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  • The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rome
  • Online publication date: September 2013
  • pp 77-92

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5 Immigration and cosmopolitanization

Claudia Moatti

The importance of mobility in early societies now no longer needs demonstration. Research work over the last few decades has rendered obsolete the image of populations which are for the most part immobile that demographers have sought to purvey. Within the Mediterranean area, throughout a very long period lasting from Antiquity down to modern times, the circulation of human beings constitutes a fact that is both structural and structuring, an element of continuity that forms the very basis of the Mediterranean network.

Rome, according to legend a city of immigrants, is no more an exception than other Italian cities are. As early as the archaic period, great families of foreign origin were welcomed there, thanks to their links with the Roman gentes, and obtained positions of the highest responsibility. Subsequently, the city granted privileged conditions of access to the urban area on the basis of treaties such as those agreed with Carthage (Polybius 3.22–6) or the foedus Cassianum in the early fifth century bc, which guaranteed contracts drawn up between Romans and Latins and recognized the possibility of a changing citizen body (mutatio civitatis) as a result of immigration (mutatio solis). Such alliances, which testify to a desire to encourage the mobility of elite groups and also to promote the existence of a real Mediterranean market, created a certain fluidity within the Italian space, while at the same time strictly defining the conditions for legal immigration.

Later, hospitality both private and public, which provided for legal defence for guests’, or even asylum, and the subsequent ius gentium favoured protection for foreigners and their inclusion in the city, at a time when mobility could create a situation that was, in truth, precarious. The sources certainly emphasize the extreme fragility of the position of an ‘absolute’, i.e. unknown, foreigner whose possessions or very person could be seized. The right of seizure, which still had not lapsed everywhere, even at the beginning of the early modern period, in Rome only disappeared under the empire: by granting the status of peregrini (‘relative’ foreigners) to increasingly numerous foreigners, the Romans had transformed the imperial territory into a legal and, hence, protected space.

Physically, Rome itself was an open city. Under the Republic, the town gates do not appear to have played a filtering role except in times of war, while elsewhere in the Mediterranean foreign merchants were no doubt checked when entering ports.1 After the reforms of Augustus, which integrated the continentia (the ancient suburb) into the new fourteen regions, thereby distinguishing between the city (the part that lay within the town walls and the pomerium) and Roma (the territory as a whole, by which Roman birth and domicile were defined),2 the fourth-century wall found itself located within the urban boundaries and its gates may only have recovered a role when the toll barrier was created in the late first or second century ad. As the jurist Paul (Digesta 33.9.4.4–5) wrote, ‘Of course most towns are bounded by a wall, but the boundary of Rome is constituted by its suburbs.’ Clearly, these formed a fluid kind of boundary since they expanded outward as urban development increased (see Chapter 12).

Our sources describe the growing density of the Roman population due to the influx of foreigners and their influence on not only mores but also the development of the ius gentium; and they show how the rules covering citizens’ mobility were changing in the imperial period; in short, they describe Rome as a cosmopolitan town. Up to the empire, most of the immigrants to Rome probably came from other parts of Italy, although there is also evidence for the arrival of non-Italic populations (Carthaginians among others). But already by the end of the Republic, other groups were certainly present: Jews, whose political impact in the early 50s is noted by Cicero (Pro Flacco 68); Phrygians associated with the cult of Magna Mater on the Palatine Hill; Greeks from mainland Greece, who started arriving in the second century; and Egyptians, who are reported to have created disturbances when, on several occasions, in 59 (Tertullian, Ad nationes 1.10), in 50 (Valerius Maximus 1.3.4) and in 47 (Cassius Dio 42.26.2), the altars to Isis, located on the Capitol, were threatened with demolition. So numerous were these foreign communities, Suetonius tells us, that first Caesar and, later, Augustus laid on public entertainments in many different languages (Suetonius, Caesar 39). Who were these immigrants? Some were merchants, teachers, doctors, astrologers, actors, workers or craftsmen, all of whom had come of their own accord; but others were hostages or slaves, whose way of life in the city however was in some cases so free that ‘it was hard to tell a free man from a slave’.3 In the course of the empire, many other groups of foreigners arrived (Germans, Syrians, Africans, Thracians, Spaniards, Gauls, etc.) since, for them as for the Roman citizens of Italy and the provinces, reasons for making their way to the capital continued to multiply.

