Who Was Not Given Citizenship In Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome is remembered today as one of the most powerful and successful civilizations in the world. At its peak, the Roman Empire encompassed much of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East and produced forward-thinking laws, technological advancement, and groundbreaking architecture. Most significantly, it offered citizenship to its citizens, with the promise of political, social, legal and financial benefits.

While Rome was a champion of citizenship, not everyone living in the empire was given the same rights. All men and women living in the city of Rome were considered citizens, whether they had been born Roman, were born in the empire and held Roman citizenship, or had become Roman citizens through naturalization. In the provinces, however, people were less likely to be granted citizenship. People living in areas annexed by Rome were generally given the status of a “subject” and were generally not granted citizenship.

Citizenship was also denied to people on the basis of their ethnicity and religious beliefs. For example, Jews were not allowed to be full citizens until the mid-First Century AD. This was because the Jews had rejected the claims of the Roman Emperor to be the son of God. Non-Romans were also not eligible to be citizens. This was driven by a desire to ensure that citizenship was seen as a privilege, rather than a right.

In addition to denying citizenship to some groups of people, the Roman government made it particularly difficult for slaves to become citizens. Slavery was a fundamental part of the Roman social and economic structure, and it was very difficult for slaves to become citizens since they had no property rights. Slaves were also largely excluded from any form of social mobility, as they did not have the same rights or opportunities as citizens. Furthermore, slaves were often treated as disposable by their owners and were frequently sold or traded to pay off debts.

Women could theoretically become citizens of Rome, but it was much more difficult than for men. Women had limited rights under Roman law and were generally seen as being subordinate to their husbands. In practice, though, it was very rare for a woman to become a citizen, because of the restrictions put in place by the Roman authorities.

In general, then, Roman citizens enjoyed significantly more rights and privileges than those who were not citizens. Citizenship was an important factor in making the Roman Empire one of the most successful in the world. It was also used to distinguish between those who were considered to be “Roman” and those who were not, and those who were not considered Roman were denied the right of citizenship.

Freed Slaves

During the reign of the Roman Empire, many slaves were able to gain freedom through manumission, which was a process by which a slave was released from bondage. Once they had been freed, these former slaves were known as liberti and were given the same rights as any other Roman citizen. They were allowed to own property, participate in politics, and even start their own businesses. Even so, liberated slaves often struggled to gain the same level of respect as those born into Roman citizen families.

To make it easier for these ex-slaves to gain acceptance from their fellow citizens, the Roman government provided them with a number of privileges. These included tax exemptions and special clothing. Liberti were also allowed to hold positions of authority in Roman government, military, and religious organizations. This recognition granted to ex-slaves was an important step in the acceptance of freed slaves in Roman society.

Manumission was a significant move towards human rights in the Roman Empire and played an important role in alleviating some of the oppressive conditions of slavery. However, while some former slaves were granted citizenship, many were not. The majority of slaves still remained enslaved, with no rights or legal protections at all.

Citizenship by Military Service

The Roman government also took another route to grant citizenship which was through military service. The Roman army was one of the most powerful and well-equipped forces in the ancient world and a great source of both pride and power for the Empire. Service in the army was seen as an important and prestigious duty, and the Roman authorities rewarded it with certain privileges and benefits. One of these was the opportunity for Roman citizenship. By serving in the army, non-Roman citizens of the Empire could be granted the right to citizenship.

The Roman authorities also established colonies in conquered territories and aimed to populate them with Roman citizens. The colonists were encouraged to take up land in the colonies and start a new life as independent farmers with all the rights of a Roman citizen. Love of country, as well as economic and political advantages, were important motivations for people to take up citizenship in this way.

Becoming a Roman Citizen

Becoming a citizen of the Roman Empire was not easy; it usually required a certain amount of money and, in some cases, could take years to complete. People who wanted to become Roman citizens had to demonstrate that they had been living in the city for a certain period of time, and then had to pay a tax known as the centuriationes to prove that they were of legal age and had sufficient resources to support themselves.

Once a person had successfully completed all the necessary requirements, they would be granted the Jus publicum, which was the most common form of Roman citizenship. With this, they would receive all the rights and privileges of Roman citizenship, including the right to hold public office and to vote in the stratos. Unfortunately, this was an unattainable goal for most people living in the ancient world.

The Cost of Roman Citizenship

The cost of becoming a Roman citizen was incredibly high; even if one had the requisite wealth and skill, the process often took years to complete. Becoming a Roman citizen was, for many, a goal that was simply not achievable. People living in provinces of Rome or other areas in annexed by the Empire were less likely to be granted citizenship as the Roman government sought to keep their numbers limited in order to maintain their power.

Similarly, people of certain ethnic backgrounds or religions were not eligible for citizenship. Slaves had a particularly hard time of it; even if they were eventually freed, their low social standing and lack of economic resources made it difficult for them to attain citizenship. Women also faced significant barriers to becoming citizens and, while it was technically possible, it was rarely achieved in practice.

Consequences of Denied Citizenship

The denial of citizenship to certain groups of people had serious consequences for those who were not able to gain it. Those who lacked citizenship were denied the rights and protections accorded to citizens, and were often subjected to discrimination and exploitation in their daily lives. This could range from social exclusion to physical and economic deprivation. For slaves, in particular, citizenship could mean the difference between a life of freedom and a life of bondage.

The denial of citizenship was a major factor in the success of the Roman Empire and allowed them to maintain their power and influence. However, it also resulted in a system of inequality that excluded some people and denied them the same rights and privileges enjoyed by Roman citizens. It is a reminder that, while the Roman Empire was one of the most successful in history, not everyone enjoyed the same rights or freedoms.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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