Abstract and Keywords
The final chapter ties together developments in city and countryside revealed by the previous discussions. It outlines two possible models of urban development in this period, emphasizes the increasing hierarchisation of cities in the high empire, and returns to the four areas examined in the first chapter — Campania, Etruria, Samnium, and Lucania — to provide a concluding overview of city-country relationships there. A final case study, of Ligures Baebiani, provides an illustration of the efforts made to maintain civic life even in a small centre overshadowed by its much larger neighbour.
Modelling Social Change and Urban Prosperity
Traditionally the situation in the towns of Italy in the second century has been seen in terms of more-or-less serious decline, paralleling the problems in the countryside brought about by increasing levels of competition to Italian agriculture from overseas, and the decline in the slave mode of production.1 Certainly some towns, like Cosa, did indeed decline in a dramatic manner: occupation outside the forum there seems to have ceased almost entirely after the mid second century AD, apart from a brief and largely unsuccessful attempt to revive the town in the early third century. On the other hand, it is also possible to identify cities where public buildings continued to be constructed through the second and even into the third centuries AD—Beneventum, Puteoli, Capua, for example—and which have continued to be important regional centres to the present day.
Despite the strongly hierarchical elements in the social structure of the towns of Roman Italy, social mobility played an important—indeed crucial—part in the history of the peninsula in the imperial period. Italians advanced from municipal office and membership of the ordo to gain equestrian and senatorial rank: in fact the first and second centuries formed the high point for the recruitment of Italians into these orders. In turn they were replaced in their municipal responsibilities by those with backgrounds below the curial class. This advancement of the Italian elites had several potential benefits (p.266) for their towns: in particular, access to the centres of power at Rome, the emperor as well as the Senate, for their communities; and the possibility of benefactions on a generous scale. There were, however, risks too: that new responsibilities at Rome or in the provinces would divert the interest (and resources) of the Italian elites away from their home communities; and that the processes of marriage and inheritance within the highest levels of the Roman elite would lead to substantial tracts of land falling into the hands of those without ties of birth or affection to the community. The case of Bellicius Sollers and his rural market near Vicetia illustrates the kind of difficulties the towns might suffer, especially where a landowner sought to establish the importance of his estate centre at the expense of the local town. Bellicius, whose family had strong associations with the neighbouring (and, no doubt, rival) town of Verona, also owned properties in the territory of Vicetia. Far from helping this community, however, his establishment of a rural market was feared to be so detrimental to the interests of the town that the Vicetini engaged an advocate at considerable cost to oppose it in the Senate. Likewise, Bellicius' political influence was deployed in favour of his own self-interest, rather than for the benefit of the town in which some of his holdings lay.2 How often this kind of ‘nightmare scenario’ for the towns was enacted is hard to tell, of course—some senators were extremely supportive of the towns in whose territories they owned land—but it did represent a significant risk. The unpredictability of the situation was the main difficulty.
One further consequence of upward mobility (achieved or desired) was the need to maximize wealth to finance the increasingly ostentatious lifestyles and acts of generosity which were incumbent on the holders of these new positions, at whatever level, and to gain further advancement. This might in itself have significant consequences for the agricultural structures of the territory, as landowners sought to maximize revenue, exploit estates more intensively, or adopt new methods of farming.
(p.267) Where there were difficulties of this kind, the well-being of the community depended significantly on how far other resources, from within or beyond the community, could be marshalled to fill the gap. Support from the emperor was likely to be erratic and unpredictable: an emperor might help a city after a disaster (as around the Bay of Naples following the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79) but personal attachment, respect for a community's history, or pure whim could be important too. The towns made efforts to ensure that, so far as possible, local landowners and their families supported their communities. Local notables, male and female, were elected as civic patrons; children of the local nobility were given special access to the ordo and other exceptional privileges. Gratitude for the support of these notables was expressed in the form of honorific decrees and statues erected in public places. Wealthy individuals might initially be flattered by an approach from a town to become its patron, but the status of patrons gradually declined as senators and equestrians became increasingly hard to recruit to these positions, and decuriones from other towns were chosen instead.