Despite all these data, the historians of the Roman world consider mobility to have been a marginal phenomenon. Even those who recognize its effects on demographic renewal tend to give a low estimate of its extent, placing it at around 5 per cent or less.4 Admittedly, it is not possible to deduce precise numbers from the information provided by the sources. However, one can identify highs (periods of conquest or of major construction in the city) and lows (the period following Alaric’s sack of Rome in 410, for example). This suggests that we should distinguish not only between seasonal, temporary and permanent immigration, but also between structural and cyclical immigration, even if partial estimates also show that Rome absorbed a continuous flow of immigrants right down to the end of Antiquity.5 The number of Jews, for example (between 20,000 and 40,000 in the first century ad),6 consisting of both citizens and peregrini, was constantly being increased by the waves of prisoners brought back by Pompey in 61 bc and by Titus between ad 66 and 70, and also by the arrival of free immigrants both before 19 and between 19 and 49: this may be one of the reasons for their expulsion first by Tiberius, then by Claudius. In the second century ad, there was a further influx of Jews, as is attested by the increase in the number of synagogues and catacombs.

Without venturing into that demographic debate, the present chapter will focus on the evolution of policies concerning immigrants, on the modes of regulating their flow and on the ways in which that mobility affected Roman society. But let us first define the different categories with which we are concerned.

Migrant categories

Prior to the second century, when citizenship was linked to residence, a migrant was almost always identified as a non-citizen, whether he settled in Rome (and there, if he was a Latin, subsequently acquired rights of citizenship) or was simply passing through. In the Twelve Tables, he was called a hostis, and then, later, he took the name of peregrinus.7 Then, when citizenship started to be granted to peregrini without mutatio soli and when the notion of residence (domicilium) entered into juridical vocabulary, mobility also became an internal phenomenon covered by Roman law. Immigrants now included, alongside foreigners, new domiciled citizens (incolae) and Roman citizens with neither a Roman origo nor a legal domicile in Rome, but who were running shops or other businesses. Throughout the imperial period, the definition of legal residence gave rise to endless controversy among jurists: could one have a domicile outside one’s homeland? Was it conceivable to have several domiciles or to have none at all? What were the criteria for distinguishing between temporary mobility and permanent mobility? The scope of these arguments testifies to the fact that the city-state was being transformed into an empire in which mobility became a permanent aspect of city life.

While those granted Roman domicile formed a special category, other immigrants can be identified by a number of other terms: adventor or advena identified an immigrant at the point when he settled in a city, designating him as ‘one who came from elsewhere’, or ‘a man who had fled his homeland and whom the Greeks called apoikos’, as Pomponius put it in the second century (Digesta 50.16.239.1). Those who lived for long periods in the city without being domiciled there were called consistentes or qui commorantur, qui morantur, qui consistunt and qui sunt (Dig. 4.6.28.4): such people might be negotiatores, craftsmen,8athletes, actors,9 or even students (Codex Justinianus 10.40(39)2). Finally, there were also travellers just passing through: these were hospites, a term which, in inscriptions, may also designate public guests,10 or viatores.

This vocabulary remained relatively constant throughout the duration of the empire. Only peregrinus acquired a wider application following Caracalla’s edict. Although it never quite lost its original meaning, the word came to apply in particular to any Roman citizen in a situation of mobility: one who found himself in Rome but had not been born there, as opposed to the indigeni (Codex Theodosianus 6.37.1; ad 364), one who found himself in a province that was not his usual place of residence (Cod. Theod. 8.1.9; ad 365), or one who found himself in Rome but was not legally domiciled there: these were probably the Roman ‘immigrants’ whom Symmachus, the urban prefect, expelled at the time of the famine of 384.11Peregrinus thus became the most precise Latin word to designate a migrant and, later, a pilgrim, the migrant par excellence. In contrast, during roughly the same period, civis romanus took on the meaning of ‘one who is resident in Rome’ (Cod. Just. 6.24.7; Basilicus 35.13.17), while provincialis, which before 212 was used to designate a peregrinus from the provinces (Festus, Epitome 253 L), now referred principally to Roman citizens who were legally domiciled in a Roman province. From the third century onward, these provinciales thus made up a large proportion of the people passing through Rome.

