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grc, Ῥωμαῖοι, , native_name_lang = , image = Pompeii family feast painting Naples.jpg , image_caption = 1st century AD wall painting from
Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenan ...

Pompeii
depicting a multigenerational banquet , languages = , religions =
Imperial cult An imperial cult is a form of state religion A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations ...
,
Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ancestral ethnic religion In religious studies, an ethnic religion is a religion or Belief#Religion, belief associated with a particular ethnic group. Ethnic religions are often distinguished from univer ...
,
Hellenistic religion The concept of Hellenistic religion as the late form of Ancient Greek religion Ancient Greek religion encompasses the collection of beliefs, rituals, and mythology originating in ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was ...
,
Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic, Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life and Teachings of Jesus, teachings of Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the Major religious groups, world's ...

Christianity
, related = Other ancient
Italic peoples The Italic peoples were an ethnolinguistic group An ethnolinguistic group (or ethno-linguistic group) is a group that is unified by both a common ethnicity An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the ...
(including other
Latins The Latins were originally an Italic tribe in ancient central Italy from Latium Latium ( , ; ) is the region of central western Italy in which the city of Rome was founded and grew to be the capital city of the Roman Empire. Definition La ...
and the
Falisci Falisci ( grc, Φαλίσκοι, ''Phaliskoi'') is the ancient Roman exonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, internal name A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. The ...
), other
ancient peoples of Italy This list of ancient peoples living in Italy summarises groupings existing before and during the Roman expansion and conquest. Many of the names are either scholarly inventions or exonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known a ...
, other
Mediterranean Sea The Mediterranean Sea is a connected to the , surrounded by the and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by and and , on the south by , and on the east by the . The Sea has played a central role in the . Although the Mediterrane ...
peoples, modern
Romance peoples The Romance languages (less commonly Latin languages, or Neo-Latin languages) are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin ...
and
Greeks The Greeks or Hellenes (; el, Έλληνες, ''Éllines'' ) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has cer ...

Greeks
The Romans ( la, Rōmānī; grc, Ῥωμαῖοι, Rhōmaîoi) were a
cultural group Cultural identity is a part of a person's identity Identity may refer to: Social sciences * Identity (social science), personhood or group affiliation in psychology and sociology Group expression and affiliation * Cultural identity, a per ...

cultural group
, variously referred to as an
ethnicity An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identity (social science), identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancest ...

ethnicity
or a
nationality Nationality is a of a person in , establishing the person as a subject, a ''national'', of a . It affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state against other states. Article 15 of the stat ...
, that in
classical antiquity Classical antiquity (also the classical era, classical period or classical age) is the period of cultural history History (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ...
, from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD, came to rule the
Near East The Near East ( ar, الشرق الأدنى, al-Sharq al-'Adnā, he, המזרח הקרוב, arc, ܕܢܚܐ ܩܪܒ, fa, خاور نزدیک, Xāvar-e nazdik, tr, Yakın Doğu) is a geographical term which roughly encompasses a transcontinental ...
,
North Africa North Africa or Northern Africa is a region encompassing the northern portion of the African continent. There is no singularly accepted scope for the region, and it is sometimes defined as stretching from the Atlantic shores of Mauritania in th ...

North Africa
, and large parts of
Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical regions are commonly regarded as continents. Ordered ...

Europe
through conquests made during the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
and the later
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. Originally only referring to the Italic
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...
citizens of
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
itself, the meaning of "Roman" underwent considerable changes throughout the long history of Roman civilisation as the borders of the Roman state expanded and contracted. At times, different groups within Roman society also had different ideas as to what it meant to be Roman. Aspects such as geography, language, and ethnicity could be seen as important by some, whereas others saw
Roman citizenship Citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its ci ...
and culture or behaviour as more important. At the height of the Roman Empire, Roman identity was a collective geopolitical identity, extended to nearly all subjects of the
Roman emperors The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rom ...
and encompassing vast regional and ethnic diversity. As the land under Roman rule increased from the 4th century BC onwards,
Roman citizenship Citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its ci ...
was gradually extended to the various peoples under Roman dominion. Citizenship grants, demographic growth, and settler and military colonies rapidly increased the number of Roman citizens. The increase achieved its peak with Emperor
Caracalla Caracalla ( ; 4 April 188 – 8 April 217), formally known as Antoninus (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. He was a member of the Severan dynasty, the elder son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. Co-ruler ...

Caracalla
's AD 212
Antonine Constitution The ''Constitutio Antoniniana'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the pow ...
, which extended citizenship rights to all free inhabitants of the empire. It is for the most part not clear to what extent the majority of Roman citizens in antiquity regarded themselves as being Roman. Most likely, local identities were prominent throughout the Roman Empire due to its vast geographical extent, but Roman identity provided a larger sense of common identity and became important when distinguishing from non-Romans, such as
barbarian A barbarian is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most abundant and widespread species In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Bioc ...

barbarian
settlers and invaders. Roman culture was far from homogeneous; though there was a predominant
Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of History of the Mediterranean region, Mediterranean history between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in 31  ...
-inspired cultural idiom, one of the strengths of the Roman Empire was also its ability to incorporate traditions from other cultures. Rome's cultural flexibility precluded the development of a strong Roman 'core identity' in Italy, but also contributed to the empire's longevity. The Roman Empire affected the personal identities of its subject peoples to a considerable extent and Roman identity lasted throughout the lands of the empire until long after the Roman Empire itself had faded away. The collapse of the
Western Roman Empire The Western Roman Empire comprises the western provinces of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican ...

Western Roman Empire
in the 5th century ended the political domination of the Roman Empire in
Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe Europe is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, up to seven geographical r ...

Western Europe
, but Roman identity survived in the west as an important political resource. Through the failures of the surviving
Eastern Roman Empire The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn ...

Eastern Roman Empire
, also called the Byzantine Empire, of reconquering and keeping control of the west and suppression from the new Germanic kingdoms, Roman identity faded away in the west, more or less disappearing in the 8th and 9th centuries. Increasingly, Western Europeans only began applying the designation of Roman to the citizens of the city of Rome itself. In the Greek-speaking east, still under imperial control, Roman identity survived until the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and beyond, though it increasingly transformed into an ethnic identity, marked by Greek language and adherence to
Orthodox Christianity Orthodoxy (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approxima ...
, a precursor to modern
Greek ethnic identity
Greek ethnic identity
. The two major groups still clinging to Roman identity throughout the Middle Ages—the
Byzantine Greeks The Byzantine Greeks were the Greek-speaking Eastern Romans of Orthodox Christianity Orthodoxy (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially ...
of the eastern empire and the citizens of Rome itself—drifted apart linguistically and religiously and eventually ceased to recognise each other as Roman. Whereas Roman identity faded away in most of the lands where it was once prominent, for some regions and peoples it proved considerably more tenacious. 'Romans' has been consistently used since antiquity to describe the citizens of Rome itself, who identify and are described as such to this day. The Greeks continued to identify as '' Romioi'', or related names, after the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, though most identify as ''Hellenes'' today. In the
Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest and most extensive mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt ...

Alps
, Roman identity survived uninterrupted, despite
Frankish Frankish may refer to: * Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (from lat, Germani) are a category of ancient northern European tribes, first mentioned by Graeco-Roman author ...

