In the Roman Republic and later in the Roman Empire, men were divided into three classes:
Slaves were considered property and had no rights whatsoever. They could be sold, tortured, maimed, raped, and killed at the whim of their owners.
Allies of Rome and natives who lived in territories conquered by Rome were given partial citizenship.
Women had most of the rights of their parents and of their husbands. No Roman woman could vote and in many legal aspects were little more than slaves.
Methods to obtain Roman citizenship:
Granted automatically to every child born in a legal marriage of a Roman citizen.
People from the Latin states were gradually granted citizenship.
The children of freed slaves became citizens.
A Roman legionary could not legally marry, therefore all his children were denied citizenship, unless the legionary married the mother after release from service.
Outstanding service to the Roman republic or empire.
Purchased at a high price.
Auxilia were rewarded with Roman citizenship after their term of service. Their children also became citizens and could join the Roman legions.
Rome gradually granted citizenship to entire provinces; eventually to all free male inhabitants of the Empire.
The right to vote.
The right to make legal contracts.
The right to a lawful marriage.
Citizens cannot be submitted to torture.
The right to a trial.
Cannot be sentenced to death unless found guilty of treason.
Even if sentenced to death, cannot be crucified.
Required to join the Roman legions.
“The granting of citizenship to the conquered and the allies was the final step of Romanization which was one of the most effective political tools and (at that point in history) original political ideas (perhaps one of the most important reasons for the success of Rome).” The idea was to turn a defeated and potentially rebelious enemy (or his sons) into a loyal Roman citizen.
Source: The Roman Empire and its citizens
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