Diocese of Annonarian Italy

Italia is the name of the Italian peninsula during Roman era. From the 4th century BC until the 1st century BC, the wide range of peoples and cities of Italy were increasingly dominated by Rome, but many were still called allies and retained a degree of independence. In the late Republic, following a revolt by many of those allies, Roman citizenship was extended to all Italic peoples.[1] During the Republic and the first centuries of the empire, Italia was not a province but became the territory of the city of Rome, thus having a special status.[2] Later, from the 3rd century AD, both Rome and Italy became less important to the Empire, in the 5th and 6th centuries Italian peninsula was repeatedly invaded and re-conquered, and became divided into separate entities again.


Under the Republic and Augustan organization

The name Italia covered an area of land whose borders evolved over time. According to Cisalpine Gaul that lay "beyond the Po"—, thus extending Italia up to the Alps.

With the end of the Social War (91–88 BC), Rome allowed the Italian allies (socii) to enter with full rights in the Roman society, giving the Roman citizenship to all the Italic peoples.[3]

At the beginning of the Empire, Italia was a collection of territories with different statuses. Some cities, called municipii, had some independence from Rome, others, the colonies, were founded by the Romans themselves. Around 7 BC, Augustus Caesar divided Italia into eleven regiones, as reported by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia:[4]

Italia was privileged by Augustus and his heirs, with the construction, among other public structures, of a dense network of roads.

The Italian economy flourished: agriculture, handicraft and industry had a sensible growth, allowing the export of goods to the other provinces.

The Italian population may have grown as well: Three census were ordered by Augustus, to record the number of Roman citizens throughout the empire. The surviving totals were 4,063,000 in 28 BC, 4,233,000 in 8 BC, and 4,937,000 in AD 14, but it is still debated whether these counted all citizens, all adult male citizens, or citizens sui iuris,[5] and how many of the citizens lived in Italia. Estimates for the population of mainland Italia, including Gallia Cisalpina, at the beginning of the 1st Century C.E. range from 6,000,000 according to Beloch in 1886, 6,830,000 according to Russell in 1958, less than 10,000,000 according to Hin in 2007,[6] and 14,000,000 according to Lo Cascio in 2009.[7]


Italia in the 3rd century

In 212, when Roman citizenship was given to all the Empire (Constitutio Antoniniana), Italia began to decline in favour of the provinces. Furthermore, Italian territory suffered from the attacks of barbarian tribes, which happened at the end of the 3rd century (see Crisis of the third century and Barracks emperors).

Diocletian divided the Empire into four parts and several dioceses, the so-called Tetrarchy. The diocesis Italiae, under the rule of the Augustus of the West, was divided into two zones, each divided into smaller territories held by correctores:

The former Italian regions of Alpes Poenninae and Alpes Maritimae become part of the Diocesis Galliarum.

Italia from the 4th to the 6th century

When the barbarians became the most important problem, the Emperors were obliged to move out of Rome, and even in other provinces, thus increasing even more the decline of Italia. In 330, Constantine I moved the capital of the empire to Constantinople, with the imperial court, economical administration, as well as the military structures (as the fleets of Misenum and Ravenna).

After the death of emperor Theodosius (395), Italia became part of the Western Roman Empire. Then came the years of the barbarian invasions, and the capital was moved from Mediolanum to Ravenna (402). Alaric, king of Visigoths, sacked Rome itself in 410; something that hadn't happened for eight centuries. Northern Italia was attacked by Attila's Huns, and Rome was sacked again by the Vandals under the command of Genseric in 455.

According to Notitia Dignitatum, a compilation of public civil and military officers that is considered updated to 420s for the western part of the Roman Empire, Italia was governed by a prefectus, Prefectus praetorio Italiae (who governed Gaul, Italia, Illyricum and Africa), one vicarius, and one comes rei militaris. The regions were governed by eight consulares (Venetiae et Histriae, Aemiliae, Liguriae, Flaminiae et Piceni annonarii, Tusciae et Umbriae, Piceni suburbicarii, Campaniae, and Siciliae), two correctores (Apuliae et Calabriae and Lucaniae et Bruttiorum) and four praesides (Alpium Cottiarum, Samnii, Sardiniae, and Corsicae).

With the Emperors controlled by their barbarian generals, the imperial government weakly controlled Italia, whose coasts were continuously under attack. In 476, with the resignation of Romulus Augustulus and the return of the imperial ensigns to Constantinople, the Western Roman Empire had fallen. For 77 years, Italia stayed united first under Odoacer, then under the Ostrogothic Kingdom.

In 554, Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I reconquered Italia keeping in general the organization of Diocletian. During the lombards invasion in 568 Eastern Romans were to lose most of Italia, except the territories of the Exarchate (corresponding roughly to today's Romagna), Venetia, Pentapolis (between south Romagna and today's north-central Marche), Latium (with a shallow corridor connecting Rome with Ancona), Naples and parts of the extreme south: Italy ceased to be a Roman unitary state and began to be divided between several entities, and would not be re-united for another thirteen centuries.


See also

Notes and references

External links

  • Geographical regions in Roman history (Italian)
  • Map of the Roman state c. 400 (Map of the Roman state according to the Compilation 'notitia dignitatum')
  • The Latin Library, describing the decadence of Italia and Rome around 410.
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