Frankish
efforts at suppression. Today, the names of two groups in Switzerland still evokes their descent from these populations: the Romands and the
Romansh people The Romansh people (also spelled Romansch, Rumantsch, or Romanche; rm, links=no, rumantschs, ''rumàntschs'', ''romauntschs'' or ''romontschs'') are a Romance ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with ...
. Several ethnonyms of the Balkan Romance peoples, whose descent in most cases is unclear, evoke Roman identity. Several names derive from the Latin ''Romani'' (such as the
Romanians The Romanians ( ro, români, ; dated exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeas ...
,
Aromanians The Aromanians ( rup, Armãnji, Rrãmãnji) are a Romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for ...
and
Istro-Romanians The Istro-Romanians ( ruo, rumeri or ) are a Romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for, or a ...
), or from the Germanic ''
walhaz ''Walhaz'' is a reconstructed word meaning "Roman", "Romance-speaker" or "(romanized) Celt". The term was used by the ancient Germanic peoples to describe inhabitants of the former , who were largely and spoke Latin languages (cf. in ). Th ...
'' (a term originally referring to the Romans; adopted in the form '
Vlach "Vlach" ( or ), also "Wallachian" (and many other variants), is a historical term and exonym used from the Middle Ages until the Modern Era to designate mainly Romanians but also Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians, Istro-Romanians and other East ...
' as the self-designation of the
Megleno-Romanians The Megleno-Romanians ( ro, Meglenoromâni), Moglenite Vlachs ( el, Βλαχομογλενίτες, Vlachomoglenítes) or simply Meglenites ( ro, Megleniți, ruq, Miglinits) or Vlachs ( ruq, Vlaș; ro, Vlași; mk, Власи), are a small Eas ...
).


Romanness


Meaning of "Roman"

The term 'Roman' is today used interchangeably to describe a historical timespan, a
material culture Material culture is the aspect of social reality Social reality is distinct from biological reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only Object of the mind, imaginar ...

material culture
, a geographical location, and a personal identity. Though these concepts are related, they are not identical. Many modern historians tend to have a preferred idea of what being Roman meant, so-called ''
Romanitas ''Romanitas'' is the collection of political and cultural concepts and practices by which the Romans defined themselves. It is a Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-Europe ...
'', but this was a term rarely used in
Ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who stud ...
itself. Like all identities, the identity of 'Roman' was flexible, dynamic and multi-layered, and never static or unchanging. Given that Rome was a geographically vast and chronologically long-lived state, there is no simple definition of what being Roman meant and definitions were inconsistent already in antiquity. Nevertheless, some elements remained common throughout much of Roman history. Some ancient Romans considered aspects such as geography, language, and ethnicity as important markers of Romanness, whereas others saw
Roman citizenship Citizenship Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state to which the individual owes allegiance and in turn is entitled to its protection. Each state determines the conditions under which it will recognize persons as its ci ...
and culture or behaviour as more important. At the height of the Roman Empire, Roman identity formed a collective geopolitical identity, extended to nearly all subjects of the
Roman emperors The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rom ...
and encompassing vast regional and ethnical diversity. Often, what individual believed and did was far more important to the concept of Roman identity than long bloodlines and shared descent. The key to 'Romanness' in the minds of some famous Roman orators, such as
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
, was keeping with Roman tradition and serving the Roman state. Cicero's view of Romanness were partly formed by his status as a "new man", the first of his family to serve in the Roman Senate, lacking prestigious lines of Roman descent himself. This is not to say that the importance of blood kinship was wholly dismissed. Orators such as Cicero frequently appealed to their noble contemporaries to live up to the 'greatness of their forefathers'. These appeals were typically only invoked towards illustrious noble families, with other important traditions emphasising Rome's collective descent. Throughout its history, Rome proved to be uniquely capable of incorporating and integrating other peoples (
Romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas ...
). This sentiment originated from the city's foundation myths, including Rome being founded as something akin to a political sanctuary by
Romulus Romulus () was the legendary founder Founder or Founders may refer to: Places *Founders Park, a stadium in South Carolina, formerly known as Carolina Stadium * Founders Park, a waterside park in Islamorada, Florida#In popular culture, Islamora ...
, as well as
the rape of the Sabine women The Rape of the Sabine Women ( ), also known as the Abduction of the Sabine Women or the Kidnapping of the Sabine Women, was an incident in Roman mythology Roman mythology is the body of myths of ancient Rome as represented in the Latin l ...

the rape of the Sabine women
, which represented how different peoples had commingled since the very beginning of the city. Cicero and other Roman authors sneered at peoples such as the
Athenians , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture causes the browser to load the appropriate article. rect 15 15 985 460 Acropolis of Athens rect 15 475 485 ...
, who prided themselves in their shared descent, and instead found pride in Rome's status as a "mongrel nation".
Dionysius of Halicarnassus Dionysius of Halicarnassus ( grc, Διονύσιος Ἀλεξάνδρου Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, ; – after 7 BC) was a Greek historian Hellenic historiography (or Greek historiography) involves efforts made by Greeks to track and r ...
, a Greek historian who lived in Roman times, even embellished the multicultural origin of the Romans, writing that Romans had since the foundation of Rome welcomed innumerable immigrants not only from the rest of Italy, but from the entire world, whose cultures merged with theirs. A handful of Roman authors, such as
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

Tacitus
and
Suetonius Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (), commonly known as Suetonius ( ; c. AD 69 – after AD 122), was a Roman historianRoman historiography stretches back to at least the 3rd century BC and was indebted to earlier Greek historiography. The Romans ...

Suetonius
, expressed concerns in their writings concerning Roman "blood purity" as Roman citizens from outside of Roman Italy increased in number. Neither author, however, suggested that the naturalisation of new citizens should stop, only that
manumission Manumission, or enfranchisement, is the act of freeing slaves Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslav ...
s (freeing slaves) and grants of citizenship should be less frequent. Their concerns of blood purity did not match modern ideas of race or ethnicity, and had little to do with features such as skin colour or physical appearance. Terms such as " Aethiop", which Romans used for
black people Black people is a racialized In sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses vario ...
, carried no social implications, and though phenotype-related stereotypes certainly existed in Ancient Rome, inherited physical characteristics were typically not relevant to social status; people who looked different from the typical Mediterranean populace, such as black people, were not excluded from any profession and there are no records of stigmas or biases against "
mixed race Multiracial people are people of more than one race or ethnicity. A variety of terms have been used for multi-racial people, including ''mixed-race'', ''biracial'', ''multiethnic'', ''polyethnic'', ''Métis The Métis (; ) are Indigenous ...
" relationships. The main dividing social differences in Ancient Rome were not based on physical features, but rather on differences in class or rank. Romans practised
slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as their property Property is a system of rights that give ...
extensively, but slaves in Ancient Rome were part of various different ethnic groups, and were not enslaved because of their ethnic affiliation. According to the English historian
Emma Dench Emma Dench (born 1963) is an English ancient historian Ancient history is the aggregate of past events

Non-Romans

Although Ancient Rome has been termed an 'evidently non-racist society', Romans carried considerable cultural stereotypes and prejudices against cultures and peoples that were not integrated into the
Roman world The culture of ancient Rome existed throughout the almost 1200-year history of the civilization  A civilization (or civilisation) is a that is characterized by , , a form of government, and systems of communication (such as ). Ci ...
, i.e. "
barbarians A barbarian is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. They ...
". Though views differed through Roman history, the attitude towards peoples beyond the Roman frontier among most Roman writers in
late antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study of categorizing the past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time.Adam Rabinowitz. It’s about time: historical periodization and Linked Ancient World Data'. Inst ...
can be summed up with "the only good barbarian is a dead barbarian". Throughout antiquity, the majority of Roman emperors included anti-barbarian imagery on their coinage, such as the emperor or
Victoria Victoria most commonly refers to: * Victoria (Australia), a state of the Commonwealth of Australia * Victoria, British Columbia, provincial capital of British Columbia, Canada * Victoria (mythology), Roman goddess of Victory * Victoria, Seychelles ...
(the personification and goddess of victory) being depicted as stepping on or dragging defeated barbarian enemies. Per the writings of Cicero, what made people barbarians were not their language or descent, but rather their customs and character, or lack thereof. Romans viewed themselves as superior over foreigners, but this stemmed not from perceived biological differences, but rather from what they perceived as a superior way of life. 'Barbarian' was as such a cultural, rather than biological, term. It was not impossible for a barbarian to become a Roman; the Roman state was itself seen as having the duty to conquer and transform, i.e. civilise, barbarian peoples.A particularly disliked group of non-Romans within the empire were the
Jews Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 ISO The International Organization for Standardization (ISO ) is an international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), ...
. The majority of the Roman populace detested Jews and Judaism, though views were more varied among the Roman elite. Although many, such as Tacitus, were also hostile to the Jews, others, such as Cicero, were merely unsympathetically indifferent and some did not consider the Jews to be barbarians at all. The Roman state was not wholly opposed to the Jews, since there was a sizeable Jewish population in Rome itself, as well as at least thirteen
synagogue A synagogue, ', 'house of assembly', or ', "house of prayer"; Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches ...

