affection. Fear and terror there certainly are, feeble bonds of attachment; remove them, and those who have ceased to fear will begin to hate. All the incentives to victory are on our side. The Romans have no wives to kindle their courage; no parents to taunt them with flight, man have either no country or one far away. Few in number, dismayed by their ignorance, looking around upon a sky, a sea, and forests which are all unfamiliar to them; hemmed in, as it were, and enmeshed, the Gods have delivered them into our hands. Be not frightened by the idle display, by the glitter of gold and of silver, which can neither protect nor wound. In the very ranks of the enemy we shall find our own forces. Britons will acknowledge their own cause; Gauls will remember past freedom; the other Germans will abandon them, as but lately did the Usipii. Behind them there is nothing to dread. The forts are ungarrisoned; the colonies in the hands of aged men; what with disloyal subjects and oppressive rulers, the towns are ill-affected and rife with discord. On the one side you have a general and an army; on the other, tribute, the mines, and all the other penalties of an enslaved people. Whether you endure these for ever, or instantly avenge them, this field is to decide. Think, therefore, as you advance to battle, at once of your ancestors and of your posterity.”

Immigrants in Rome

The historian William Stearns Davis wrote: In the reign of Domitian (81-96 A.D.), the city of Rome “was overrun, in the opinion of some commentators, by non-Roman immigrants, almost swamping the old Italian element. The courtly poet Martial seizes the fact to pay a compliment to the Emperor.”

On Immigrants in Rome, Martial (40-103/4 A.D.) wrote in Epigrams, IX.3 (81-96 A.D.): “What race is so distant from us, what race is so barbarous, O Caesar, that from it no spectator is present in your city! The cultivator of Rhodope [in Thrace] is here from Haemus, sacred to Orpheus. The Scythian who drinks the blood of his horses is here; he, too, who quaffs the waters of the Nile nearest their springing; and he also whose shore is laved by the most distant ocean. The Arabian has hastened hither; the Sabaeans have hastened; and here the Cilicians have anointed themselves with their own native perfume. Here come the Sicambrians with their hair all twisted into a knot, and here the frizzled Ethiopians. Yet though their speech is all so different, they all speak together hailing you, O Emperor, as the true father of your country. [Source: “Martial (40-103/4 A.D.):Immigrants in Rome, Epigrams, IX.3 William Stearns Davis, ed., “Readings in Ancient History: Illustrative Extracts from the Sources,” 2 Vols. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1912-13), Vol. II: Rome and the West]

The Romans were familiar with black Africans, which they considered exotic. Ethiopians was a general terms used by Greeks and Romans to describe all black Africans. It is not known whether the Romans kept black African slaves as they did slaves from other places.

Diversity of the Roman Empire

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill of the University of Reading wrote for the BBC: “One of the most astonishing features of the Roman Empire is the sheer diversity of the geographical and cultural landscapes it controlled. It was a European empire in the sense that it controlled most of the territory of the member states of the present EU, except part of Germany and Scandinavia. [Source: Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“But it was above all a Mediterranean empire, and pulled together diverse cultures, in Asia (the Near East), Egypt and North Africa that have not been reunited since the spread of Islam. This represented a vast diversity, including language (two 'international' languages were still needed for communication, Greek as well as Latin, let alone local languages) and relative development - they spoke of 'barbarians' versus Romans/Greeks, where we would speak of first and third world. The planting of cities, with their familiar apparatus of public services and entertainment, was a sign and instrument of the advance to 'first-world' status. |::|

“But while we can still admire the effectiveness of this city-based 'civilisation' in producing unity and common cultural values in diverse societies, what we might look for from a contemporary perspective, and look for in vain, is some conscious encouragement of the 'biodiversity' of the different societies that composed the empire. |::|

“Vast regional contrasts did indeed continue, but there is little sense that the emperors felt an obligation to promote or protect them. The unity of the empire lay in a combination of factors. The central machine was astonishingly light compared to modern states - neither the imperial bureaucracy nor even the military forces were large by modern standards. The central state in that sense weighed less heavily on its component parts, which were largely self-governing. |::|

“But above all the unity lay in the reality of participation in central power by those from the surrounding regions. Just as the emperors themselves came not just from Rome and Italy, but Spain, Gaul, North Africa, the Danubian provinces, and the Near East, so the waves of economic prosperity spread over time outwards in ripples.” |::|

Common Values That Unified the Roman Empire

Andrew Wallace-Hadrill of the University of Reading wrote for the BBC: “The unified empire depended on common values, many of which could be described as 'cultural', affecting both the elite and the masses. Popular aspects of Graeco-Roman literary culture spread well beyond the elite, at least in the cities. Baths and amphitheatres also reached the masses. It has been observed that the amphitheatre dominated the townscape of a Roman town as the cathedral dominated the medieval town. [Source: Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“The underlying brutality of the amphitheatre was compatible with their own system of values and the vision of the empire as an endless struggle against forces of disorder and barbarism. The victims, whether nature's wild animals, or the human wild animals - bandits, criminals, and the Christians who seemed intent on provoking the wrath of the gods - gave pleasure in dying because they needed to be exorcised. |::|

