chapter  VI
The Towns and Cities of the Frontier
Pages 25

BorrowingtheirearlytraditionsfromtheirEtruscanneighborstothe north,andgreatlyinfluencedbyGreekmodelsofeasternMediterraneanlife,theRomanswereoverwhelminglyanurban-mindedpeople.1 Theempireasawholeconsistedofanassemblageofcity-states,or civitates,eachsurroundedbyitsdependentcountryside,orpagus.2 Eachcity-statepossesseditsowncouncildrawnfromthemiddleclass residents(curiales)ofthetown.Thecouncilelecteditsownleaders, collectedlocaltaxes,3andplannedandsupervisedtheconstructionof localpublicworks.Localcourtswereheldinthebasilicathatwas constructedneartheforuminthecenterofvirtuallyallofthesetowns, and,intheoryatleast,alltradeandcommercewasconductedwithin thecitymarkets,wherethepropertaxescouldbecollectedandlegal formsobserved.Mostcity-stateseitherhadoraspiredtohavetheir owncircuses,theaters,andstadiums,andeachhadamunicipaltemple inwhichanofficialpriesthoodservedthestatedeitiesandthedeified emperors.SomecouncilssubsidizedpublicteachersofGreekand Romanrhetoricandphilosophy,andwealthycitizensgainedprestige byunderwritingplays,horseraces,andgladiatorialshowsfortheir fellowcitizens.Inshort,eachcity-stateaspiredtobealittleRome,and manyofthemcontrivedtoprovidetheirresidentswithanimpressive arrayofpublicamenities.Thegovernmentwascontenttoallowthe middle-classcouncilorsofthesecity-statestomanagelocalaffairs,and thegreatbulkofRomanpoliticalandpubliclifewasconductedatthis locallevel.