Citizenship rights

Roman citizenship guaranteed legal privileges, which meant that the Constitutio Antoniniana ended disadvantages for the new citizens and clarified their legal status. These improvements pertained to criminal law as well as private and tax law.

The following information is based on the volume edited by Barbara Pferdehirt and Markus Scholz (2012), which can be referred to for further details.

Criminal law

Roman citizens had the right to a proper trial, in which torture was not permitted. They could appeal the verdict of a provincial court by calling on the emperor or making use of their right to trial before the imperial court.

The death penalty could be imposed only to a very limited extent, for example, in cases of treason or homicide. Degrading forms of execution following a death sentence were not allowed: death by crucifixion, drowning, or in the arena were considered unacceptable for Roman citizens

Private law

Roman citizenship also provided significant advantages with respect to private law. Roman citizens

  • could conclude legally binding contracts with each other according to Roman law;
  • had the right to enter into legally valid marriage, while non-Romans were allowed only concubinage;
  • could inherit and bequeath property according to Roman law

Tax law

Although most inhabitants of the Roman Empire had to pay a great variety of taxes, the taxes on inheritances were a “privilege” of Roman citizens, because they were the only group entitled to inherit and bequeath assets under Roman law. Several of Caracalla’s contemporaries—among them Cassius Dio—suspected this to be the true motive behind the Constitutio Antoniniana edict.

The >>next section<< outlines the significance of the Constitutio Antoniniana to this day.