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p669 Latinitas

Article by George Long, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College
on pp669‑670 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

LATINITAS, LATIUM, JUS LATII (τὸ καλουμένον Λατεῖον, Strab. p186, Casaub.; Λατίου δίκαιον, Appian, B. C. II.26). All these expressions are used after the Social war to signify a certain status intermediate between that of Cives and Peregrini. The word "Latinitas" occurs in Cicero (ad Att. XIV.12), where he is speaking of the Latinitas being given to the Siculi after Caesar's death. Before the passing of the Lex Julia de Civitate, Latini were the citizens of the old towns of the Latin nation, with the exception of those which were raised to the rank of municipia; it also comprehended the coloniae Latinae. There were before the Lex Julia only two classes, Cives and Peregrini; and Peregrini comprehended the Latini, Socii and the Provinciales, or the free subjects of the Romans beyond the limits of Italy. About the year B.C. 89, a Lex Pompeia gave the Jus Latii to all the Transpadani, and the privilege of obtaining their Roman civitas by having filled a magistratus in their own cities. To denote the status of these Transpadani, the word Latinitas was used, which since the passing of the Lex Julia had lost its proper signification; and this was the origin of that Latinitas which thenceforth existed to the time of Justinian. This new Latinitas or Jus Latii was given to whole towns and countries; as for instance by Vespasian to the whole of Spain (Plin. H. N. III.4); and to certain Alpine tribes (Latio donati, Id. III.20). Hadrianus gave the Latium (Latium dedit) to many cities (Spart. Hadrian. 21).

This new Latinitas was given not only to towns already existing, but to towns which were founded subsequently to the Lex Pompeia, as Latinae Coloniae; for instance Novum-Comum, which was founded B.C. 59 by Caesar (Appian, B. C. II.26). Several Latin towns of this class are mentioned by Pliny, especially in Spain.

Though the origin of this Latinitas, which makes so prominent a figure in the Roman jurists, is certain, it is not certain wherein it differed from that Latinitas which was the characteristic of the Latini before the passing of the Julia Lex. It is however clear that all the old Latini had not the same rights, with respect to Rome; and that they could acquire the civitas on easier terms than those by which the new Latinitas was acquired (Liv. XLI.8).º Accordingly the rights of the old Latini might be expressed by the term Majus Latium, and those of the new Latini by the term Minus Latium, according to Niebuhr's ingenious emendation of Gaius (I.96). The Majus Latium might be considered to be equivalent to the Latium Antiquum and Vetus of Pliny (IV.22); for Pliny, in describing the towns of Spain, always describes the proper colonies as consisting "Civium Romanorum," while he describes other towns as consisting sometimes "Latinorum" simply, and sometimes "Latinorum veterum," or as consisting of oppidani "Latini veteris"; from which an opposition between Latini Veteres and Latini simply might be inferred. But a careful examination of Pliny rather leads to the conclusion that his Latini Veteres and Latini are the same, and that by these p670terms he merely designates the Latini Coloniarii hereafter mentioned. The emendation of Niebuhr is therefore not supported by these passages of Pliny, and though ingenious, it ought perhaps to be rejected; not for the reasons assigned by Madvig, which Savigny has answered, but because it does not appear to be consistent with the whole context of Gaius.

The new Latini had not the connubium; and it is a doubtful question whether the old Latini had it. The new Latini had the commercium.

This new Latinitas, which was given to the Transpadani, was that legal status which the Lex Julia Norbana gave to a numerous class of freedmen, hence called Latini Juniani (Gaius, I.22, III.56; Ulp. Frag. tit. 1). The date of this lex is not ascertained; but it is fixed with some probability at A.U.C. 772 (Latini Juniani, by C.A. Von Vangerow, Marburg, 1833).

The Latini Coloniarii, who are mentioned by Ulpian (Frag. XIX. s4), are the inhabitants of towns beyond Italy, to whom the Latinitas was given. These are the towns which Pliny calls "oppida Latinorum veterum," and enumerates with "oppida civium Romanorum" (III.3), which were military colonies of Roman citizens. The passages in which the Latini Coloniarii are mentioned, as a class then existing, must have been written before Caracalla gave the Civitas to the whole empire.

These, which are the views of Savigny on this difficult subject, are contained in the Zeitschrift, vol. IX Der Röm. Volksschluss der Tafel von Heraclea.

The Latini could acquire the Jus Quiritium, according to Ulpian (Frag. tit. III De Latinis), in the following ways:— By the Beneficium Principale, Liberi, Iteratio, Militia, Navis, Aedificium, Pistrinum; and by a Senatus-consultum it was given to a female "vulgo quae sit ter enixa." These various modes of acquiring the civitas are treated in detail by Ulpian, from which, as well as the connection of this title "De Latinis" with the first title which is "De Libertis," it appears that he only treated of the modes in which the civitas might be acquired by those Latini who were Liberti. The same remark applies to the observations of Gaius (I.28) on the same subject (Quibus modis Latini ad Civitatem Romanam perveniant). In speaking of the mode of acquiring the civitas by means of Liberi, Gaius speaks of a Latinus, that is, a Libertus Latinus, marrying a Roman citizen, or a Latina Colonaria, or a woman of his own condition, from which it is clear that all his remarks under this head apply to Liberti Latini; and it also appears that Gaius speaks of the Latini Coloniarii as a class existing in his time. Neither Ulpian nor Gaius says any thing on the mode by which a Latinus Colonarius might obtain the Civitas Romana.

Savigny's opinions on the nature of the Latinitas are further explained in the eleventh number of the Zeitschrift (Nachträge zu den früheren Arbeiten). Richard of Cirencester, in his work De Situ Britanniae, speaks of ten cities in Britain, which were Latio jure donatae and this is a complete proof, independent of other proofs, that Richard compiled his work from genuine materials.a The expression "Latium Jus" could not be invented by a monk, and he here used a genuine term, the full import of which he certainly could not understand. See also Civis, Libertus, Manumissio.


Thayer's Note:

a Richard compiled his work from genuine materials: Actually, it is a proof that someone compiled the De Situ Britanniae from genuine materials, as indeed someone did — in the 18c. Not long after this article was written (ca. 1842), the work was conclusively proven to be a forgery: for the basic details, see this article of the Catholic Encyclopaedia; for the problems caused by this forgery in identifying Roman towns in England, see Thomas Codrington.


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