Anthropology and the humanities both deal with man, but they deal with utterly different kinds of man. To put them together was a difficult task, therefore: it was not a simple question of reconciling two disciplines, but of reconciling two different types of human being: the Romans and the ‘savages’, ‘classical’ and ‘primitive’ man. The more comparative the anthropology of Rome demonstrates itself to be – proposing a comparison of Roman culture with the culture of others, with non-Romans in the broadest sense of the term – the more it is perceived to be distinct from the rest of Classical Studies. There is so much emic attention in details and their related historical aspects, but so much etic freedom in using concepts linked to the culture of the observer. Clyde Kluckhohn insisted several times in his work on the indissoluble connection between anthropology on the one hand, and an interest in what we could define as ‘oddities’ on the other. This article discusses anthropology and the textuality of Roman culture.
David M. Lewis
Twentieth-century scholarship, guided in particular by the views of M. I. Finley, saw Greece and Rome as the only true ‘slave societies’ of antiquity: slavery in the Near East was of minor economic significance. Finley also believed that the lack of a concept of ‘freedom’ in the Near East made slavery difficult to distinguish from other shades of ‘unfreedom’. This chapter shows that in the Near East the legal status of slaves and the ability to make clear status distinctions were substantively similar to the Greco-Roman situation. Through a survey of the economic contribution of slave labour to the wealth and position of elites in Israel, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Carthage, it is shown that the difference between the ‘classical’ and ‘non-classical’ worlds was not as pronounced as Finley thought, and that at least some of these societies (certainly Carthage) should also be considered ‘slave societies’.
This article examines some of the ways the concept of culture has been deployed in Roman Studies, and in classical scholarship more generally. In so doing, it hopes to show what kinds of critical work this concept can be made to do; to make explicit some of the intellectual commitments that accompany the various uses of this term; to illustrate how these commitments are manifested in scholarly works which seem (to the author) to represent useful points of reference in our ever-shifting understandings of what ‘Roman culture’ is; and to relate these manifestations in Roman Studies to those found in other disciplines of the humanities and social sciences. The article begins with a usage of ‘culture’ as a category that encompasses various kinds of aesthetic activity. This usage derives ultimately from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century aesthetic theory. The article also explores a semiotic approach to culture.
Carlos F. Nqreña
The most significant and distinctive features of the period covered in this article, roughly the first two centuries
While century-old materialist and idealist frameworks still largely predominate in the archaeology and the history of later Roman periods, a freer theoretical rein can apparently be enjoyed when discussing the time before the expansion. It is as if these dangerous relativist forays were only deemed appropriate for those periods that have contributed less to the powerful icon of late Republican and Imperial Rome in modern western culture. In addition, this intellectual liberty seems to be slowly taking early Roman specialists towards the kind of discourse that can often be found in historical anthropology. Some legal historians had long emphasised the role of gentes in the administration of communal lands or the regulation of elite marriage in early Rome. It is telling that the debate on Roman imperialism has not progressed much in the last decades, in sharp contrast with what has happened for other instances of territorial expansion.
Among Roman historians, the resultant picture of a highly localised, fragmented, and largely agrarian economy that sustained a thin veneer of coerced transfers and trade in luxuries and a network of towns dominated by landowning elites was most effectively challenged by Keith Hopkins, who put greater emphasis on dynamic processes and the probable scale of exchange. This has coincided with a revival of empiricist critiques of what one might call the ‘low-equilibrium’ model of the economy of Rome, marshalling data thought to be indicative of economic diversification or growth but often lacking in theoretical conceptualisation. Most recently, a growing awareness of the key issues involved in the historical study of economic growth and a push for systematic quantification have opened up promising new perspectives on the Roman economy. This article discusses Roman economic history and quality of life, use of qualitative and quantitative approaches to assess Roman economic development, structural determinants of economic performance, and human development as a determinant of human well-being (demography and quality of life).
Tacitus famously opens his account of the Julii and Claudii with a disquisition on the history at Rome of freedom and monarchy. The rapid survey from the kings to the foundation of the Principate prepares for the work's major theme, the demise of political freedom under a sinister system of government established and maintained by a dynasty of repressive autocrats. Tacitus in his own person is a paradoxical symbol of the intimate bond in Roman culture between freedom and slavery. Some slaves were visibly prominent in the performance of public rituals. They are also detectable as participants in the mystery cults that were so prominent a feature of Roman religious life in the central era. The success of manumission as a means of social manipulation is evident in the way that some slaves internalised the values of established society and integrated themselves within it. Roman sculpture provides compelling testimony.
There was never a time when Greece was not on Rome's horizon. Southern Italy and Sicily began to be colonised in the eighth century
Peter Fibiger Bang
The ancient Mediterranean was a complex patchwork of diverse ethnic groups and cultures. Local or regional brands of knowledge, culture, and power had been subsumed under an imperial cultural and political umbrella of much wider geographical extent. Roman government suffered from no illusions that it could do without the forms of locally based power represented by diverse ethnic groups and instead push to create a homogeneous ‘national’ identity for the imperial population at large. Imperial polyethnicity, however, was not exactly a multicultural idyll. There was plenty of ethnic prejudice and tension. Polyethnicity, after all, was not based on equality of rights; it was the product of conquest, an expression of imperial subjection and hierarchy. The Roman Empire ordered ethnic diversity for strategic consumption, a principle that was embodied in the biggest and single most important organisation in the empire: the Roman army. This article examines the cosmopolitan civilization or ecumene and polyethnicity in ancient Rome, as well as universalism, hegemony, and hierarchy.