synagogue
s in the city. Roman
antisemitism Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against Jews. A person who holds such positions is called an antisemite. Antisemitism is generally considered to be a form of racism. A ...
, which led to several persecutions and massacres, was not rooted in racial prejudice, but rather in the perception that the Jews, uniquely among conquered peoples, refused to integrate into the Roman world. The Jews adhered to their own set of rules, restrictions and obligations, which were typically either disliked or misunderstood by the Romans, and they remained faithful to their own religion. The exclusivist religious practices of the Jews, and their opposition to abandoning their own customs in favour of those of Rome, even after being conquered and repeatedly suppressed, evoked the suspicion of the Romans.


Antiquity


Classical antiquity


Founding myths and Romans of the republic

The
founding of Rome The tale of the founding of Rome is recounted in traditional stories handed down by the ancient Romans In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in th ...
, and the history of the city and its people throughout its first few centuries, is steeped in myth and uncertainty. The traditional date for Rome's foundation, 753 BC, and the traditional date for the foundation of the Roman Republic, 509 BC, though commonly used even in modern historiography, are uncertain and mythical. The myths surrounding Rome's foundation combined, if not confused, several different stories, going from the origins of the Latin people under a king by the name
Latinus Latinus ( la, Latinus; grc, Λατῖνος) was a figure in both Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...

Latinus
, to
Evander of Pallantium In Roman mythology, Evander (from Greek language, Greek ''Εὔανδρος'' Euandros, "good man" or "strong man": an etymology used by poets to emphasize the hero's virtue) was a culture hero from Arcadia (ancient region), Arcadia, Ancient Greec ...
, who was said to have brought Greek culture to Italy, and a myth of Trojan origin through the heroic figure
Aeneas In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (, ; from Greek language, Greek: Αἰνείας, ''Aineíās'') was a Trojan hero, the son of the Trojan prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (equivalent to the Roman Venus (mythology), Venus). His father ...
. The actual mythical founder of the city itself,
Romulus Romulus () was the legendary founder Founder or Founders may refer to: Places *Founders Park, a stadium in South Carolina, formerly known as Carolina Stadium * Founders Park, a waterside park in Islamorada, Florida#In popular culture, Islamora ...
, only appears many generations into the complex web of foundation myths. Interpretations of these myths varied among authors in Antiquity, but most agreed that their civilisation had been founded by a mixture of migrants and fugitives. These origin narratives would favour the later extensive integrations of foreigners into the Roman world. The origins of the people that became the first Romans are clearer. As in neighbouring city-states, the early Romans would have been composed mainly of
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became ...

Latin
-speaking
Italic people The Italic peoples were an ethnolinguistic group identified by their use of Italic languages a branch of the Indo-European language family. The Italic peoples are descended from the Indo-European speaking peoples who inhabited Italy from at leas ...
, known as the
Latins The Latins were originally an Italic tribe in ancient central Italy from Latium Latium ( , ; ) is the region of central western Italy in which the city of Rome was founded and grew to be the capital city of the Roman Empire. Definition La ...
. The Latins were a people with a marked Mediterranean character, related to some neighbouring Italic peoples such as the
Falisci Falisci ( grc, Φαλίσκοι, ''Phaliskoi'') is the ancient Roman exonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, internal name A name is a term used for identification by an external observer. The ...
. The early Romans were part of the Latin homeland, known as
Latium Latium ( , ; ) is the region of central western Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of delimited by the and surrounding it, whose territory large ...
, and were Latins themselves. By the time of the 6th century, the inhabitants of Rome had conquered and destroyed all the other Latin settlements and communities such as
AntemnaeAntemnae was a town and ancient Rome, Roman colonia (Roman), colony of ancient Latium in Prehistoric Italy#Pre-Roman period, Italy. It was situated two miles north of ancient Rome on a hill (now Monte Antenne) commanding the confluence of the Aniene ...

Antemnae
and
Collatia Collatia was an ancient town of central Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a Northern Italy, continental part, delimited by the Alps, a Italian Peninsu ...
and defeated the hegemony of the settlement of
Alba Longa Alba Longa (occasionally written Albalonga in Italian sources) was an ancient Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication ...
, which had previously united the Latin people under its leadership, a position that now belonged to Rome. From the middle of the 4th century onwards, Rome won a series of victories which saw them rise to rule all of Italy south of the
Po river The Po ( , ; la, Padus or ; grc, Πάδος, Pádos, or , ; Ancient Ligurian: or ) is the longest river in Italy. It is a river that flows eastward across northern Italy starting from the Cottian Alps; it, Alpi Cozie , photo=Monviso_Cottian_ ...
by 270 BC. Following the conquest of Italy, the Romans waged war against the great powers of their time;
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading hub of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the . The city developed from a n colony ...

Carthage
to the south and west and the various
Hellenistic kingdoms The Diadochi (; plural of Latin Diadochus, from grc-gre, Διάδοχοι, ''Diádokhoi'' "successors") were the rival generals, families, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 B ...

Hellenistic kingdoms
to the east, and by the middle of the second century BC, all rivals had been defeated and Rome became recognised by other countries as the definite masters of the Mediterranean. By the late 3rd century BC, about a third of the people in Italy south of the Po river had been made Roman citizens, meaning that they were liable for military service, and the rest had been made into allies, frequently called on to join Roman wars. These allies were eventually made Roman citizens as well after refusal by the Roman government to make them so was met with the Social War, after which Roman citizenship was extended to all the people south of the Po river. In 49 BC, citizenship rights were also extended to the people of
Cisalpine Gaul Cisalpine Gaul ( la, Gallia Cisalpina, also called ''Gallia Citerior'' or ''Gallia Togata'') was the part of Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of Ital ...
by
Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *, the capital city of Italy *, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD *, the people of ancient Rome *', shortened ...

Julius Caesar
. The number of Romans would rapidly increase in later centuries through further extensions of citizenship. Typically, there were five different mechanisms for acquiring Roman citizenship: serving in the Roman army, holding office in cities with the
Latin right Latin Rights (also latin citizenship, Latin: ''ius Latii'' or ''ius latinum'') were a set of legal rights that were originally granted to the Latins (Latin: "Latini", the People of Latium, the land of the Latins (Italic tribe), Latins ) under ...
, being granted it directly by the government, being part of a community that was granted citizenship as a "block grant" or, as a slave, being freed by a Roman citizen. Just as it could be gained, Roman status could also be lost, for instance through engaging practices considered corrupt or by being carried off into captivity in enemy raids (though one could again become a Roman upon returning from captivity).


