Thursday, September 24, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Altay Coskun, Bürgerrechtsentzug oder Fremdenausweisung? Studien zu den Rechten von Latinern und weiteren Fremden sowie zum Bürgerrechtswechsel in der Römischen Republik (5. bis frühes 1. Jh. v.Chr.). HERMES - Einzelschriften Bd. 101. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2009. Pp. 236. ISBN 9783515093033. €50.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Saskia T. Roselaar, University of Manchester

Table of Contents

The integration of minorities is an issue of much importance in current debate. In such debates parallels are often drawn between modern integration practices and those of ancient states, in order to argue that the latter were more inclined to receive strangers than many modern-day societies. Coskun mentions this parallel, but argues in this book that, even if Romans did not commonly hold racial prejudices, actual grants of Roman citizenship were relatively rare.1

This book takes as its point of departure a number of episodes in the early second century BC in which Latins and Italian allies were expelled from Rome. It discusses the opportunities these people had of gaining Roman citizenship, and whether the Roman state had the power to expel those without citizenship from the city. In doing so, Coskun touches upon a number of issues which have been the subject of much scholarly debate over the last centuries, such as the ius postliminii, the ius civitatis per magistratum adipiscendae and the ius XII coloniarum. He handles these intricate debates with admirable ability, and arrives at a coherent and convincing argument.

Part A forms a short introduction; it discusses various scholarly ideas about Roman willingness to share citizenship with others, as well as sketching briefly the economic and demographic developments in the late third and second centuries BC as a background for the discussion to follow.

Part B, by far the longest part of the book (p. 31-155), discusses in much detail the opportunities for Latins to acquire Roman citizenship. Coskun argues against the idea, widespread among ancient historians, that the Romans were willing to share a wide variety of rights with the Latins as a result of their 'shared ancestry'. Such rights are often assumed to have been laid down by the foedus Cassianum of 493 BC, and would have included the conubium, commercium and the ius migrationis or migrandi, which is assumed to have allowed Latins to take up Roman citizenship when moving to Rome. (A distinction should be made between migration to the city of Rome and to the ager Romanus; temporary or permanent migration from Latin territory to the ager Romanus may have occurred often, since these areas were not strictly separated geographically, while migration to Rome itself may have been rarer. Coskun, however, does not always distinguish clearly between the two.) Coskun argues, rightly in my opinion, that there is hardly any evidence for widespread conubium between Romans and Latins during the Republic; he argues (p. 38) that if conubium had been common, it would have been difficult to extradite Latins who had concluded legally valid marriages with Roman women. In the case of commercium, he likewise argues that Latins had no actual rights to conclude legally valid business with Romans, but that sufficient legal instruments were available to solve any occurring disputes. Furthermore, contrary to the assumption held by many scholars, the fact that the Latins did not usually hold commercium meant that they did not have a right to own Roman land. Again, if many of them owned property in the city of Rome, they could not have been extradited so easily.2

Coskun then moves on to the question of whether the Latins possessed a ius migrandi. He argues on the basis of Cicero's Pro Caecina and Pro Balbo (strangely referred to as the Caeciniana and Balbiniana respectively) that citizenship could not be taken away by the state except as punishment. The right of postliminium was available for Romans who moved outside of Roman territory and then returned, at which point their former citizenship was reinstated. The ius postliminii did not apply to Latins, which also means that they not hold any ius migrandi in the sense that if they moved to Rome, they automatically became Roman citizens. Even former citizens who moved to Latin colonies did not become Roman citizens again when they returned to Rome.

It is often thought that a Latin who left behind a son in his hometown could achieve Roman citizenship by migration: the so-called ius civitatis per stirpem adipiscendae. However, Coskun argues convincingly that this right only pertained to Romans who moved to Latin colonies and then back to Rome,and that it served to maintain the colonies' manpower.3 Other Latins did not have the right to become Romans when moving to Rome. Furthermore, although peregrini -- among whom Coskun rightly includes Latins -- were counted at the Roman census, this did not mean that they became citizens by being counted.

