Key to Umbria

Roman Republic:

Citizen Settlement in Samnium

Home   Cities    History    Art    Hagiography    Contact

Latin colonies: Suessa Aurunca; Interamna Lirensis (313-2 BC)

Maritime citizen colonies: Minturnae and Sinuessa (both 296 BC)

Samnite prefectures (290 BC ?): Allifae, Venafrum, Atina; Casinum and Aufidena (?)

(Hernician prefecture: Arpinum)

Assigned to the Teretina (formed in 299 BC): Minturnae, Sinuessa, Interamna Lirensis*

Allifae*; Venafrum*; Atina;* Casinum*

Asterisk indicates tribal allocation after the Social War

Festus’ second list of prefectures contains two in southwestern Samnium: Allifae and Venafrum.  Support for this can be found in two other inscriptions discussed by Maria Carla Spadoni (referenced below):

  1. An inscription (CIL X 4876, at pp. 59-60, entry 57) from Venafrum commemorated Caius Aquitius Gallus, a military man who had served in a number of posts there, including as praefectus iure dicundo on two, probably consecutive, occasions.  Spadoni noted that Venatrum was colonised in the triumviral period and that the cursus of Aquitius suggested that he had been one of the first pair of duoviri iure dicundo of the new colony and that he had held this post simultaneously with that of praefectus iure dicundo.  In other words, in this two-year period, he would have administered the affairs of the new colonists and also the established citizen settlers in the erstwhile prefecture.

  2. A funerary inscription (CIL IX 2346, at p. 68, entry 69) from Alifae, which Spadoni dated to the 1st century AD, commemorated Caius Aquillius Rufus, who held the post of praefectus iure dicundo.  Epigraphic evidence suggests that Allifae was a colony by the late 1st century AD, although the date of colonisation is unknown.  Aquillius had held the posts of aedile and duovir of the colony before his prefecture, and Spadoni suggested that this was a one-off post, established because of a vacancy in the duovirate.  In other words (if I have understood her correctly, after colonisation, one of the serving duoviri would normally have taken on the functions of the erstwhile prefect.

There is also evidence that might indicate prefectures at three other places in this region:

  1. A Latin inscription (CIL IX 2802) from Aufidena that apparently pre-dates the 1st century BC records the building of a bridge by two prefects.  However, Maria Carla Spdoni (referenced below, at p. 72, entry 75/6) suggested that the prefects in question held only a temporary commission in respect of this construction project.  If this is correct, then Aufidena can be safely omitted from this discussion. 

  2. According to Cicero, who successfully defended his friend, Gnaeus Plancius against a charge of election fraud in 54 BC:

  3. “Plancius comes from the prefecture of Atina” (‘Pro Plancia’ 19). 

  4. Cicero also described the esteem in which Plancius was held in the surrounding area:

  5. “There was not one citizen of Arpinum who was not anxious for Plancius, not one citizen of Sora, or of Casinum, or of Aquinum.  The whole of that most celebrated district, the territory of Venafrum, and Allifae, in short, the whole of that rugged mountainous faithful simple district, a district cherishing its own native citizens, thought that it was honoured itself in his honour, that its own consequence was increased by his dignity.  And from those same municipia, Roman knights are now present here... ” (‘Pro Plancia’ 22, my bold italics).

  6. Thus:

  7. the centres mentioned here, including Casinum, Venafrum, and Allifae had all been municipalised by 54 BC and not yet been colonised; but

  8. Atina had not been municipalised by this time, so Cicero described it as a prefecture.

  9. When Atina was subsequently municipalised, it still remained a prefecture: an inscription (AE 1993, 0565) from Aesernia that probably dates to the 1st half of the 2nd century AD commemorates a now-anonymous patron of a number of places, one of which was the municipium and prefecture of the Atinates (see Edward Bispham, referenced below, at p. 97 and note 116).  Thus it served as the seat of a Roman prefect who presumably administered justice to the citizens in the surrounding area.

  10. The evidence that Casinum had ever been constituted as a prefecture is relatively late.  Maria Carla Spadoni (referenced below) listed three funerary inscriptions from Casinum that commemorated named prefects:

  11. Two inscriptions (CIL X 5193 and 5194, at pp. 16, entry 7), which she dated to the 1st century BC, commemorated Caius Futius, praefectus Casinatium.    

