It has been customary for historians to accept, though with a parenthetical warning, Beloch’s interpretation’ of the Roman census statistics. While we must continue to consider his work fundamental wherever he succeeded in explaining the basic sources, it is my belief that he frequently abandoned those sources without trying to comprehend them. I wish here to point out briefly that historians are not justified in altering the figures given by Livy for 209 and 194 B.C., in rejecting the authoritative statistics of the Sullan period, and in interpreting the figures of the Augustan census on a different system of reckoning from that applied to the republican census.
It will be remembered that the Roman authors constantly gave the numbers of civium capita. While this term has been variously explained, Beloch seems to be correct when he concludes, from a comparison of the census of 234 B.C. and the army list of 225, that in the republic the census accounted for all male citizens over seventeen, including proletariat and freedmen, and also the male civis sine suffragio of the same age.
Now Livy gives the following statistics of civium capita for the half-century that covers the Second Punic War:
Beloch is usually followed in adding a complete hundred thousand to the numbers given for 209 and 194, but these numbers seem to me reasonable as they stand. The decrease of 133,000 recorded in 209 is readily accounted for. The battles of the Trebia, Trasimene Lake, Cannae, and Spain had cost at least 60,000 legionaries. The defection of Capua and the nearby towns would account for a loss of 50,000, since Capua alone could once provide 34,000 soldiers for active service (Livy xxiii. 5). Finally, as may be inferred from Livy xxix. 37, it was not always customary to register the soldiers stationed in the provinces, and at this time there were four legions in Spain, two in Sardinia, two in Sicily, besides a guard in Cisalpine Gaul. This accounts for from 40,000 to 50,000 legionaries. Had a complete census been taken in 209, the number would probably have been near 200,000. The losses in battle had doubtless been countered in some measure by the natural increase in population, but this increase could not have been rapid during those strenuous war-years. Sanitary conditions in the Roman camps were not conducive to longevity. I cannot see any reason for changing the number given by Livy.
Beloch, however, by way of justifying his emendation, cites Livy’s comment on the number: “Minor aliquanto numerus quam qui ante bellum fuerat” (Livy xxvii. 36), assuming that aliquanto means “somewhat.” But the word is here, as frequently elsewhere in Livy, used by way of sardonic comment, as in fact the epitomator, who gives the same figure, saw, for he says explicitly: “Ex quo numero apparuit quantum hominum tot proeliorum adversa fortuna populo Romano abstulisset.” We are, therefore, not dealing with a mediaeval scribe’s error. Livy’s low number is deliberately given with full knowledge of its meaning. The reading 137,108 must, therefore, be retained for the year 209, but with the understanding that it prob- ably did not include some eight or ten legions stationed outside of Italy.
The striking increase to 214,000 for the year 204 is adequately explained by Livy xxix. 37:
Per provincias dimiserunt censores ut civium Romanorum in exercitibus quantus ubique esset referretur numerus, and by the consideration that now when the war was being transferred to Africa stragglers and fugitives were doubtless returning to their homes.
Again I should retain Livy’s number (143,704) for the year 194-3. Flamininus’ army of four legions was still in Greece, and large forces were engaged in active warfare both in Cisalpine Gaul (Livy xxxv. 46) and in Spain (4 legions). It is more logical to assume that the armies in foreign parts were not registered this time than to change Livy’s text.
The census of 189 shows an increase of over 100,000 in five years. But in this year the Campanians (about 50,000) were again registered for the first time after their defection (Livy xxxviii. 36), and the sons of freedmen who had suffered from certain disqualifications were enrolled with full rights again (Plut. Flam. xviii). If, as in 204, the registration was extended to the armies in the provinces, the whole number is accounted for without resorting to emendations. Hence there is no reason for altering Livy’s statistics for the years 209-8 B.C. and 194-3B.C.
During the second century B.C. the census figures for Rome are given for almost every lustrum, but after the Gracchans the census was not always taken, and sometimes the statistics have been lost to us. Between 130 B.C. and 14 A.D., the third census of Augustus, we have the following figures:
Beloch (p. 352) gives no credence to the figures of 85 B.C. because he thinks that after the Italians became citizens in 89 the number should have been far greater than that reported. On the other hand, the numbers reported by Augustus seem to him so very large that in his opinion (p. 374) they represent a new system of numbering, which includes all free citizens of both sexes.
