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SOCII The term socii is the most general of the many terms used to denote a class of states which, though in partial dependence on Rome and acknowledging to the full the Roman hegemony, were yet, through the possession of certain political privileges, not regarded as subject states, and were therefore strictly outside the circle of provincial administration. It was the most general term, since it denoted the only common bond which united these states with one another and with Rome. The separate relations that Rome might have with these states were manifold, but the basis of this union was the idea of an armed alliance, of which Rome was the head. This is expressed in the word socius, and still more clearly in its Greek form of σύμμαχος.. The socii of Rome were those who were regarded as having entered into a perpetual military alliance with the ruling state; but the term socius hardly extends so far as the alliance itself. The original nucleus of this alliance, which embraced the whole of Italy and many states outside Italy, was the Latin league. But the Latins were as a rule distinguished from the socii, chiefly on account of the peculiar privileges they enjoyed in relation to Rome [LATINITAS], which were pot shared by the other allied communities. This distinction is shown in such expressions as socii ac nominis Latini (Liv. 41.8, 9), socii et Latium (Sall. Hist. 1.17), and perhaps in socii Latini nominis, if this is to be regarded as an asyndeton (Mommsen, Staatsr. iii. p. 661, n. 2 and 3). At the other end of the scale we find socii sometimes used loosely to describe purely subject states. Such usage naturally gained ground after the Social war had merged the Italian states, the original socii, in Rome, and caused a sharp distinction to be drawn between Romanised Italy and the mainly dependent outer world: but the usage is incorrect, and down to the end of the Republic we find the distinction drawn between the socii, whose alliance with Rome necessarily implied some degree of independence, and the purely subject states which fell under provincial rule (Cic. in Caecin. 3, 7, “socii stipendiariique.” Suet. Jul. 25, “omnem Galliam praeter socias civitates in provinciae formam redegit” ).

The earliest political union under Rome, which formed the type of future unions, was the Latin league. The circle of alliance was subsequently extended outside the bounds of Latium by the break up of confederacies such as the Hernican and the Samnite, and the reception of the states, as well as of the Greek towns of the south of Italy, into the Roman confederacy; while the mixed nationalities of these new acquisitions, and the definite military burdens imposed upon the states so received, gave the alliance a purely military and political significance, in which the older bonds which drew these states together, community of blood and language, were wholly lost. The effect of this extension was to present Italy (Greek, Latin and Oscan) as a united whole, and to create a new nationality, of which the geographical and political significances were coincident, that of the Italici. This term was at first coincident with the expression socii nominisque Latini; but as the socii soon came to include favoured states in the extra-Italian world, such as Athens and Rhodes, it soon ceased to denote an exclusive political status, and became merely a descriptive expression. To the similar connexion, into which Rome entered with states outside Italy, the already organised Italian alliance gave the form in all its main outlines; there was the same recognition of independence and autonomy which was necessary to constitute alliance, although of necessity certain elements which entered into the Italian were less strongly marked in the extra-Italian union. This was particularly the case as regards the fixed military duties of the allies. In Italy such military requisitions were fixed, regular, and frequent, and the Italians furnished the large portion of the land forces which were Rome's chief source of power: the Greek states, on the contrary, like Neapolis and Rhodes, were generally requisitioned to furnish ships; and as the marine of the Romans attained nothing like the permanent importance of their land army, fixed requisitions on the extra-Italian allies were less frequent, and far less of a ruling element in the bond that connected them with the Romans. But the power to make requisitions always remained an essential part of the theory (Liv. 45.25; Plb. 21.1, 4), and this condition was the same for the Italian and the non-Italian socii; it carried with it the idea of subjection as clearly as that of partial independence.