  12. The third (CIL X 5203) commemorated a Numerius Savonius, who was designated as pr(aefecto).

  13. She suggested that both men had been appointed locally and held their respective offices in the period in which Casinum was a municipium (i.e. in ca. 90-40 BC, before a probable colonisation in the triumviral period).  It is possible that these ‘municipal’ prefects replaced Roman prefects who had operated from Casinum in the prior period. 

Thus, it seems likely that there were four prefectures in southwestern Samnium: Allifae, Venafrum, Casinum and Atina.  Rafael Scopacasa (referenced below, 2015a, at p. 148) observed that:

  1. “Although we can only guess at the exact dates at which these communities became prefectures, the decades following the end of Third Samnite War in 290 BC offer a plausible context ...”

Minturnae and Sinuessa

In 296 BC, during the Third Samnite War, the consul Lucius Volumnius Flamma Violens suppressed a Samnite incursion into Campania.  Livy described the relief felt in Rome when this news arrived, and continued:

  1. “The next question was the protection of the district that had been devastated by the Samnites.  It was decided to settle bodies of colonists about the Vescinian and Falernian country. 

  2. One was to be at the mouth of the Liris, now called the colony of Minturnae.

  3. The other was to be in the Vescinian forest, where it is contiguous with the territory of Falernum.  Here, the Greek city of Sinope is said to have stood and, from this, the Romans gave the place the name of Sinuessa.   

  4. It was arranged that the tribunes of the plebs should get a plebiscite passed requiring P. Sempronius, the praetor, to appoint commissioners for the founding of colonies in those spots. But it was not easy to find people to be sent to what was practically a permanent outpost in a dangerously hostile country: [potential colonists preferred to have] fields allotted to them for cultivation”, (‘History of Rome’, 10: 21: 7-10).

Lily Ross Taylor (referenced below, at p. 57) both Minturnae and Sinuessa were located on land that the Romans had taken from the Aurunci in 314 BC.  They had established two Latin colonies (Suessa Aurunca and Interamna Lirensis) on the confiscated land in 313-2 BC.  The two new citizen colonies were assigned to the Terentia tribe, which had been established in 299 BC, presumably for viritane settlers on the confiscated land.  Graham Mason (referenced below, at p. 82) suggested that:

  1. “The main reason for founding both Mintunae and Sinuessa [in 296 BC] was to secure ... the neighbouring fertile lands from the ravages of the Samnites, who had repeatedly overrun the area.  Livy ... says as much. ... [The apparent reluctance of prospective colonists] implies no negative attitude toward the two sites as such ... It reflects the circumstances of that point in the Third Samnite War; there was another attempted Samnite incursion into the area the following year ”

However, with the end of the war in 290 BC, the barriers to citizen settlement would have disappeared.  Furthermore, it is possible that a more extensive programme for settling this fertile plain, now protected by the new colonies, came to fruition.    

Prefectures at Allifae, Venafrum, Atina and Casinum

As noted above, it is likely that Allifae, Venafrum, Atina and Casinum came under Roman control at this point in 290 BC.  We might therefore reasonably assume that they were constituted as prefectures at that point, providing centres from which visiting Roman prefects might conveniently administer the legal affairs of the local viritane and (possibly) colonial settlers.   All of Allifae, Venafrum, Atina and Casinum were subsequently assigned to the Teretina.  Adrian Sherwin-White (referenced below, at p. 208) observed that:

  1. “The extension of the Teretina to accommodate the Samnite prefectures after [their enfranchisement possibly post-dated] the Social War.”

Thus the newly-enfranchised residents of these centres would have been placed in the tribe of their citizen neighbours.

Rafael Scopacasa (referenced below, 2015a, at p.  241) observed that:

  1. “Some, but not all, prefectures in Italy had nucleated centres where the settler population gathered to conduct business and trade.  It is difficult to determine whether such centres were present [at the prefectures in southwestern Samnium], especially since the sites where they were presumably situated have been continuously occupied to the present day [and thus are barely excavated].”

