Daily Life in Ancient Rome
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ANCIENT ROME @ HADRIANS
Defining membership through citizenship, and prescribing the rules for attaining it, have been integral parts of all societies almost since the beginning of time. In ancient Greece, as "personal chieftainship" of families, clans, and tribes eroded and was replaced by a thing called the state, citizenship had to be defined in terms other than birth and ethnicity. In Greece, two concepts were mixed together: 1) the notion of a state having boundaries within which decisions are made about the lives of its inhabitants, and 2) the notion of its inhabitants participating in this enterprise as joint proprietors. The fusion of these two elements, in a concept similar to "citizenship," enabled members "to have a share in the decisionmaking group" and to share in both public responsibilities and public privileges (see The Oxford Classical Dictionary, Third Edition, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 334).
In ancient Rome, citizenship was also a concern. As the Roman Republic, and then the Roman Empire, expanded previous boundaries, the question of citizenship became important. For early Rome, citizenship was primarily by birth and residence in Rome or a nearby town. As Rome expanded, decisions had to be made on the status of inhabitants in those newly acquired territories.
Latin cities were given the status of coloniae, and citizenship was granted to all inhabitants. Coloniae could be cities near Rome or allies. As Rome spread out even farther, some areas were given the status of municipium; inhabitants had most of the rights of Romans – including the right to hold property, the need to pay taxes, the ability to participate fully in the social life of the state – but they could not vote. They were usually governed by magistrates who were Roman citizens.
Eventually, by the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 AD, Emperor Caracalla extended Roman citizenship to all free inhabitants of the Empire. "This measure extended the notion of what was considered ‘Roman’ to cover a multitude of ethnically and locally divergent cultures" (from Averil Cameron, The Later Roman Empire, Harvard University Press, 1993, p. 9).
Roman Citizens Article Courtesy of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).