Romans of the early empire

In the early
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
, the population was composed of several groups of distinct legal standing, including the Roman citizens themselves (''cives romani''), the provincials (''provinciales''), foreigners (''peregrini'') and free non-citizens such as freedmen (freed slaves) and slaves. Roman citizens were subject to the Roman legal system while provincials were subject to whatever laws and legal systems had been in place in their area at the time it was annexed by the Romans. Over time, Roman citizenship was gradually extended more and more and there was a regular "siphoning" of people from less privileged legal groups to more privileged groups, increasing the total percentage of subjects recognised as Romans though the incorporation of the ''provinciales'' and ''peregrini''. The capability of the Roman Empire to integrate foreign peoples was one of the key elements that ensured its success. In antiquity, it was significantly easier as a foreigner to become a Roman than it was to become a member or citizen of any other contemporary state. This aspect of the Roman state was seen as important even by some of the emperors. For instance, Emperor
Claudius Claudius ( ; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus; 1 August 10 BC – 13 October AD 54) was the fourth Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial p ...

Claudius
(41–54) pointed it out when questioned by the senate on admitting
Gauls The Gauls ( la, Galli; grc, Γαλάται, ''Galátai'') were a group of Celtic The words Celt and Celtic (also Keltic) may refer to: Ethno-linguistics *Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS ...
to join the senate: From the
Principate The Principate is the name sometimes given to the first period of the Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republ ...
(27 BC – AD 284) onwards, barbarians settled and integrated into the Roman world. Such settlers would have been granted certain legal rights simply by being within Roman territory, becoming ''provinciales'' and thus being eligible to serve as ''
auxilia The lat, Auxilia (: , lit. "auxiliaries") were introduced as non-citizen troops attached to the citizen by after his reorganisation of the from 30 BC. By the 2nd century, the Auxilia contained the same number of infantry as the legions ...
'' (auxiliary soldiers), which in turn made them eligible to become full ''cives Romani''. Through this relatively rapid process, thousands of former barbarians could quickly become Romans. This tradition of straightforward integration eventually culminated in the
Antonine Constitution The ''Constitutio Antoniniana'' (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the pow ...
, issued by Emperor
Caracalla Caracalla ( ; 4 April 188 – 8 April 217), formally known as Antoninus (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. He was a member of the Severan dynasty, the elder son of Septimius Severus and Julia Domna. Co-ruler ...

Caracalla
in 212, in which all free inhabitants of Empire were granted the citizenship. Caracalla's grant contributed to a vast increase in the number of people with the ''
nomen Nomen may refer to: *Nomen (Roman name) The (or simply ) was a hereditary name borne by the peoples of ancient Italy and later by the citizens of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. It was originally the name of one's (family or clan) by p ...
'' (name indicating familial association) ''Aurelius''. By the time of the Antonine Constitution, many people throughout the provinces already considered themselves (and were considered by others) as Romans. Through the centuries of Roman expansion, large numbers of veterans and opportunists had settled in the provinces and colonies founded by Julius Caesar and
Augustus Caesar Augustus (23 September 63 BC19 August AD 14) was the first Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a variety of different titles through ...

Augustus
alone saw between 500,000 and a million people from Italy settled in Rome's provinces. In AD 14, four to seven percent of the free people in the provinces of the empire were already Roman citizens. In addition to colonists, many provincials had also become citizens through grants by emperors and through other methods. In most cases, it is not clear to what extent the majority of the new Roman citizens regarded themselves as being Roman, or to what extent they were regarded as such by others. For some provincials under Roman rule, the only experience with "Romans" prior to themselves being granted citizenship was through Rome's at times coercive tax-collection system or its army, aspects which were not assimilative in terms of forming an empire-spanning collective identity. Caracalla's grant marked a radical change in imperial policy towards the provincials. It is possible that decades, and in many cases centuries, of
Romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspec ...
through Rome's cultural influence had already begun the evolution of a "national" Roman identity before 212 and that the grant only made the ongoing process legal, but the grant might also have served as the important prerequisite for a later nearly all-encompassing collective Roman identity. According to the British jurist Tony Honoré, the grant "gave many millions, perhaps a majority of the empire's inhabitants a new consciousness of being Roman". It is likely that local identities survived after Caracalla's grant and remained prominent throughout the empire, but that self-identification as Roman provided a larger sense of common identity and became important when dealing with and distinguishing oneself from non-Romans, such as barbarian settlers and invaders. In many cases, ancient Romans associated the same things with their identity as historians do today: the rich ancient Latin literature, the impressive Roman architecture, the common marble statues, the variety of cult sites, the Roman infrastructure and legal tradition, as well as the almost corporate identity of the
Roman army The Roman army (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in ...

Roman army
were all cultural and symbolic ways to express Roman identity. Although there was a more or less unifying Roman identity, Roman culture in classical times was also far from homogeneous. There was a common cultural idiom, large portions of which was based in earlier
Hellenistic culture The Hellenistic period spans the period of Mediterranean history The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western Europe, We ...
, but Rome's strength also laid in its flexibility and its ability to incorporate traditions from other cultures. For instance, the religions of many conquered peoples were embraced through amalgamations of the gods of foreign pantheons with those of the Roman pantheon. In Egypt, Roman emperors were seen as the successors of the pharaohs (in modern historiography termed the
Roman pharaoh The Roman pharaohs, rarely referred to as ancient Egypt Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the country E ...
s) and were depicted as such in artwork and in temples. Many cults from the eastern Mediterranean and beyond spread to Western Europe over the course of Roman rule.


Late antiquity

Once the very core of ancient Romanness, the city of Rome gradually lost its exceptional status within the empire in
late antiquity Late antiquity is a periodization Periodization is the process or study of categorizing the past into discrete, quantified named blocks of time.Adam Rabinowitz. It’s about time: historical periodization and Linked Ancient World Data'. Inst ...
. By the end of the third century, the city's importance was almost entirely ideological, and several emperors and usurpers had begun reigning from other cities closer to the imperial frontier. Rome's loss of status was also reflected in the perceptions of the city by the Roman populace. In the writings of the 4th-century Greek-speaking Roman soldier and author
Ammianus Marcellinus Ammianus Marcellinus (born , died 400) was a Roman soldier This is a list of Roman army units and bureaucrats. *''Accensus'' – Light infantry men in the armies of the early Roman Republic, made up of the poorest men of the army. *''Actuarius' ...
, Rome is described almost like a foreign city, with disparaging comments on its corruption and impurity. Few Romans in late antiquity embodied all aspects of traditional Romanness. Many of them would have come from remote or less prestigious provinces and practiced religions and cults unheard of in Rome itself. Many of them would also have spoken 'barbarian languages' or Greek instead of Latin. Few inscriptions from late antiquity explicitly identify individuals as 'Roman citizens' or 'Romans'. Before the Antonine Constitution, being a Roman had been a mark of distinction and often stressed, but after the 3rd century Roman status went without saying. This silence does not mean that Romanness no longer mattered in the late Roman Empire, but rather that it had become less distinctive than other more specific marks of identity (such as local identities) and only needed to be stresssed or highlighted if a person had recently become a Roman, or if the Roman status of a person was in doubt. The prevalent view of the Romans themselves was that the ''populus Romanus'', or Roman people, were a "people by constitution", as opposed to the barbarian peoples who were ''gentes'', "peoples by descent" (i. e. ethnicities). Given that Romanness had become near-universal within the empire, local identities became more and more prominent. In the late Roman Empire, one could identify as a Roman as a citizen of the empire, as a person originating from one of the major regions (Africa, Britannia, Gaul, Hispania etc.) or as originating from a specific province or city. Though the Romans themselves did not see them as equivalent concepts, there is no fundamental difference between such Roman sub-identities and the ''gens'' identities ascribed to barbarians. In some cases, Roman authors ascribed different qualities to citizens of different parts of the empire, such as Ammianus Marcellinus who wrote of the differences between 'Gauls' and 'Italians'. In the
late Roman army In modern scholarship, the "late" period of the Roman army begins with the accession of the Emperor Diocletian in AD 284, and ends in 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus, being roughly coterminous with the Dominate. During the period ...
, there were regiments named after Roman sub-identities, such as '
Celts The Celts (, see pronunciation of ''Celt'' for different usages) are. "CELTS location: Greater Europe time period: Second millennium B.C.E. to present ancestry: Celtic a collection of Indo-European peoples The Indo-European languages ar ...

