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LOCRI EPIZEPHYRII



Salvatore La Rosa
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THIRD PART - THE ROMAN AGE

CHAPTER IV

FROM THE INSTITUTION OF THE MUNICIPIUM LOCRENSIUM
TO THE DECLINE OF THE ROMAN CITY


According to what Livy tells us, the years between the end of the third century b.C. and the beginning of the second century b.C. are marked for Locri by a new desecration of the Persephoneion this time at the hands of Bruttii looters that caused a new and strong action of the Roman Senate in favor of the Locrian city (Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, XXXI 12, 1-4):

"Litterae deinde in senatu recitatae sunt Q. Minuci praetoris, cui Bruttii provincia erat: pecuniam Locris ex Proserpinae thesauris nocte clam sublatam, nec ad quos pertineat facinus vestigia ulla exstare. Indigne passus senatus non cessari ab sacrilegiis et ne Pleminium quidem, tam clarum recensque noxae simul ac poenae exemplum, homines deterrere. C. Aurelio consuli negotium datum ut ad praetorem in Bruttios scriberet: senatui placere, quaestionem de expilatis thesauris eodem exemplo haberi quo M. Pomponius praetor triennio ante habuisset; quae inventa pecunia esset, reponi; si quo minus inventum foret, expleri ac piacularia, si videretur, sicut ante pontifices censuissent, fieri".

 

"Then it was read in the Senate a letter from the praetor Quintus Minucius, who governed the Bruttium province: an amount of money had been carried off by night out of the treasury of Proserpina in Locri and there were no traces of the perpetrators. The senate was outraged by the fact that the sacrilegious acts didn't stop and that even (what happened to) Pleminius, a so recent and so conspicuous example of crime and punishment, didn't hold back the men from it. The consul Gaius Aurelius was entrusted with the task to write to the Bruttium praetor that the Senate, concerning the robbery of the treasury, wished that it was dealt with according to the method used by the praetor Marcus Pomponius three years before; that the money which could (possibly) be found should be restored (in the treasury); that if it was found less than it was it should be made up and that, if he thought proper, expiatory rites should be made, as the pontiffs had formerly prescribed.”

The special attention of the Senate for such an event was obviously dictated by the will of Rome to keep the oath of trust and mutual help with Locri made a few years before but it was also (as again the same Livy tells us in later chapters) once again determined by the correlation that the members of the Senate had done between the desecration of the temple and some prodigious events, seen as a bad omen by the senators, occurring throughout southern Italy and beyond. So much so that the investigations of Quintus Minucius were quick and soon led to the capture of the perpetrators and to the restitution of the sums of money stolen from the treasury (Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, XXXI 13, 1):

"[...] nam etiam Locris sacrilegium pervestigatum ab Q. Minucio erat, pecuniaque ex bonis noxiorum in thesauros reposita [...]".

 

"In fact, also in Locri Quintus Minucius had thoroughly investigated the sacrilege and had put the money in the treasury (drawing) from the goods of the perpetrators."

After these facts Locri will be called on his part to comply with the military obligations which originated from its status of Civitas Foederata and both in 191 b.C., in the first war against Antiochus III the Great, and in 171 b.C., in the battle against Perseus of Macedon, it was able to supply the Roman fleet with its own triremes thus being able to satisfy the demands of its ally on time.

But the demographic and economic crisis that was taking place in Locri, and that was mentioned in the previous chapter, led the city in 156 b.C. to being not able to supply the ships needed by the military expeditions that Rome was carrying on against the Dalmatians and in the territories of the Iberian peninsula; and in this case it was through the good offices, as he himself tells us, of the historian Polybius, who was held in great favor by Rome, that the Locrian city was exempted from supplying the ships without incurring any sanction. Good offices that, it's still the historian who narrates (Polybius, Histories, XII 5), he carried out willingly since during those years he had often visited the Locrian town where the inhabitants had allowed him, through the narration of the facts relating the birth of the ancient polis, to support the argument of Aristotle at the expense of Timaeus' one concerning the origins of the Greek settlers (see Greek Age - Chapter I).

Besides that, the ancient historians didn't hand down many other information regarding this historical phase in which, pandering the unavoidable process that was already underway and that is called Romanization, Locri was preparing itself to become a Roman city to all intents and purposes. Situation which took place through the establishment of the Municipium of Locri, as it happened to other foederate cities, probably in 89 b.C. as a result of the implementation of the Lex Julia De Civitate Latinis et sociis danda provisions.

Municipia and minor towns in the First Century b.C.
MUNICIPIA AND MINOR TOWNS OF THE BRUTIUM (FIRST CENTURY B.C.)

The new status of Municipium, however, didn't allow the city to regain the former glory. And that because it (and, more generally, most of those that once were the great italiote cities) was now outside of what were the strategic interests of its time.

So the splendor of the ancient polis was by now gone forever, and its fate was indissolubly tied to that of the other Greek cities of the west that with it, as Cicero wrote (Tusculanae Disputationes, IV 1, 2), made possible to flourish in Italy sublime and most powerful cities of a new Graecia, for this reason called Magna. That by now though, the same Cicero narrates, no longer existed (Laelius - De Amicitia, 4, 13: "[...] Magnamque Greciam, quae nunc quidem deleta est [...]").

Nevertheless, Locri was still an important city, renowned between scholars and prominent people, such as the previously mentioned Cicero, who often crossed his fate with that of the ancient polis during his career; but its importance was by now more local, limited to an area of the province that was increasingly moving away from the political affairs of Rome and from the trading routes of the upcoming Empire. It became, therefore, an administrative center of smaller size compared to the past but around which flourished and developed numerous agricultural towns and Villae, even of considerable size, owned by the Roman aristocracy.

With the coming of the imperial age the historical tidings become more and more scarce, but from the little that the ancient writers have left us the city maintained, at least until the end of the second century a.D., a relative "wealth" from an economic point of view and was praised for the healthy climate of the area where it was located.

Something more about this age has been discovered thanks to the archaeological evidences that, through the findings of the excavation campaigns made in the last years (focused on the Roman area and that led, in 2003, to the exceptional discovery of a statue of a Togatus, so-called "Togatus from Petrara") allow nowadays to consider the Roman Locri in a different way and certainly more worthy of attention than in the past in which the Greek polis enjoyed a position of privilege in all areas of research aimed to the study and the comprehension of the ancient city. These findings made it possible to assume the continuity of a "strong" urban nucleus at least until the third or mid-fourth century a.D.; after this period it is easy to assume a slow but inexorable decline of the city in favor of the settlements scattered on the territory, even and especially due to the progressive deterioration of the Roman central government that removed the need for an administrative center which was, by now, the primary function of Locri.

The hope, therefore, to obtain information that can fill the void left by the ancient historians regarding this historical period is entrusted to the archaeologists and to their excavations in the territory of the ancient city that, we are certain of this, will be able in the future to surprise us again and to certify us, once more, the cultural richness and the importance of the ancient Locri.

 
     

 

 

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