Coskun argues for the existence of a ius XII coloniarum (the ius Ariminense mentioned by Cicero). This would have granted the citizens of twelve colonies to commercium, conubium, including the right to own Roman land, to bequeath property to Romans, and to inherit from them. This ius XII coloniarum has been the subject of endless debate, but Coskun comes up with a new explanation: contrary to many scholars who believe that it referred to the last twelve Latin colonies, founded between 268 and 181, Coskun argues that this right was not created until the second century BC: in the face of increasing migration to Rome, giving some Latins better rights may have made them more reluctant to leave their colonies. Coskun attributes the fact that only twelve Latin colonies enjoyed this right to their individual choice, perhaps not the most convincing argument, but it would fit with the attempts of the Roman state to leave Latin autonomy intact as much as possible.

A similar purpose may have been served by the ius civitatis per magistratum adipiscendae. It is usually assumed that this was introduced around 125/122, and that at the same time, the general ius migrandi was abolished. Although Coskun agrees with the date of the introduction of this right, he argued earlier that a general ius migrandi did not exist, nor does he see any evidence for the abolition of the right to become a citizen when leaving behind a son. He admits, however, that there are very few sources for the ius civitatis per magistratum adipiscendae. In practical terms it is unlikely that magistrates were forced to become Roman citizens; Coskun argues that they could also choose to enjoy only the right of provocatio and freedom from local munera. If they enjoyed, at the same time, the ius XII coloniarum, their position would practically be the same as if they had Roman citizenship. By enlarging the rights of Latins without actually granting them Roman citizenship, the Roman state hoped to limit the stream of migrants from the Latin cities, which Coskun argues was especially great after 133 (although he does not explain why migration became larger after this date).

Coskun then finally turns to the events of the early second century BC. He argues firstly, and in my opinion convincingly, that the expression socii nominis Latini employed by Livy means only Latins, not Latins and other allies. Previous scholarship assumes that most of the people who were expelled in 187 and 177 already possessed Roman citizenship, and that their expulsion was therefore a breach of law by the Roman state. However, in light of his earlier discussion, Coskun argues that the immigrant Latins had not yet become Roman citizens: they did not enjoy a ius migrandi, and their inclusion in the census did not mean that they had thereby become citizens. Therefore they were still peregrini, and the Roman state could expel aliens whenever this was felt to be necessary.

However, the Latins did have the right to migrate if they left behind a son; emissaries from the colonies stated that this law had been disregarded or circumvented by adoption. Coskun's argument in this discussion is difficult to follow; according to him a Latinwould first sell his own sons into slavery -- they would later be freed by their Roman buyer(s) -- and then adopted a son to leave in his town. It is not clear why this would have bothered the Romans; the end result was that a son remained in the colony, even if it was not a blood relation. Coskun assumes that the Romans objected to the fact that a 'minderwertige' (p. 180) son was left behind, but it is not clear why adopted sons would be less valuable. It may simply be that the Romans wanted to stop the stream of migrants to Rome, which would be reduced if the sons of Latins could not come to Rome themselves.

One of the senate's decisions in the matter was to forbid the use of adoptions; Coskun rightly argues that this was a ban on future adoptions only (regarding as a valid those which had already occurred) and only forbade Roman citizens to adopt Latins -- the senate had no formal powers over the Latins, and therefore could not forbid them to have their sons adopted. It is clear that the Roman state tried to accommodate the Latin communities in as many ways as possible: it listened to their complaints and enacted laws to stop future migration to Rome, but at the same time left the Latins a large measure of autonomy: they were to use their own census records to find out which of their citizens had migrated -- thus making it possible for them to choose which citizens they wanted to take back -- and did not force their power onto the Latins by forbidding them specific things (as they had done in the Bacchanalian affair taking place in the same period, an interesting parallel which Coskun does not mention).

All in all, Coskun presents an interesting and mostly convincing explanation of the events of the second century BC. However, his argument would have been even more convincing if his account had taken a wider view of society in this period. Coskun's work focuses almost exclusively on details of law; he hardly ever discusses wider developments in Italian economy and society, which would have given an important backup to his ideas about population pressure in Rome and depopulation of Latin communities. He does briefly discuss demographic developments (p. 25-29), showing an inclination towards the 'high count'. However, this leaves the reader wondering why, if population was indeed growing so fast, the Latin and Italian cities would have worried about a loss of manpower. Of course, population developments may have experienced local variation, leading to different rates of growth for different regions and even individual towns, but if the whole population of Italy was growing fast, it is unlikely that many Latin towns experienced a serious population decline.

