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30 Latin Colonies Extant in 209 BC 

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Latin Colonies in 209 BC

From the time of the Roman victory in the Latin War in 338 BC, the Romans founded a number of strategically-placed colonies in peninsular Italy, at which the colonists had Latin rights: that is, they had most of the benefits of Roman citizenship but, crucially, not the right to vote.  Furthermore, like Rome’s Italian allies, they were obliged to provide soldiers for the Roman army at times of war.  Obviously, this obligation became more onerous as Rome’s wars became more common and more prolonged.  Matters came to a head during the Hannibalic War (218-201 BC), with the fortunate side-effect that Livy’s account of these events provides us with a complete list of the Latin colonies that existed at this time.

In 209 BC, the Romans received intelligence to the effect that the Carthaginians were preparing to recapture Sicily.  According to Livy, the consequent:

  1. “... transfer of soldiers to Sicily, most of whom were of Latin status or allies, was the cause of  [complaints from them] ... that, for now the 10th year, they had been exhausted by levies of troops and their pay; [and] that almost every year they fought in a disastrous defeat. ... There were at that time 30 [Latin] colonies, (‘Roman History’, 27: 9 - 27:10).

He then listed

  1. the 12 who informed the Senate that they could no longer furnish soldiers and money:

  2. Alba Fucens; Ardea; Cales; Carseoli; Circeii; Interamna Lirenas; Narnia; Nepete; Setia; Sora; Suessa [Aurunca]; and Sutrium; and

  3. the 18 who confirmed that they had soldiers in readiness and would give more if more were needed:

  4. Aesernia; Ariminum; Beneventum; Brundisium; Cosa; Cremona; Firmum; Fregellae; Hadria; Luceria; Norba; Paestum; Pontiae; Placentia; Saticula; Signia; Spoletium; and Venusia.

These 30 colonies can be usefully discussed in groups, defined chronologically.

Colonies Founded before the Latin War (338 BC)

Seven Latin colonies retained in 338 BC

Adapted from the Digital Atlas of the Roman Empire 

From at least the start of the Republic, Rome co-operated with its Latin-speaking neighbours (who constituted the Latin League) to rid Latium of alien communities.   As Edward Salmon (referenced below, at p. 41) noted:

  1. “When an enemy was defeated and expelled from an area, the allies habitually established a colony on it, composed of both Roman and Latin settlers.”

A number of such colonies were founded, but only seven survived the Roman defeat of the Latin League in 338 BC, albeit that the Romans defined their constitutional status in terms of their obligations only to Rome.  This was the origin of the seven oldest colonies in Livy’s list of 30:

  1. Signia (ancient);

  2. Norba (492 BC);

  3. Ardea (442 BC);

  4. Circeii (393 BC)

  5. Setia (383 BC);

  6. Nepete (383 BC); and 

  7. Sutrium (383 BC).

  1. Read more:

S. Roselaar, “Public Land in the Roman Republic: A Social and Economic History of Ager Publicus in Italy, 396 - 89 BC”, (2010) Oxford

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