Municipium

Municipium

A municipium (pl. municipia) belonged to the second highest class of Roman cities, being inferior in status to the colonia. The first municipium was Tusculum. The distinguishing characteristic of the municipium was self-governance.

2 orders of the municipia

The citizens of municipia of the first order held full Roman citizenship and their rights (civitas optimo iure) included the right to vote, which was the ultimate right in Rome, and a sure sign of full rights.

The second order of municipia comprised important tribal centres which had come under Roman control. Residents of these did not become full Roman citizens (although their magistrates could become so after retirement). They were given the duties of full citizens in terms of liability to taxes and military service, but not all of the rights: most significantly, they had no right to vote.

Executive power in municipium was held by four annually elected officials, composed of two duumvirs and two aediles, all under the thumb of Roman rule. Advisory powers were held by the decurions, appointed members of the local equivalent to the senate. In later years, these became hereditary.

Municipia in Britain

According to the forgery De Situ Britanniae by Charles Bertram, forged under the name of Richard of Cirencester, there were two municipia in Brittania: Verulamium (now St. Albans) and Eboracum (now York), with the latter having become a municipium under Antonius Pius. An assertion was made in the 19th century that York was changed to a colonia by Severus, based upon a coin, supposedly inscribed "COL. EBORACVM LEGIO vi. VICTRIX". However, many antiquarians at the time doubted the existence of this coin, the evidence for whose existence came solely from the testimony of Goltzius, which they regarded as suspect. Several, such as Ruding and Akerman, doubted that any coinage had been minted in Britain. However, similar doubts were raised about De Situ Britanniae, and its assertions about York being anything other than a colonia. For example: The Reverend J. Kenrick, writing in the proceedings of the Yorkshire philosophical society in 1849, said "I must declare my adherence to the opinion of those critics, who hold that Richard's Description of Britain is no genuine work.", noting that "the latinity of the Description appears to me to be to be the same as that of the preface which Bertram has prefixed to it".

Kenrick further went on to note that the distinction between colonia and municipium "are hardly applicable to Britain", observing that "I am not aware that any inscription exists, in which the name of municipium is given to a town in Roman Britain". In fact, the evidence for Verulamium being a municpium comes not from an inscription but from book 14 of the Annals of Tacitus.

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