These two questions will have to be treated together, but first we must see what would be a reasonable number in 85 B.C., when the citizenship had been promised to the whole of Italy as far as the river Po. Polybius (ii. 24) says that in 225, when a very terrifying Gallic invasion was threatening, Rome took a census throughout Italy of all citizens and allies who could bear arms. In the citizen census it is generally supposed that seniores between forty-six and sixty years were included, since these could be used for the defense contingent at Rome. The number, as we have seen, was 273,000. From the allies only juniores (between seventeen and forty-six years) were enlisted, for these were to be used in active service, as Beloch and Meyer have seen. Furthermore, Beloch and Meyer point out that the socii navales of the south were probably not included as being exempted from active service on land. When, therefore, Polybius lists about 350,000 socii exclusive of Gauls, we must at least double the number by including the socii navales, the Bruttians, and the male citizens over forty-six years to get the free non-Roman population of Italy. We may conclude, therefore, that there were about three times as many non-citizens as citizens in Italy at the time of the Second Punic War. It is probable that this ratio remained fairly constant down to the Social War, since the slight extension of citizenship at the cost of the socii was about offset by the planting of new Latin colonies to which Rome made some contributions.
Unfortunately, we have no statistics for the year 90 and must in fact go back twenty-five years to find any. In 115 B.C. there were 394,000 citizens; we may certainly assume at least 400,000 just before the Social War, and, using the ratio employed above, three times that number, or about 1,200,000 socii et Latini, demanding citizenship throughout Italy. This would give the whole of Italy to the Rubicon a population in 90 B.C. of about 1,600,000 free males over seventeen years of age, or about 6,000,000 people of both sexes, that is, about 40 per cent of the present number; certainly a conservative figure. Of course, the 1,600,000 free males over seventeen years here posited for the year 90 are by no means all the number throughout the Empire. Many Romans, Latins, and allies had for a century been migrating to the Po Valley, Narbonese Gaul, Spain, Africa, Greece, and Asia; in fact, Mithridates found 80,000 Italians to murder in the Asiatic province alone. The fact that the citizen census between 170 and 130 and again between 125 and 115 was quite stationary at a time of peace when the birth-rate was still normal and when large numbers of slaves were being emancipated proves that emigration was exceedingly vigorous. Had a scientific census of citizens, Latins, and Italian allies been taken in 90 all through the Empire, it is safe to say that the number of free males over seventeen years would have been at least 2,000,000.
Now in the year 90 there were about 400,000 citizens (free males over seventeen years) in Italy, and about three times as many Latins and allies in Italy eligible for citizenship, and the Social War was fought ostensibly to secure the franchise for this later group. Nevertheless, at the very next census, of 85 B.C. (the census of 89 was not completed), there is an increase of only about 70,000 and in the next census, fifteen years later, the number 900,000 is still very far from being adequate. How can we explain such statistics? Shall we reject them as scribal errors, or accept them as a valuable revelation of Rome’s policy in keeping the new citizens from gaining a preponderating influence in Roman affairs, and of the lack of interest shown by the Italians in the franchise?
The allies had, to be sure, long asked for citizenship, but not primarily because they desired the privilege of voting. After they gained the privilege they paid very little attention to Roman elections and the legislation. The Roman nobility still continued to win the high offices, while the Roman mob still voted themselves corn-doles. There is no evidence of any broader territorial interest either in the laws passed or in the men elected to office. The Italians, in fact, would seldom take the trouble to ride 100 miles or more in order to vote, and they cared so little for the franchise that no one, so far as we know, even proposed that national ballot boxes might be provided in each community in some such way as Caesar’s law provided that the national census be taken in the municipalities. The Italians had desired citizenship in order to escape the arbitrary commands of Roman officers and magistrates, to secure a fairer incidence of military burdens and a more liberal share in military rewards, to insure a more favorable position in the Roman courts and the same rights of commerce and intermarriage throughout Italy that Roman citizens enjoyed. When he was a soldier or merchant the Italian wanted the privilege of saying: “Civis romanus sum.”
