i left this in the comments here not that long ago, from Rome and its Frontiers: The Dynamics of Empire [pgs. 205-212 – links and empahses added by me]:

[I]n the later Roman Empire frontiers became softer and immigration control more lax at the same time as citizenship and ethnic distinctions within the Empire were becoming blurred. The universal grant of citizenship by the Constitutio Antoniniana of 212 AD was only a formal recognition by the state of a long process that had diminished the concept of citizenship and eroded the distinction between cives and peregrini in the provinces. By the fourth century status and wealth counted for more socially and legally than citizenship….

“To sum up, far from the homogenization of what the Constitutio Antoniniana called the patria communis, that is, the population of the Roman community, internal, social divisions became stronger. Ironically, however, the refinements of status distinctions and social divisions served as a more effective vehicle than any legal measure to allow immigrants to integrate at all levels. What mattered was not whether you were a citizen but whether you could attain equal social or economic status. In this respect, the Roman Empire of the fourth century was the reverse image of the nation-state in the nineteenth century. The juridical personality of the citizen was almost eliminated as frontier controls relaxed and as immigrants were accomodated in ever greater numbers….

“Immigrants provided substitutes for rural recruits, thus leaving agricultural workers on the land to increase state revenue, since they increased the capitation tax and added extra income through the system of adaeratio, which bought them exemption from the military levy. There clearly were concerns in the imperial chancellery for the tax regime and for the rents from imperial estates, which was reflected in contemporary legislation….

“These fiscal and economic benefits to rural production coincide with the concern expressed by the Gallic panegyricists about agri deserti and high taxes, and hence their praise for ‘so many farmers in the Roman countryside’, both as immigrants and as returning prisoners… The essential point, however, is that … immigrants were officially perceived as good for the economy by bringing down the price of food and by servicing local markets through increased production.

“Whether the peasants of the Gallic countryside felt the same pleasure at the fall in market prices is another matter, and it may have provoked resentment. If modern experience is any guide, there is a sharp difference between economists, who calculate that immigrants are essential to economic growth, and popular opinion, which always believes that immigrants are undesirable because they depress the labor market. But there is no evidence to show that there was institutional, social discrimination against foreign-born workers, once settled inside the Roman Empire….

the author also refers to [pg. 212]:

“The long history, since Augustus [r. 27b.c.-19a.d.], of frontiers open to foreign migrants, and the even longer history of liberal access to citizenship and Romanization…”

gee. all sounds awfully familiar (presumably the roman senators even claimed they were worried about crops rotting in the fields…).

now last night i came across this in Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages [pg. 30]:

“[I]mpelled from their homes by cataclysms still shrouded in mystery, they [the germans] began pressing westward and southward in a series of waves climaxing in the fifth and sixth centuries. In addition to feeling pressures from behind — famine, drought, Huns — they were drawn into the Roman Empire by the magnet of an economically and technically advanced region, with its cities and villas, granaries and warehouses, shops, tools, coins, and ornaments, in a species of ‘gold rush’ (in the phrase of a modern historian). Columns of thousands or tens of thousands of Goths, Gepids, Alemanni, and other peoples from the north and east, men, women, children, and animals, filtered or flooded through the Roman frontier defenses, sometimes peacefully and by permission, sometimes violently or by taking advantage of the moments when the legions were absent contesting the Imprerial succession on behalf of their generals….

“In the later stage of the Migrations, large numbers of several major groupings — Burgundians, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks — entered Gaul and Italy as foederati, or allies, by a negotiated arrangement that settled barbarian families on arable land in much the same fashion that Roman veterans had been settled in the earlier period. This episode in the Great Migrations apparently took place with little friction between newcomers and old inhabitants.**

“**Walter Goffart (Barbarians and Romans, A.D. 418-584: The Techniques of Accomodation) postulates that instead of being given lands expropriated from Roman and Gallo-Roman proprietors, many of the Germans were assigned revenues from normal taxation in the provinces in which they were settled, in return for which they garrisoned the frontiers against later arrivals.”

little friction? why? how?

i’m sure that a big part of the reason why westerners today don’t seem to be very concerned about mass immigration to their countries is ’cause times are good (or they were up until very recently). maybe something like that was also the case for roman empire days? i dunno.

but here’s something interesting that might’ve possibly affected roman attitudes (might’ve) [pg. 22]:

Even stronger than the bar to interclass marriage was the proscription against incest or marrying ‘in.’ Early Rome forbade marriage between second cousins, but over time the rule was relaxed, and even first cousins were allowed to marry. When the Emperor Claudius (reigned A.D. 41-54) chose for his fourth wife his niece Agrippina, the public was shocked, but the Senate obligingly revised the legal definition of incest, and (according to Suetonius) at least two other uncle-niece marriages were recorded. This was an exceptional case, but in revealing the flexible nature of exogamy rules it foreshadowed much medieval controversy.”

so in early rome — in the days of the republic — you couldn’t marry anyone closer than second cousins. hmmm…. i’ll have to check the dates on when the changes started to happen, and also how strong enforcement was and all that. but, interesting. very interesting!

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