Foederati

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Foederatus (pl. foederati) is a Latin term whose definition and usage drifted in the time between the early Roman Republic and the end of the Western Roman Empire. Early in the history of the Roman Republic, a foederatus identified one of the tribes bound by treaty (foedus), who were neither Roman colonies nor had they been granted Roman citizenship (civitas) but were expected to provide a contingent of fighting men when trouble arose, thus were allies. The Latini tribe were considered blood allies, but the rest were federates or socii.

Contents

History

The Republic

During the Roman republic, the friction between these treaty obligations without the corresponding benefits of Romanity led to the Social War between Romans, with a few close allies, and the disaffected Socii. A law of 90 BC (Lex Julia) offered Roman citizenship to the federate states that accepted the terms. Not all cities were prepared to be absorbed into the Roman res publica (e.g. Heraclea and Naples). Other foederati lay beyond Italy: Gades in Spain, and Massilia (Marseilles).[clarification needed]

The Empire

Later, the sense of the term foederati and its usage and meaning was extended by the Roman practice of subsidizing entire barbarian tribes — which included the Franks, Vandals, Alans and, best known, the Visigoths — in exchange for providing warriors to fight in the Roman armies. Alaric began his career leading a band of Gothic foederati.

The word federations came from the Latin word foedus, which indicated a solemn binding treaty of mutual assistance between Rome and another nation for perpetuity. At first, the Roman subsidy took the form of money or food, but as tax revenues dwindled in the 4th and 5th centuries, the foederati were billeted on local landowners, which came to be identical to being allowed to settle on Roman territory. Large local landowners living in distant border provinces (see "marches") on extensive, largely self-sufficient villas, found their loyalties to the central authority, already conflicted by other developments, further compromised in such situations. Then, as these loyalties wavered and became more local, the Empire began to devolve into smaller territories and closer personal fealties.

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