Furthermore, the government had no longer a real need for a complete census registry. In the early decades of the second century B.C., while a direct tribute was still collected from the citizens, and while soldiers were conscripted and enrolled in the army according to property qualifications, a careful census had been a necessity. In those days a heavy penalty was imposed on citizens who failed to register. But after the citizen tribute was abandoned in 169, and after Marius set the fashion of enrolling volunteers in the army, the census was useful for little else than to classify voters in the centuriate assembly, and to make up the list of those who wished to be enrolled as equites. Since this fact was so well recognized that no enumeration was made between 69 and 28 B.C., it is probable that no serious or expensive efforts were made by any of the censors of the first century to make a complete registration. In fact, Cicero remarks incidentally (I Verr. liv) in 69, while he had the Verrine case in court, that he expected many strangers in Rome that year because the census was being taken. Apparently registrars were not being sent to the remoter parts of Italy. He also remarks in Pro Archia xi that his client was not enrolled in 85 or in 69 because of his absence from Italy in those years. From these passages I think we may conclude that Caesar’s careful provision in the Lex Julia Municipalis for an extensive census by municipal quinquinnales was a new arrangement invented by the great dictator in 44 B.C., and that after the Social War the census had regularly been taken only in Rome, and had enrolled only those who chose to make the sacrifice of time and effort to go there to register.
But quite apart from the listlessness of the far-distant citizens and the lack of any incentive on the part of the government, we also have evidence that the older citizens of Rome, the poor as well as the nobles, were averse to a full enrolment of the Italian voters. The democrats, to be sure, under Sulpicius, Marius, and Cinna, adopted from time to time as a plank in their platform the full enfranchisement of the Italians. But such platforms are not always sincere. The democratic leaders were loud in their liberal professions only when they needed the outlying support in votes or in arms, but we know that the voting democracy of Rome had deserted both Gaius Gracchus and Livius Drusus when they proposed to extend the franchise. The nobles had only to remind them that they might risk their corn-doles and be crowded out of their standing room at the games to make them forget liberal promises. As for the senators, few had ever favored a wide extension of the citizenship. The nobles could with difficulty control the voters at Rome; they feared that the Italian vote might elevate municipal leaders to the magistracies and thus break their time-honored control of the government.
Let us now see by what wearisome process the Italians were finally enrolled after their revolt in 90 B.C. By the Lex Plautia-Papiria passed in 89, citizenship was to be given to those who enrolled with the praetors at Rome within sixty days. Probably a large number did so register, but their names were not transferred to the census lists as we learn from Cicero, and the senate, afraid of the new voters, slyly assigned them to ten new wards, which were to vote after the thirty-five old wards had cast their ballots. There was, of course, an outcry from the new citizens against this treatment, and Marius, who thought that the new voters might be effectively employed by the democratic party, exerted his political and military prestige in support of the Sulpician plebiscite, calling for a fairer distribution of the new citizens and also for a general distribution of the freedmen throughout the thirty-five wards. This plebiscite was passed in 88, but when Marius soon after had the army command transferred to himself Sulla marched on Rome and had both measures repealed.
After Sulla’s departure to Asia, Cinna in 86 righted the wrong and the Senate, then largely under his influence, confirmed the law (Livy Epit. lxxx and lxxxiv). Now for the first time, it seems, all Italians whether or not they had registered in 89, were legally citizens, and, as our inscriptions show, the municipalities of Italy were assigned equably to the various thirty-five wards. This law applied to the freedmen also (Livy Epit. lxxxiv), as did the Sulpician one, and it remained valid, for Sulla on his return from Asia gave a solemn promise not to revoke it (Livy Epit. lxxxvi).