Celts
' and '
Batavians The Batavi were an ancient Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic languages ** List of ancient Germanic peoples and tribes * Germanic languages :* Proto-Germanic lang ...

Batavians
', as well as regiments named after barbarian ''gentes'', such as the
Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of whose name was first mentioned in 3rd-century Roman sources, and associated with tribes between the and the , on the edge of the . Later the term was associated with Germanic dynasties within the ...

Franks
or
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...

Saxons
. The Roman army underwent considerable changes in the 4th century, experiencing what some have called 'barbarisation',' traditionally understood as the result of recruitments of large amounts of barbarian soldiers. Though barbarian origins were seldom forgotten, the large scale and
meritocratic Meritocracy (''merit'', from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the powe ...
nature of the Roman army made it relatively easy for "barbarian" recruits to enter the army and rise through the ranks only thougth their skills and achievements. It is not clear to what extent there was actual non-Roman influence on the military; it is plausible that extensive numbers of barbarians were made part of the normal Roman military but it is equally plausible that there was also, or instead, a certain 'barbarian
chic Chic (; ), meaning "stylish" or "smart", is an element of fashion. It was originally a French-speaking world, French word. Etymology '':wikt:chic#French, Chic'' is a French-speaking world, French word, established in English language, English ...
' in the army, comparable to the 19th-century French
Zouave The Zouaves () were a class of light infantry Light infantry is a designation applied to certain types of foot soldiers () throughout history, typically having lighter equipment or or a more mobile or fluid function than other types of in ...
s (French military units in North Africa who adopted native clothing and cultural practices).' The rise of non-Roman customs in the Roman military might not have resulted from increasing numbers of barbarian recruits, but rather from Roman military units along the imperial borders forming their own distinctive identities. In the late empire, the term "barbarian" was sometimes used in a general sense by Romans not in the military for Roman soldiers stationed alongside the imperial border, in reference to their perceived aggressive nature. No matter the reason, the Roman military increasingly came to embody 'barbarian' aspects that in previous times had been considered antithetical to the Roman ideal.' Such aspects included emphasising strength and thirst for battle, as well as the assumption of "barbarian" strategies and customs, such as the '' barritus'' (a formerly Germanic battle cry), the ''Schilderhebung'' (raising an elected emperor up on a shield) as well as Germanic battle formations. The assumption of these customs might instead of barbarisation be attributable to the Roman army simply adopting customs it found useful, a common practice. Some barbarian soldiers recruited into the Roman army proudly embraced Roman identification and in some cases, the barbarian heritage of certain late Roman individuals was even completely ignored in the wider Roman world. Religion had always been an important marker of Romanness. As Christianity gradually became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire through late antiquity, and eventually became the only legal faith, the Christianised Roman aristocracy had to redefine their Roman identity in Christian terms. The rise of Christianity did not go unnoticed or unchallenged by the conservative elements of the pagan Roman elite, who became aware that power was slipping from their hands. Many of them, pressured by the increasingly anti-pagan and militant Christians, turned to emphasising that they were the only 'true Romans' as they preserved the traditional Roman religion and literary culture. According to the Roman statesman and orator Quintus Aurelius Symmachus ( 345–402), true Romans were those who followed the traditional Roman way of life, including its ancient religions, and it was adherence to those religions that in the end would protect the empire from its enemies, as in previous centuries. Per Symmachus and his supporters, Romanness had nothing to do with Christianity, but depended on Rome's pagan past and its status as the heart of a vast and polytheistic empire. The ideas of Symmachus were not popular among the Christians. Some church leaders, such as Ambrose, the Archbishop of Milan, Archbishop of Mediolanum, launched formal and vicious assaults on paganism and those members of the elite which defended it. Like Symmachus, Ambrose saw Rome as the greatest city of the Roman Empire, but not because of its pagan past but because of its Christian present. Throughout late antiquity, Romanness became increasingly defined by Christian faith, which would eventually become the standard. The status of Christianity was much increased through the adoption of the religion by the Roman emperors. Throughout late antiquity, the emperors and their courts were viewed as the Romans ''par excellence''. As the Roman Empire lost, or ceded control of, territories to various barbarian rulers, the status of the Roman citizens in those provinces sometimes came into question. People born as Roman citizens in regions that then came under barbarian control could be subjected to the same prejudice as barbarians were. Over the course of the Roman Empire, men from nearly all of its provinces had come to rule as emperors. As such, Roman identity remained political, rather than ethnic, and open to people of various origins. This nature of Roman identity ensured that there was never a strong consolidation of a 'core identity' of Romans in Italy, but also likely contributed to the long-term endurance and success of the Roman state. The fall of the Western Roman Empire coincided with the first time the Romans actively excluded an influential foreign group within the empire, the barbarian and barbarian-descended generals of the 5th century, from Roman identity and access to the Roman imperial throne.


Later history

The Roman Empire's expansion facilitated the spread of Roman identity over a large stretch of territories that had never before had a common identity and never would again. The effects of Roman rule on the personal identities of the empire's subjects was considerable and the resulting Roman identity outlasted actual imperial control by several centuries.


Western Europe


Early endurance of Roman identity

From the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the late 5th century to the wars of Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century, the predominant structure of societies in the west was a near-completely barbarian military but also a near-completely Roman civil administration and aristocracy. The new Barbarian rulers took steps to present themselves as legitimate rulers within the Roman framework, with the pretense of legitimacy being especially strong among the rulers of Italy. The early kings of Italy, first Odoacer and then Theodoric the Great, Theoderic the Great, were legally and ostensibly viceroys of the eastern emperor and thus integrated into the Roman government. Like the western emperors before them, they continued to appoint western consuls, which were accepted in the east and by the other barbarian kings. The imperial court in the east extended various honours to powerful barbarian rulers in the west, which was interpreted by the barbarians as enhancing their legitimacy; something they used to justify territorial expansion. In the early 6th century, Clovis I of the Franks and Theoderic the Great of the Ostrogoths nearly went to war with each other, a conflict that could have resulted in the re-establishment of the western empire under either king. Concerned about such a prospect, the eastern court never again extended similar honours to western rulers, instead beginning to emphasise its own exclusive Roman legitimacy, which it would continue to do for the rest of its history. Culturally and legally, Roman identity remained prominent in the west for centuries, still providing a sense of unity throughout the Mediterranean. Italy's Ostrogothic Kingdom preserved the Roman Senate, which often dominated politics in Rome, illustrating the survival of and continued respect for Roman institutions and identity. The barbarian kings continued to use Roman law throughout the early Middle Ages, often issuing their own law collections. In 6th-century law collections issued by the Visigoths in Spain and the Franks in Gaul, it is clear that there were still large populations identifying as Romans in these regions given that the law collections distinguish between barbarians who live by their own laws and Romans who live by Roman law. Even after Italy was conquered by the Lombards in the late 6th century, the continued administration and urbanisation of northern Italy attest to a continued survival of Roman institutions and values. It was still possible for non-citizens (such as barbarians) in the west to become Roman citizens well into the 7th and 8th centuries; several surviving Visigothic and Frankish documents explain the benefits of becoming a Roman citizen and there are records of rulers and nobles freeing slaves and making them into citizens. Despite this, Roman identity was in a steep decline by the 7th and 8th centuries.


