A Roman colonia (plural coloniae) was originally a Roman outpost established in conquered territory to secure it. Eventually, however, the term came to denote the highest status of Roman city.
Other early colonies were established at Signia in the 6th century BC, Velitrae and Norba in the 5th century BC, and Ostia, Antium, and Tarracina in the late 4th century. In this first period of colonization, which lasted down to the end of the Punic Wars, colonies were primarily military in purpose, being intended to defend Roman territory. There were colonies of citizens and colonies of Latins, which differed in size, constitution, and region. Colonies of citizens were typically coastal and known as coloniae maritimae. These were small (three hundred families), close to Rome, and enjoyed no civic life of their own. Sherwin-White suggested that they were similar to the Athenian cleruchy.
Coloniae also included towns founded by Rome to house those who held Roman citizenship. In Britain this usually meant those who had completed their military service in the Legions and were thus owed a grant of land by the state; see Marian Reforms.
Some examples are (origins of modern names suggested in bold):
- Roman colonies in antiquity
- List of ancient cities in Thrace and Dacia
- List of ancient cities in Illyria
- Roman colonies in Berber Africa