“There was also a vital religious element which exposed the limits of tolerance of the system. The pagan gods were pluralistic, and a variety of local cults presented no problem. The only cult, in any sense imposed, was that of the emperor. To embrace it was as sufficient a symbol of loyalty as saluting the flag, and rejecting it was to reject the welfare of all fellow citizens. |::|

“Christians were persecuted because their religion was an alternative and incompatible system (on their own declaration) which rejected all the pagan gods. Constantine, in substituting the Christian god for the old pagan gods, established a far more demanding system of unity. |::|

“We are left with a paradox. The Roman Empire set up and spread many of the structures on which the civilisation of modern Europe depends; and through history it provided a continuous model to imitate. Yet many of the values on which it depended are the antithesis of contemporary value-systems. It retains its hold on our imaginations now, not because it was admirable, but because despite all its failings, it held together such diverse landscape for so long.”

Mithraism was very popular in the Roman Empire

Foreign Influences on Rome

When we think of the conquests of Rome, we usually think of the armies which she defeated, and the lands which she subdued. But these were not the only conquests which she made. She appropriated not only foreign lands, but also foreign ideas. While she was plundering foreign temples, she was obtaining new ideas of religion and art. The educated and civilized people whom she captured in war and of whom she made slaves, often became the teachers of her children and the writers of her books. In such ways as these Rome came under the influence of foreign ideas. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

As Rome came into contact with other people, we can see how her religion was affected by foreign influences. The worship of the family remained much the same; but the religion of the state became considerably changed. In terms of art, as the Romans were a practical people, their earliest art was shown in their buildings. From the Etruscans they had learned to use the arch and to build strong and massive structures. But the more refined features of art they obtained from the Greeks.

It is difficult for us to think of a nation of warriors as a nation of refined people. The brutalities of war seem inconsistent with the finer arts of living. But as the Romans obtained wealth from their wars, they affected the refinement of their more cultivated neighbors. Some men, like Scipio Africanus, looked with favor upon the introduction of Greek ideas and manners; but others, like Cato the Censor, were bitterly opposed to it. When the Romans lost the simplicity of the earlier times, they came to indulge in luxuries and to be lovers of pomp and show. They loaded their tables with rich services of plate; they ransacked the land and the sea for delicacies with which to please their palates. Roman culture was often more artificial than real. The survival of the barbarous spirit of the Romans in the midst of their professed refinement is seen in their amusements, especially the gladiatorial shows, in which men were forced to fight with wild beasts and with one another to entertain the people. \~\

Dr Neil Faulkner wrote for the BBC: “Sometimes, of course, it was outsiders who introduced the trappings of Roman life to the provinces. This was especially true in frontier areas occupied by the army. In northern Britain, for example, there were few towns or villas. But there were many forts, especially along the line of Hadrian's Wall, and it is here that we see rich residences, luxury bath-houses, and communities of artisans and traders dealing in Romanised commodities for the military market. “Even here, though, because army recruitment was increasingly local, it was often a case of Britons becoming Romans. [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“Foreign soldiers settled down and had families with local women. Grown-up sons followed their fathers into the army. The local regiment became more 'British'. The new recruits became more 'Roman'. We see evidence in the extraordinary diversity of cults represented by religious inscriptions on the frontier. Alongside traditional Roman gods like Jupiter, Mars, and the Spirit of the Emperor, there are local Celtic gods like Belatucadrus, Cocidius, and Coventina, and foreign gods from other provinces like the Germanic Thincsus, the Egyptian Isis, and the Persian Mithras. Beyond the frontier zone, on the other hand, in the heartlands of the empire where civilian politicians rather than army officers were in charge, native aristocrats had driven the Romanisation process from the beginning.” |::|

Barbarians and Romans

According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art: “The rivers Rhine and Danube defined the borders of the Roman empire in continental Europe, separating the citizens of Rome from the many peoples who inhabited Germania, the Roman term for the area stretching as far north as Scandinavia and as far east as the Vistula River. The empire had never isolated itself from the Germanic peoples they called barbarians, recruiting them as soldiers for the Roman army and developing commercial and diplomatic ties with their leaders. [Source: Melanie Holcomb, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 2002, \^/]


