In 74 AD, Emperor Vespasian enacted the Latin Edict, a decree granting Latin citizenship to the provinces of Hispania. This status, originally bestowed upon the peoples of Latium (the Latins, hence the name), served as an intermediate step between the status of peregrinus, a non-citizen, and full Roman citizenship. As those who attained the latter had to be assigned to one of the thirty-five tribes to exercise their right to participate in the Comitia tributa (tribal assemblies), those Hispanici who achieved it were grouped into the Quirina.

In the context of ancient Rome, a tribe was an administrative division serving both military and civil purposes (for voting, as a constituency). Tradition holds that Romulus established the first three tribes with patricians (Ramnnes or Rhamnenses, Tites or Titienses, and Luceres or Lucerenses), each divided into ten curiae (neighborhoods, units for voting in the Comitia curiata), each led by a curio maximus or curion with military and priestly responsibilities.

King Servius Tullius reformed the system to facilitate tax payment, leaving four urban tribes (Suburana, Esquilina, Collina, and Palatina) and ten rural ones, engaged in political activities in the mentioned Comitia tributa or Comitia tribunada. Later, Rome’s growth and expansion led to the addition of fifteen more rural tribes, totaling thirty-five. All those granted Latin or Roman citizenship had to belong to one.

Via Salaria route (in gray)/Image: NielsF on Wikimedia Commons

Together with the Velina, the Quirina was the last tribe to be created around 241 B.C. Its territory corresponded to the Via Salaria, the road that, starting from the gate of the same name in the wall built by Servius Tullius and passing through the location where the Salaria gate would later open in the Aurelian wall, connected Rome to Castrum Truentinum (Asculum, now Ascoli Piceno), with its main locations being Reate (now Rieti). The name Salaria referred to the Sabines using that route to transport salt to their ships on the Tiber.

The establishment of the Quirina aimed to integrate the Sabines into the Republic, as the tribes first welcomed the peoples of Latium and later the inhabitants of other Italic cities.

The Quirina tribe was often chosen to assign new citizens to it: Petrocorii, Arverni, and Bituriges from Gaul; Helvetii and Raeti from present-day Switzerland; Camunni from the Alps; Germans; inhabitants of the civitas of Carales (now Cagliari) when it was elevated to municipium in 46 B.C.

Map of Hispania made in 1467 for a version of Ptolemy’s Cosmography./Image: public domain on Wikimedia Commons

With the establishment of the empire and the decline of popular participation, the tribes began to wane, and from the reign of Tiberius onward, they ceased to be convened, eventually being suppressed by Trajan.

However, they persisted for a long time because, as seen, they were useful for integrating the elites of annexed territories into the functioning of the State while expanding the foundation for increasing tax revenue (granted rights came with the obligation to pay taxes).

It is understandable, therefore, that Vespasian, always seeking funds to finance his government (recall the “pecunia non olet,” the phrase with which he described the controversial tax on urine, collected for industrial use in tanneries, for example), rewarded the Hispanic provinces.

Bust of Vespasian/Image: shakko on Wikimedia Commons

This distinction of Latin citizenship was called Ius latii minor (Lesser Latin Right), granting the recipient the authority to be protected by Roman laws, own land in any Latin city, and attain citizenship by merely residing permanently, engaging in commercial transactions, and marrying a Latin woman. They were excluded from other privileges such as voting, holding offices in Rome, and serving in the legions. Still, in return, they felt a significant part of the empire.

The Ius latii minor received a significant boost during the time of Julius Caesar and Augustus due to the proliferation of colonies and the preference for them to be governed by local notables. These individuals, through holding public offices in their communities, often ended up in a cursus honorum that typically led to the granting of full Roman citizenship.

A guarantee of loyalty through integration; so much so that, as mentioned, Vespasian extended this grace to entire cities (without necessarily elevating them to municipium status immediately, although it often laid the groundwork for it).

Funerary inscription from Germany but dedicated to decurio Publius Julius Pintamus, native of Bracara Augusta (today’s Portuguese Braga) and member of the Quirina tribe./Image: Mediatus on Wikimedia Commons

Pliny the Elder attests in his work Naturalis Historia: “Universae Hispaniae Vespasianus Imperator Augustus iactatum procellis rei publicae Latium tribuit,” which could be translated as “Emperor Augustus Vespasian, compelled by the storms of political turmoil, granted the right of Latium to all of Hispania,” albeit with some controversy in the transcription of iactatum-Latium, which could be iactatus-Vespasianus, potentially changing the meaning and dating, anticipating the early stages of the Flavian rule.

There is also controversy about the absolute scope of the edict, as some authors believe its intention was to cover the entire territory progressively, while others think it targeted specific locations. In any case, it is known that three hundred and fifty Hispanian cities benefited from it, contributing decisively to Romanization.

In 123 AD, Emperor Hadrian expanded the scope of the Ius latii minor to the Ius latii maius (Greater Latin Right), making all members of a community Roman citizens, not just the wealthy. In 212 AD, Caracalla went a step further: through the Constitutio Antonianiana, likely for fiscal reasons (taxing the manumission of slaves and inheritance rights) to fund his military campaigns in Germania and Parthia, he granted full Roman citizenship to all free men in the empire. Subsequently, the Ius latii ceased to be a distinct status and became a mere formality.

This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on November 20, 2023. Puedes leer la versión en español en Quirina, la tribu romana en la que Vespasiano adscribió a todos los hispanos cuando les concedió la ciudadanía


Tito Livio, Historia de Roma desde su fundación | José Manuel Roldán Hervás, Historia de Roma | Eva María Morales Rodríguez, La municipalización flavia: estado de la cuestión | Antonio Caballos Rufino, Latinidad y municipalización de Hispania bajo los Flavios. Estatuto y normativa | María José Bravo Bosch, Latium maius versus Latium minus en la hispania flavia | Javier Andreu Pintado, Apuntes sobre la Quirina tribus y la municipalización flavia de Hispania | Alicia María Canto, Oppida sitpendiaria: los municipios flavios en la descripción de Hispania de Plinio | Wikipedia

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