At the same time, the towns also sought support from families who had not previously participated in local public life, freeborn or of slave descent, by promoting them into the ordo, appointing them as Augustales, or drawing on their collective goodwill towards the town as members of collegia. Even the townspeople (populus or plebs), whether en masse or divided up into the collegia to which substantial numbers belonged, were engaged in the ritual exchange of gratitude and gifts which formed a central part of civic life under the emperors, honouring benefactors and patrons.
The Augustan period was one of enthusiastic building activity, encouraged by the princeps and exploiting the newly peaceful conditions in the peninsula. In particular, many towns acquired theatres, and buildings associated with the imperial cult came to have a significant impact on public spaces, especially fora. Substantial infrastructure projects were also carried out. Important changes in the form of civic life can, however, be detected in the second century AD, in relation to patterns of public building. Those benefactors who constructed buildings for their towns displayed a preference for amphitheatres and baths; others, rather than finance buildings, preferred to distribute money or food to their fellow-citizens, or to hold public (p.268) banquets. The importance of the macellum in the second-century city relates both to this increased emphasis on collective sociability, and to its centrality to the world of civic entertainment. On one level these trends can be seen to reflect contemporary patterns of imperial generosity at Rome, with the provision of bread, games, and baths for the masses of the capital being emulated in the Italian context by those who were excluded from acts of public building at Rome by the emperor's monopoly of influence. Within the more local context the benefactions serve symbolically to bring the community together within an appropriately hierarchical context, and to reinforce the prestige of magistrates, benefactors, and others active in civic life. This focus on showing respect and gratitude to those contributing to the welfare of the city extended to the Augustales and the collegiati, who are given special treatment at banquets and on other public occasions. The increasing emphasis on sociability thus also serves to underline, and reward, the contributions being made by those across the community, and the focus is on the city itself, particularly significant at a time where there are indications that the importance of the rural villa and nucleated rural settlement was tending to increase. The ethos of the Italian communities in this period combined a traditionalist stress on hierarchy and social difference—ex-slaves being rigorously excluded from membership of the ordo, for example—with a practical flexibility, allowing a wide cross-section of the community, of free and servile birth, to be involved in the essential task of honouring the community's patrons and supporters, and themselves contributing to its maintenance. This ties in with concerns in second-century legislation about the appropriateness of admitting traders to the ordo in the absence of landed gentry, the changing balance of the law in favour of buyers within trading relationships, and an increased willingness on the part of those who had obtained their wealth through commerce to flaunt rather than conceal the fact.3 It seems difficult to imagine that the Augustales, collegiati, and so on, often freedmen, who took an increasingly important part in maintaining continuity in civic tradition in the second century, could have played such a crucial role in civic life and at the same time been subjected to the same sort of negative social (p.269) attitudes as implied by the elitist literature of late republican and early imperial Rome.4 Likewise, the support of both male and female benefactors was welcomed by the communities.
Consolidating the support of the traditional elite, and drawing on the affluent and ambitious from across the community, were therefore two interrelated strategies which might be pursued by the cities. Clearly, however, these strategies might work more or less effectively within differing urban contexts.
Two Models of Urban Development
The complexity of the geographical, cultural, and economic patterns found in different areas of Italy make it highly unlikely that any single overall model can plausibly be advanced to explain the history of Italian towns under the Principate. The degree to which towns prospered (or declined) was the result not only of the more general social, economic, and military situation under the high Empire, but also of numerous local factors. They varied widely in terms of their physical size, their population, the extent of resources provided by their territories, and the degree to which other sources of income were available from beyond the immediate territory of the city, by means of trade, manufacture, and commerce. Another significant consideration was the proportional size of its municipal hierarchy in relation to the town's productive capacity. Likewise, the degree of access a town had to effective patrons, whether the emperor or other wealthy individuals, varied enormously from place to place; and the circumstances in which a community had first been established, and its subsequent political history, had potentially important implications for the well-being of the community as a whole and of its elites in particular. Some towns, by virtue of their limited resources and expensive superstructure, might have been in a state of crisis almost from the day of their foundation; others survived as major centres into the Middle Ages, and even to the present day.
(p.270) The clearest way of setting out the possible parameters of success and failure is by demonstrating how they might have worked within two ‘ideal cities’, laying out two contrasting (and highly schematic) models.