“Service as Mercenaries: From the time of Julius Caesar, barbarians had been deployed to protect the Roman frontiers. The increasing strength and reach of the military in the later centuries of the empire required the incorporation of ever greater numbers of barbarian units—known as foedarati—into the army. By the fourth century, some 75,000 soldiers were stationed in the Roman province of Gaul (modern France), most of them Germanic. Many of these barbarians would in time return to their homeland, while others would remain with their families in Roman territories, some rising to the highest military ranks. Germanic burial rites, as distinct from Roman practices, included weapons and military equipment; thus the burial goods of Germanic graves both in and outside the empire's borders offer a rich evocation of the money, gifts, and often elaborately decorated military insignia that such service accrued to soldiers . They also give a sense of the distinctive costumes of barbarian women. \^/

“Diplomatic Relations: The empire developed diplomatic ties with those Germanic rulers who occupied lands just beyond the borders in an effort to protect itself from hostile barbarians even farther afield. Promises of Roman citizenship and military and economic support encouraged barbarian leaders to assist their wealthy neighbor, primarily by providing troops. Such arrangements permitted barbarians of high status to accumulate great wealth, in the form of direct gifts of jewelry from the empire (1995.97; 1986.341) and payments in gold coin. These, in turn, could be used to commission luxury objects of personal adornment from local artists.” \^/

Collaboration, Resistance, Civilisation or Enslavement?

Dr Neil Faulkner wrote for the BBC: “How did the Romans maintain control of such a huge empire for so long? Partly, of course, it was a matter of using military power to threaten those who resisted. But partly, too, it was a matter of positive incentives to collaborate. |::| In their conquests, the Romans rarely faced united opposition. Usually they made alliances with native rulers who were willing either to fight alongside them or at least provide logistical support. [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, February 17, 2011. Dr Faulkner is an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. |::|]

“Once Roman military superiority was clear, other native rulers frequently gave up the unequal struggle and made terms. Die-hards who fought on to the bitter end were often a minority. The difference between collaboration and resistance can be seen in comparing two cases: Pergamum in Western Turkey, which was bequeathed to the Romans by its last independent ruler in 133 BC; and Dacia, the ancient Romania, whose king resisted fiercely in three hard-fought wars between 85 and 106 AD. The result was that whereas the long-established Hellenistic culture of Pergamum survived and flourished under the Romans, Dacia appears to have been laid waste, ethnically cleansed, and re-settled by foreign colonists. |::|

“Another aspect of Roman policy was explained - rather cynically - by the historian Tacitus in a biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the governor of Britain from 78 - 84 AD: [Agricola] wanted to accustom them [the Britons] to peace and leisure by providing delightful distractions. He gave personal encouragement and assistance to the building of temples, piazzas and town-houses, he gave the sons of the aristocracy a liberal education, they became eager to speak Latin effectively and the toga was everywhere to be seen. 'And so they were gradually led into the demoralising vices of porticoes, baths and grand dinner parties. The naïve Britons described these things as 'civilisation', when in fact they were simply part of their enslavement.' |::|

“Tacitus was a senator as well as an historian - one of the small class of super-rich politicians and administrators who effectively ran the Roman empire. His testimony reveals that when native aristocrats adopted a Roman lifestyle and acquired a taste for Mediterranean luxury and refinement, the rulers of the empire were delighted. Instead of jealously guarding their privileges, they were eager to share them. They understood that if the empire was to be stable and to endure, it required wide foundations. |::|

“Rome's rulers were happy to welcome native aristocrats as fellow citizens. This was possible because citizenship in the ancient world was not defined by nationality. Anyone could, in theory, be granted citizenship of the city-state of Rome, even if they had never been there and had no intention of going. Place of residence, language, religion, parentage - none of these was decisive. If you had standing in your own community and supported the new order, you were likely to attract attention as someone to be cultivated.” |::|

Trajan greeted by barbarians

Barbarians: a Propaganda Device?

Dr Neil Faulkner wrote for the BBC: “All empire-builders have to justify what they do - to themselves, to their own people, and to those they dominate. The Romans developed a sophisticated world-view which they projected successfully through literature, inscriptions, architecture, art, and elaborate public ceremonial. [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, February 17, 2011. Dr Faulkner is an honorary lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. |::|]

“Some elements of this world-view evolved during the existence of the empire, most notably with the adoption of Christianity in the early fourth century AD. Other themes remained constant. Perhaps the most important of the latter was the idea that Rome represented peace, good government, and the rule of law. The societies with which Rome was in conflict were caricatured as barbaric, lawless and dangerous. |::|

“Julius Caesar, in his famous account of the Gallic Wars of the 50s B.C., provided readers at home with a blood-curdling description of the Germanic tribes he encountered in battle: 'The various tribes regard it as their greatest glory to lay waste as much as possible of the land around them and to keep it uninhabited. They hold it a proof of a people's valour to drive their neighbours from their homes, so that no-one dare settle near them. No discredit attaches to plundering raids outside tribal frontiers. The Germans say that they serve to keep young men in training and prevent them from getting lazy.' “|::|

