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Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät Lehrstuhl Alonso

Upheaval or trifle? The Universal Grant of Citizenship of 212 CE

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(Vst.-Nr. 3687)


How astonishing would it be if all of a sudden the president of the United States granted the US citizenship to every foreigner established in North America? Unreal as this seems, it is what happened in the Roman Empire in 212 CE. That year, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, known as Caracalla –who months before had instigated the assassination of his younger brother and co- Emperor, Geta– issued an Edict, the so-called constitutio Antoniniana, granting full Roman citizenship to all free men inhabiting the Roman Empire.

In the West, deeply romanised, where a great part of the population, and certainly the elites, had long enjoyed the Roman citizenship, the change was probably not immense, except for the lower social strata. But in the East, where the number of Roman citizens was extremely scarce, the decision must have fallen like an earthquake. Greek in language and culture since Alexander the Great, the Eastern population found themselves from one day to another Roman citizens, with a new Roman name: Marcus Aurelius, the men, Aurelia, the women, as if all of them were, as newly born Romans, children of the Emperor. The Egyptian papyri show an explosion of Aurelii in those years: there is suddenly almost nobody who does not bear the name of the Emperor.

With the name, though, came a new status as Roman, and with it, one would expect, a complete subjection to Roman law. Until now, Roman law had been largely ignored by the local population: with the tolerance of the Roman administration, these Greek speaking non-Romans had despite centuries of Roman rule, continued living largely in conformity to the rules and traditions of Greek (or, depending on origin and culture, Egyptian, Jewish, etc.) law. Millions of them, now turned Romans, found themselves in uncharted territory: should they now entirely give up their legal culture and adjust to the alien, cumbersome and often incomprehensible rules of Roman law?

Whatever was expected from them, what they actually did we can reconstruct with astonishing detail thanks to thousands of papyri that have arrived to us from the decades after 212. This seminar aims at reviewing this evidence, and reconstructing as precisely as possible how completely ordinary people adjusted –or didn't– to their new status.


List of topics:

Topic 1: A Roman tradition: collective grants of citizenship before 212
Topic 2: The political logic behind the constitutio Antoniniana
Topic 3: How universal was the universal grant of citizenship? 
Topic 4: Personality principle? Legal life of Roman citizens in the East before 212
Topic 5: Autonomy, own laws and jurisdiction in the Eastern cities after 212
Topic 6: Paternal power and emancipation after 212
Topic 7: Children under power as owners after 212
Topic 8: Marriage and family Law practice after 212
Topic 9: Wills and testamentary practice after 212
Topic 10: Slaves, slave purchase and manumission after 212
Topic 11: Credit and securities after 212
Topic 12: "Everything must change for everything to remain the same": Stipulation and the so-called Stipulatory Clause


Credits and records:

The seminar is open to bachelor- and masterstudents. The bachelor-thesis is awarded 6 ECTS and must consist of approx. 25 pages (approx. 62'500 characters). The master-thesis must be awarded exactly 12 ECTS since the academic reform and it has to consist of approx. 40 pages (approx. 100'000 characters).
13. April 2022 (briefing on Zoom)
25./26. November 2022
Participation and Information
For the procedure and further information please consider the information in the: Seminarguidelines (PDF, 199 KB)

The number of participants is limited to twelve.
The participation and the written paper can be in German as well as in English.

The application is conducted over the Applicationtool of the RWF. If you have questions regarding the content of this seminar don't hesitate to contact us: