The Constitutio Antoniniana stands for the political integration of people from diverse cultural backgrounds within a single political community and is also an expression of the state’s high degree of respect for the groups of people concerned, their values, and their ways of life.

The sections on citizens and foreigners and the rights of citizenship explain the advantages Roman citizens enjoyed compared to other inhabitants of the empire. This part of the website focuses on the significance of the Constitutio Antoniniana for the issue of citizenship from a contemporary perspective.

Extent and uniqueness

The edict’s broad scope in granting citizenship rights is remarkable; because its scope clearly goes far beyond that of other, similar measures, it can be considered historically unique. The Constitutio Antoniniana created a uniform status of citizenship in the Roman Empire, which spanned three continents, for many millions of people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

A tolerant union of citizens

The Constitutio Antoniniana includes a salvatorian clause, which explicitly guaranteed that existing citizenship rights and local legal traditions would be respected. This clause was an expression of the desire to neither abolish all differences between various groups of people, nor to centralize political power by creating the new uniform status of citizenship. Those who were granted Roman citizenship retained their former rights as citizens, which reflected regional differences. They did not attain Roman citizenship in place of their previous status but rather in addition to it. This was particularly relevant in the eastern part of the empire, which was influenced by the culture of the Greek polis, in which each city had its own rights of citizenship. People were Roman citizens and at the same time citizens of their native city.

This high degree of legal and administrative plurality was, however, a reflection of how Rome exercised its rule and organized its administration: in the Roman Empire, most public tasks were managed on the regional and local levels, rather than by central authorities.

Multiple citizenship

Although the Constitutio Antoniniana created a new union of citizens, it nevertheless respected the customs and traditions of established political entities within the Roman Empire - a unique occurrence in world history. The edict shows how individuals and whole groups of people could hold multiple citizenship without necessarily generating conflicts over the question of belonging. As we face the challenges of globalization and migration today, this idea has extraordinary relevance for the twenty-first century.

The legal relevance of the edict is discussed in the >>next section<<.