Roman Mission: Civilizing the Uncivilized

Dr Neil Faulkner wrote for the BBC: “Barbaricum was not only a place of perpetual strife. There was also grinding poverty and cultural backwardness. Describing the Caledonian tribes of ancient Scotland in the early third century AD, Dio Cassius wrote: 'They inhabit wild, waterless mountains and lonely, swampy plains, without walls, cities, or cultivated land. They live by pasturing flocks, hunting, and off certain fruits. They live in tents, unclothed and unshod, sharing their women and bringing up all their children together.' [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

Clearly, the implication seems to be, such people could not but benefit from Roman rule. But even those already civilised - those, indeed, whom many Romans recognised as more civilised than themselves - stood to gain. There is a famous passage in Virgil's Aeneid, written in the reign of the first emperor, Augustus (30 B.C. - 14 AD), where the achievements of the Greeks are acknowledged, but their need of Roman government asserted. |::|

“'Others [that is, Greeks] shall hammer forth more delicately a breathing likeness out of bronze, coax living faces from the marble, plead causes with more skill, plot with their gauge the movements in the sky and tell the rising of the constellations. 'But you, Roman, must remember that you have to guide the nations by your authority, for this is to be your skill, to graft tradition onto peace, to spare those who submit, but to crush those who resist.'” |::|

Dacian chiefs on Trajan's Column

Civilized Barbarian

“Sidonius Apollinaris was a well-connected aristocrat from south-west Gaul. Many of his letters survive, including the ones here: 1) a description of a "civilised barbarian" (the Visigothic king, Theodoric II, whose main residences were Toulouse and Bordeaux); and 2) a "barbarous Roman" (Seronatus).

Sidonius wrote to his brother-in-law Agricola (A.D. 454?): “You have often begged a description of Theodoric the Gothic king, whose gentle breeding fame commends to every nation; you want him in his quantity and quality, in his person, and the manner of his existence. I gladly accede, as far as the limits of my page allow, and highly approve so fine and ingenuous a curiosity. [Source: Sidonius Apollinaris (c. A.D. 431-c.489), “The Letters of Sidonius,” Letters I.2, translated by O.M. Dalton, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1915), two vols]

“Well, he is a man worth knowing, even by those who cannot enjoy his close acquaintance, so happily have Providence and Nature joined to endow him with the perfect gifts of fortune; his way of life is such that not even the envy which lies in wait for kings can rob him of his proper praise. And first as to his person. He is well set up, in height above the average man, but below the giant. His head is round, with curled hair retreating somewhat from brow to crown. His nervous neck is free from disfiguring knots. The eyebrows are bushy and arched; when the lids droop, the lashes reach almost half-way down the cheeks. The upper ears are buried under overlying locks, after the fashion of his race. The nose is finely aquiline; the lips are thin and not enlarged by undue distension of the mouth. Every day the hair springing from his nostrils is cut back; that on the face springs thick from the hollow of the temples, but the razor has not yet come upon his cheek, and his barber is assiduous in eradicating the rich growth on the lower part of the face. Chin, throat, and neck are full, but not fat, and all of fair complexion; seen close, their colour is fresh as that of youth; they often flush, but from modesty, and not from anger. His shoulders are smooth, the upper- and forearms strong and hard; hands broad, breast prominent; waist receding. The spine dividing the broad expanse of back does not project, and you can see the springing of the ribs; the sides swell with salient muscle, the well-girt flanks are full of vigour. His thighs are like hard horn; the knee-joints firm and masculine; the knees themselves the comeliest and least wrinkled in the world. A full ankle supports the leg, and the foot is small to bear such mighty limbs.

“Now for the routine of his public life. Before daybreak he goes with a very small suite to attend the service of his priests. He prays with assiduity, but, if I may speak in confidence, one may suspect more of habit than conviction in this piety. Administrative duties of the kingdom take up the rest of the morning. Armed nobles stand about the royal seat; the mass of guards in their garb of skins are admitted that they may be within call, but kept at the threshold for quiet's sake; only a murmur of them comes in from their post at the doors, between the curtain and the outer barrier. And now the foreign envoys are introduced. The king hears them out, and says little; if a thing needs more discussion he puts it off, but accelerates matters ripe for dispatch. The second hour arrives; he rises from the throne to inspect his treasure-chamber or stable. If the chase is the order of the day, he joins it, but never carries his bow at his side, considering this derogatory to royal state. When a bird or beast is marked for him, or happens to cross his path, he puts his hand behind his back and takes the bow from a page with the string all hanging loose; for as he deems it a boy's trick to bear it in a quiver, so he holds it effeminate to receive the weapon ready strung. When it is given him, he sometimes holds it in both hands and bends the extremities towards each other; at others he sets it, knot-end downward, against his lifted heel, and runs his finger up the slack and wavering string. After that, he takes his arrows, adjusts, and lets fly. He will ask you beforehand what you would like him to transfix; you choose, and be hits. If there is a miss through either's error, your vision will mostly be at fault, and not the archer's skill.