Now, the census of 86-85 was taken while the democrats were in power, and was apparently arranged especially to permit of the enrolment of the new citizens in accordance with Cinna’s recent plebiscite, since only three years had passed since the last census. Nevertheless, the number enrolled is so small that few of the new citizens seem to have accepted the opportunity. We are surprised to find that one of the censors of the year was Philippus, who had opposed Drusus in 91 and presently joined Sulla on the latter’s return to Italy. He certainly was not a liberal. It would seem that the people preferred an aristocratic censorship despite their democratic program. As we have seen, there is no trace of an effective machinery for making the registration complete. And if the new citizens were left to their own whims in the matter, it is easy to see that most of them would absent themselves, for a war between Sulla and Cinna seemed inevitable, and enrolment at Rome would obviously subject them to the levy that seemed to be impending. The censorship was therefore a failure. We need not try to amend the figures. As they stand they are a comment on the political prejudices of the day.
After 85 there was no census for fifteen years because Sulla sup- pressed the censorship. In this he probably followed the suggestion of the nobles, who preferred not to have their rights to senatorial dignities questioned by a magistrate elected by the people. But it is also likely that by abolishing the censorship Sulla intended that the new citizens who had so largely failed to enrol in 85 should be still left outside the pale of the centuriate assembly, for it is difficult to see how they were to vote in their respective “classes” if they had not registered their property. The real import of this omission from his constitution of an old republican office becomes apparent when we accept the census figures of 85 as they stand and notice that less than 10 per cent of the new citizens were actually on Rome’s polling lists during the first twenty years that followed the Social War.
In the year 70 Pompey and Crassus became consuls and immediately restored the censorship as well as the tribunitian functions. The census was accordingly taken in 69. Now a large number of Italians, having felt the injustice of a long segregation, were willing to take the trouble to register. But, as we have seen from two incidental references in Cicero, the citizens were apparently compelled to make the journey to Rome if they wished to be enrolled. Hence, the 900,000 given by Livy’s epitome is again far from being a complete list. Those who lived at or near Rome doubtless gave in their names. Of citizens who lived far away, we may assume that those who desired to register property that might qualify them as equites or as citizens of the upper “classes” in the assembly would take the journey.
After 69, though the censors took office fairly regularly, and some- times purged the senate, let contracts, and recorded property lists of those whose rank depended upon such qualifications, they did not again take a complete census during the republic. The powerful men at Rome preferred not to be overwhelmed by unknown voters, and even democratic leaders like Caesar chose to govern by means of the manageable urban crowd that frequented the Forum. Later, when Caesar became dictator and was sure of his power, he created the machinery for a scientific census in the Lex Julia Municipalis by ordaining that the quinquinnates of the municipalities should take the census in their cities when it was being done at Rome, and should send their records to Rome for incorporation in the national lists. But he did not himself live to use this machinery in making a complete census.
We come finally to Beloch’s contention that the Augustan census must have included free women and children as well as men since it would otherwise be difficult to account for an increase from 900,000 to 4,043,000 in forty-one years. If we are correct in the conclusions reached above, the Augustan figure should not be compared with the incomplete census of 69, but rather with a probable 2,000,000 actual and prospective citizens in 90 B.C. But before we institute the comparison we must say a word about the ancient definitions of census. Following Beloch, we have assumed that in 225 B.C. the term civium capita must refer to free males of seventeen years and over, since the census figure is so nearly the same as the registry of juniores and seniores given by Polybius ii. 24. When in the Res Gestae ii. 2, Augustus uses the same term civium capita without modification, we ought to accept it as connoting what it had done during the republic unless it leads us to improbable conclusions. Dionysius, who wrote during Augustus’ reign, in speaking of the census of 472 B.C., says: “The citizens who registered themselves, their property, and their adult sons were 103,000.” The figure for that early date was doubtless legendary and need not be taken seriously, but the definition of those who were registered is presumably of his own day. The only other definition which we have is that of Caesar’s Lex Julia Municipalis, which ordains (146-47) that the municipal censors shall record the citizens: “eorumque nomina, praenomina, patres aut patronos, tribus, cognomina et quot annos quisque eorum habet et rationem pecuniae ex formula census quae Romae . . . . proposita erit.” This is not very definite, but the mention of tribus implies males, and the mention of patroni shows that freedmen were included. Let us now see whether the assumption that the Augustan census was like the republican one leads to plausible conclusions.
