Quo vadis? Epigraphy, language, and people in the making of Roman Italy
Nutter, Rory Henry Miles
This thesis offers a novel contribution to the debate on the so-called Romanisation of Italy in the republican period through discussion of one contemporary body of evidence in regard to one highly pertinent theme: the surviving inscriptional record of selected settlement sites, and the question of the spread of Latin among the Italic populations of the central and southern parts of the peninsula. Following detailed assessment of the surviving epigraphy from the fourth and third centuries BCE, the thesis examines the settings that show evidence for the spread of Latin in republican Italy in areas that did not traditionally avail themselves of the medium of Latin. Beyond the long recognised means for language transmission constituted by the army on the one hand, and the actions of members of the various Italic elites on the other, this thesis will demonstrate the importance of population movements, i.e. movements of ordinary people, in the process of language transmission. Based on the analysis of the epigraphy from the mid-republican period, the discussion will pursue the hypothesis there expounded by exploring the role of two distinct processes that drove population movements, including in the more fully documented second and first centuries BC: Roman colonisation, and Roman land reform. It will be shown that the ‘arrival’ of Latin speakers to areas with little prior exposure to Latin through these processes led to some of the earliest permanent points of interaction and, therefore, points of language contact between Latin-speakers and indigenous populations, suggesting a primary role of both colonisation and land reform in the spread of Latin. Detailed geographic analysis using Least-Cost-Pathway-Analysis will furthermore demonstrate that the proposed points of interaction and language contact likely transcended social boundaries from an earlier period than is traditionally appreciated: apart from shifting the timeline of current understanding of the spread of Latin in Italy, this approach exposes the flaws inherent in an elite-centric perspective of republican history, by bringing into the picture (and the debate) the role of ordinary sections of ancient society, irrespective moreover of age and gender. On this basis, a fresh view is opened on the increasing usage of Latin among (traditionally) non-Latin speakers and communities: in place of submission or integration, the epigraphic evidence affords a glimpse on the active shaping of new, local identities. In its totality, this thesis shows that what may initially appear as isolated examples of non-traditional Latin usages can, in fact, be explained as a result of interactions generated through (ordinary) population movements. The findings suggest that although population movements have been accorded importance in modern scholarship in understanding the growth of Roman power and the process often referred to as Romanisation, the importance of their role in language shift has been significantly undervalued. The presented thesis is not a contribution to linguistics, historical or otherwise: it does not analyse linguistic phenomena or developments. Rather, it approaches the question of language use, i.e. a socio-cultural practice, from a historical vantage point, directly concerned with the broader questions of Roman republican history.