Furthermore, Coskun does not discuss reasons for the migration of so many Latins and allies, and the exact consequences that this may have had for their hometowns, apart from the problem of fulfilling their military duties. Nor does he discuss which social groups might have migrated; throughout the book, he treats Latins and allies as homogenous groups, without paying attention to differences in motivation between the elites and the lower classes. Motivations to migrate may have been different for different social groups.4

Another important problem is that Coskun does not really seem to think about the practicality of the legal developments he describes. He discusses, for instance, changes of citizenship which Romans experienced when migrating to other states: if they moved away with the intention to remain abroad, they would become citizens of the state they had moved to; when returning to Rome, they could reassert their Roman citizenship by postliminium. The practicalities of such changes of citizenship are not discussed; for example, how would an intention to stay abroad be proven? Furthermore, to presume that Romans were free to change their citizenship at any time, first by becoming citizens of foreign states and then by becoming Roman again, seems too complicated; Coskun does not discuss how such changes were recorded and communicated to the states to which these people formerly belonged. A digression on the practices of census-taking would have been very welcome here. Nor does Coskun discuss the ideas that migrants themselves may have had about their change of citizenship; even if such technicalities were important for the Roman state, migrants may not actually have paid them much attention, and may simply have moved about whenever they wished to. It was only if disputes arose about one's citizen status that such technicalities became important, as is shown by Cicero's Pro Archia.

A similar argument pertains to Coskun's denial of the rights of conubium and commercium to Latins: even if Latins did not have these rights, an argument with which I agree, this does not mean that they in practice did not marry or trade with Romans. Coskun, however, often fails to separate law from practice, and does not discuss how these things may have worked in reality. It may be, for example, that Latin men married Roman women, who then came to live with their men in a Latin community; in this case, not having the conubium or Roman citizenship would have made no difference, at least not for the ability of the men to migrate.

An important objection can be made against the formatting of the book: in many cases, most of the argument is relegated to the footnotes. Many footnotes discuss more than one issue, and since the footnotes do not usually contain paragraphs, it is sometimes difficult to see where one issue ends and another begins. The line of argument would have been easier to follow if more information had been included in the text.

Minor issues are the use of English translations of classical texts (e.g. p. 24, 32, 71) -- it would make more sense to use German translations in all cases. The number of typographical errors is small (p. 50 inectio; p. 53 Streifälle; p. 75 Ogilivie; p.78 Feilassung; p. 83 Anm. 288 (should be Anm. 287); p. 122 Noy 1999 missing in bibliography; p. 131 Auxiumum; p. 214 wrong alphabetisation).

In general, however, this is an important addition to current scholarship about the integration of Romans and Italians in the Republic. This is a period which is currently receiving much scholarly attention, and I would strongly advise anyone with an interest in the period to consult Coskun's work -- not just the book under review, but also his recent and forthcoming works on various (mainly legal) aspects of integration in the Roman world.


1. See also A. Coskun. 2009. Grosszügige Praxis der Bürgerrechtsvergabe in Rom? Zwischen Mythos und Wirklichkeit (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag).

2. For commercium in the Republic see also Roselaar forthcoming.

3. This idea is strengthened by the fact that the vacatio militiae of Roman citizen colonies seems to have served a similar purpose: see Roselaar forthcoming (Mnemosyne).

4. As is argued by W. Broadhead, 2003. 'An eroding power-base: the effects of emigration on the Italian municipal elites in the early 2nd-early 1st centuries BC', in: M. Cébeillac-Gervasioni et L. Lamoine, Les élites et leurs facettes. Les élites locales dans le monde hellénistique et romain. Actes du colloque international de Clermont-Ferrand (Clermont-Ferrand: Presses universitaires Blaise Pascal), 143-62.

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