1. A large town, with a substantial urban population (perhaps into the tens of thousands), and a wealthy and extensive territory. It may indeed have gained some of this territory at the expense of its neighbours due to colonial settlement schemes in the late Republic. Benefiting from good communications by land or sea (perhaps being a flourishing port or major road junction), it would have ready access to resources both within and beyond its immediate territory. Such a community would be likely to have an extensive traditional elite comprising wealthy individuals with substantial resources based on landed wealth, but also the possibility of significant numbers of affluent freedmen, whether ‘independent’, or closely linked to their former owners. These might also derive their wealth from land, or alternatively from crafts supported by the substantial urban population, and trade and commerce extending beyond the city itself. Significant numbers of the local elite would be likely to advance into the senatorial or equestrian order, but the extensive resources of the territory would mean that other landed gentry would be available to take their place. The complex urban economy would provide a body of wealthy men of less traditional background who can be drawn on for membership of the Augustales and leading roles in the collegia, together with less affluent landowners; they (and in the case of ex-slaves, their descendants) would in due course be able to enter the ordo. Cities approximating to this model might include major ports such as Puteoli and Aquileia, notable north Italian cities such as Patavium, Verona, Brixia, and Mediolanum, and important inland towns in the south, including Beneventum and Capua. The extensive resources available to a city of this type, both in terms of finance and the depth of support within the local elites, broadly defined, would make the community resilient in the long term even where the advancement of leading local families meant that some of them reduced their engagement with civic affairs. The roles of the Augustales and the collegiati would complement those (p.271) of the ordo, rather than in any sense replacing it, contributing structures which would provide order and support for the urban populace.
2. The contrasting case is that of a small town, with a population of less than 1,000. Its territory was small in scale, perhaps infertile or mountainous, or may have been reduced in size due to the effect of colonial settlement schemes in neighbouring towns. Poor communications would allow limited opportunity for trading or access to resources from outside the territory; diversion of main roads could contribute to the marginalization of the town. In these circumstances the local elite would be made up predominantly of landowners, with few freedmen having the opportunity to accumulate resources beyond those derived from agriculture. Wealth would lie in a few hands; with limited possibilities for the acquisition of resources from beyond the city, only the joining of estates by means of inheritance or marriage would provide scope for further personal advancement. In these circumstances, if extensive tracts of land were to fall into the hands of men based outside, or unconcerned with, the city, the effect on the well-being of the community could be severe. In the absence of a substantial population of affluent freedmen, or other groups of the upwardly mobile, the Augustales or collegiati would be correspondingly less able to make a substantial contribution to civic life, but they might nevertheless support the ordo to a limited extent in maintaining a level of civic activity, for example helping to express gratitude to benefactors, and organizing and participating in public banquets. Cities falling into this category might include Petelia in Bruttium: those Apennine towns with minimal populations actually resident at the urban centre itself, such as Iuvanum, would have been particularly vulnerable in this situation. Some small urban centres such as Saepinum, which enjoyed the long-term patronage of the Neratii,5 were nevertheless able to benefit from the continuing support of local landowners.
