This is how Rome governed newly conquered territories!

While the expansion of Rome is generally pretty well known the different ways how Rome would govern the territories that were conquered are much less well known.

So the following will give some insight into the different ways Rome could govern new territories including both the advantages and disadvantages of each way.

Rome could found new settlements on the conquered territory, either a Colonia Latina (Inhabitants only had the Latin civil rights) or a Colonia civium Romanorum (Inhabitants had the full roman civil right). Or Rome would integrate already existing settlements either as a Municipium (inhabitants have the full roman civil right) or as a civitas sine suffragio (Inhabitants have a limited roman civil right and are not allowed to vote).

Let`s find out more.

How did Rome govern newly conquered territories?

Rome had several options for how it could integrate newly conquered territories. Some of these ways would subdue the territories under the direct control of Rome. Other ways of control were much more subtle and indirect.

Rome could either found new settlements on conquered territory, integrate already existing settlements on conquered territory, or integrate the conquered territory directly into the ager romanus.

The main difference between the different ways is the legal status that the territories (and their inhabitants) had.

Another important point is to remember the roman confederation.

The roman confederation was an alliance of communities that were closely bound to Rome as so-called socii. It wasn`t until 87 BC that every (free) inhabitant of the Italian peninsula could apply for Roman citizenship.

Please note that all these different types of settlements would not only be established in Italy but also in the provinces of Rome. For more information on when the first province was established, I would like to recommend you my article here.

It makes sense to differentiate between new settlements that Rome established on newly conquered territories and already existing communities that Rome integrated.

When we look at the following ways how Rome organized its control we must not forget that Rome was a city-state. During its early days and even way into the time of the roman republic, Rome did not have the numbers necessary to control wide areas.

Another reason to remember is that the motto „divide and impera“ (divide and rule) is based on Rome’s system of control. By having multiple different legal statuses with different ranks of privileges Rome prevented his socii from developing a sense of common ground that could have weakened Rome.

That is also the reason why parts of conquered territories, especially those belonging to powerful tribes, were separated and added to the ager romanus (the roman territory). That weakened these tribes before they were integrated into the roman confederation.

The ager romanus

The actual territory under the direct control of Rome, the ager romanus, was pretty small. It only included the lands around the lower Tiber River, the region of Latium, parts of Campania, and parts of the Apennine mountains.

Since that land was seen as Rome’s territory, Rome did not tolerate any other city-like communities. So as the ager romanus expanded the cities that fell into its borders had to give up their status as a city before they would be integrated into the ager romanus.

 A good example of that kind of treatment is the Etruscan city of Veii that Rome conquered and integrated into the ager romanus in 396 BC.

The occupation of Veii in 396 BC was also the start of the expansion of Rome. Please check out my article here for more information.

But after Rome had won the Roman-Latin wars, more on that topic here, it had to find another system to integrate the Latins.

Rome integrating existing conquered communities

Rome as a small city-state realized quickly that integrating all conquered territories into the ager romanus would be too risky and in the case of conquered cities not applicable since Rome claimed the status as the only city in the ager romanus.

Because of that solutions had to be found how conquered cities could be integrated.


The Municipium was an option that was only rarely used with defeated enemies since the inhabitants of the Municipium had the full roman civil right. That included the right to vote!

While being full roman citizens the inhabitants of the Municipium still had extensive sovereignty when it came to organizing the domestic politics of their Municipium.

The inhabitants of the Municipium were full Roman citizens who did not only have to participate in Rome’s wars but could also influence roman politics through their votes.

Now I think it is quite obvious why Rome rarely handed out the status of Municipium to newly conquered communities. Handing over the right to participate in roman politics by voting was not something that one would just give to a freshly defeated enemy.

In 381 BC the city Tusculum was the first city that was granted the status of Municipium.

Civitas sine suffragio

Quite like the Municipium the „Civitas sine suffragio“ (= community without suffrage) was an already existing community that was conquered by Rome. The main reason why a Civitas sine suffragio was created was the integration of former enemies.

The roman expansion had to be bought at a high price. Many Roman soldiers lost their lives while expanding the influence of Rome. And since the middle class, the small farmers & craftsmen provided the most soldiers they also suffered the most. More on the effects the roman expansion had on small farmers and the roman middle class in my article here.

The civitas sine suffragio was a good way for Rome to take advantage of the economic and military potential of a defeated enemy without having to give him the (voting) power that was included in the full Roman citizenship.

