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Roman Italy Notes

Classics Notes > Roman History 241 BC to 146 BC Notes

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Roman Italy The political situation of the Latins and Italians


Latin status. These cities had a very close relationship with Rome culturally, linguistically and tradition of co-operation. It became more than this however and developed into a package of political rights; conubium, commercium, some restricted political involvement (based on special tribe in Rome) and could acquire citizenship by residence in the city. Latin colonies imitated Roman institutions; tribunes, aediles and consuls.


Italian status. Hard to define generally because each state had its own distinct terms set down in separate treaties (those of Naples, for example, were very favourable). Mostly foedus iniquum which required the ally to contribute to Rome's military (the foedus aequum of town like the Umbrian Camertes were rare). Not a confederation, such as the Achaean league, because there was no collective decision making structure. "They must amicably defend the majesty of the Roman people" (Cicero Pro Balbo 35).


The growth of the empire after the SPW changed the significance of military involvement because wars were no longer fought for mutual defence; they fought to acquire the empire but had no political involvement or direct economic enrichment from the spoils of war (except those collected by individual soldiers) such as from indemnities or taxation. Livy notes that at Pydna the legions of the allies suffered much more than those of the citizens. This would later be one of the causes of the Social War.


Italian states nominally maintained autonomy and independence, except with regard to foreign policy, which always followed that of Rome. Senate acted to arbitrate disputes between allied cities. There is evidence of deliberate large scale borrowing of Roman institutions among the allies; Oscan inscription from Bantia in Lucania alludes to this.


Bacchanalian affair in 186 was a notable instance of senatorial interference directly in internal judicial affairs of Italian allies; the senate felt that the security of the state was in jeopardy. A distinction is made between citizens, Latins and Italians in this decree. On this matter Livy emphasises the immorality, the false oaths, and the violence and the murders hidden by Bacchic dances; he indicates the interference of consuls in the autonomy of Southern Italian allies, especially around Tarentum where slave revolts and brigandage are put down. SC resolves to "give proclamation to those who are in league with the Romans by treaties". Permission must be sought from the senate for any Roman or Latin ally who wishes to attend a Bacchic festival or hold secret ceremonies, "unless he have first approached the praetor of the city

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