Hospitality of Barbarians to Pilgrims

“On ordinary days, his table resembles that of a private person. The board does not groan beneath a mass of dull and unpolished silver set on by panting servitors; the weight lies rather in the conversation than in the plate; there is either sensible talk or none. The hangings and draperies used on these occasions are sometimes of purple silk, sometimes only of linen; art, not costliness, commends the fare, as spotlessness rather than bulk the silver. Toasts are few, and you will oftener see a thirsty guest impatient, than a full one refusing cup or bowl. In short, you will find elegance of Greece, good cheer of Gaul, Italian nimbleness, the state of public banquets with the attentive service of a private table, and everywhere the discipline of a king's house. What need for me to describe the pomp of his feast days? No man is so unknown as not to know of them. But to my theme again. The siesta after dinner is always slight, and sometimes intermitted.

“When inclined for the board-game, he is quick to gather up the dice, examines them with care, shakes the box with expert hand, throw rapidly, humorously apostrophizes them, and patiently waits the issue. Silent at a good throw, he makes merry over a bad, annoyed by neither fortune, and always the philosopher. He is too proud to ask or to refuse a revenge; he disdains to avail himself of one if offered; and if it is opposed will quietly go on playing. You effect recovery of your men without obstruction on his side; he recovers his without collusion upon yours. You see the strategist when be moves the pieces; his one thought is victory. Yet at play he puts off a little of his kingly rigour, inciting all to good fellowship and the freedom of the game: I think he is afraid of being feared. Vexation in the man whom he beats delights him; he will never believe that his opponents have not let him win unless their annoyance proves him really victor. You would be surprised how often the pleasure born of these little happenings may favour the march of great affairs. Petitions that some wrecked influence had left derelict come unexpectedly to port; I myself am gladly beaten by him when I have a favour to ask, since the loss of my game may mean the gaining of my cause. About the ninth hour, the burden of government begins again. Back come the importunates, back the ushers to remove them; on all sides buzz the voices of petitioners, a sound which lasts till evening, and does not diminish till interrupted by the royal repast ; even then they only disperse to attend their various patrons among the courtiers, and are astir till bedtime.

Sometimes, though this is rare, supper is enlivened by sallies of mimes, but no guest is ever exposed to the wound of a biting tongue. Withal there is no noise of hydraulic organ, or choir with its conductor intoning a set piece; you will hear no players of lyre or flute, no master of the music, no girls with cithara or tabor; the king cares for no strains but those which no less charm the mind with virtue than the ear with melody. When he rises to withdraw, the treasury watch begins its vigil; armed sentries stand on guard during the first hours of slumber. But I am wandering from my subject. I never promised a whole chapter on the kingdom, but a few words about the king. I must stay my pen; you asked for nothing more than one or two facts about the person and the tastes of Theodoric; and my own aim was to write a letter, not a history. Farewell.

Barbarous Roman

Sidonius wrote his brother in law Ecdicius (c. A.D. 470): “Your countrymen of Auvergne [the province in central Gaul, with its capital at Clermont (now Clermont-Ferrand) from which Sidonius himself came] suffer equally from two evils. "What are those?" you ask. Seronatus' presence and your own absence. Seronatus—his very name first calls for notice; I think that when he was so named, a prescient fortune must have played with contradictions, as our predecessors did who by periphrasis used the root of "beautiful" [bellus] in their word for war [bellum], the most hideous thing on earth. [Source: Sidonius Apollinaris (c. A.D. 431-c.489), “The Letters of Sidonius,” Letters, II.1, translated by O.M. Dalton, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1915), two vols]

Romans murdering Druids and burning their groves

“This Catiline of our day [a reference to the "criminal" from first-century B.C. Rome, described in Sallust's Catiline Conspiracy] is just returned from the region of the Adour to blend in whole confusion the fortune and the blood of unhappy victims which down there he had only pledged himself in part to shed. You must know that his long-dissembled savagery comes daily further into the light. His spire affronts the day; his dissimulation was abject, as his arrogance is servile. He commands like a despot; no tyrant more exacting than he, no judge more peremptory in sentence, no barbarian falser in false witness. The livelong day he goes armed from cowardice, and starving from pure meanness. Greed makes him formidable, and vanity cruel; he continually commits himself the very thefts he punishes in others. To the universal amusement he will rant of war in a civilian company, and of literature among Goths. Though he barely knows the alphabet, he has the conceit to dictate letters in public, and the impudence to revise them under the same conditions.