Were immigrants registered?

Many cities in the Mediterranean area kept registers of foreigners.12 What was the situation in Rome? Did the immigrants constitute an indistinct floating population, while being allowed to rent or subrent a dwelling or a shop, or sometimes even being encouraged to buy or build properties in Rome?13

Officially, Roman residence was reserved for Roman citizens and census specialists are all in agreement, following Suetonius, when they say that the first official list of citizens who enjoyed this status (cives Romani domo Roma) was created by Caesar, who ordered a census of a new kind (recensus) centred on each city quarter (vicatim) and based on information given by the landlords of the insulae there.14 Such a census would therefore, on the one hand, have excluded not only non-citizens but also their dependents and the tenants of a domus;15 on the other hand, it would have made the landlords of insulae responsible for guaranteeing the legality of the residence and civic identity of their tenants. In these circumstances, the scope of the new Caesarian census would have been very different from that of the Egyptian censuses to which it has often been compared, the kat’oikian apographai set up by Augustus, in the course of which all the inhabitants of units of accommodation were declared.

Is it not reasonable however, to suppose that in fact the landlords of Roman insulae and domus may have declared all those living in the units of accommodation that they owned, leaving it up to the Roman authorities, for their part, to refer to the general census in order to pick out those who were legally domiciled Roman citizens? That would have constituted a revision of the census lists (which is, indeed, the most precise meaning of the term recensus). This hypothesis would explain, for example, how it was that in 68 Nero was able to demand from all tenants of domus and insulae (inquilinos privatarum aedium et insularum), without distinction of status, the equivalent of an annual rent (pensionem annuam), so as to finance his campaign against Vindex (Suetonius, Nero 44.11). In fact, such an idea was not new in Rome, for an earlier register of peregrini had already been established in 89 bc, when the purpose was to grant them citizenship according to the terms of the Lex Plautia Papiria (Cicero, Pro Archia poeta 7). This hypothesis, which supposes that Suetonius, then interested only in grain distributions, described only part of the reform, does not exclude the possibility that some groups were the object of partial registration: for example, the Jews, for the payment of taxes from ad 72 onward and, in the fourth century, the students. In parallel, other measures were introduced to control immigration, although how they were applied is not always clear.

Immigration policies in the republican period

It was in the second century bc, following the first expulsions of Latins demanded by their cities,16 that Roman immigration policies hardened. Not only did the authorities take measures to eject those who were getting themselves illegally listed on the census registers (the lex Junia in 126; the lex Licinia Mucia in 95; the lex Papia in 65), but they also transformed their integration strategies by particularly favouring elite figures in such a way as to allow them to obtain citizenship without mutatio soli. It is in this context that it becomes possible partially to understand the law of 125, which offered citizenship to Latins who had served as magistrates in their own cities, and likewise the law of 122, which offered it to anyone Latin or Italian who had won a de repetundis lawsuit against a Roman magistrate. In the first century bc, when Italy was unified by the concession of citizenship, other measures in effect limited Italian mobility: one example is the decentralization of the procedures for taking a census that is attested by the Table of Heraclaea; another, the decentralization, under Augustus, of certain voting procedures.

Whether these measures actually proved to be an inhibiting factor is not certain. Sallust implies that ‘young men who had endured their poverty by working in the fields were attracted by private and public distributions and had come to prefer leisure in the city to their thankless labour’ (Bellum Catilinae 37.7) and the sources available to us testify to the arrival of numerous Italians in Rome, in particular during the 50s. It was, in truth, only under the empire that regular rules were introduced to regulate people passing through the city.

Regulations covering residence in the city: bans, restrictions, expulsions

Entry into the city seems to have been mostly unrestricted, but that absence of restrictions was offset by the social controls imposed by the vici, colleges and sanctuaries,17 and also by various measures designed to keep under surveillance, not the town territory, but certain categories of people, as was also the practice at the empire’s frontiers.18 Bans, limited residence permits and expulsions were the three means of controlling immigrants.

