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Umberto Laffi: Nuovi studi di storia romana e di diritto. Con una nota di lettura di Luigi Capogrossi Colognesi (= Antigua; 109), Neapel: Jovene 2020, XXX + 397 S., ISBN 978-88-243-2637-7, EUR 45,00
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Natale Rampazzo
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Matthias Haake
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Natale Rampazzo: Rezension von: Umberto Laffi: Nuovi studi di storia romana e di diritto. Con una nota di lettura di Luigi Capogrossi Colognesi, Neapel: Jovene 2020, in: sehepunkte 22 (2022), Nr. 3 [15.03.2022], URL:

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Umberto Laffi: Nuovi studi di storia romana e di diritto

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The work collects contributions from the last fifteen years divided among essays, reviews, and portraits of scholars (Gabba and Garzetti). The (conscious) choice of the author has been to give a chronological rather than a systematic order to the succession of contributions published, opting out of artificial separations and favouring a consistent and well-integrated exposition.

This allows to read even better in backlight the arising and concretization of specific research interests that can be tracked in their development. The collection is therefore a sort of intellectual autobiography of the author. Some topics, in fact, constitute the starting point of various reflections that are knotted together in an almost monographic texture. In a certain sense, the subjects addressed are related to the study - rather than of 'cold' legal institutions - of the human person, as individual and according to the identity it assumes in a group.

Often appears the subject of citizenship as personal quality that opens up horizons and possibilities precluded to those who do not have it and also implying responsibility. It is the classic topos of the individual and the community to which it belongs. A vital connection that becomes a bond, as in the case of the defendant in a judgment de pecunia communi who, by virtue of the Lex Irnitana (cap. 69), cannot voluntarily evade his 'natural judge pre-established by law'. In spite of the request to refer the case to the governor of the province - not based on exceeding the limits of competence by value - the defendant had to be judged by the decurions of the municipium in which he resided.

In the republican period, it happened moreover that Roman citizens could not escape the exercise of jurisdictional activity (especially in criminal matters) by the courts of free or allied communities (not subjected to a provincial administration and endowed with a statute of autonomy), since they could not enjoy, at least in the first instance, any privilege in the position of accuser or plaintiff (see the decrees of Kolophon, the treaty between Rome and Lycia, senatus consultum in favour of Chios). As defendants, especially in cases involving capital punishment, the Romans may only be tried before the Roman authority, subject to the optio fori of the prosecuted.

A bond that could be broken, even without the will of the citizen, notwithstanding Cicero's efforts to prove the opposite, with his vis oratoria, in particular in the speech pro Caecina - minutely investigated in the essay "Perdere la cittadinanza". Authoritative measures in the form of sanctions for unlawful behaviour could and should have achieved the effect of the loss of citizenship, a value jealously guarded by the populus, by the group in which each person merged its identity, making the community the supreme judge of the affiliation.

The rigidity of the canon of citizenship with regard to the appointment/election into a public office is clear in the case of Perperna, reported by Valerius Maximus (3.4.5) and taken up in the essay "Consul ante quam civis". The consul elected for 130 B.C. was a descendant from a non-Roman family and, by means of those integrations so much in vogue in today's world, had managed to enter into the exclusivist structures of magistrates' power. Yet, belonging to a specific community was the sign and measure of the rights that the individual could validly exercise in Rome and outside, but also a code for procedural simplification that allowed to manage entire ethnic groups, as in the cases analysed in the article "Le espulsioni da Roma di immigrati provenienti da comunità latine e italiche in età repubblicana". The object of investigation in this article is the different strategy followed by Rome, according to the origin of the flows, to control the large-scale immigrations occurred in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. It is a synthetic, vivid and extremely significant review, useful for a better understanding of the management mechanisms of the civitas Romana (and of the privileges connected to its concession) and of the political and economic balances (just think about the issue of the ager publicus) in the Italic peninsula. The 'institutionalised' displacements of citizens satisfied not only strategic needs but also demographic urgencies, as is well shown by the essay "Italici in colonie latine e latini in colonie romane", in which is explored, on the basis of some passages taken from Livy (32.2.6-7, 33.24.8-9, 34. 42.5-6, 41.8.8), the mechanism of the transits and redistribution of the population within the Roman borders, completing the survey of the migratory movements management (inbound and outbound, even forced, as seen in the previous essay).

The essays on "Leggi agrarie e coloniarie" and "Magistrature coloniarie" are devoted to the territorial organisation of communities. The privatisation of public lands and the allocation of the ager to the foundation of colonies in the period between 338 and the Gracchan age are analysed as phenomena chronologically marked by the persistence of a paradigm that changes respectively following the dissolution of the Latin League and the politicisation for individual aims of the distribution of public land. The comparison with the Mommsenian opinion and the acute exegesis of the abundant Livian sources allow us to consider the marginality of the legislative instruments and the clear prevalence of the senatus consultum in implementing choices concerning Roman territorial sovereignty. In the colonies, Roman power was commonly represented by duoviri, replicating the consular model of the Urbs, or by quattuorviri, preserving the organisational structure of a pre-existing community established therein.

The principles underlying the decision-making of the Senate and of the popular assemblies, which partly explain the different political dynamics now considered, are instead dealt with in the immediately following essay. What emerges is a somewhat articulated, sometimes rigid, but mostly flexible framework of competences, in view of the ever-increasing challenges that Roman expansion had to face, especially with regard to war, peace, treaty-making, diplomatic activities and other international relations.

As a result, the "libro" (monograph and not just a collection of essays) - as appropriately defined by Capogrossi Colognesi in the reading note, p. xxiii, for its organic and consistent character - shows such a clear exposition of ideas and discussion of opinions that it's worth reading the work in its entirety.

Natale Rampazzo