We have seen that 2,000,000 might be considered a conservative estimate of Roman and Italian males of 17 years and over throughout the realm in the year 90 B.C. Between that date and Augustus’ first census in 28 B.C. (sixty-two years) there were large and rapid accretions to the citizen body. In 89 B.C. the fertile region between the Rubicon and the Po was added, and in 49 Transpadene Gaul. According to Strabo, the Po Valley was then a flourishing and thickly settled region that already had a number of important cities like Milan, Placentia, Cremona, Verona, Mantua, Modena, Parma, Brescia, and Padua, and the rich soil, though not arable to the extent that it is at present, was being intensively cultivated. Today this region claims one-half of the Italian population of the mainland. The proportion was not as great then but the population was considerable.
Furthermore, the distribution of the freedmen into the thirty-five wards in the year 85 made for an increase in citizens. To be sure, descendants of freedmen after the first generation had counted as full citizens since 189, but now at one stroke the Palatine register was for the time being practically vacated. As members of respectable wards, the freedmen of a whole generation were now as good as other Romans, and they and their children were freed from social and economic restraints. Later, Caesar caused a new delivery since he sent great numbers of actual freedmen to colonies like Corinth, Sinope, and Urso. In this way a considerable increase from the emancipated slaves was added to the normal birthrate.
Again the colonization of soldiers outside of Italy by Caesar, the Triumvirs, and Augustus added large numbers to the citizen body because many of these soldiers had not been citizens when recruited in the provinces. It was at this time that such famous colonies were founded as Corduba, Hispalis, Tarraco, Narbo, Arausio, Arlate, Lugdunum, Raurica, Salonae, Philippi, Corinth, Sinope, Heraclea, and Carthage. And finally it is to be remembered that Julius Caesar gave citizenship to large groups of Gauls and Greeks, and to whole cities like Gades and Utica. Taking such accretions together, it seems reasonable to assume the addition of 1,000,000 men of military age from the time that Cisalpine Gaul was enfranchised until the colonization after Actium was completed.
Now the Augustan census of 28 B.C. was thorough. The emperor had the advantage of Caesar’s machinery of local censors in all the municipalities of Italy and the Caesarian colonies outside. For the rest he sent registrars throughout the provinces of the Empire, who enrolled every citizen wherever found. The complete list gives, as we have seen, 4,063,000. If he followed the time-honored system and enrolled in the list all civium capita (males of seventeen years and over), we should expect about 3,000,000 plus the annual increase of sixty-two years. An increase of about one-half of 1 per cent per year for sixty-two years gives the number that Augustus records. That this is a fair percentage is proved by the fact that during the forty years between 28 and 14 B.C. the natural increase was 874,000, which is somewhat over one-half of 1 per cent per year. The increase in population in modern Italy during the last sixty-two years has been more than twice as rapid.
I think, therefore, that the census statistics left us by the records are wholly reasonable, considering that those of 85 and 69 B.C. are incomplete because of the peculiar circumstance that retarded the enrolment of the new citizens. It is worth something not to be compelled to doubt the sources. But the chief value of this discussion is that it helps us give the natural interpretation to the census figures of Augustus. Beloch held that the 4,063,000 of the Augustan census of 28 B.C. includes all Roman citizens – men, women, and children – and he assigns about 3,250,000 of these to Italy (Bevilk, p. 436). To this number he adds about 2,000,000 slaves and some peregrini, making a total population of 5,500,000. Today the same region (excluding the islands) has about 35,000,000. This strange reckoning stands out in all its inconsistency when we read (ibid., p. 507) that North Africa, Syria, and the province of Asia each had 6,000,000.
By interpreting the Augustan census figures in the same way as those of the republic we reach far different results. The 4,063,000 civium capita are, in fact, adult male citizens, of which we may safely assign 3,500,000 to Italy (including the Po Valley). To get the total population the only reasonable method is to multiply by 4, as does Dionysius (ix. 25). In his day the census was taken scientifically, the women and children were recorded on subsidiary lists, and the number of slaves appeared on the property list. Hence the total population was known. There is every reason to think that his method is based upon the Augustan registry, and that the total population of Italy was therefore about four times 3,500,000, or 14,000,000, that is, about 40 per cent of what it is today. To estimate the free population on the basis of the figures for males of seven- teen years and over, the ratio of 100:35 seems to be normal. This gives a free population of 10,000,000, leaving 4,000,000 for slaves and foreigners. These numbers seem reasonable in view of Italy’s present peninsular population, and we have reached it by following the sources meticulously and abandoning all proposed emendations.