The ban on residence depended on the princeps himself, but ever since Nero it had in practice been administered by the urban prefect who, under Alexander Severus, was put in charge of the tutela urbis.19 According to the terms of the lex Aelia Sentia of ad 4, those affected by it were slaves who, although guilty of depravity, had been emancipated (Gaius, Institutionesi, 27; i, 160), Roman citizens who had been refused residence permits in a Roman province or in their city, along with their freedmen (Suetonius, Claudius 23.4–5; Paul, Digesta 48.22.13), and soldiers who had been dismissed with ignominy (Dig. 3.2.2.5). The efficacy of these measures seems to have depended on the self-censoring of the categories concerned.

Control could also be exercised by limiting residence permits, the best documented case being that of the students, from the second century onward. For this group, reputed generally to be disruptive (Petronius, Satyricon 6), the purpose of such limitations was twofold: on the one hand to define a particular status of residence that might turn out to be prolonged over several years and hence also to specify the conditions of exemption from municipal duties, the munera that citizens were obliged to fulfil in local cities; on the other hand, they were also designed to prevent the students from profiting from privileges accruing to Roman domicile. From the fourth century onward, measures of control became more precise, as can be seen from the constitution (edict) of March 370 that Valentinian I, Valens and Gratian addressed to the urban prefect, Olybrius (Cod. Theod. 14.9. 1). Not only was a young student obliged, upon arrival, to present himself before the censuales, clearly stating his address in Rome, but he also had to produce letters of recommendation from the governor of his province of origin, attesting to his merits. The constitution even specified that the censuales could expel students who were refractory: ‘In the case of a student who does not behave in the town as is dictated by the dignity of liberal studies, we grant them the power to beat him publicly with switches, put him on a ship and forthwith send him away from the town and back to his province’ (ibid.).

In Rome, expulsion had always been one of the principal means of regulating the flow of migrants, but for a long time it remained a selective public order measure targeted at particular groups for a predetermined period: such were the expulsions of histriones and Jews under Tiberius, of Jews under Claudius in 49, of pantomimi under Nero, of astrologers and philosophers under Nero and Domitian, etc. It was not until the fourth century that some expulsions, such as that of 384, targeted all peregrini, that is to say, at this time, all those without a Roman domicile.

The ejection of the useless

The above measures indicate the moralizing and utilitarian ideology that underpinned the concept of legal immigration from the end of the Republic onward. It was an ideology that may be detected behind many policies designed to encourage ‘good’ immigration: that of intellectuals, for example. Thus, Caesar granted citizenship to ‘all those who practised medicine in Rome or who were scholars of the liberal arts’, ‘so that they should be more inclined to take up Roman residence and others should seek to obtain it’ (Suetonius, Caesar 42). After Caesar, and likewise with a view to attract such people, Augustus granted them privileges and excepted doctors and teachers (Suetonius, Aug. 42) from the expulsion of peregrini, gladiators and slaves in ad 6; Vespasian created chairs of Greek and Latin rhetoric and grammar (Suetonius, Vespasian 18); and Hadrian founded the Athenaeum (Cassius Dio 73.17; Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus 14.3). In this way, Rome became an intellectual centre, as is attested by the constant arrival of intellectuals and the presence of private schools that attracted students from many parts of the world.20 In the imperial period this selective policy is attested both in Rome and in the provinces, and in many different contexts.21 It was a far cry from the days when Cicero declared that ‘to deny residence in any town to foreigners is truly inhumane’, that is to say contrary to ius gentium (Cicero, De officiis 3.11.47). Now it was pragmatism thatin equal prevailed.22