But the notion of subjection was expressed more in the fact than in the legal theory. It was shown most clearly by that intermediate position in which the state in question stood, before the terms of alliance were definitely concluded with it. This was the condition expressed by the word deditio. A community that as yet had no definite status in the Roman Empire, and yet sought such a status, had first to surrender itself to the power (in dicionem, Liv. 37.45, 2; in potestatem, Liv. 39.54, 7), or the honour (in fidem, Liv. 8.2, 13) of the Roman people, for the expressions “in fidem” and “in dicionem,” though they are sometimes distinguished, according as the expectations and desires of the conquered people are considered, express the same condition (Plb. 20.9, 12, παρὰ Ῥωμαίοις ἰσοδυναμεῖ τό τε εἰς τὴν πίστιν αὑτὸν ἐγχειρίσαι καὶ τὸ τὴν ἐπιτροπὴν δοῦναι περὶ αὑτοῦ τῷ κρατοῦντι). A community that had come into this condition had no legal rights to be considered, and no legal claims to urge. If an alliance was sought and accepted, the terms of this alliance were dictated by the Romans; if such autonomy continued to be possessed by the state as was [p. 2.682]necessary to constitute it a socia civitas, such autonomy was restored to it by the Romans. The international relations that followed this condition of temporary subjection were manifold: and the various relations towards herself that Rome imposed on such communities, as expressed by the terms foedus, libertas, αὐτονομία, cannot be sharply distinguished. These terms, though they may be used to denote different sides of the same status, yet express an ascending scale of rights, αὐτονομία involving least, foedus most. A state is self-governing (αὐτόνομος) in virtue of the enjoyment of its own laws: free (libera) in virtue of the nominally sovereign independence it enjoys in relation with Rome. Lastly, foedus existed between Rome and any state that had a sworn and therefore binding compact with Rome; but the term foederati was apparently not applied to all states that had such a treaty. It was not usually applied to the Latin communities, although strictly speaking they were foederati (Cic. pro Balbo, 24, 54, “Latinis, id est foederatis” ), for the same reason that they did not come under the generic title socii, because their position was higher than that of the ordinary socii or foederati. Again the term foederati was not employed to denote the dependent kingdoms or dynasties that had terms of alliance with Rome. The standing relations between Rome and these reges socii being only regarded as binding during the lifetime of the ruling prince and having to be renewed with his successor, these communities, though regarded as members of the armed alliance, and therefore as socii, were not regarded as having their position secured by a lasting and irrevocable alliance, and were not therefore spoken of as foederati: and thus we find the reges not included in but classed by the side of the populi liberi and the foederati, in the enumeration of the different kinds of states that stood in any degree of permanent relationship with Rome (Aelius Gallus, ap. Fest. s. v. postliminium, p. 218, “cum populis liberis et cum foederatis et cum regibus postliminium nobis est ita uti cum hostibus” ). The distinction between liberi and foederati is the distinction between states that were independent of any other sovereign power (Dig. 49, 15, 7, 1, “liber populus est qui nullius alterius populi potestati est subjectus” ), and states the independence of which was recognised by a binding treaty. Every foederata was of necessity also a libera civitas, since no treaty could be concluded with a state that did not possess the sovereign power expressed in libertas: but a state might be libera, and have all the advantages which the recognition of independence conferred, without having what was in this case merely a permitted independence, recognised by a treaty the observance of which was guaranteed by the community that dictated it, without being, that is, a foederata civitas (ἐπὶ συνθήκαις ἔνορκοι,, App. BC 1, 102), or as it was sometimes more fully called a libera et foederata civitas (Plin. Ep. 92; Suet. Cal. 3; Niebuhr, Hist. of Rome, iii. p. 616; Mommsen, Staatsr. iii. pp. 656, 657). In the terms of the foedus concluded between Rome and an Italian or non-Italian state, there was always practically a recognition of semi-dependence in the latter, and an assertion that the fullest hegemony was vested in the central state; but in some of these treaties there was a formal recognition to the same effect contained in the clause that the state to which the treaty was granted “should respect the majesty of the Roman people.” A treaty containing this clause did not technically diminish the libertas of the state with which it was concluded, but merely asserted--what in every foedus was tacitly implied--the superiority of the state which dictated the treaty (Dig. 49, 15, 7, 1, “hoc adjicitur, ut intellegatur alterum populum superiorem esse, non ut intellegatur alterum non esse liberunm.” Cic. pro Balbo, 16, 35, “ille in foedere inferior cum alterius populi majestas conservari jubetur” ). Vague as the expressions foedus aequum, foedus iniquum are, yet, when strictly employed, they appear respectively to denote a treaty the character of which was determined by the absence or presence of this restrictive clause (Dig. 1. c.: “is foederatus est item sive aequo foedere in amicitiam venit sive comprehensum est ut is populus alterius populi majestatem comiter conservaret” ).

