It is likely that Romans made no distinction between today's terms integration and assimilation. They did everything that was necessary for the expansion of the Roman empire and worked from experience. Due to the communication lag between Rome and conquerors in distant, marginal territories, there had to exist directives/guidelines on how to deal with newly conquered cultures/tribes.

While the Romans adopted a lot of foreign culture as well (e.g. Greek philosophy, mythology), they likely didn't allow conquered tribes to practice their religion/language any more (?). That's probably the rough border line between integration/assimilation compared to today's meanings. Maybe they even married foreign women and killed foreign male adults/children to "speed up" cultural assimilation.

What known and/or documented procedures did conquerors/military tribunes conduct to assimilate foreign cultures in the best way? What was "officially" prescribed by the Roman senate and philosophy?

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    I sincerely doubt it was part of any formal guidelines. The tradition of cultural and social domination by Rome was a long-standing one, ingrained into the ruling classes.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 1:52
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    Romans didn't actively spread their religion or culture, they were more interested in taxes. The assimilation came "naturally". Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 7:29
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    "they likely didnt allow knuckeld tribes to practice their religion/language". Wrong. Romans, as a matter of policy, generously allowed subdued tribes to practice their religion and to speak their languages. Obedience to the Governor, loyalty to the Emperor and taxes were demanded in return.
    – Andrei
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 16:19
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    @Andrei: Correct. They only started clamping down on Christianity when it was proving to be an ideological opposition to loyalty to the Emporer, and also creating radical rebellions. They let the Jews practice there religion freely as well; they only persecuted them in response to rebellions.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 20:38
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    @Hauser: It was all a passive assimilation. Some Romans migrated to newly conquered territories, often the ruling and military class, and often developed the infrastructure there. Consider that most of pre-Roman Europe was highly uncivilised and non-technically very primitive. Any native person wishing to succeed in life would be sure to learn Latin and adopt Roman customs and culture. Failure to adhere to Roman codes were often treated very severely. After a century or two, assimilation was pretty good and tendency to rebel diminished.
    – Noldorin
    Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 20:40

3 Answers 3


The concept of praying to the Roman Gods as well as to whatever local deity did mean that the Republic then Empire could assimilate a lot of cultures. After all, they were always worshuiping the same gods, and now they can have access to all the good things that Rome provides -- see Life of Brian's "What did the Romans ever do for us?" speech. Even when the Empire shifted to being a Christian one and imposed one religion, most of the Barbarian tribes wanted in because they could see advantages to being in the Empire as opposed to out.

There was no official assimilation but first roads would be built to allow the Legions to get places faster. This would reduce tribal warfare, increase commerce, and facilitate movements of goods/people. Once this happened, immigration would start, the locals would start to want the same standard of living as Rome and thus Romanisation would happen. Other places, it was a military conquest, with troops on the streets and martial law. Some of those places would fall into peace others would not.

Scipio Africanus has a general method of expending the republic (Iberia, Numedia, Carthage) which involved making friends with everyone he met. Even his terms toward Carthage at the end of the war were remarkably generous to the dismay of may in the Senate. Caesar went into Gaul to answer the call of help of tribes there. He was invited -- or so he claims -- because some of the Gaul wanted to join Rome.

Source: Scipio Africanus: Greater Than Napoleon B. H. Liddell Hart. Caesar: The Life of a Colossus by Adrian Goldsworthy.


I am not sure this question would have made much sense to the Romans themselves. The whole concept of formal guidelines/directives is something which is associated with the modern bureaucratic state (especially in its totalitarian forms). The Romans just didn't work that way and probably would have been amazed at the suggestion that the Senate or the Emperor needs to formally delineate such procedures. There were no procedures.

Also, they were usually very tolerant of other cults, often adopting them themselves eventually (over a number of generations; the cult of Isis is just one well-attested example).

ADDITION: However, the Roman state did have policies in place that enabled conquered peoples to be assimilated into the Roman polity. The broad principle was that it took a few generations and some effort. The wikipedia article on Latin Rights is a decent quick summary.


They annexed territories for tax generating and mercantile trading, food generation purposes and integrated some citizens for service in the legions.

It's interesting that later on Rome's policy of allowing mass immigration and citizenship for many people from the annexed territories is one of the many reasons for the Empires ultimate demise.

Large scale immigration of this scale if managed correctly can have positive beneficial effects on economies, if mismanaged can have detrimental effects. This is something I believe modern societies can learn from - history has a habit of repeating itself and we should be able to learn from past mistakes.

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