“All property he covets he makes a show of buying, but he never thinks of paying, nor does he trouble to furnish himself with deeds, knowing it hopeless to prove a title. In the council-chamber he commands, but in counsel he is mute. He jests in church, and preaches at table; snores on the bench, and breathes condemnation in his bedroonm. His actions are filling the woods with dangerous fugitives from the estates, the churches with scoundrels, the prisons with holy men. He cries the Goths up and the Romans down; he prepares illusions for prefects and collusions with public accountants. He tramples under foot the Theodosian Code to set in its place the laws of a Theodoric, raking up old charges to justify new imposts. Be quick, then, to unravel the tangle of affairs that makes you linger; cut short whatver causes you delay. Our people are at the last gasp; freedom is almost dead. Whether there is any hope, or whether all is to be despair, they want you in their midst to lead them. If the State is powerless to succour, if, as rumour says, the Emperor Anthemius is without resource, our nobility is determined to follow your lead, and give up their country or the hair of their heads. Farewell.”

Barbarians Become Citizens in the 3rd Century

With the Constitutio Antoniniana, or Edict of Caracalla (A.D. 212), the Roman franchise, which had been gradually extended by the previous emperors, was now conferred to all the free inhabitants of the Roman world. The edict was issued primarily to increase tax revenue. Even so, the edict was in the line of earlier reforms and effaced the last distinction between Romans and provincials. [Source: “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~]

In the A.D. 3rd century a conciliatory policy toward the tribal people (“barbarians”) was adopted, by granting to them peaceful settlements in the frontier provinces. Not only the Roman territory, but the army and the offices of the state, military and civil, were gradually opened to Germans and other tribe members who were willing to become Roman subjects.

It became a serious question what to do with all the newcomers who were now admitted into the provinces. The most able of the barbarian chiefs were sometimes made Roman generals. Many persons were admitted to the ranks of the army. Sometimes whole tribes were allowed to settle upon lands assigned to them. But a great many persons, especially those who had been captured in war, were treated in a somewhat novel manner. Instead of being sold as slaves they were given over to the large landed proprietors, and attached to the estates as permanent tenants. They could not be sold off from these estates like slaves; but if the land was sold they were sold with it. This class of persons came to be called coloni. They were really serfs bound to the soil. The colonus had a little plot of ground which he could cultivate for himself, and for which he paid a rent to his landlord. But the class of coloni came to be made up not only of barbarian captives, but of manumitted slaves, and even of Roman freemen, who were not able to support themselves and who gave themselves up to become the serfs of some landlord. The coloni thus came to form a large part of the population in the provinces. \~\

This new class of persons, which held such a peculiar position in the Roman empire, has a special interest to the general historical student; because from them were descended, in great part, the class of serfs which formed a large element of European society after the fall of Rome, during the middle ages. \~\

See Citizenship Under Society

Burden of Taxation on the Provinces and Barbarians

Kneeling barbarian

James Harvey Robinson wrote: “It was inevitable that thoughtful observers should be struck with the contrast between the habits and government of the Romans and the customs of the various barbarian peoples. Tacitus, the first to describe the manners and institutions of the Germans with care, is frequently tempted to compare them with those of the Empire, often to the obvious disadvantage of the latter. Salvian, a Christian priest, writing about 440, undertook in his book Of God's Government to show that the misfortunes of the time were only the divinely inflicted punishments which the people of the Empire had brought upon themselves by their wickedness and corruption. He contends that the Romans, who had once been virtuous and heroic, had lapsed into a degradation which rendered them, in spite of their civilization and advantages, far inferior to the untutored but sturdy barbarian.

Salvian wrote in “The Government of God” (c. A.D. 440): “In what respects can our customs be preferred to those of the Goths and Vandals, or even compared with them? And first, to speak of affection and mutual charity (which, our Lord teaches, is the chief virtue, saying, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another "), almost all barbarians, at least those who are of one race and kin, love each other, while the Romans persecute each other. For what citizen does not envy his fellow citizen ? What citizen shows to his neighbor full charity? [Source: Salvian (A.D. c.400- after 470), “The Burden of Taxation” (c. A.D. 44), James Harvey Robinson, ed., “Readings in European History: Vol. I:” (Boston:: Ginn and co., 1904), 28-30]

[The Romans oppress each other with exactions] nay, not each other : it would be quite tolerable, if each suffered what he inflicted. It is worse than that ; for the many are oppressed by the few, who regard public exactions as their own peculiar right, who carry on private traffic under tile guise of collecting the taxes. And this is done not only by nobles, but by men of lowest rank; not by judges only, but by judges' subordinates. For where is the city - even the town or village - which has not as many tyrants as it has curials ? . . . What place is there, therefore, as I have said, where the substance of widows and orphans, nay even of the saints, is not devoured by the chief citizens? . . .