There is some division of scholarly opinion on this point, at least in relation to Allifae and Venafrum:

  1. Michel Humbert (referenced below, at p. 247), who placed considerable weight on the numismatic from both Allifae and Venafrum.  Thus, for him:

  2. “Allifae and Venafrum were urbanised centres before the conquest, [as evidenced by the fact that] they issued a coinage ... [described (in note 171) as: silver (Allifae, 4th century BC) and bronze (Venafrum, at the start of the  3rd century BC)].  After incorporation, the Romans surely left in place, [albeit] in the form of municipia, the [administrative machinery] of these communities, whose prior autonomy was indisputable.  This autonomy was restricted [after the conquest] only by the judicial competence of the praefectus i.d. and by the demands of Roman sovereignty” (my translation).

  3. In other words, in Humbert’s opinion, Allifae and Venafrum were both substantial, self-governing centres before the conquest, and they were probably constituted simultaneously and immediately thereafter as both municipia and  prefectures. 

  4. Other scholars are much more cautious about the question of whether Allifae and Venafrum had municipal status before the Social War:

  5. Robert Knapp (referenced below, at p. 32) tentatively accepted that:

  6. “... Allifae and Venafrum] were probably civitates sine suffragio”;

  7. but he cautioned  (at note 68) that :

  8. “... c.s.s. status is not attested for [them] ... As troublesome as this is, it appears reasonable to suppose these towns to be c.s.s. on the basis of the attestation of that status for other towns on Festus' list.”

  9. Edward Bispham, (at p. 466, note 14) suggested that the passage from Cicero’s ‘Pro Plancia’ (above) implied municipal status for Allifae, Venafrum and Casinum, at least by 54 BC.  However, he noted that:

  10. “The date of municipalisation is most uncertain, but [citing Humbert, above] it may have occurred at Allifae and Venafrum before the Social War.

It seems to me that we have no hard evidence that any of these centres was municipalised (with or without voting rights) before the Social War:

  1. the numismatic evidence put forward by Michel Humbert cannot alone support this hypothesis;

  2. Knapp’s reasoning from Festus’ list is circular: as he noted, there is similarly no evidence for municipalisation at four other towns in Festus’ list: Privernum and Frusino (discussed above); and Reate and Nursia (discussed below); and

  3. Edward Bispham  ended his note with the words ‘non liquet’, indicating that the situation is unclear’.

It is probably safest to take the default position that none of these prefectures  was constituted as a municipium before the Social War.  Furthermore, in the absence of archeological evidence, it would be rash to assume (as Humbert did on the basis of numismatic evidence) that any of them was substantially urbanised.

  1. Read more: 

  2. R. Scopacasa (a), “Ancient Samnium: Settlement, Culture, and Identity between History and Archaeology”, (2015) Oxford

  3. R. Scopacasa (b), “A Repensando a Romanização: a Expansão Romana na Itália a Partir das Fontes V istoriográficas”, Rev. Hist (São Paulo), 172 (2015) 113-6

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

  1. E. Bispham, “From Asculum to Actium: The Municipalisation of Italy from the Social War to Augustus”, (2008) Oxford

  2. M.C. Spadoni, “I Prefetti nell' Amministrazione Municipale dell' Italia Romana”, (2004) Bari

  3. R. Feig Vishnia, “State, Society and Popular Leaders in Mid-Republican Rome 241-167 BC”, (1996) Oxford

  4. G. Mason , “The Agrarian Role of Coloniae Maritimae: 338-241 BC”, Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte, 41:1 (1992)  75-87

  5. R. Knapp, “Festus 262L and Praefecturae in Italy", Athenaeum, 58 (1980) 14-38

  6. M. Humbert, “Municipium et Civitas sine Suffragio: L' Organisation de la Conquête jusqu'à la Guerre Sociale”, Publications de l'École Française de Rome, 36 (1978)

  7. A. N. Sherwin-White, “The Roman Citizenship (Second Edition)”, (1973) Oxford

  8. L. Ross Taylor, “The Voting Districts of the Roman Republic: The 35 Urban and Rural Tribes”, (1960) Rome

  9. H. Armstrong, “Privernum: II: The Roman City”, American Journal of Archaeology, 15:2 (1911) 170-94

  10. Return to the History Index