The inhabitants of a civitas sine suffragio often felt like second-class citizens since they had to participate in the wars Rome decided on but were not able to have any political influence.

That injustice would lead to displeasure that would unload in several conflicts until in 87 BC every (free) inhabitant of the Italian peninsula had the right to apply for full roman citizenship with all its advantages.

But when we look at the civitas sine suffragio as a treatment of a defeated city then we have to determinate that these cities could have been way worse off. Yes, they did not have the right to vote while having to serve in the roman campaigns. But they weren`t enslaved as it happened to many defeated roman enemies.

Actually defeated enemies were an important and steady source of recruits for the Gladiator schools. Please check out my article here for more information.

Rome founding new settlements in conquered territories

Both the Colonia Latina and the Colonia civium Romanorum were new communities founded on conquered lands.

Colonia Latina

The Colonia Latina is the more numerous option. In 240 BC there were around 28 of them in Italy. The number climbed to 35 in 180 BC.

While the inhabitants of the Colonia Latina did not have the roman civil right they had the Latin civil right and were in a close dependency on Rome due to the Foedus cassianum.

While the first coloniae Latinae were founded by the Latin League the concept was quickly adopted by Rome. In general, these Coloniae Latinae were much larger than the Colonia civium Romanorum that we take a look at next.

And the Coloniae Latinae were also inhabited by both Latins and Romans. Romans who settled in a Colonia Latina lost their full roman civil right. If these Romans left the Colonia Latina they would get back their full Roman citizenship.

Since that kind of resettlement occurred quite commonly Rome established a rule that a Roman citizen who wanted to leave a Colonia Latina would only get his full civil rights back if at least one of his sons stayed in the Colonia Latina.

The reason for that can be found in the purpose of the Colonia Latina.

Just like the already mentioned Municipium & civitas sine suffragio the Colonia Latina enlarged the economic & military potential Rome could and had to use. More on that here.

But the Colonia Latina also served another purpose. Due to its location in usually at least subliminal hostile regions that were far away from Rome the Colonia Latina had the duty of securing Rome’s influence.

And men moving away would have weakened the military potential of these coloniae. More on how the military potential was connected to the number of citizens in my article here.

Foedus Cassianum

The Foedus Cassianum was a contract between Rome and the Latins that was first made in 493 BC and renewed in 453 BC.

The Foedus Cassianum was closed between Rome and Latins and was a temporally unlimited peace- and alliance treaty between equal partners.

The main content of the Foedus Cassianum is the promise of mutual military aid, even shares of war booty, and that the command over the joint army would be chosen together (no fixation of the command over the joint army on Rome).

But the Foedus Cassianum also allowed the marriage between Romans and Latins, regulated trade and migration between both partners.

It is important to emphasize that the Foedus Cassianum was originally contracted between two equal partners, most likely because of the threat that other, non-Latin Italian tribes posed to the Latin cities.

Colonia civium Romanorum

The Colonia civium Romanorum (= colony with full roman civil rights) is a completely different story.

Not only did the Colonia civium Romanorum only appear after the Roman-Latin wars, but this type of colony also had the full roman civil right and was a part of the ager romanus, the roman territory.

Please check out my article here, for more information on the Roman-Latin wars and the expansion of the roman republic (including the ager romanus)

Now a Colonia civium Romanorum had several advantages. First of all, it was a good way to get poor roman citizens out of Rome and on a piece of land. That not only reduced the social pressure but also increased the military potential. More information on that here.

Another important reason was that these communities were germ cells of roman culture and influence from which Roman influence could expand. And they also had an important role in securing roman control over the region through the settlement of roman militiamen.

It is safe to say that the founding of new coloniae had both military and economical reasons.


So we have just seen that there were multiple ways that Rome could take to integrate conquered territories and to use the military and economical potential of former enemies.

That kind of integration was one of the 3 reasons why Rome was so successful. Find out more about the other two reasons here.

The ability to integrate former enemies and over time also give them a say in political matters by allowing them to vote was already mentioned in the founding myth of Rome. So in a way, the different ways to integrate both conquered territories and conquered settlements were part of Roman tradition.

Take care of yourself because you deserve it. You really do.

Until next time

Yours truly

Luke Reitzer


A. Heuß, G. Mann (Hrsg.); Propyläen Weltgeschichte. Eine Universalgeschichte, Band IV Rom – Die Römische Welt (Frankfurt a. Main 1986).