Archives For civis romanus
Though Interamna Lirenas was in the area now known as “Italy,” it had been set up by Rome as a “Latin” colony in 312 B.C.E., Launaro explains: “As such, its inhabitants were not considered Roman citizens, but citizens of a formally independent community, bound to Rome by a treaty of close political and military alliance. Following the so-called Social War (‘war with the allies’, from 91 to 88 B.C.E., Interamna was granted the status of a Roman municipium and its inhabitants became Roman citizens.”
While still having a large degree of administrative autonomy, its inhabitants would have then been entitled to vote in Rome’s assemblies and even run for public office, he explains.
It is a tragedy, perhaps, that the Roman model was abandoned. The modern era, for all its material comforts, is perhaps incapable of returning to it. The Roman model of ‘diversity’ sought not to emphasise ethnic differences, but to relegate them to a secondary and ultimately inconsequential status. For a while, all that really mattered was that one aspired to the status of civis Romanus. Roman diversity also required something that the modern West is incapable of providing: a critical, but in the end self-assured and even triumphalist vision of its own history, and with it a belief in the value of one’s own society and the ability to make membership of that society a desirable end in itself. The modern West is fractured, and just as in the Rome of third and fourth centuries pleas to encompassing civic virtues seem to hold less appeal in the face of fragmentation and conflict. We cannot, and should not follow the Romans in all matters, but we might learn something valuable if we take their emphasis on a universal and aspirational mode of civic participation seriously.