Roman Political Culture: Seven Studies of the Senate and City Councils of Italy from the First to the Sixth Century AD

ISBN : 9780198850809

Laurens E. Tacoma
352 ページ
153 x 153 mm

This volume offers an innovative analysis of Roman political culture in Italy from the first to the sixth century AD on the basis of seven case studies. Its main contention is that, during the period in which Italy was subject to single rule, political culture took on a specific form, being the product of the continued existence of two traditional political institutions: the senate in the city of Rome and the local city councils in the rest of Italy. Under single rule, the position of both institutions was increasingly weakened and they became part of a much wider institutional landscape, although the fact that they continued to function until the end of the sixth century AD must imply that they retained meaning for their members, even while society as a whole was undergoing radical changes. As their powers and prerogatives shrank considerably, their significance became social rather than political as they allowed elites to enact and negotiate their own position in society. However, the tension between the participatory nature of these institutions and the restriction of their power generated complex social dynamics: on the one hand, participants became locked in mutual expectations about each other's behaviour and were compelled to enact particular social roles, while on the other hand they retained a degree of agency. They were encapsulated in an honorific language and in a set of conventions that regulated their behaviour, but that at the same time offered them room for manoeuvre: this degree of autonomy provides a compelling basis on which to challenge the prevailing view among historians that deliberative and participatory politics effectively ended with the institution of the Roman monarchy under Augustus.


List of Tables
0 Introduction
1. The End of Politics
2. Beyond Politics
3. The Hole at the Centre
4. The Concept of Political Culture
5. Researching Roman Political Culture
6. Seven Major Characteristics
1 Debating Space
1. The View from Heaven
2. Divus Claudius
3. Undeifying Claudius
4. 'To See Everyone in Toga'
5. Claudius the Stranger
6. Debating Debates
2 The Constraints of Patronage
1. Beyond Democracy
2. The Programmata
3. The Rules of the Game
4. The Supporters
5. The Candidates
6. Inscribing Competition
3 Making Fun of Elections
1. Election Jokes
2. Canvassing in Pliny
3. Locating the Present in the Ciceronian Past
4. Voting, Past and Present
5. The Emperor in the Curia
6. Texts with a Straight Face
4 Shouting Down the Dead
1. Speaking in Capitals
2. Claiming Authenticity
3. Commodus the Madman
4. Battle Stories
5. Acclaiming Anomy
6. The Dynamics of Damnatio
5 The Economy of Favours
1. Constantine's Rescript to Hispellum
2. Petition and Response
3. Defining the City
4. Urban Hierarchies
5. Social Expectations
6 Draining Resources
1. Draining the Pontine Marshes
2. Cassiodorus' Variae
3. Cassiodorus and Theoderic
4. Senate and Ruler
5. The Inscriptions from the Via Appia
6. Change and Transformation
7 Scripting Politics
1. A Council Meeting in Reate
2. Documentary Practices
3. The Dynamics of Wealth
4. Elite Formation
5. Participatory Ritual
6. The End of Roman Political Culture
8 Conclusion
1. Intersections
2. Tracking Change
3. Outer Boundaries
4. Pervasiveness
5. Alternative Discourses
6. Explaining Institutional Longevity
Index of Sources
1. Literary
2. Epigraphical
3. Papyrological
4. Legal
Index of Subjects


Laurens E. Tacoma is Lecturer in Ancient History at Leiden University. His research and teaching interests centre on the field of Roman social history and he has published on the urban elites of Roman Egypt, social and economic relations, Roman migration and mobility, and Roman political culture.