The process of agglomeration of rural estates in the hands of the wealthy, which can clearly be identified as taking place across Italy under the high Empire from the alimentary tables, Pliny's Letters, and the evidence of rural field survey, represents a phenomenon of considerable long-term importance. As well as indicating the combination of estates at the local level, the evidence shows that some landowners at the beginning of the second century AD were in possession of extensive property portfolios which extended across the boundaries of individual cities, as well as including properties in different regions of Italy.6 This was partly no doubt a result of deliberate policy—‘it seems safer to deal with the uncertainties of fortune in different localities’ as Pliny puts it (Ep. 3. 19. 4)—but was also accelerated by intermarriage between landed families in different towns, and the reproductive strategies adopted by the elites in order to keep their properties intact. Indeed, marriage, adoption, and inheritance would frequently take place within the landowners' home districts, leading to the creation of an aristocracy which can increasingly be seen as regional, rather than purely municipal, in its scale and orientation. For example, we know that Pliny owned estates at Tifernum and perhaps also at Hispellum, as well as around Comum, and a residential property on the Laurentine coast south of Rome.7 His mother-in-law, Pompeia Celerina, owned properties in the neighbouring towns of Ocriculum, Narnia, and Carsulae, all three towns located on the Via Flaminia, and also at Perusia (Plin. Ep. 1. 4. 1);8 Pompeia's husband Q. Fulvius Gillo Bittius Proculus, consul (perhaps in AD 98), appears to have been related by adoption to M. Fulvius Gillo (consul in 76) from Montebuono in the territory of Forum Novum, adjacent to that of Ocriculum.9 Fulvius Gillo's colleague as suffect consul in the latter part of AD 76, Galleo Tettienus (p.273) Petronianus, had properties at Asisium: he seems to have adopted as his son Galleo Tettienus Severus M. Eppuleius Proculus Ti. Caepio Hispo, himself to become consul early in the second century, who married Annia Quartilla from Perusia; Caepio Hispo, perhaps another relative, owned land at Mevania.10 A picture emerges from this area of Umbria and the Sabina of a closely knit group of wealthy landowners, tied to each other by marriage and/or adoption together with public service shared under the patronage of the Sabine emperor Vespasian. Champlin has similarly identified a close nexus of high-status families among the owners of brickworks in the area around Ocriculum and Horta in the era of Trajan.11
This trend was to have a major impact on the urban centres of Italy. One consequence was an increased hierarchization of urban settlements, not only as regards population, but also in more abstract terms of status. Migrants from the countryside tended to aim for Rome itself, or failing that, for one of those regional centres with an economy and population already substantial enough to allow further growth. In the same way, smaller towns would in turn look to the aristocracies of larger centres in their search for patrons: these individuals might eventually find themselves approached by several communities in an area, no doubt also reflecting their own widely spread landholdings. Nomination of curatores rei publicae would follow a similar pattern. In regions where there was a dense network of small towns, the regional centres would develop at their expense, not only in terms of population, but also of wealth and euergetism. Already in the early Empire, we can trace this in the way in which games were provided not solely for an individual city, but for the populations of surrounding communities too; generous individuals might occasionally be found holding a position such as that of sevir Augustalis in more than one town.12 Gradually the region, rather than the territory of a municipality or a colony, was to become central to official perceptions of the Italian peninsula too: Augustus formally divided the peninsula into regiones, and by the end of the third (p.274) century a network of correctores had been established, whose responsibilities mirrored those of provincial governors.13 At the same time, the gap in terms of wealth between the largest landowners and the municipal aristocracies was growing steadily.14
Similarly, the increasing significance in the mid and late Empire of routes to social advancement which were unrelated to the political structures of the towns reduced their importance for the ambitious. This is especially clear in the case of the increasingly professional army of the third century and the growing bureaucracy of the late Empire—though the roles of the familia Caesaris in the Julio-Claudian period, and the apparitores, can be seen to represent the beginning of this tendency.15 Just as new roads like the Via Latina had bypassed Fregellae and Interamna, so the new social structures of the late Empire bypassed the municipal elites. The upwardly mobile in the third century and beyond could look to a variety of potential routes to advancement which avoided the cities altogether.
City and Country in Regional Perspective: Etruria, Campania, Samnium, and Lucania
It is time to return to the key areas with which we began: coastal Etruria and northern Campania, South Etruria, Samnium, and Lucania, to sketch out the relationships between rural change and urban development across a range of geographical and political contexts. Despite what may appear at first sight a certain sameness in patterns of urban building across Italy, encouraged on the one hand by the example of the emperors at Rome and on the other by the competitive manifestations of loyalty on the part of the local elites, and the limited scope for making regional comparisons given the nature of the epigraphic and archaeological data available, some distinctive regional patterns can nevertheless be identified.16
(p.275) With regard to Cosa, we are in the fortunate position of having archaeological evidence of high quality from both city and territory. As we have seen, the falling numbers of rural sites in the territory in the early Empire closely paralleled the decline of the urban centre during the first century AD. Although a particular disaster lay behind the original abandonment of the town in the 60s BC, the lack of integration between urban centre and territory even after its revival was to prove detrimental to both: absentee landlords were little concerned with the urban centre, and its depopulation meant it could neither serve as a source of labour when the economic basis of the villas was restructured, nor as a market for their produce.17 Beyond Cosa, by contrast, greater stability can be detected in the city and territory of Saturnia, which continued to exist as an independent centre (for a while, anyway), and (to an even greater extent) further to the north, in the territories of Volaterrae and Pisa, where survey has revealed a striking continuity of settlement in the countryside into late antiquity.
