How common were Roman-"Barbarian" relationships?

Aug 2013
613
Pomerium
In Bellini's opera Norma, the Gallo-Roman love affair between Norma and Pollione (Pollio in Latin) goes wrong, the lovers perish in flames in the heartwrenching finale "Deh! Non volerli vittime" which, IMO, is the greatest of all soprano arias in bel canto repertoire.

As a result of my fascination with the opera, I'm looking for possible archetypes of the Norma story in classical literature.
In Greco-Latin lexica, the term for a Roman who loves the "Barbarians" is philobarbarus (φιλοβάρβαρος), a "Barbarian" who loves the Romans is philorhomaeus (φιλορώμαιος).
Was there a Roman-Barbarian-dating subculture in society?
How well accepted or tabooed were such relationships among the Romans and within the Germanic/Celtic communities?
 
Aug 2013
613
Pomerium
Informative.

I remember in the 1951 movie Quo Vadis, there is a scene where Ligia says Barbarian women are hotter than Roman women (which sounds equivocal) and Marcus Vinicius says quite the contrary (which sounds ad hoc - he's making advances towards her yet to know she's not Roman:lol:
 
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,011
MD, USA
Yeah, I just had a glance at that article, and was surprised that there had been any supposition that such relationships were at all a problem! Certainly there were plenty of citizen soldiers who hooked up with local women. Now, since soldiers were forbidden to be *legally* married while serving in the ranks, these relationships were more like "common law" marriages, not recognized as legal Roman marriages. But that was due to the men being in the army, not to any citizenship status of the man or woman. And upon discharge, those marriages *were* legalized, and any children were granted citizenship. A nice benefit! (Actually, I believe this practice was actually applied to auxiliary troops first, and only later to legionaries. I don't recall the dates.)

Matthew
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
Yeah, I just had a glance at that article, and was surprised that there had been any supposition that such relationships were at all a problem! Certainly there were plenty of citizen soldiers who hooked up with local women. Now, since soldiers were forbidden to be *legally* married while serving in the ranks, these relationships were more like "common law" marriages, not recognized as legal Roman marriages. But that was due to the men being in the army, not to any citizenship status of the man or woman. And upon discharge, those marriages *were* legalized, and any children were granted citizenship. A nice benefit! (Actually, I believe this practice was actually applied to auxiliary troops first, and only later to legionaries. I don't recall the dates.)

Matthew
Even some of the more prominent men likely got involved with local 'barbarian' women. One of the marching songs for Julius Caesar's troops for example made a bawdy reference to him squandering Rome's money on 'Gallic tarts.'

Julius Sabinus, an aristocratic Romanized Gaul (and Roman military officer) who attempted to set up a separate Gallic state in the wake of Nero's death, claimed descent from Julius Caesar. According to the claim his great-grandmother, a Gallic noblewoman famous for her beauty, had become Caesar's mistress at some point during the Gallic War and had an illegitimate son with Caesar, from whom Sabinus claimed descent. Whether or not the tale is true can never be known for sure, but given Caesar's reputation as a notorious womanizer and the soldiers' marching sons about Caesar's Gaulish women, its certainly plausible.

In any case its likely Caesar wouldn't have been unique in having romantic dalliances with the women of provinces he was sent to govern (or was busy conquering), even other Roman governors didn't quite have the same reputation for womanizing as he did.
 
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MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,999
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Who was a Roman, and who was a barbarian?

In 500 BC, Romans were natives of a tiny city state in Central Italy. 800 years later, in 300 AD, almost all free men around the Mediterranean Sea were Roman citizens, and the rest were Roman subjects, Romans one way or another.

At various times a Roman provincial may have seemed like a Roman to the barbarians across the border, but like a barbarian to Roman citizens. Thus it was perfectly possible for someone to be both a barbarian and a Roman at the same time.

And in 2015 a (modern) Roman is defined as a resident of the city of Rome which is part of Italy.

IN 300 AD, if one asked how many of the Roman leaders - officials, generals, senators, emperors - were descended from people who were Roman citizens a century earlier, the answer would probably have been a minority.

A few Roman emperors were accused by snobs and gossips of being descended from freedmen - former slaves and thus non Romans - or even of being freedmen themselves.

As I remember, Roman laws did not say anything about people who were barbarians (non roman) culturally, but did say a lot about Roman citizens (& Roman women) marrying persons who were not Roman citizens or Roman women.

I can imagine a Roman father telling his son that it was illegal to marry the girl she loved because her father was a non citizen, and he would disinherit him if he did so because that meant the son would not have citizen sons to carry on the family. Just then they hear it announced that Caracalla has decreed that all free men are now citizens. And the son says to his father "Aha! Her father is now a citizen so the marriage will be legal and our sons will be citizens to carry on the family, and so you don't have any reason to disinherit me now!" Even though the girl's father might not have become any more Romanized culturally at the moment the decree was issued.

So define what you mean by a Roman and a barbarian and what time period you are interested in and you might get more precise answers.
 
Sep 2015
1,711
Romania
The oldest romanian name is funny enough ''Varvara'' which almost literally means ''This barbarian girl'' in modern romanian.

The population near roman forts/castres were obligated to serve that fort and you can imagine the type of services the roman soldiers needed :) This works pretty well with the fact roman soldiers had the right to settle down in the region they served in after finishing their period in the army.