“None but the great is secure from the devastations of these plundering brigands, except those who are themselves robbers. [Nay, the state has fallen upon such evil days that a man cannot be safe unless he is wicked] Even those in a position to protest against the iniquity which they see about them dare not speak lest they make matters worse than before. So the poor are despoiled, the widows sigh, the orphans are oppressed, until many of them, born of families not obscure, and liberally educated, flee to our enemies that they may no longer suffer the oppression of public persecution. They doubtless seek Roman humanity among the barbarians, because they cannot bear barbarian inhumanity among the Romans. And although they differ from the people to Whom they flee in manner and in language; although they are unlike as regards the fetid odor of the barbarians' bodies and garments, yet they would rather endure a foreign civilization among the barbarians than cruel injustice among the Romans.

“So they migrate to the Goths, or to the Bagaudes, or to some other tribe of the barbarians who are ruling everywhere, and do not regret their exile. For they would rather live free under an appearance of slavery than live as captives tinder an appearance of liberty. The name of Roman citi'en, once so highly esteemed and so dearly bought, is now a thing that men repudiate and flee from. . . .

“It is urged that if we Romans are wicked and corrupt, that the barbarians commit the same sins, and are not so miserable as we. There is, however, this difference, that the barbarians commit the same crimes as we, yet we more grievously. . . . All the barbarians, as we have already said, are pagans or heretics. The Saxon race is cruel, the Franks are faithless, the Gepidae are inhuman, the Huns are unchaste, - in short, there is vice in the life of all the barbarian peoples. But are their offenses as serious as ours? Is the unchastity of the Hun so criminal as ours? Is the faithlessness of the Frank so blameworthy as ours? Is the intemperance of the Alemanni so base as the intemperance of the Christians? Does the greed of the Alani so merit condemnation as the greed of the Christians? If Hun or the Gepid cheat, what is there to wonder at, since he does not know that cheating is a crime? If a Frank perjures himself, does he do anything strange, he who regards perjury as a way of speaking, not as a crime?”

Limits of Romanisation

Vandal leader Gaiseric

Dr Neil Faulkner wrote for the BBC: “We tend to take the material remains of the Roman past for granted - the towns, the monumental architecture, the villas, the luxury trades, the decorative and fine arts. But in many parts of the empire, all this was very new, and the speed with which it was adopted is therefore a mark of the attraction to native elites of the new cultural package. It was a fashion revolution at the top of society. Chariots, hillforts and bragging about the military exploits of one's blue-painted forebears were hopelessly passé. To keep up with one's peers, to elevate oneself above the lower orders, to get on under the new regime, one became Roman. [Source: Dr Neil Faulkner, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“But there were limits to Romanisation. Religious practice is a key measure. Roman gods are represented mainly at forts, towns and villas. Even at such high-status sites, however, there is evidence that many native gods were also worshipped. While in the countryside, where the mass of common people lived and worked, we see strong survival of native cults. There is sometimes a Roman veneer - a stone temple, perhaps, or a dedicatory inscription - but the god worshipped as almost always a local one. |::|

“Roman archaeology is revealing ever more of the cultural diversity of the empire, and increasingly we sense that different ways of life, world-views and value systems could co-exist with the dominant, more uniform, Graeco-Roman culture of the elite. Occasionally, indeed, one or another of these alternative cultures was forged into an ideology of resistance. There were winners and losers in the Roman Empire. |::|

“As well as the rich and their clients, as well as officials, soldiers, landowners and merchants, there were the exploited and oppressed, those who were taxed to make empire and civilisation possible. In three great revolts between 66 and 136 AD, for instance, the Jewish peasantry, inspired by radical interpretations of traditional Judaism, organised itself into a revolutionary force to challenge Roman power. Each time they were defeated. But their efforts reveal to us the limits of Romanisation. The culture of the conqueror often had little appeal to the oppressed.” |::|

Slow Collapse of Rome: an Immigration Crisis?

Dr Peter Heather wrote for the BBC: “A two-stage process occurred between the battle of Hadrianople in 378 AD, when the emperor Valens and two-thirds of his army (upwards of 10,000 men) fell in a single afternoon at the hands of an army of Gothic migrants, to the deposition of Romulus Augustulus nearly a century later. “This process created the successor kingdoms. Stage one consisted of immigration onto Roman soil, followed by a second stage of aggressive expansion of the territory under the migrants' control. All of it was carried forward at the point of the sword. [Source: Dr Peter Heather, BBC, February 17, 2011 |::|]

“The central Roman state collapsed because the migrants forcibly stripped it of the tax base which it had used to fund its armies, not because of long-term 'organic' transformations. In this violent process of collapse, some local Roman societies immediately went under. In Britain and north eastern Gaul particularly, Roman landowners lost their estates and Roman culture disappeared with them. |::|