Disappearances of Roman identity

The great turning point in the history of the latter-day Romans of the west was the wars of Justinian I (533–555), aimed at reconquering the lost provinces of the Western Roman Empire. During Justinian's early reign, eastern authors re-wrote 5th-century history to portray the west as "lost" to barbarian invasions, rather than attempting to further integrate the barbarian rulers into the Roman world. By the end of the Justinianic wars, imperial control had returned to northern Africa and Italy, but the wars being founded on the idea that anything outside of the eastern empire's direct control was no longer part of the Roman Empire meant that there could no longer be any doubt that the lands beyond the imperial frontier were no longer Roman and instead remained "lost to barbarians". As a result, Roman identity in the still barbarian-ruled regions (i.e. Gaul, Spain and Britain) declined dramatically. During the reconquest of Italy, the Roman Senate disappeared and most of its members moved to Constantinople. Though the senate achieved a certain legacy in the west, the end of the institution removed a group that had always set the standard of what Romanness was supposed to mean. The war in Italy also divided the Roman elite there between those who enjoyed barbarian rule and those who supported the empire and later withdrew to imperial territory, meaning that Roman identity ceased to provide a sense of social and political cohesion. The division of Western Europe into multiple different kingdoms accelerated the disappearance of Roman identity, as the previously unifying identity was replaced by local identities based on the region one was from. The fading connectivitiy also meant that while largely Roman law and culture continued on, the language became increasingly fragmented and split, Latin gradually developing into what would become the modern Romance languages. Where they had once been the majority of the population, the Romans of Gaul and Hispania gradually and quietly faded away as their descendants adopted other names and identities. In Sub-Roman Britain, the people of the large urban centers clinged to Roman identity, but rural populations integrated and assimilated with Germanic colonisers (the Jutes, Angles and
Saxons The Saxons ( la, Saxones, german: Sachsen, ang, Seaxan, osx, Sahson, nds, Sassen, nl, Saksen) were a group of early Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by their use of the Germanic langua ...

Saxons
). Once the large cities declined, Roman identity faded away in Britain as well. The adoption of local identities in Gaul and Hispania was made more attractive in that they were not binary opposed to the identity of the barbarian rulers in the same way that 'Roman' was; for instance, one could not be both Roman and Frankish, but it was possible to, for instance, be both Arvernian (i.e. from Auvergne) and Frankish. In Hispania, "Gothic" transitioned from simply an ethnic identity to being both an ethnic one (in the sense of descent from Goths) and a political one (in the sense of allegiance to the king). Gothic becoming more fluid and multi-dimensional as an identity facilitated a smooth transition from people identifying as Romans to people identifying as Goths. There were few differences between the Goths and the Romans of Hispania at this point; the Visigoths no longer practised Arian Christianity and Romans, just like the Goths, were from the 6th century onwards allowed to serve in the military. Though Roman identity was rapidly disappearing, the Visigothic Kingdom in the 6th and 7th centuries thus also produced several prominent latter-day Roman generals, such as and Flavius Paulus, Paulus. The disappearance of the Romans is reflected in the barbarian law collections. In the Salic law of Clovis I (from around 500), the Romans and the Franks are the two major parallel populations of the kingdom and both have well-defined legal statuses. A century later in the ''Lex Ripuaria'', the Romans are just one of many smaller semi-free populations, restricted in their legal capacity, with many of their former advantages now associated with Frankish identity. Such legal arrangements would have been unthinkable under the Roman Empire and under the early decades of barbarian rule. By Charlemagne's imperial coronation in 800, Roman identity largely disappeared in Western Europe and fell to low social status. The situation was somewhat paradoxical: living Romans, in Rome and elsewhere, had a poor reputation, with records of anti-Roman attacks and the use of 'Roman' as an insult, but the name of Rome was also used a source of great and unfailing political power and prestige, employed by many aristocratic families (sometimes proudly proclaiming invented Roman origins) and rulers throughout history. Through suppressing Roman identity in the lands they ruled and discounting the remaining empire in the east as "Greek", the Frankish state hoped to avoid the possibility of the Roman people proclaiming a Roman emperor in the same way that the Franks proclaimed a Frankish king.


Reversion to Rome proper

The population of the city of Rome continued to identify, and be identified, as Romans by westerners. Although Rome's past history was not forgotten, the city's importance in the Middle Ages primarily stemmed from it being the seat of the pope, a view shared by both westerners and the eastern empire. During the centuries following Justinian's reconquest, when the city was still under imperial control, the population was not specially administered and did not not have any political participation in wider imperial affairs. When clashing with the emperors, the popes sometimes employed the fact that they had the backing of the ''populus Romanus'' ("people of Rome") as a legitimising factor, meaning that the city still endured some ideological importance in terms of Romanness. Western European authors and intellectuals increasingly associated Romanness only with the city itself. By the second half of the 8th century, westerners almost exclusively used the term to refer to the population of the city. When the temporal power of the papacy was established through the foundation of the Papal States in the 8th century, the popes used the fact that they were accompanied and supported by the ''populus Romanus'' as something that legitimised their sovereignty. The Roman populace considered neither the eastern empire nor Charlemagne's new "Holy Roman Empire" to be properly Roman. Though the continuity from Rome to Constantinople was accepted in the west, surviving sources point to the easterners being seen as Greeks who had abandoned Rome and Roman identity. The Carolingian kings on the other hand were seen as having more to do with the Lombard kings of Italy than the ancient Roman emperors. The medieval Romans also often equated the Franks with the ancient Gauls, and viewed them as aggressive, insolent and vain. Despite this, the Holy Roman emperors were recognised by the citizens of Rome as true Roman emperors, albeit only because of their support and coronation by the popes. The Franks and other westerners did not view the population of Rome favourably either. Foreign sources are generally hostile, ascribing traits such as unrest and deceit to the Romans and describing them as "as proud as they are helpless". Anti-Roman sentiment lasted throughout the Middle Ages. The Romans partly owed their bad reputation to sometimes trying to take an independent position towards the popes of the Holy Roman emperors. Given that these rulers were seen as having universal power, the Romans were considered intruders in affairs that exceeded their competence.


North Africa

Unlike the other kingdoms, the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa did not maintain a pretense of loyalty to the Roman Empire. Since the term 'Roman' was seen as implying political loyalty to the empire, it was regarded by the Vandal government as politically loaded and suspicious. As a consequence, the Roman population of the kingdom rarely self-identified as such, though important markers of Romanness, such as Roman naming customs, adherence to Nicene Christianity as well as the Latin-language literary tradition, survived throughout the kingdom's existence. Despite objections to 'Roman' as a term for the populace, the Vandals partly appealed to Roman legitimacy to legitimise themselves as rulers, given that the Vandal kings had marriage connections to the imperial Theodosian dynasty. However, the Vandal state more strongly worked to legitimise itself through appealing to the pre-Roman cultural elements of the region, particularly the Carthaginian empire, Carthaginian Empire. Some symbols of the ancient state were revived and the city of
Carthage Carthage was the capital city of the ancient , on the eastern side of the in what is now . Carthage was the most important trading hub of the Ancient Mediterranean and one of the most affluent cities of the . The city developed from a n colony ...

