Regions of the Roman
Republic and Empire
The name of Italy was originally applied only to
the southernmost part of the peninsula, and was only gradually extended so as to
comprise the central regions, such as Latium and Campania, which were designated
by writers as late as Thucydides and Aristotle as in Opicia. The progress of
this change cannot be followed in detail, but there can be little doubt that the
extension of the Roman arms, and the gradual union of the nations of the
peninsula under one dominant power, would contribute to the introduction, or
rather would make the necessity felt, for the use of one general appellation.
first, indeed, the term was apparently confined to the regions of the central
and southern districts, exclusive of Cisalpine Gaul and the whole tract north of
the Apennines, and this continued to be the official or definite signification
of the name down to the end of the republic. But the natural limits of Italy are
so clearly marked that the name came to be generally employed as a geographical
term at a much earlier period. Thus we already find Polybius repeatedly applying
it in this wider signification to the whole country, as far as the foot of the
Alps; and it is evident from many passages in the Latin writers that this was
the familiar use of the term in the days of Cicero and Caesar. The official
distinction was, however, still retained. Cisalpine Gaul, including the whole of
northern Italy, still constituted a province, an appellation never applied to
Italy itself. As such it was assigned to Julius Caesar, together with
Transalpine Gaul, and it was not until he crossed the Rubicon that he entered
Italy in the strict sense of the term.
v 1), at the beginning the name indicated the land between the
strait of Messina and the line connecting the gulf of Salerno and gulf
of Taranto; later Italia was extended to include the whole Italian
peninsula, as well as the
town of Colonia
Pietas Iulia (Pola); finally, Julius Caesar gave Roman citizenship
to the people of the Gallia Transpadana — that part of Cisalpine
Gaul that lay "beyond the Po"—, thus extending Italia up to the Alps.
With the end of the Social war (2nd
century BC), Rome allowed the Italian allies to enter with full rights
in the Roman society, giving the Roman citizenship to all the Italic
At the beginning of the Empire, Italia
was a collection of territories with different statuses. Some cities,
called municipii, had some independence from Rome, others, the
colonies, were founded by the Romans themselves. Around 7 BC, Augustus
Caesar divided Italia into eleven regiones, for administrative
purposes, as reported by
Pliny the Elder in his
Naturalis Historia (iii
46). These continued in official
use until the reign of Constantine, was based mainly on the territorial
divisions that had previously existed, and preserved with few exceptions the
The regions were:
- Latium et Campania - Latium (in the more extended sense of the term, as including the land of
the Volsci, Hernici and Aurunci), together with Campania and the district of
the Picentini. It thus extended from the mouth of the Tiber to that of the
Silarus (see LATIUM).
- Apulia et Calabria - (the name by which the Romans usually designated the
district known to the Greeks as Messapia or lapygia), together with the land
of the Hirpini, which had usually been considered as a part of Samnium.
- Lucania et Bruttiu[in] - bounded on the west coast by the Silarus, on the
east by the Bradanus.
- Samnium - all the Samnites (except the Hirpini), together with the Sabines and the
cognate tribes of the Frentani, Marrucini, Marsi, Peligni, Vestini and
Aequiculi. It was separated from Apulia on the south by the river Tifernus,
and from Picenum on the north by the Matrinus.
- Picenum - solely Picenum, extending along the coast of the Adriatic from the mouth
of the Matrinus to that of the Aesis, beyond Ancona.
- Umbria, in the more extended sense of the term, as including the Ager
Gallicus, along the coast of the Adriatic from the Aesis to the Ariminus, and
separated from Etruria on the west by the Tiber.
- Etruria - which preserved its ancient limits, extending from the Tiber to
the Tyrrhenian Sea, and separated from Liguria on the north by the river
- Aemilia - Gallia Cispadana, comprised the southern portion of Cisalpine Gaul, and
was bounded on the north (as its name implied) by the river Padus or P0, from
above Placentia to its mouth. It was separated from Etruria and Umbria by the
main chain of the Apennines; and the river Ariminus was substituted for the
far-famed Rubicon as its limit on the Adriatic.
- Liguria - extending along the seacoast from the Varus to the Macra, and
inland as far as the river Padus, which constituted its northern boundary from
its source in Mount Vesulus to its confluence with the Trebia just above
- Venetia et Histria - Venetia from the Padus and Adriatic to the Alps, to which was annexed the
neighboring peninsula of Istria, and to the west the territory of the
Cenomani, a Gaulish tribe, extending from the Athesis to the Addua, which had
previously been regarded as a part of Gallia Cisalpina. In 173 A.D., this
region was subdivided into 17 compartments.
- Transpada - Gallia Transpadana, included all the rest of Cisalpine Gaul from the Padus
on the south and the Addua on the east to the foot of the Alps.
The Italian "province" was privileged by Augustus and his heirs, with
the construction, among other public structures, of a dense mesh of
roads. The Italian economy flourished:
agriculture, handicraft and industry had a sensible growth, allowing the
export of goods to the other provinces. The Italian population grew as
well: Three census were ordered by Augustus, to record the presence of
male citizens in Italia. They were 4,063,000 in 28 BC, 4,233,000 in 8
BC, and 4,937,000 in AD 14. Including the women and the children, the
total population of Italia at the beginning of the 1st century was
around 10 million.
The arrangements thus established by Augustus continued almost unchanged
until the time of Constantine, and formed the basis of all subsequent
administrative divisions until the fall of the Western empire.
See: Roman Roads
- The Crusades and the Military
Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of Medieval Latin
Runciman, Zsolt Hunyadi, József Laszlovszky, Central European University
Dept. of Medieval Studies. Contributor Zsolt Hunyadi, József
Laszlovszky, p 127.]
- Various texts -
- Via Annia (image) -
- Via Annia -
- Via Claudia Augusta -
- Via Latina -
Regions map -