Every alliance implies the sacrifice of some rights on the part of the contracting states. The nature of the rights sacrificed on either side shows the equality or inequality of the alliance: and the real dependence of the socii on Rome was strongly marked by the perpetual sacrifice of certain rights on their part which were inconsistent with the hegemony of Rome. Such was the renunciation of the free right of declaring war, which was accompanied by the loss of the parallel right of making independent treaties; the sole exceptions are to be found in the case of the more distant reges socii, such as those of Mauritania and Cappadocia, who exercised the right, which was perhaps not formally denied to them, of conducting border wars on their own account. The Roman principle of the separation of interests also insisted on the breaking up of the standing national confederations within the allied states. The merging of the Latin confederacy in Rome had been followed by the break--up of the Hernican and Etruscan leagues, and no hegemony, such as that exercised by Rome over her socii, was permitted to any of these allied states over others, the “octo oppida sub dicione Praenestinorum” mentioned by Livy (6.29) being probably an exceptional clientela entered into for the purposes of revolt (Mommsen, Staatsr. iii. p. 658, n. 1). In the provinces also the ancient συμμαχίαι were broken up. This was the case with Athens, whose dependencies when retained became, as the island of Delos did, her actual possessions, which may have been regarded as cleruchies, and which were governed directly by Athenian ἐπιμεληταί (Gilbert, Staatsalterth. i. p. 425). Similarly, with the entrance of Rhodes into direct societas with Rome, her hegemony over Lycia and Caria was lost (Plb. 30.5, 12; Liv. 44.15, 1).

The most distinctive duties performed by the allies of Rome were those connected with purposes of war. The idea of the alliance presupposed warlike service, and the position of Rome with respect to her allies no doubt carried with it the right to an indefinite demand for such service whenever occasion required. As regards the Italian allies, there were definite regulations as to the amount of the contingents they were [p. 2.683]expected to furnish. The same was the case with the Greek states, the usual requisition on which was ships of war. The amount of the contingent was definitely fixed, and in some cases, as in that of the Rhodians, was changed from time to time (Dio Chrysost. Or. 31, p. 620), while to some of these states a special exemption from regular service was granted (Cic. in Verr. 5.19, 50). But it was from the land army of the Italians, the togati, or, as the Roman formula more fully expressed it, the “socii nominisve Latini, quibus ex formula togatorum milites in Italia imperare solent” (C. I. L. 1.200), that the main strength of the auxiliary forces was derived. The number of troops required was decreed every year by the senate (Liv. 41.5, &c.), and the consuls fixed the amount which each allied state was to send, in proportion to its population capable of service. The names of persons so liable were contained in the formulae of the several states (Liv. 22.57, 27.10, “milites ex formula paratos esse” ), service being regulated by the census, which was modelled on that of Rome (Liv. 29.15, “censumque in iis coloniis agi ex formula ab Romanis censoribus data” ), and under the conditions of the special exemptions from service granted by the treaty ( “vacatio rei militaris ex foedere,” Lex Jul. Munic. 50.93; C. I. L. i. n. 206). The consuls appointed the place and time at which the troops of the socii were to meet him and his legions (Plb. 6.21, 4; Liv. 34.56, 36.3, &c.). The contingents of the several states remained together in separate cohorts, each under its own commander, and each furnished with its own quaestor (Plb. 6.21, 5). The commander was, probably, in most cases the magistrate of the state, as the praetor of Praeneste (Liv. 23.19, 7) and the soldiers of the separate states took the sacramentum to their own commander (Polyb. l.c.). Besides these separate officers, the consuls appointed twelve prefects, apparently Roman, as commanders of the whole body of the socii, and their power answered to that of the military tribunes in a consular army (Plb. 6.26, 5), the whole staff of officers acting in obedience to the consul. These prefects selected 1/3 of the cavalry and 1/5 of the infantry of the socii, who formed a select body called the extraordinarii. The remainder were then divided into two large divisions, called the right and the left wing (Polyb. l.c.; Liv. 35.5); each of these alae, composed of cohorts and commanded by six praefecti, closely resembled a Roman legion, and we find the socii on one occasion organised as legions (Liv. 37.39). The infantry of the allies, on the occasion of a single levy, was usually more numerous than that of the Romans; their cavalry, which was divided into turmae, generally three times more numerous (Plb. 6.26). Pay and clothing were given to the allied troops by the states to which they belonged, the quaestors who accompanied each contingent being appointed for this purpose; but Rome furnished them with provisions at the expense of the Republic, the allied infantry receiving the same as the Roman, the cavalry somewhat less [STIPENDIUM]. The right of the allies to share in the distribution of the spoils of war and of conquered lands was freely recognised, and on some occasions they received an equal share with the Romans (Liv. 39.5; 40.43). But that they had no standing right to such an equal distribution, such as that said to have been possessed in ancient times by the Latin and Hernican confederacies (Dionys. A. R. 6.95; 8.77), is shown by the fact that on some occasions these proportions were not maintained (Liv. 41.13). The contingents of the Italian socii are sometimes called auxilia (Sal. Jug. 39), those of the allies outside Italy being described as auxilia externa or provincialia (Liv. 22.37, 7; 40.31, 1). After the Social war, however, which merged the Italian allies in Rome, the Italian auxilia or togati disappear, and the word auxilia, during the later Republic and the Empire, always signifies non-Italian contingents, chiefly those which made up the light-armed troops of the Roman forces.

