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Colonies in antiquity

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(Redirected from Apoikia)

Colonies in antiquity were city-states founded from a mother-city, not from a territory-at-large. Bonds remained close, and took specific forms, discussed in the individual sections below.

Phoenician colonies

The Phoenicians were the major trading power in the Mediterranean in the early part of the 1st millennium BC. They had trading contacts in Egypt and Greece, and established colonies as far west as modern Spain, at Gadir (modern Cádiz) and later at Barcino (modern Barcelona). From there they controlled access to the Atlantic Ocean and the trade routes to Britain. The most famous and successful of Phoenician colonies was Kart-Hadasht (Carthage), a colony founded from Tyre.

Greek colonies (apoikiai)

In Ancient Greece, colonies were sometimes founded by vanquished peoples, who left their homes to escape subjection at the hand of a foreign enemy; sometimes as a sequel to civil disorders, when the losers in internecine battles left to form a new city elsewhere; sometimes to get rid of surplus population, and thereby to avoid internal convulsions. But in most cases the object was to establish and facilitate relations of trade with foreign countries.

There were two similar kinds of colonies, apoikiai and emporia. The first were city-states on their own; the second were Greek trading-colonies.

The Greek city-states began establishing colonies around 800 BC. Among the earliest of the Greek trading emporia were Al Mina in northern Syria and the Greek emporium at Ischia (Pithekoussai) in the Bay of Naples, both established about 800 BC.

Two flushes of new colonists set out from Greece at the transition between the "Dark Ages" and the start of the Archaic Period, in the early 8th century and a second burst of the colonizing spirit in the 6th century BC. Population growth and cramped spaces at home seem an insufficient explanation for the phenomena.

Several formulae were generally adhered to on the solemn and sacred occasions when a new colony set forth. If a Greek city was sending out a colony, an oracle (before all others that of Delphi) was almost invariably consulted beforehand. Sometimes certain classes of citizens were called upon to take part in the enterprises; sometimes one son was chosen by lot from every house where there were several sons; and strangers expressing a desire to join were admitted. A person of distinction was selected to guide the emigrants and make the necessary arrangements. It was usual to honor these founders of colonies, after their death, as heroes. Some of the sacred fire was taken from the public hearth in the Prytaneum, from which the fire on the public hearth of the new city was kindled. And, just as each individual had his private shrines, so the new community maintained the worship of its chief domestic deities, the colony sending embassies and votive gifts to the mother-city's principal festivals for centuries afterwards.

The relation between colony and mother-city (literally metropolis) was viewed as one of mutual affection. Any differences that arose were made up, if possible, by peaceful means, war being deemed excusable only in cases of extreme necessity. The charter of foundation contained general provisions for the arrangement of the affairs of the colony, and also some special enactments. The constitution of the mother-city was usually adopted by the colony, but the new city remained politically independent. If the colony sent out a fresh colony on its own account, the mother-city was generally consulted, or was at least requested to furnish a leader. The cleruchs (klęrouchoi) formed a special class of Greek colonists. The trade factories set up in foreign countries (in Egypt, for instance) were somewhat different from the ordinary colonies, the members retaining the right of domicile in their own fatherland and confining themselves to their own quarter in the foreign city.

Roman colonies

It was an old custom in ancient Italy to send out colonies for the purpose of securing new conquests. The Romans, accordingly, having no standing army, used to plant bodies of their own citizens in conquered towns as a kind of garrison. These bodies would consist partly of Roman citizens, usually to the number of three hundred; partly of members of the Latin League, in larger numbers. The third part of the conquered territory was handed over to the settlers. The coloniae civium Romanorum (colonies of Roman citizens) were specially intended to secure the two sea-coasts of Italy, and were hence called coloniae maritimae. The coloniae Latinae, of which there was a far greater number, served the same purpose for the mainland.

The duty of leading the colonists and founding the settlement was entrusted to a commission usually consisting of three members, and elected by the people. These men continued to stand in the relation of patrons (patroni) to the colony after its foundation. The colonists entered the conquered city in military array, preceded by banners, and the foundation was celebrated with special solemnities. The coloniae were free from taxes, and had their own constitution, a copy of the Roman, electing from their own body their Senate and other officers of State. To this constitution the original inhabitants had to submit. The coloniae civium Romanorum retained the Roman citizenship, and were free from military service, their position as outposts being regarded as an equivalent. The members of the coloniae Latinae served among the socii (allies), and possessed the so-called ius Latinum (see Latinitas). This secured to them the right of acquiring property (commercium) and settlement in Rome, and under certain conditions the power of becoming Roman citizens; though in course of time these rights underwent many limitations.

From the time of the Gracchi the colonies lost their military character. Colonization came to be regarded as a means of providing for the poorest class of the Roman populace. After the time of Sulla it was adopted as a way of granting land to veteran soldiers. The right of founding colonies was taken away from the people by Caesar, and passed into the hands of the emperors, who used it (mainly in the provinces) for the exclusive purpose of establishing military settlements, partly with the old idea of securing conquered territory. It was only in exceptional cases that the provincial colonies enjoyed the immunity from taxation which was granted to those in Italy.

Most of this text is taken from Harry Thurston Pecks, Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquity 1898 and needs to be rewritten and expanded.

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