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Civĭtas

The technical Latin word for the right of citizenship. This was originally possessed, at Rome, by the patricians only. The plebeians were not admitted to share it at all until the time of Servius Tullius, and not to full civic rights until B.C. 337. In its fullest comprehension the civitas included:
  • 1. the ius suffragii, or right of voting for magistrates;
  • 2. the ius honorum, or right of being elected to a magistracy;
  • 3. the ius provocationis, or right of appeal to the people, and in later times to the emperor, against the sentences passed by magistrates affecting life or property;
  • 4. the ius connubii, or right to contract a legal marriage;
  • 5. the ius commercii, or right to hold property in the Roman community.
The civitas was obtained either by birth from Roman parents, or by manumission (see Manumissio), or by presentation. The right of presentation belonged originally to the kings, afterwards to the popular assemblies, and particularly to the comitia tributa, and last of all to the emperors. The civitas could be lost by deminutio capitis. (See Deminutio Capitis.) The aerarii, so called, had an imperfect civitas, without the ius suffragii and ius honorum. Outside the circle of the civitas stood the slaves and the foreigners, or peregrini. (See Peregrini.) The latter included:
  • 1. strangers who stood in no international relations with Rome;
  • 2. the allies, or socii, among whom the Latini (q. v.) held a privileged place;
  • 3. the dediticii, or those who belonged to nations conquered in war. See Ius.

Though the Roman citizenship was conferred upon all the free inhabitants of the Empire in A.D. 212 by the emperor Caracalla, the grades of it were not all equalized, nor was it until the time of Justinian that civitas and libertas became convertible terms. See Politeia.

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