Although the furnishing of regular contingents was not held inconsistent with the autonomy of the states in alliance with Rome, the furnishing of a regular tribute was. It is true that some of the dependent kingdoms paid a tribute (Plb. 2.12, 13) which was in the nature of a war-indemnity; but during the early period of the Roman Empire liability to tribute was a token of subjection, and neither the Italian allies nor the liberae or foederatae civitates in the provinces were subject to it; foedus implies libertas, and libertas (ἐλευθερία) is invariably conjoined with immunitas (ἀτέλεια, Paus. 8.43, ἐλευθερίαν καὶ ἀτέλειαν. Strabo, p. 595, ἐλευθερίαν καὶ ἀλειτουργησίαν. Cic. in Verr. 3.6, 13, “liberae et immunes” ). Although this principle was modified to some extent in the later Republic [IMMUNITAS], yet stipendiarii was ever the main antithesis to socii (Cic. pro Balbo, 9, 24; Marquardt, Staatsverw. p. 346). This general immunity of the allied states was accompanied by an assertion, such as that contained in the Lex Antonia de Termessensibus of 71 B.C., that their territory was under their own control, and that such public revenues as were raised from it should be raised by their own governments and for their own local purposes (Lex de Term. C. I. L.. i. n. 204.1.10, “quei agri, quae loca, &c., utei antea habeant possideant.” Cf. C. I. G. 2737, ἔχωσιν κρατῶσιν χρῶνται καρπίζωνταί τε πάντων πραγμάτων ἀτελεῖς ὄντες), and it is on this right that the exemptions from the quartering of troops recognised in the law of Termessus (2.5) is based. Rome, however, claimed of her own right to confer exemptions from local burdens on the citizens of such states (Liv. 23.20, 2; C. I. L. i. n. 206, 50.93) and to claim exemptions for her own citizens from local dues (Lex de Term. 1.35). The enjoyment of the control of their own territory by the allies was necessarily accompanied by the fullest permission of local administration both in respect to jurisdiction and the power of living according to local ordinances or of making local laws, provided these did not conflict with the terms of the treaty or the conditions expressed in the lex data (Lex de Term. 1.10, “suis legibus utei liceto, quod advorsus hanc legemnon fiat” ). As regards jurisdiction, the allied state, if in Italy, was outside the authority of the Roman magistrate; if without the bounds of Italy, of the provincial administrator; and the exercise of jurisdiction by such an official was improper (Cic. de Prov. Cons. 3, 6, [p. 2.684] “omitto jurisdictionem in libera civitate contra legis senatusque consulta;” cf. pro Domo, 9, 23). An important fact in the history of the allies is the extent to which they were affected by Roman legislation. A great distinction was observed in this respect between the nearer and the more distinct socii. Circumstances demanded that the near neighbours of the Romans, the Italici, should be brought into closer conformity with Roman customs than the more distant allies: and many institutions of the Roman civil law as well as many legislative acts were extended to the former. With regard to the laws mentioned by Cicero, of inheritances, testaments, and “innumerabiles aliae leges de civili jure” which were accepted by the allies ( “quas Latini voluerunt adsciverunt,” Cic. pro Balbo, 8, 21), there is no difficulty, but many others are mentioned as having bound the Italian allies, such as the plebiscitum regulating the jus creditae pecuniae (Liv. 35.7) and the sumptuary Lex Didia which was an extension of the Lex Fannia to the Italici apparently against their will (Macr. 3.17, 6), in which there is no mention of the usual formula of acceptance, “fundi (i. e. auctores, Fest. p. 89) facti sunt.” Formal acceptance, however, there may have been in these cases, and this was most distinctly recognised in the important matter of the conferring of the civitas [FOEDERATAE CIVITATES]. As regards this right of acceptance or rejection there was, in accordance with the principle already mentioned, no distinction drawn between a libera and a foederata civitas (Cic. pro Balbo, 8, 20, “foederatos populos fieri fundos oportere non magis est proprium foederatorum quam omnium liberorum” ). By far the most striking instance we possess of the direct interference of Rome with the allied states is the Senatusconsultum de Bacchanalibus, which extended penalties to the members of the Bacchanalian conspiracy all over Italy (Liv. 39.19; C. I. L. i. n. 190). This was an exceptional assumption of the senate's power even for Rome, and their power, as exercised in this, case, was based on their actual control of the Roman world, and does not affect any legal theory of autonomy. The general position of the Roman senate, as