Interview with Professor Jean-Michel David

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Prof. Jean-Michel David teaches Ancient History at the University Panthéon Sorbonne of Paris, France. He has done many publications, the most important being:

  • "The Roman Conquest of Italy", ISBN 0631203257 (translation of "La romanisation de l'Italie", ISBN 2700722582)
  • "The Judgement in the Last Century of Roman Republic",
  • "The Roman Republic (218-31). Crisis of an Aristocracy".

Professor David is a very important name in the study of Roman history, and he is well known worldwide; I'm proud to have his contribution here in Nova Roma.

An "Interview the Expert" interview.


The Romanization of Italy

All the linguistic, social and administrative elements needed to bring Roman civilization in all the peninsula, during the Republican age.

How did the Romans behave toward the aristocratic class of a newly conquered people?

Rome was a city directed by an aristocracy, and she could not imagine that the allied towns and peoples could be governed by anything other than aristocracies. When a city or a people was conquered, the Roman authorities started eliminating, employing practices which depended on the circumstances, ie execution, enslavement, ruin or simply removal, those families and groups which had been hostile. However, they also started patronate relationships with those more favourable who sided with Rome. In this way the local aristocracies became the intermediaries of the Roman domination. Some of their members could even attain the Roman citizenship and thus integrate into the Roman political milieu.

What happened with a 'New Ager" conquered in the Italic territory?

When a city or a people was defeated, a portion (one part only) of their territory was usually confiscated by the Roman Estate. This land was used by Rome in different ways. It could be sold, but such cases were rare. More often, it could be employed as the foundation of a colony, the divisions of which were lots assigned to Roman or Italic colonists, who could in turn rent it out to the former or new owners.

Is it possible to estimate the total amount of slaves which arrived in Rome with the conquest of Italy?

It is possible to estimate the amount of slaves brought to Italy with the conquest of the Mediterranean world (one or two million) but not the number of slaves due to the conquest of Italy herself. In the III Century BCE, following the vict ory against Hannibal, the prime destination of slaves was no longer Rome, but rather the slave markets of Italy and outside Italy.

What kind of Roman settlement existed in the period of the Romanization of Italy?

There were two kinds of colonies in the III and II Century BCE; the Roman colonies and the Latin colonies. The difference between the two is juridical, not ethnic. The Roman colonies were small settlements, though some had hundreds of families. They were located not too far from Rome. The lots granted to citizens were not considered wide (one hectare maximum).

Colonists kept their original status and depended on the magistrates of Rome. Therefore the original Roman colonies had no autonomy.

Contrarily, the Latin colonies were more important settlements, from 2000 to 6000 colonists, who were granted wider lots (from 4 to 10 hectares). These inhabitants, more often than not, were poor Roman citizens and Italics whom the Roman authorities added to these settlements. They formed an autonomous civic entity, allied of Rome, but governed by their own local magistrates. The administrative system was drafted upon the model of Roman institutions, and those in the Latin colonies were given "The Latin Right'. This means that they had the civil rights of the Roman citizens but no political right, plus other more marginal exceptions.

Was the Romanization of Italy always obtained by military means?

Never was the Romanization of Italy obtained by Military means. Of course, the cities and the peoples were conquered in a war context. However, once peace was made, the defeated kept their own languages, cultures, laws, etc. From enemies they turned into allies, despite their having lost often more than just a few men in battle, or to enslavement, and despite having had a portion of their territory confiscated. The Romanization started afterward, through an economic, political and cultural integration process which lasted a very long time and involved several generations.

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