The situation in the towns of coastal Etruria can be compared with that of Sinuessa and Suessa Aurunca in northern Campania. The pattern of rural settlement revealed by survey here is strikingly similar to that of the Ager Cosanus: both areas were substantially reliant on the production of wine for export, and there are indications that in the late Republic large parts of northern Campania were likewise in the ownership of members of the Roman senatorial elite, including Sulla, Pompey, and Cicero.18 Decline in the number of villas is already apparent here in the first century AD. As regards the towns, Sinuessa, a Roman colony situated on the coast, was particularly dependent on the wine business: indeed broken amphorae were even used for building purposes in the town:19 it too seems to show early signs of decline.20 The parallel to Cosa is a striking one. By contrast, Suessa Aurunca, which was only a few kilometres further inland, appears, like Saturnia, to have had a rural economy diversified enough to survive the upheavals in the wine trade, with the (p.276) additional support of Matidia, sister of Sabina, the wife of the emperor Hadrian,21 although there are indications of some contraction in settlement there too.22
Cosa, so easily accessible by sea, can with some justification be seen as part of the economic territory of Rome,23 and in many ways its fate parallels that of the ancient towns within the more immediate hinterland of the city of Rome, such as Veii and Capena, which lost both their political and economic raison d'être, and much of their population, as the capital became the main focus of the district. The area inhabited in the imperial period at Cures Sabini was only one-fifth the size of the archaic settlement,24 and in the same way the inhabited area at Capena shrank substantially during the imperial period.25 In AD 26, the centumviri of Veii, rather than gathering in their own city, held a meeting at the Temple of Venus Genetrix in Rome;26 by the third century a villa had been built within the city walls.27 As we have seen, the demand for agricultural products generated by the city of Rome, the complexity of its productive economy, and the attractions of South Etruria as a place of residence for those with interests in the city, help to explain the high (and, in some areas, increasing) levels of rural settlement in the imperial period, even while the local towns were in decline. Nevertheless considerable efforts were made to support the towns, both by the emperors themselves and by the members of the imperial household who lived in the surrounding areas in quite large numbers.28 As at Cosa, imperial estates came to form an important part of the landscape; while they, like the senatorial estates which preceded them, had in many ways a detrimental effect on the economies of the local communities, the presence in the locality of affluent and ambitious members of the imperial household helped in other ways to maintain the continuity of local civic identities. Emperors, too, were keen to support towns which were of (p.277) ancient historical importance—Veii was revived by Augustus as the Municipium Augustum Veiens, for example, and helping the ancient towns was also a way in which later emperors could demonstrate their respect for ancient traditions and reinforce their credentials within Italy. Gallienus, who may have had family links with the town, was commemorated by Falerii as redintegrator coloniae Faliscorum,29 and a series of initiatives was undertaken to help the ailing city of Cosa.