regards the allies, was that of a uniting and controlling power. It might revoke grants which, as not being held by a fixed treaty, were terminable at pleasure (Lex de Term. 2.5, “ne quis magistratus milites introducito nisi senatus nominatim decreverit” ), and it adjusted the conflicting claims of states both within and without the bounds of Italy (Liv. 45.13; Dittenberger, n. 240): sometimes referring questions respecting the internal difficulties of these states to the decision of Roman patrons, with whom they had entered into relations of clientship (Liv. 9.20; Cic. pro Sulla, 21, 60). The senate's control, as it was usually exercised, did not conflict with the amount of autonomy implied in the fact of alliance, since this did not extend to independent international relations. The tenure of independence by a foederata civitas lasted theoretically as long as the conditions of the foedus were observed, the autonomy of the states that were merely liberae was always from its very nature of a precarious tenure: but the notorious abuse of self-government by a foederata civitas might, during the principate, cause a foedus to be rescinded, and the direct provincial government to replace the misused autonomy (Suet. Aug. 47; Claud. 25; Vesp. 8). The tendency of the imperial administration was towards an equalisation in the position of provincial states, and even when libertas was not taken from the states which possessed it, yet the supervision of these by the διορθωταὶ or ἐπανορθωταὶ (correctores) and the λογισταὶ (curatores) appointed by the emperor (Mommsen, Staatsr. ii.2 p. 858; Marquardt, Staatsverw. i. p. 358) rendered their position but little different from that of the provincial subject towns: and the libertas, which was the necessary condition of societas, practically disappeared; but the name liberae still continued to be applied to certain states even after the extension of the civitas by Caracalla, and down to the time of Constantine (Marquardt, Staatsverw. i>. p. 359).

(Mommsen, Staatsrecht, iii. pp. 645-715; Marquardt, Staatsverwaltung, i. pp. 18-89 and pp. 345-353; Walter, Geschichte des römischen Rechts, p. 192 ff.)


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  • Cross-references from this page (56):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.43
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 1.11.102
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    • Polybius, Histories, 20.9
    • Polybius, Histories, 21.1
    • Polybius, Histories, 21.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 2.12
    • Polybius, Histories, 2.13
    • Polybius, Histories, 30.5
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.21
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.4
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.5
    • Polybius, Histories, 30.12
    • Polybius, Histories, 6.26
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.3.13
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.5.50
    • Cicero, On the Consular Provinces, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 9, 20
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 47
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 3
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 25
    • Sallust, Bellum Iugurthinum, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 45, 25
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 54
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 8, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 27, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 34, 56
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 5
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 35, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 31
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 37
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 57
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 22, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 19
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 20
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 23, 7
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 29, 15
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 36, 3
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 2
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 39
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 37, 45
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 13
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 41, 9
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 43
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 44, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 44, 15
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