The late empire confirms this trend. It was surely in the name of utility, rather than any sense of hospitality, that Ambrose protested against Symmachus’ expulsion of peregrini from Rome (Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum 1.7.44–52). In this period, imperial policy where mobility was concerned likewise hardened, with the introduction of new measures designed permanently to prevent the mobility of the useless and so to repress ‘laziness’, a concept which, since the third century, had been reflected in legal vocabulary by terms such as ignavia, desidia, pigritia, neglegentia, and inertia (Dig. 9.4.26.6; 17.2.72. pr.; Dig. 48.3.12. pr.). A constitution introduced by Gratian in 382 ordered that the bodies of beggars should be carefully examined and that, in cases where they were found to be in good health, they should be forced to work as colonists.23 This law, designed to prevent the depopulation of land and cities in the provinces and to compensate for deficiencies in the urban labour force and the shortage of soldiers, was evidently aimed against those unable to contribute to the state taxes.24 It is clear that a distinction was drawn between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ beggars, classifying the former as legitimate and the latter as illegitimate, and it is also clear that the Roman administration delegated control in this area to private individuals, namely property owners. Bruno Pottier, whom I am following here, has shown that the law passed by Gratian was no innovation: in 303, Galerius had organized the expulsion of all beggars from Nicomedia, which was then one of the empire’s capitals.25 Similarly, in 397 or 399 a law was passed exiling anyone who constructed a hut on the Field of Mars, the effect of which was to clear beggars from the centre of Rome (Cod. Theod., 14.14.1). Ambrose of Milan gave his approval to the law that Gratian passed in 382,26 in the name of drawing a distinction between beggars who were in good health and were consequently liars, and true beggars (widows, the sick and the infirm), who did deserve to receive help from the Church. The general consensus among Christians and pagans alike was that the population needed to be as active and numerous as possible but also useful in service to the state. This same idea found expression in Valentinian’s constitution relating to students. It was primarily on the grounds of their future service to the state that, provided they behaved themselves, they were tolerated.

This was an idea that became prevalent in the society of the late empire and, two centuries later, in 539, it found expression in the New Decree (Novella) 80 passed by Justinian. The emperor decided to create in Constantinople a new magistrate, the quaesitor, whose function was to stem the influx into the capital of a mass of men who were of no use to it. The quaesitor’s job was to investigate people passing through the city (monks, lawyers, agricolae, and so on), to ascertain their names, origins and the reasons for their presence in Constantinople, and to expel them if their presence was unjustifiable, or even to force them to work. The creation of the quaesitor followed on smoothly from the fourth-century measures, but the emperor now went a step further by declaring all unjustifiable immigration to be an offence (albeit quite a slight one: mediocre delictum).

Whether this constitution was long-lived or short-lived is not certain. Nevertheless, the very idea of creating a special magistracy to control, not particular categories of people, but the capital’s territory, indicates an important change. Entry to the town by people just passing through had to be justified or else cut short. Leaving one’s legal residence without good reason could thus be subject to penalties. In the late empire, regular means of control over the mobile sector of the population, the establishment of which was obviously prompted by fiscal reasons, became an essential part of ‘the government of the people’.

The cosmopolitanization of the empire

One of the essential questions raised by a study of the circulation of human beings is that of their integration into the host society. For many years this question has been approached from the angle of acculturation: we speak today of cultural transfers, a concept that assumes a reciprocal relationship between two identifiable poles, but does not take into account the full complexity of the subject.

In the first place, in Rome neither the ‘Romans’ nor the immigrants constituted homogeneous groups, even if the satirists, prompted by hostility, portrayed them as such by constructing imaginary communities. Even if immigrants sometimes referred to themselves with an ethnic identity, as the Syrians did, individuals felt primarily linked to some small homeland (a city or even a vicus). Not until the second century ad did regions or even provinces also become identifying labels.27 Similarly, some quarters of Rome such as the Trastevere harboured more foreigners than others, but there were no such things as quarters set aside for particular communities.

Within what we might call an ethnic group, but one that was actually composed of a number of different communities, relations with external cultures might therefore vary considerably, as is attested by the choice of the language used in inscriptions, the names given to children, and also the artistic symbols and motifs that adorn tombs. Seen from this point of view, social status constituted an important factor of differentiation. Soldiers, for example, who kept themselves apart from the town, tended to preserve their own cults and traditions, whereas slaves were more open to influences, since the familiae were ethnically heterogeneous and the slaves did not constitute a separate and closed world: they lived alongside free men, for they could be accepted into colleges of humble folk (collegia tenuiorum) (Dig. 47.22.3 = Marcianus libro 2 iudiciorum publicorum) and some pursued activities closely associated with the plebs, with the possibility of eventually becoming Roman citizens. One other group that was similarly open to cultural contacts was that of hostages: members of foreign elite groups, who were expected to stand as guarantors for treaties concluded between Rome and their own countries. The size of some of these groups was considerable and their members might well spend many years in Rome where, living unrestricted lives, they were likely to adopt local mores. The hundred Carthaginian hostages brought to Rome in 202 bc were still there in 168; some of the thousand Achaeans who arrived in Italy at the same time as Polybius in 167 remained there beyond 150 bc. There were thus many young nobles living in Rome with their retinues, some of whom even pursued their studies there before returning to their own homelands. The cultural consequences of such protracted stays were quite clear to ancient authors and they constituted a by no means negligible aspect of the history of Roman immigration.28

