Origins of Roman Citizenship

Author: Howarth, Randall S.
This study explores the various influences that inform and shape our understanding of the early Roman Republic. It is common knowledge that the demise of the Roman Republic in its last one hundred years was not only the occasion for the shaping of the traditional narrative for the much earlier Republic but that it was, in addition, the source of both the discourse and the tone of that history as we have inherited it from the Romans. Nevertheless, our increasing cognizance of this truth has not resulted in any significant movement away from the fundamentals of that inherited narrative – until now. The author first shows how the sum of numerous modern treatments of early Rome represent an unanswered and devastating attack on the communis opinio and then proceeds to show how an alternative narrative, one that substitutes regional conflict with the putative one known as “the struggle of the orders,” makes the most sense as the dynamic informing the evolution of Roman political institutions.


“ ... unlike eighteenth-century America, the Republic created by Romans was neither produced by philosophers, historians and politicians nor influenced by books and historical models. Rather, the Roman Republic evolved from practices and institutions whose origins were poorly documented at best and, in fact, completely misconstrued by subsequent generations of Roman and Greek authors who dealt with the early history ... This study makes this evolutionary growth and development abundantly clear. In convincing fashion, the author examines the evidence bearing on the origin of Roman citizenship and finds both the ancient evidence and the modern analysis of same wanting. The reason Romans were so willing to extend full citizenship to manumitted slaves was that the practice originated at a time when captives and captors were not dissimilar to one another ethnically or culturally and Rome was more than willing to make allies and citizens out of former enemies and confederates. This particular feature, more than any other, supports Dr. Howarth’s argument and fully supports his thesis concerning the priority of Latin federal over Roman civic practice.” – (from the Preface) Richard E. Mitchell, Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

“ ... The great strength of Dr. Randall Howarth’s work is the recognition that these two topics [the dichotomy between patricians and plebeians and of Rome’s position in relation to other Latin towns] are really closely interrelated and that the concept of Roman citizenship should provide a fruitful approach to their complexities. He takes serious note of rituals as a guide to state activities and to the conceptual world of the Romans themselves. Dr. Howarth notes well that aspects of these rites that concern the Latins and their political relations with Rome do not fit traditional views of Roman-Latin and shows instead that there may have been no clear division between internal and external here ... In sum, this is a thought-provoking work and the questions that it asks should be taken seriously by all students of the period.” – Professor Daniel J. Gargola, University of Kentucky

“The early history of Rome is shrouded in legend and only fragmentary and problematic evidence from this period has survived. Scholarly consensus still postulates the central importance of the so-called ‘Struggle of the Orders,’ or conflict between patricians and plebeians. Taking his cue from Richard Mitchell’s cogent and controversial argument that no ‘Struggle of the Orders’ in fact existed, Dr. Randall Howarth proposes an intriguing new interpretation whereby the events attributed to that ‘Struggle’ actually reflect a protracted negotiation or conflict between a rurally based, Latin artistocracy and the city of Rome, slowly emerging as a powerful social and political institution ... Dr. Howarth makes this book accessible to a broad audience with a lucid introduction to Roman historiography and summaries of the traditional interpretation of events. No one who has read this book is likely to teach the history of the early Republic in quite the same way as before.” – Professor Susan Mattern-Parkes, University of Georgia

“The ‘Struggle of the Orders’ that supposedly pitted a Roman patrician aristocracy against a plebian proletariat has always made historians uncomfortable, and most historians today disregard the one-dimensional view as portrayed in our sources. Dr. Randall S. Howarth’s new book, The Origins of Roman Citizenship, enters this debate clearly on the side of Richard Mitchell (who wrote the preface) and his more radical positions in an attempt to completely dismiss the concept. Whether you agree or disagree with Dr. Howarth’s conclusions, his book is worthy of consideration in the debate regarding not only the “Struggle of the Orders” but also the evolution of archaic Roman government and Rome’s diplomacy with its Latin neighbors.” – Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Table of Contents

1. The Ancient Evidence and the Evolution of Roman Historical Memory
2. Time, Political Change, and the Origins of Roman Identity
3. The Latins
4. Institutional Evolution in the Fifth Century BCE
5. The Emergence of Rome from the Latin Context
6. The Realization of Roman Political Identity
7. The Evolution of the Roman Assemblies Select Bibliography
General Index