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Turning Points

In my study of the long history of the formation of the Roman Republic, there is an event that respected historians claim as a turning point in Western history and in the advancement of human civilization. They cite the year 338 BCE. Rome had just fought a series of wars with various cities including cities belonging to the Latin League. After defeating these opponents it was common practice for the Romans to destroy enemy cities, which typically meant slaughtering the men and enslaving the women and children. It was at this point that the Romans did the unexpected. They formed a confederation out of the defeated Latin cities and offered them some form of Roman citizenship, but generally not full citizenship. It was at this point that citizenship became a reward, a prize to be sought after. Citizenship included both obligations and privileges, it also meant social status and an opportunity to gain social, economic and political prospects that were never available before. This seemly simple arrangement was not a political movement, it was simply an ingenious solution to dealing with human relationships in a new and unexpected way. It opened new doors for the Romans and the Latins. Later, when Hannibal invaded Italy, he defeated the Romans on the battlefield and promised that his mission was to, among other things, free the oppressed dependent cities controlled by Rome. When the chips were down Roman citizenship held these cities steadfastly in support of Rome. Rome survived to serve as the mother city of Italy. This was Rome's shining hour.
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