Nevertheless, studies of the integration of foreigners via purely cultural exchanges raise delicate problems of interpretation. Was the diffusion of new customs seen as borrowing from another culture or as a response to new problems?29 Did that diffusion result from urban (local) immigration or from global contacts with provincial worlds far from Rome? There is a continuous link between those two kinds of mobility that suggests that we should likewise take into account the impact of mobility on the cultures of migrants. For example, Christianity spread thanks to mobility and to its own networks, but it was also transformed in the course of its geographical and linguistic expansion. As can be seen, the notion of a cultural transfer suffers from limitations in any analysis of the processes of transformation. Perhaps it is preferable to use the expression ‘cultural circulation’.

The Syrian cult of Jupiter Dolichenas presents an interesting example of the diverse problems that arise. Inscriptions show that from the second and third centuries onward, the Aventine sanctuary was also home to other gods: Apollo, Heracles, Artemis, Venus, Isis and others, and furthermore displayed Mithraic bas-reliefs.30 Such cohabitation no doubt resulted from the very nature of polytheism. The faithful truly believed that they could honour all these gods at the same time and in the same place, just as a single individual could officiate for more than one deity. But, this may also be regarded as a manifestation of what I shall call the ‘cosmopolitanization’ of the empire.

By this, we should understand a process through which an individual’s identity was thought of no longer in terms of an exclusion, but rather in terms of an accumulation. Cosmopolitanization was engendered by the accumulation of spatio-temporal experiences that resulted from a situation of mobility: it produced a global effect thanks to the links that the circulation of human beings forged between different parts of the world and those that immigrants from different regions forged in one particular place, links that then affected their identities, their language and their practices. All the actors in this process, including those from the ‘host’ society, were involved in equal measure.

In order to describe this phenomenon, we need to distinguish between membership, identity and culture. For example, a Roman citizen felt linked to the city of Rome, to his origo (his local homeland) and, later on, likewise not only to the province of his birth but also to various other communities (colleges, professional groups and so on): these were different memberships. He could also claim an identity for example, by stating his origin (natione, natus) as a Parthian, a Thracian, a Palmyrene, to which, from the fourth century onward, he could add a religious identity; finally, he could even do this in several languages, thereby defining his cultures. The same applied to peregrini, who would state their membership (of such or such a village or city), their identity (Syrian, for example) and their culture (in Greek or Aramaic).

It is hard to estimate the proportion of people who felt themselves to be involved in this way, but it seems fair to say that such involvement was at least a good possibility. In the third century, for example, the jurist Paul explained how it was that senators who had to adopt a Roman origo and residence could at the same time remain linked with their respective homelands:

Although senators are deemed to have their domicile in the city, nevertheless they are also considered as having a domicile in the place from which they originated. For their rank is seen to have given them an additional domicile rather than a change of domicile.

(Dig. 1.9.11)

The term adiectio (addition) is of fundamental importance: senators could consider themselves to belong, so to speak, to two places. Indeed, by recognizing their double domicile, Caracalla acknowledged their right not only to mobility but also to a double identity, whereas previous emperors had done their utmost to wrest them from their local homeland and settle them down in the capital. Moreover, this idea of an additional identity was, in principle, valid for all citizens. The concept of Roma patria communis, which implied that even while living in Rome, citizens were not, on that account, absent from their local homeland, acknowledged that they possessed a kind of ubiquity. Yan Thomas has considered all the juridical effects of this idea.31

The multilingual inscriptions of Rome reveal the existence of varying degrees of cosmopolitanization among immigrants.32 Take, for instance, the famous dedications in Latin and Greek (IGUR 117 = CIL 6.50–1) to the Palmyrene deities Belus and Malachbelus, seeking the well-being of the emperor: they were set up by two individuals, C. Licinius and Heliodorus, in one or several temples in the Trastevere quarter. Heliodorus indicates his identity: he is Palmyrene; possibly, like Licinius, he is a Roman citizen (if so he is a freedman). His inscriptions are written in two languages (i.e. cultures): Greek (which was one of the languages in Palmyra) and Latin (which he learnt in Rome).