Both Samnium and Lucania were far from Rome and characterized by comparably mountainous territory. Both regions had also suffered major upheavals in the latter years of the Republic, with the campaigns of Sulla and the depredations of Spartacus adding to the destruction in the countryside wrought first by the presence of Hannibal and then the Social War. In Samnium the pattern of decline in rural sites during the first two centuries AD is very clear, and even more pronounced in the mountains than in the foothills leading down to the Adriatic, probably in relation to the expansion of large-scale pastoralism in this period; by contrast, the now substantial body of survey evidence from Lucania, just to the south, indicates a continuity in site numbers in some areas, and in others a rise in the number of settlements. Some of these appear to be villages rather than villas. One significant difference between Samnium and Lucania was, however, the density (or otherwise) of urban settlement in the two districts. Samnium was characterized by a dense network of small towns, with some rather larger centres on the periphery of the region (e.g. Venafrum, Larinum) and one major city (Beneventum). Bekker-Nielsen has calculated that the average distance between urban centres in Samnium, Augustan Regio IV, varies between 15.8 and 22.8 km.30 By contrast, towns in Lucania and Bruttium, Regio III, were much more thinly spread: the equivalent inter-centre distance here is 35 km. In this context, the development of village sites in Lucania under the Empire can be seen as filling the gaps (p.278) between the scattered municipalities, providing a base for the provision of services to the rural population, and also serving as a place of residence. Where towns were comparatively thinly spread, the villas of the wealthy—the emperor in particular, who had extensive holdings in the region—and the villages where the rural population lived were of considerable importance in the articulation of the territory, and the organization of its production, without generating the infrastructure of public monuments which elsewhere helped to satisfy the local aristocrats' desire for prestige, and simultaneously consumed their resources.31 The comparative infrequency of urban centres in Lucania, for example, may thus have helped to contribute to the continuity of rural settlement. Indeed there may be more general links between continuity of rural settlement and a low level of urbanization in a particular region. In northern Etruria (where as we have seen, there is a strikingly greater continuity of rural settlement than further to the south) the average distance between towns is 30.8 km, and as Witcher has noted, villages played an important role in the rural landscape under the Empire.32 Interestingly, the area around Venusia,33 just inside Apulia but one of the most substantial towns in the region, which, like Beneventum to the north, was the site of a third-century Latin colony, demonstrates a gradual decline in numbers of rural sites in the second century, in a pattern more akin to that found in other areas of Italy than those found in Lucania. Like Beneventum, Venusia and Canusium continued to be cities of some importance into late antiquity;34 the less important centres, already characterized by a low level of population, and reliant to a significant degree on the support of individual families (such as the Neratii at Saepinum), were in a much more difficult position. Indeed, much of the growth of such regional centres will have been at the expense of their smaller neighbours, as they became attractive destinations for migrants and continued to be major centres of elite activity.
The histories of city and country in early imperial Italy can be seen to be intertwined in a complex series of ways. The well-being of the urban centre depended not just on the resources produced in its territory, but on the comparative density of urban settlement in the region, the place of a town within regional hierarchies, the commitment to the community of individual aristocrats and their families, the scope for support from outside the ranks of the traditional elites, and the availability or otherwise of imperial support. The adjacent towns of Beneventum and Ligures Baebiani can be seen as a microcosm of this relationship. Part of the territory of its smaller neighbour, Ligures Baebiani, was incorporated into the territory of Beneventum when the triumvirs established their colony there, and the latter became one of the major cities in southern Italy, as we have seen. The Trajanic alimentary table shows how estates in the territory of Ligures Baebiani were combined, through marriage, inheritance, and purchase; by the early second century many of the local landowners were primarily associated with Beneventum, and there were a number of imperial estates in the territory;35 those landowners based at Ligures Baebiani were, however, involved to a greater degree in supporting the alimentary scheme. We may imagine that migration to Beneventum, with its imperial patronage, wealthy elite, and complex economy, as well as to Rome, became a familiar pattern for the poorer citizens. Efforts were nevertheless made to maintain civic life at Ligures Baebiani: statues were set up in honour of the emperors,36 and a bathhouse was built (and rebuilt) in the third century.37 The town recruited patrons, one of whom restored the baths following an earthquake, and was duly honoured by the ordo and populus on account of his munificence.38 A boy from nearby (p.280) Telesia was adlected into the ordo decurionum.39 The town had Augustales,40 and the local collegia of fabri and dendrophori were also active: in the late second century they honoured the patron C. Amarfius Saturninus ‘on account of his outstanding affection toward the citizens both individually and collectively’.41 Ultimately the town was to be abandoned, probably in the later fourth century,42 but it was not from want of effort by its citizens.
(12) CIL 9. 2658 = ILS 6517: M. Celerius Corinthus served as sevir Augustalis in the neighbouring towns of Aufidena and Aesernia in Samnium.
(26) CIL 11. 3805 = ILS 6579.
(30) Bekker-Nielsen 1989: 22–5. Bekker-Nielsen's calculations are based on Pliny's list of towns in the third book of his Natural History, which contains some errors, but the figures are nevertheless very striking. Mattingly and Witcher (2004) use the data in the Barrington Atlas (2000).
(32) Witcher forthcoming.
(38) CIL 9. 1466.
(39) AE 1975: 206.
(40) CIL 9. 1461.
(41) CIL 9. 1459; also 1463.