Carthage
, capital of the kingdom, was heavily emphasised in poetry, on coinage and in the creation of a new "Carthaginian calendar". Coins minted by the Vandals were inscribed with ''Felix Karthago'' ("fortunate Carthage") and ''Carthagine Perpetua'' ("Carthage eternal"). The Vandalic promotion of independent African symbols had a profound effect on the formerly Roman populace of their kingdom. By the time the soldiers of the eastern empire landed in Africa during Justinian's Vandalic War, the Romance people of North Africa had ceased to identify as Romans, instead preferring either Libyans (''Libicus'') or Punic people (''Punicus''). Contemporary eastern authors also described them as Libyans (Λίβυες). During the Vandal Kingdom's brief existence, the Vandal ruling class had culturally and ethnically merged with the Romano-Africans. By the time the kingdom fell, the only real cultural differences between the "Libyans" and "Vandals" were that Vandals adhered to Arian Christianity and were permitted to serve in the army. After North Africa was reincorporated into the empire, the eastern Roman government deported the Vandals from the region, which shortly thereafter led to disappearance of the Vandals as a distinct group. The only individuals recorded to have been deported were soldiers; given that the wives and children of the "Vandals" thus remained in North Africa, the name at this stage appears to mainly have denoted the soldier class. Despite North Africa's reincorporation into the empire, the distinction between "Libyans" and "Romans" (i.e. the inhabitants of the eastern empire) was maintained by both groups. Per the writings of the 6th-century eastern historian Procopius, the Libyans were descended from Romans, ruled by the Romans, and served in the Roman army, but their Romanness had diverged too much from that of the populace of the empire as a result of the century of Vandal rule. Imperial policy reflected the view that the North Africans were no longer Romans. Whereas governors in the eastern provinces were often native to their respective provinces, the military and administrative staff in North Africa was almost entirely constituted by easterners. The imperial government distrusting the locals was hardly surprising given that imperial troops had been harassed by local (formerly Roman) peasants during the Vandalic War, supportive of the Vandal regime, and that there had been several rebels thereafter, such as Guntarith and Stotzas, who sought to restore an independent kingdom. The distinction between the Romans and the Romance people of North Africa is also reflected in foreign sources, and the two populations appear to not yet have been reconciled by the time the African provinces fell during the Muslim conquest of the Maghreb and Roman rule was terminated.


Eastern Mediterranean


Survival of the Roman Empire in the east

Eastern Mediterranean populations, which remained under Eastern Roman (or "Byzantine Empire, Byzantine") control after the 5th century, retained "Roman" as their predominant identity; the majority of the population saw themselves as being Roman beyond any doubt and their emperor as ruling from the cultural and religious center of the Roman Empire: Constantinople, the New Rome. In the centuries when the Byzantine Empire was still a vast Mediterranean-spanning state, Roman identity was more strong in the imperial heartlands than on the peripheries, though it was also strongly embraced in the peripheral regions in times of uncertainty. As in earlier centuries, the Romans of the early Byzantine Empire were considered a people united by being subjects of the Roman state, rather than a people united through sharing ethnic descent (i.e. ''gens'' like those ascribed to different barbarian groups). The term extended to all Christian citizens of the empire, in a general sense referring to those who followed Chalcedonian Christianity and were loyal to the emperor. In Byzantine writings up until at least the 12th century, the idea of the Roman "homeland" consistently referred not to Greece or Italy, but to the entire old Roman world. Despite this, the Romans of Byzantium were also aware that their present empire was no longer as powerful as it once had been, and that centuries of warfare and strife had left the Roman Empire reduced in territory and somewhat humbled. Given that the rulers of the Byzantine Empire were predominantly Hellenic, and the percentage of the population that was Hellenic became greater as the empire's borders were increasingly reduced, Western Europeans, from as early as the 6th century onwards, often referred to it as a Greek empire, inhabited by Greeks. To the early Byzantines themselves, up until the 11th century or so, terms such as Names of the Greeks, "Greeks" and "Hellenes" were seen as offensive, as it downplayed their Roman nature and furthermore associated them with the ancient Pagan Greeks rather than the more recent Christian Romans. The westerners were not unaware of Byzantium's Romanness; when not wishing to distance themselves from the eastern empire, the term ''Romani'' was frequently used for soldiers and subjects of the eastern emperors. From the 6th to 8th century, western authors also sometimes employed terms such as ''res publica'' or ''sancta res publica'' for the Byzantine Empire, still identifying it with the old Roman Republic. Such references ceased as Byzantine control of Italy and Rome itself crumbled and the Papacy began to use the term for their own, much more regional, domain and sphere of influence.


After the Muslim conquests

As the Byzantine Empire lost its territories in Egypt, the Levant and Italy, the Christians who lived in those regions ceased to be recognised by the Byzantine government as Romans, much in the same vein as had happened with the North Africans under Vandal rule. The decrease in the diversity of peoples recognised as being Roman meant that the term Roman increasingly came to be applied only to the now dominant Hellenic population of the remaining territories, rather than to all imperial citizens. As the Hellenic populace were united by following Orthodox Christianity, spoke the same Greek language, and believed that they shared a common ethnic origin, "Roman" (''Rhōmaîoi'' in Greek) thus gradually transformed into an ethnic identity. By the late 7th century, Greek, rather than Latin, had begun being referred to in the east as the ''rhomaisti'' (Roman way of speaking). In chronicles written in the 10th century, the ''Rhōmaîoi'' begin to appear as just one of the ethnicities in the empire (alongside, for instance, Armenians) and by the late 11th century, there are references in historical writings to people as being "''Rhōmaîos'' by birth", signalling the completion of the transformation of "Roman" into an ethnic description. At this point, "Roman" also began being used for Greek populations outside of the imperial borders, such as to the Greek-speaking Christians under Sultanate of Rum, Seljuk rule in Anatolia, who were referred to as ''Rhōmaîoi'' despite actively resisting attempts at re-integration by the Byzantine emperors. Only a handful of late sources retain the old view of a Roman being a citizen of the Roman world. The capture of Constantinople by the non-Roman Latin crusaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 ended the unbroken Roman continuity from Rome to Constantinople. In order to legitimise themselve as Romans in the decades when they no longer controlled Constantinople, the Byzantine elite began to look to other markers of what Romans were. The elites of the Empire of Nicaea, the Byzantine government-in-exile, chiefly looked to Greek cultural heritage and Orthodox Christianity, connecting the contemporary Romans to the ancient Greeks. This contributed to Romanness becoming even more increasingly associated with people who were ethno-culturally Hellenic. Under the Nicene emperors John III Doukas Vatatzes, John III (1222–1254) and Theodore II Laskaris, Theodore II (1254–1258), these ideas were taken further than ever before as they explicitly stated that the present ''Rhōmaîoi'' were ''Hellenes'', descendants of the Ancient Greeks. Though they saw themselves as Hellenic, the Nicene emperors also maintained that they were the only true Roman emperors. "Roman" and "Hellenic" were not viewed as opposing terms, but building blocks of the same double-identity. During the rule of the Palaiologos dynasty, from the recapture of Constantinople in 1261 to the fall of the empire in 1453, ''Hellene'' lost ground as a self-identity, with few known uses of the term, and ''Rhōmaîoi'' once again became the dominant term used for self-description.. Some Byzantine authors went as far as to return to using "Hellenic" and "Greek" solely as terms for the ancient pagan Greeks.


After the fall of Constantinople

''Rhōmaîoi'' survived the fall of the Byzantine Empire as the primary self-designation of the Christian Greek inhabitants of the new Turkish Ottoman Empire. The popular historical memory of these Romans was not occupied with the glorious past of the Roman Empire of old or the Hellenism in the Byzantine Empire, but focused on legends of the fall and the loss of their Christian homeland and Constantinople. One such narrative was the myth that the last emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos would one day return from the dead to reconquer the city, a myth that endured in Greek folklore up until the time of the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829) and beyond. In the early modern period, many Ottoman Turks, especially those who lived in the cities and were not part of the military or administration, also self-identified as Romans (''Rūmī'', رومى), as inhabitants of former Byzantine territory. The term ''Rūmī'' had originally been used by muslims for Christians in general, though later became restricted to just the Byzantines. After 1453, the term was not only sometimes a Turkish self-identification, but it was also used to refer to Ottoman Turks by other Islamic states and peoples. The identification of the Ottomans with the Romans was also made outside of the Islamic world. 16th-century Portuguese sources refer to the Ottomans they battled in the Indian Ocean as "rumes" and the Chinese Ming dynasty, Ming dynasty referred to the Ottomans as ''Lumi'' (魯迷), a transliteration of ''Rūmī'', and to Constantinople as ''Lumi cheng'' (魯迷城, "Lumi city"). As applied to Ottoman Turks, ''Rūmī'' began to fall out of use at the end of the 17th century, and instead the word increasingly became associated only with the Greek population of the empire, a meaning that it still bears in Turkey today. As applied to the Greeks, the self-identity as Romans endured longer, and for a long time there was widespread hope that the Romans would be liberated and that their empire would be restored. By the time of the Greek War of Independence, the dominant self-identity of the Greeks was still ''Rhōmaîoi'' or ''Romioi''.