Here is another example: a bilingual inscription, in Latin and Palmyrene Aramaic, by T. Claudius Felix (CIL 6.710 = ILS 4337), a Roman citizen who is both a freedman and a Palmyrene. The Latin version states that, together with his wife and son, he has fulfilled his promise to the Sun god, and it indicates their profession: Galbienses de coh. III, which shows that they worked in the horrea Galbana, close to the Emporium, and probably lived in the Trastevere quarter. The Palmyrean version records that, together with other Palmyrenes in Rome, he has dedicated an altar to the god Malachbel and the gods of Palmyra, but it adds nothing about the Roman side of his life: two lives, two juxtaposed, cumulative identities.

In the following century (February 236), their compatriot Heliodorus presents a rather different case: he had dedicated an altar to the gods of the Aglibol Moon and the Malachbel Sun and records this in a bilingual inscription (Greek and Palmyrene) (IGUR 119). Here again, we find a man living in two worlds: in the Greek version he identifies himself as Iulius Aurelius Heliodorus Hadrianus, the son of Antiochos, and a Palmyrene; but in the Palmyrean version, he uses his former name (IGUR 119): Iarhai, son of Haliphi, son of Iarhai, son of Liusamusu, son of Soadu. This Roman citizen, a freedman, combines two group memberships and identities, but retains his original culture (Greek and Palmyrene).

What is the explanation for the differences between the above three cases, all of which show that in the second and third centuries ad, there was in Rome a community of Palmyrenes who had probably retained links with Palmyra? Were those who used no Latinisms first-generation immigrants – as were two Greek individuals who gave their children Latin names: Picen<ti>nus et Panteris i pace Doulkitiou ke Mellisses tekna (ILCV 2534) – or did they constitute a particularly closed group? How long did it take for a foreigner to feel assimilated? The senator Fronto, who came from Numidia, was showered with honours by the imperial family, becoming the tutor of Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. But he always felt himself to be a foreigner in Rome, even a barbarian, comparing himself to the Scythian Anacharsis (Fronto, Epistle to Marcus Aurelius 1.20). Plenty of other new senators hailing from the provinces may well have shared those feelings. Suetonius relates that, when Caesar admitted Gauls to the senate, inscriptions were displayed all over Rome, asking citizens not to show them the way to the Curia: ne quis senatori nouo curiam mostrare uelit! (Suetonius, Caes. 80). The anecdote certainly conveys the ambivalence of this society that was at once open yet scornful, arrogant yet also fearful of newcomers, whether foreigners or citizens:33 as if the conquerors were doomed to fear that the conquered might one day conquer the conquerors themselves.

Further reading

Studies of the immigration to Rome from a demographical point of view have multiplied since Brunt 1971: see mostly Morley 1996, Scheidel 2004 and Lo Cascio (1997; 2001b; 2003). Patterson 2006 and Noy (2000a and 2000b) have followed, developing also the social and economical conditions of the foreigners at Rome. The political and institutional conditions of mobility have been little studied: see Ampolo 1988 and Nörr 2007 for the archaic and early republican periods; Moatti for the later periods and for a comparative approach (2000; 2004; 2006; 2009). On the conditions of life of the foreigners, Noy 2000a proposes an important synthesis; see also Purcell 1999. On cultural contacts, besides Adams 1998, Palmer 1981 and Price 2000, different case studies are available: Rutgers 1995; Turcan 1996; Edwards and Woolf 2003. For a theoretical and broader approach of cultural contacts and mobility in the Mediterranean, see Horden and Purcell 2000.

1 Rickman 1980b; Nörr 2007.

2 Dig. 50.16.147; 139.

3 Dig. 18.1.5, ad. Sab. 5: difficile dinosci potest liber homo a servo, confirmed by Labeo in his account of a provincial who sent a slave to manage a shop in Rome (Dig. 5.1.19.3).

