Lex Plautia Papiria

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The Lex Plautia Papiria (de Civitate Sociis Danda) was a Roman plebiscite enacted amidst the Social War in 89 BCE. Sponsored by the Tribunes of the Plebs, M. Plautius Silvanus and C. Papirius Carbo, the law expanded civitas, or citizenship. Under the new law, citizens of Italian communities that had previously rebelled could now gain Roman citizenship.

Circumstances Preceding the Law[edit]

The Social War, fought between 91 and 88 BCE, revolved around the rights of the allied communities of Italy. Initially, Roman senators had been unwilling to grant civitas to the Italians; however, it became necessary in order to calm the Italians and end the war. The Lex Plautia Papiria was not the first law that expanded Roman citizenship during the Social War. In 90 BCE, the Lex Calpurnia gave commanders the power to reward valor with civitas. In the same year, the Lex Julia de Civitate Latinis Danda extended civitas to Italian communities who had not participated in the uprising against Rome. The law stated that communities with newly granted citizenship should be enrolled in new tribes for voting in the Comitia Tributa. The Lex Plautia Papiria would later follow the guidelines laid out in the Lex Julia for adding new tribes to the comitia as new communities were granted citizenship.

Provisions of the Law[edit]

While the complete original text of the law has never been recovered, Cicero stated several of the provisions of the law in his piece Pro Archia Poeta Oratio:

The freedom of the city was given him in accordance with the provisions of the law of Silvanus and Carbo: "If any men had been enrolled as citizens of the confederate cities, and if, at the time that the law was passed, they had a residence in Italy, and if within sixty days they had made a return or themselves to the praetor."

Pro Archia, IV. 7

Thus, an individual had to meet three conditions to become a Roman citizen under the newly created law: he must claim citizenship in an Italian city that was a Roman ally, he must have already established residence there before the passing of this law, and must then present himself to a praetor within the specified time to be considered for citizenship. Unlike the Lex Julia, which only granted citizenship to entire cities, the Lex Papiria Plautia could be used to grant citizenship to individuals in addition to entire cities.

Effects of the Law[edit]

Demonstrating its use in granting citizenship to an individual, the law was used as justification for bestowing citizenship upon Aulus Licinius Archias. Archias, a Greek poet, was accused of assuming his citizenship illegally. However, in Pro Archia, Cicero used, among other reasons, the Lex Plautia Papiria to uphold the legitimacy of Archias’ citizenship.

The law, however, was ineffective at persuading confederate towns and at ending the war. By placing the newly admitted citizens into new tribes instead of assimilating them into previously established tribes, the laws made the votes of the new citizens virtually worthless. Thus, Italian confederates had little incentive to stop fighting against Rome. Although it is also worth noting the significant benefits brought aside from suffrage (protection from mistreatment during military service, improved legal rights, and for the rich, chances to bid for lucrative tax farming contracts) which may for many have been most significant.


  • Cerutti, Steven M. (1998). Cicero Pro Archia Poeta Oratio. Wauconda, Ill: Bolchazy-Caarducci Publishers. ISBN 0-86516-402-9
  • Cicero, M. Tullius. (1856). The Orations of Marcus Tullius Cicero, literally translated by C. D. Yonge. London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Covent Garden. OCLC: 4709897
  • Gotoff, Harold C. (1979). Cicero’s Elegant Style: An Analysis of the Pro Archia. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-00694-1
  • Keaveney, Arthur. (1987). Rome and the Unification of Italy. Beckenham: Croom Helm Ltd. ISBN 0-7099-3121-2
  • (1996). The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd Edition: “Gaius Papirius Carbo”. New York: Oxford University Press.

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