“In southern Gaul, Spain, and Italy, Roman landowners survived by coming to terms with the migrants. But to suppose that this was a voluntary process - as some of the revisionary work done since the 1960s has supposed - is to miss the point that these landowners faced the starkest of choices. As the central Roman state ceased to exert power in their localities, they either had to do such deals, or lose the lands that were the basis of their entire wealth. And even where Roman landowners survived, the effects of Rome's fall were nonetheless revolutionary. |::|

Admitting Provincials to the Senate

In a speech on admitting provincials to the Senate by Claudius (41–54 A.D.), Tacitus (b.56/57-after 117 A.D.) wrote in “Annals” (A.D. 48): “In the consulship of Aulus Vitellius and Lucius Vipstanus the question of filling up the Senate was discussed, and the chief men of Gallia Comata, as it was called, who had long possessed the rights of allies and of Roman citizens, sought the privilege of obtaining public offices at Rome. There was much talk of every kind on the subject, and it was argued before the emperor with vehement opposition. "Italy," it was asserted, "is not so feeble as to be unable to furnish its own capital with a senate. Once our native-born citizens sufficed for peoples of our own kin, and we are by no means dissatisfied with the Rome of the past. To this day we cite examples, which under our old customs the Roman character exhibited as to valour and renown. Is it a small thing that Veneti and Insubres have already burst into the Senate-house, unless a mob of foreigners, a troop of captives, so to say, is now forced upon us? What distinctions will be left for the remnants of our noble houses, or for any impoverished senators from Latium? Every place will be crowded with these millionaires, whose ancestors of the second and third generations at the head of hostile tribes destroyed our armies with fire and sword, and actually besieged the divine Julius at Alesia. These are recent memories. What if there were to rise up the remembrance of those who fell in Rome's citadel and at her altar by the hands of these same barbarians! Let them enjoy indeed the title of citizens, but let them not vulgarise the distinctions of the Senate and the honours of office." [Source: Tacitus, The Annales 11.23-25]

“These and like arguments failed to impress the emperor. He at once addressed himself to answer them, and thus harangued the assembled Senate. "My ancestors, the most ancient of whom was made at once a citizen and a noble of Rome, encourage me to govern by the same policy of transferring to this city all conspicuous merit, wherever found. And indeed I know, as facts, that the Julii came from Alba, the Coruncanii from Camerium, the Porcii from Tusculum, and not to inquire too minutely into the past, that new members have been brought into the Senate from Etruria and Lucania and the whole of Italy, that Italy itself was at last extended to the Alps, to the end that not only single persons but entire countries and tribes might be united under our name. We had unshaken peace at home; we prospered in all our foreign relations, in the days when Italy beyond the Po was admitted to share our citizenship, and when, enrolling in our ranks the most vigorous of the provincials, under colour of settling our legions throughout the world, we recruited our exhausted empire. Are we sorry that the Balbi came to us from Spain, and other men not less illustrious from Narbon Gaul? Their descendants are still among us, and do not yield to us in patriotism.

"What was the ruin of Sparta and Athens, but this, that mighty as they were in war, they spurned from them as aliens those whom they had conquered? Our founder Romulus, on the other hand, was so wise that he fought as enemies and then hailed as fellow-citizens several nations on the very same day. Strangers have reigned over us. That freedmen's sons should be intrusted with public offices is not, as many wrongly think, a sudden innovation, but was a common practice in the old commonwealth. But, it will be said, we have fought with the Senones. I suppose then that the Volsci and Aequi never stood in array against us. Our city was taken by the Gauls. Well, we also gave hostages to the Etruscans, and passed under the yoke of the Samnites. On the whole, if you review all our wars, never has one been finished in a shorter time than that with the Gauls. Thenceforth they have preserved an unbroken and loyal peace. United as they now are with us by manners, education, and intermarriage, let them bring us their gold and their wealth rather than enjoy it in isolation. Everything, Senators, which we now hold to be of the highest antiquity, was once new. Plebeian magistrates came after patrician; Latin magistrates after plebeian; magistrates of other Italian peoples after Latin. This practice too will establish itself, and what we are this day justifying by precedents, will be itself a precedent."

“The emperor's speech was followed by a decree of the Senate, and the Aedui were the first to obtain the right of becoming senators at Rome. This compliment was paid to their ancient alliance, and to the fact that they alone of the Gauls cling to the name of brothers of the Roman people.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Rome ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Late Antiquity ; Forum Romanum ; “Outlines of Roman History” by William C. Morey, Ph.D., D.C.L. New York, American Book Company (1901), \~\; “The Private Life of the Romans” by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston, Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932) |+|; BBC Ancient Rome ; Perseus Project - Tufts University; ; MIT, Online Library of Liberty, ; Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Live Science, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Encyclopædia Britannica, "The Discoverers" [∞] and "The Creators" [μ]" by Daniel Boorstin. "Greek and Roman Life" by Ian Jenkins from the British Museum.Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, Associated Press, The Guardian and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2018

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