4 Morley 1996; Scheidel 2005; Kolb 1995; Noy 2000a.

5 Noy 2000b.

6 MacMullen 1993; Solin 1983 suggests the figure 60,000.

7 In particular, Cicero, De officiis 1.37; Festus 414–16 L.

8 Cod. Just. 10.66.1 (2 August 337).

9 On the status of actors and mimes, see Shaw 2000, 390f. The expression qui commorantur reoccurs in, for example, Justinian’s constitution (edict) (Novella 80.9) in which the emperor expresses concern about the arrival of too many people with nothing useful to do in Constantinople: qui hic vane commorantur. On this period, see the remarks of Baccari 1996, 111ff.

10 See Dig. 9.3.1.9, Ulpian Lib. 23 ad edictum; Petronius, Satyricon, 95b; Martial, Epigr. 3.5; Apuleius, Metamorphoses 1.17. See also CIL 6.2357.

11 Cracco Ruggini 1976; against Kübler, RE, col. 655, who thinks these were incolae. On the evolution of the term peregrinus, see Baccari 1996, 117ff. On the date of the expulsion, see now Kelly 2008, 133ff.

12 For example, in Pergamum, OGIS 338 (133 bc).

13 Gaius notes that ‘Nero decreed that if a Latin with a fortune of at least 200,000 sesterces built in Rome, investing more than half of his patrimony, he would acquire quiritary rights’ (Institutiones 1.33).

14 Suetonius, Caesar 41: ‘he submitted people to a census not in the usual manner or in the usual place, but in each city quarter, according to the reports of the proprietors of rented blocks of accommodation.’ See Suetonius, Aug. 40; Livy Periochae 115. Before this reform, censuses related solely to tribes, so at that time residents in Rome belonged to urban tribes (as Lo Cascio 1997 explains). An insula is defined in the juridical texts as an independent unit of accommodation designed to be leased out, as in the case of a block of apartments, as has been shown by Hermansen 1973.

15 Another hypothesis is that, in these texts, an insula had the wider meaning of ‘a building’, as Lo Cascio 1997, 58-9 tries to show.

16 Broadhead 2004.

17 Much is known, for example, about the organization of the association of the sacred victors in athletic games and ecumenical athletes, an association which, like the association of actors, from the second century onward, had at its disposal a permanent headquarters in Rome: see Amelotti 1955.

18 Moatti 2006.

19 Seneca, Epistulae 83.14; Dig. 1.12.13; 1.12.1.

20 Thus, in the first century ad, Q. Remmius Palaemon had over 200 pupils, one of whom was perhaps Quintilian (Inst. Or. 1.4.20), who had come to his school from Caligurri, in Spain. The school run by Justin, a native of Flavia Neapolis, which opened in the reign of Antoninus Pius, also included many immigrants among its pupils: Tatian from Nisibis in Assyria, Irenaeus from Smyrna and Theophilus from the Euphrates region. In 245, Plotinus (205–70), a native of Egypt, likewise opened a school in Rome that attracted many students, including Porphyry, who was born in Tyre and had first gone to Athens to study, and many others. No full study has been written on Rome’s role as an intellectual capital.

21 P. Geissen 40; P. Lond. 904, ii, 18–38 (in Hunt–Edgar, ii, 215; 220).

22 As is shown by the policy followed with regard to colleges, from the time of Caesar’s law and particularly that of Augustus onward. See Perry 2006.

23 Cod. Theod. 14.18.1: the constitution of Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius, addressed to the urban prefect, Severus, in 382. See the commentaries of Grey and Parkin 2003.

24 On fiscal matters, see Grey and Parkin 2003; see also Cod. Theod. 14.18; Cod. Just. 11.25; 12.45.1–3.

25 Lactantius, De mortibus persecutorum, 23, 7–9. See Grey and Parkin 2003; Pottier 2009.

26 Ambrose, De officiis ministrorum 1.159; 2.76–7.

27 Noy 2000a, 222ff.

28 On soldiers, see Speidel 1994, 132; 144–5; on slaves, Noy 2000a, 11.

29 Matthews 1989.

30 Leon 1960 and Williams 1994 on the use of catacombs by Jews, which ran contrary to their traditions.

31 Thomas 1996.

32 Price 2000, 298.

33 Adams 2003, 248ff.; see also MacMullen 1993.