Tänään alkaa Helsingin yliopiston Tutkijakollegiumissa konferenssi ”Citizenship and Migration” (22-24.10). Puhujina mm. Jasbir Puar (Rutgers University) ja Rinaldo Walcott (University of Toronto). Suurin osa esitelmistä käsittelee nykyajan kansalaisuus- ja maahanmuuttokysymyksiä. Oma esitelmäni sukeltaa kaukaiseen menneisyyteen eli antiikin Roomaan. Abstraktissani lupailen laajaa kaarta Rooman kansalaisuuden kehityksestä. Saa nähdä, miten onnistun lunastamaan suuret tavoitteet.
How to become a Roman citizen and how to remain one? The frontiers of Romanness
According to one of the foundational myths of the ancient Romans, Romulus made the city of Rome an asylum for refugees and welcomed all sorts of newcomers inside its walls. In the 2nd century CE, as the Romans had already held the entire Mediterranean area in their iron embrace for centuries, a Greek orator Aelius Aristides celebrated the Roman power with a similar ethos: “Rome has never rejected anyone; on the contrary, this city receives men from all countries just as the soil of the earth welcomes all men”. This ethos of asylum is even more remarkable when it is compared with the foundational myths of many Greek poleis, for instance, the myth of autochthonous origin of Athenians.
Despite the ethos of asylum and eloquent orators who cherished the idea of cosmopolitan citizenship, not all the inhabitants of the Roman Empire had the status of citizen. Who was regarded as a Roman citizen? What were the criteria for becoming Roman citizen? How did these criteria change in the course of centuries? During the expansion of the Empire in the republican period, to gain citizenship as a mark of membership of the Roman community meant abandoning one’s former lifestyle and embracing a new one. As the Roman power in the Mediterranean was consolidated during the early imperial period (1st-2nd centuries CE), the strong conception of citizenship based on cultural criteria could not hold. The Roman power had to gain backing from the elite key groups in the conquered areas. Cultural criteria (such as the Latin language) became less emphasised, and the citizenship became to be more built around the display of loyalty to the ruling power.
I will discuss the criteria of becoming Roman citizen and maintaining the privileges connected to the citizenship during the later Roman Empire (200-400 CE). I will focus on, first, the return of the cultural criteria, and second, the impact of immigration in Late Antiquity. 1) I will argue that defining Romanness in religious terms became more and more emphasized from the early 3rd century CE onwards. Being Roman was connected with the correct performance of religion. Defining a good and loyal Roman in terms of religion continued in the course of the Christianization of the Empire. 2) In regard to the Gothic immigration into the Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries, I will discuss the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion and offer a postcolonial reading of Roman ‘migration and accommodation policies’. We will have a closer look at one dramatic scene in which hundreds of Goths in their attempt to immigrate to the Empire were drowned in the border river Danube.