THE TOWNS AND CITIES OF THE FRONTIER
Borrowing their early traditions from their Etruscan neighbors to the north, and greatly influenced by Greek models of eastern Mediterranean life, the Romans were overwhelmingly an urban-minded people. 1 The empire as a whole consisted of an assemblage of city-states, or civitates, each surrounded by its dependent countryside, or pagus. 2 Each city-state possessed its own council drawn from the middle class residents (curiales) of the town. The council elected its own leaders, collected local taxes, 3 and planned and supervised the construction of local public works. Local courts were held in the basilica that was constructed near the forum in the center of virtually all of these towns, and, in theory at least, all trade and commerce was conducted within the city markets, where the proper taxes could be collected and legal forms observed. Most city-states either had or aspired to have their own circuses, theaters, and stadiums, and each had a municipal temple in which an official priesthood served the state deities and the deified emperors. Some councils subsidized public teachers of Greek and Roman rhetoric and philosophy, and wealthy citizens gained prestige by underwriting plays, horse races, and gladiatorial shows for their fellow citizens. In short, each city-state aspired to be a little Rome, and many of them contrived to provide their residents with an impressive array of public amenities. The government was content to allow the middle-class councilors of these city-states to manage local affairs, and the great bulk of Roman political and public life was conducted at this local level.
Despite this well-developed tradition, the Roman government appears to have had no clear policy for the urbanization of the frontier