Modern identity

The citizens of the city of Rome, though identifying nationally and ethnically as Italians, continue to identify with the demonym 'Roman' to this day. Rome is the most populous city in Italy with the city proper being home to about 2.8 million citizens and the Rome metropolitan area to over four million people. Since the collapse of Roman political dominion, governments inspired by the ancient Roman Republic have been revived in the city four times. The earliest such government was the Commune of Rome in the 12th century, founded as opposition towards the temporal powers of the Pope, which was followed by the government of Cola di Rienzo, who used the titles of 'tribune' and 'senator', in the 14th century, a Roman Republic (18th century), sister republic to revolutionary France in the 18th century, which restored the office of Roman consul, and finally as the short-lived Roman Republic (1849), Roman Republic in 1849, with a government based on the triumvirates of ancient Rome. Roman self-identification among Greeks only began losing ground with the Greek War of Independence, when multiple factors saw the name 'Hellene' rise to replace it. Among these factors were that names such as "Hellene", "Hellas" and "Greece" were already in use for the country and its people by the other nations in Europe, the absence of the old Byzantine government to reinforce Roman identity, and the term ''Romioi'' becoming associated with those Greeks still under Ottoman rule rather than those actively fighting for independence. Thus, in the eyes of the independence movement, a Hellene was a brave and rebellious freedom fighter while a Roman was an idle slave under the Ottomans. The new Hellenic national identity was heavily focused on the cultural heritage of ancient Greece rather than medieval Byzantium, though adherence to Orthodox Christianity remained an important aspect of Greek identity. An identity re-oriented towards ancient Greece also worked in Greece's favour internationally. In Western Europe, the Greek War of Independence saw large-scale support owing to philhellenism, a sense of "civilisational debt" to the world of classical antiquity, rather than any actual interest in the modern country. Despite the modern Greeks bearing more resemblance to the medieval Byzantines than the Greeks of the ancient world, public interest in the revolt elsewhere in Europe hinged almost entirely on sentimental and intellectual attachments to a romanticised version of ancient Greece. Comparable uprisings against the Ottomans by other peoples in the Balkans, such as the First Serbian Uprising (1804–1814), had been almost entirely ignored in Western Europe. Many Greeks, particularly those outside the then newly founded Greek state, continued to refer to themselves as ''Romioi'' well into the 20th century. What Greek identity ought to be remained unresolved for a long time. As late as the 1930s, more than a century of the war of independence, Greek artists and authors still debated the contribution of Greece to European culture, and whether it should derive from a romantic fascination with classical antiquity, a nationalist dream of a restored Byzantine Empire, the strong oriental influence from the centuries of Ottoman rule or if it should be something entirely new, or "Neohellenic", reminding Europe that there was not only an ancient Greece, but also a modern one. The modern Greeks, Greek people still sometimes use ''Romioi'' to refer to themselves, as well as the term "Romaic" ("Roman") to refer to their Modern Greek language.; ; . Roman identity also survives prominently in some of the Greek populations outside of Greece itself. For instance, Greeks in Ukraine, settled there as part of Catherine the Great's Greek Plan in the 18th century, maintain Roman identity, designating themselves as ''Rumaioi''. The term ''Rum'' or ''Rumi'' also sees continued usage by Turks and Arabs as a religious term for followers of the Greek Orthodox Church, not only those of Greek ethnicity. The vast majority of the
Romance peoples The Romance languages (less commonly Latin languages, or Neo-Latin languages) are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular or Colloquial Latin is a range of informal sociolects of Latin Latin ...
that descended from the intermingling of Romans and Germanic peoples following the collapse of Roman political unity in the west diverged into groups that no longer identify as Romans. In the Alpine regions north of Italy however, Roman identity showed considerable tenacity. The
Romansh people The Romansh people (also spelled Romansch, Rumantsch, or Romanche; rm, links=no, rumantschs, ''rumàntschs'', ''romauntschs'' or ''romontschs'') are a Romance ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with ...
of Switzerland are descended from these populations, which in turn were descended from Romanised Rhaetian people, Rhaetians. Though most of the Romans of the region were assimilated by the Germanic peoples, Germanic tribes that settled there during the 5th and 6th centuries, the people who resisted assimilation became the Romansh people. In their own, Romansh language, they are called ''rumantsch'' or ''romontsch'', which derives from the Latin ''romanice'' ("Romance"). Roman identity also survives in the Romands, the French-speaking community of Switzerland, and their homeland, Romandy, which covers the western part of the country. In some regions, the Germanic word for the Romans (also used for western neighbours in general), ''
walhaz ''Walhaz'' is a reconstructed word meaning "Roman", "Romance-speaker" or "(romanized) Celt". The term was used by the ancient Germanic peoples to describe inhabitants of the former , who were largely and spoke Latin languages (cf. in ). Th ...
'', became an ethnonym, although it is in many cases only attested centuries after the end of Roman rule in said regions. The term ''walhaz'' is the origin of the modern term 'Welsh people, Welsh', i.e. the people of Wales, and of the historical exonym '
Vlach "Vlach" ( or ), also "Wallachian" (and many other variants), is a historical term and exonym used from the Middle Ages until the Modern Era to designate mainly Romanians but also Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians, Istro-Romanians and other East ...
', which was used through the Middle Ages and the Modern Period for various Balkan Romance peoples. As endonyms, Roman identification was maintained by several Balkan Romance peoples. Prominently, the
Romanians The Romanians ( ro, români, ; dated exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeas ...
call themselves ''români'' and their nation ''România''. How and when the Romanians came to adopt these names is not entirely clear, but one theory is the idea of Origin of the Romanians#Theory of Daco-Roman continuity, Daco-Roman continuity, that the modern Romanians are descended from Daco-Romans that came about as a result of Roman colonisation following the conquest of Dacia by Trajan (98–117). The
Aromanians The Aromanians ( rup, Armãnji, Rrãmãnji) are a Romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for ...
, also of unclear origin, refer to themselves by various names, including ''arumani'', ''armani'', ''aromani'' and ''rumani'', all of which are etymologically derived from the Latin ''Rōmānī''. The
Istro-Romanians The Istro-Romanians ( ruo, rumeri or ) are a Romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for, or a ...
sometimes identify as ''rumeri'' or similar terms, though these names have lost strength and Istro-Romanians often identify with their native villages instead. The
Megleno-Romanians The Megleno-Romanians ( ro, Meglenoromâni), Moglenite Vlachs ( el, Βλαχομογλενίτες, Vlachomoglenítes) or simply Meglenites ( ro, Megleniți, ruq, Miglinits) or Vlachs ( ruq, Vlaș; ro, Vlași; mk, Власи), are a small Eas ...
also identified as ''rumâni'' in the past, though this name was mostly replaced in favour of the term ''vlasi'' centuries ago. ''Vlasi'' is derived from "Vlach", in turn deriving from ''walhaz''.


See also

* List of ancient Italic peoples * Romance-speaking world * Pan-Latinism


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Sources

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