- Beloch, Bevolkerung der Griechisch-Romischen Welt, 1886; Beloch defends his method with slight changes in Klio (1903), pp. 471 ff. Eduard Meyer, Bevilikerungs-wesen (Handwerterbuch der Staatsw., II , 906 ff.) follows Beloch, in the main. Nissen, Ital. Landeskunde, II, 99 ff., thinks that the old republican census contained only the juniores of property-holders, excluding the proletariat; that Marius introduced the propertyless; and that the Augustan list included all free adult males, widows, and property-owning orphans, but not other women and children. His arguments have been criticized by Beloch in Klio (1903), pp. 417 ff. For other views see Mommsen, Staatsrecht, II, 400 ff., III, 435 if.; Heitland, The Roman Republic, passim; Rug- giero, Diz. Epigr., s.v. “Censor.”
- Beloch, Bevolk., pp. 314-15; Dionysius ix. 36, cf. ix. 25.
- Livy xxvii. 7 and 22.
- See Livy i. 13. 7, “aliquanto numerus major hoc,” a sarcastic understatement, so also i. 51. 1, “Tarquinius aliquanto quam videbatur aegrius ferens”; i. 56. 2. The usage is, of course, well known and frequent even in Cicero.
- Had the census of 209 been 237,000, as proposed by Beloch, how can one explain a decrease of 23,000 in five years after being told that the new census was taken with unusual care?
- On army service during the early second century see Park, The Plebs in Cicero’s Day, p. 12.
- Dionysius ix. 25 considers that one ought to multiply the census list of civium capita by 3 to get a fair estimate of the rest of the population (designated as women, children, slaves, and metics). He makes the statement with reference to the year 474 B.C., but his method of reckoning is probably the customary one of his own day.
- We are told by Velleius (ii. 7) that after the colonization of Carthage some censors by way of discouraging foreign colonization ordered citizens in the provinces to come to Rome for registration. Such pettiness could only have resulted in incomplete returns.
- The authorities differ regarding the Senate’s first distribution of the new voters. For a careful discussion see Heitland, op. cit., II, 447.
- See Mommsen, Ges. Schriften, V, 262 ff.
- Lange, Rom. Alt., III, 135, and Heitland, op. cit., II, 466, seem to me correct, therefore, in assuming that the census was incomplete.
- Kiene, Bundesgenossenkrieg, p. 328, has already expressed this opinion.
- See, for instance, Cicero Ad Att. i. 18. 8 (60 Bnc.) regarding the registration of the property of Atticus, a knight; revision of the senate, Dio xl. 63; xxxvii. 46.
- Dionysius ix. 36; supported by ix. 25.
- Strabo v. 4 ff. Padua alone then had over 500 citizens who possessed a knight’s census (ibid. 7).
- See Kornemann’s list of coloniae in Pauly-Wissowa.
- In his later article in Klio (1903), p. 490, Beloch admits somewhat higher numbers: “four to four and a half-million citizens in Italy, two to two and a half-million slaves, a half to a million peregrini and Latins,” making a total of from 7,000,000 to 8,000,000 for the population of Italy. But he is here apparently speaking not of the first census of Augustus but of the last one of forty years later.
- While Nissen without justification assumes two different changes in the censorial system of the republic, his interpretation of the Augustan census is not far different from the ode here presented. His total for the civil population of Italy is from 9,000,000 to 10,000,000 (op. cit., p. 118).
- Beloch’s estimate for slaves is based upon a guess that they were about half as many as the free population. In some large cities and among farm laborers they were numerous, at times outnumbering the free. But calculations based upon such uncertain considerations are useless. The method of Dionysius, which I have used, results in giving a ratio of slaves and foreigners:free: :40:100. Most of these 4,000,000 were doubtless slaves, since there are very few traces of free immigrants in Italy. Where slave economy thrives there is no room for non-citizen free labor.