Harriet I. Flower
Rome did not begin as a republic, nor as a small town any different from many others in Central Italy. It was only subsequently, after the emergence of a government based on elected magistrates and its gradual development into a characteristically Roman type of political system, that it became the Mediterranean capital, a city of around a million people, whose size and complexity would not be seen again in Europe until late-eighteenth-century London. All subsequent Roman history grows out of the achievements of the Roman Republic, in its developed form. Rome's overseas empire was already vast by the time of Augustus, the first emperor. Similarly, genres of Latin literature, concepts of law and the system of the courts, the Latin language itself, and many aspects of material culture were also products of the Republic. This article outlines three criteria for articulating and distinguishing different phases of the republican community: internal politics, religion, and empire.
This chapter discusses the war in imperial Rome. The legions in the Principate were highly protected assets, even during an aggressive advance. It is observed that tactical victory on one field did not offer Romans control of the area. Few Roman opponents benefitted from the relatively infrequent battle, even when they picked the ground, often choosing hillsides for gathering momentum. Romans were only defeated by their own former auxiliaries who had broken their camp. Roman military deployment on the northern frontiers had to deal with immigration control, refugee management, river patrol, and prevention of crimes against property. Romans largely obtained resilience and avoided collapse at the strategic level after a tactical or even grand tactical defeat through a synergistic interaction of factors including a military culture of adaptability to local tasks, unit cohesion, and prior success.
This article discusses the various different languages in Roman Palestine. It begins by studying the intersection of the cultural and administrative languages with local vernaculars, which became characteristic of Palestine. It examines the status of vernacular Hebrew and introduces Aramaic, the language that was commonly used by the Jews throughout the Roman period. It takes a look at sociolinguistics, the differentiations in language choice, and late antique epigraphy.
From the passing of Marcus Aurelius (d. 180
William V. Harris
The idea of Rome and the idea of power are inextricably linked. A system of law is an abstraction, and that will remind us that abstractions, as well as people and groups of people, exercise power: the Roman Empire itself is an abstraction, the Roman state is an abstraction, so is any given social class, and so is religious belief. This article examines whether Roman thinking about power was exceptionally legalistic and discusses the relationship between ideology and reality. It looks at Rome's wars against outsiders up to the reign of Tiberius; the Romans against each other, from Republic to monarchy; the Romans against outsiders from the first to fifth centuries
Derived from the Greek word prosopon, person, prosopography denotes a scholarly discipline that is concerned with historical personages. It is, taken literally, ‘the study of persons’. To be occupied with persons in the context of Roman history and culture is not something that has emerged only with more recent developments in scholarship. Even medieval historiography, and, to an ever greater extent, antiquarians since the time of the Renaissance have constantly been concerned with people from the age of Rome. This article looks at Theodor Mommsen and the beginnings of prosopography in ancient history, Cocceius Nerva and the adoption of Trajan, and the methodology and hazards of prosopography.
This chapter examines the history of the Roman Empire as a republic, explaining the formation of the Roman republic, its durability and relative stability, and the military expansionism that allowed it to expand its territory. It also identifies the social, political, and military factors that led to the weakening of the republican system of government and its eventual replacement with the monarchy system.
Peter Fibiger Bang
This chapter examines the transformation of the Roman Empire from a republican to a monarchy system of government, explaining that the republican system was replaced because its political institutions were too small to manage the growing social power brought about by military expansionism. It discusses how the first emperor Augustus consolidated his monarchy by creating an institutional infrastructure that sought to regularize the retirement of the soldiery, and also considers the source of stability of the monarchy and the emergence of empire-wide aristocracy.
‘Identity’ and ‘ethnicity’ are terms that overlap considerably in modern scholarship, as in the use of the phrase ‘ethnic identity’. It is perhaps the comfortable mixture of ‘authenticity’ and dispassionate sociological usage which has encouraged scholars of antiquity to believe that the concept of ethnicity is both precise and less subject to anachronistic overtones than a term such as ‘race’. The relative significance of blood (and occasionally blood purity), descent, language, and clothing is actively debated in the rich ancient discourses of what it was to be Roman, and the ‘meaning’ of the Roman citizenship itself expressed in such terms. From Greek perspectives, Romans could be very hard to place in the scheme of things: Polybius's assessment of Roman domination of ‘almost the entire world’ positions Romans' character with some subtlety between Greeks and barbarians. This article explores what Roman identity means and discusses the relationship between being ‘Roman’ and being ‘Athenian’, ‘Jewish’, or ‘Etruscan’.
This article describes Roman provincial administration, starting with the provinces and their boundaries. It then looks at the personnel who helped Roman governors deal with the administration of their province. Finally, the article discusses the different activities of the Roman governors and procurators.
Kathleen M. Coleman
The spectacles of the arena and the circus, although beneath mention in sophisticated discourse, were a pervasive cultural force in Roman society. More pervasive in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire, although still perhaps seasonally determined, were the informal entertainers (acrobats, tightrope walkers, jugglers, conjurors, fire eaters, strongmen, puppeteers, fortune-tellers, street-musicians, and other itinerant showmen of antiquity). The spectacle par excellence and, requiring the subjugation of a foreign enemy as its raison d'eâtre, the least predictable, was the triumphal procession. Under the Republic, gladiatorial combat remained firmly tied to funerary celebration, an occasion associated also with other types of display. If we are relatively well informed about the careers of charioteers and gladiators, we know almost nothing of the origins, status, and training of the men who fought beasts. This article looks at the participants, sponsors, and spectators of Roman spectacles in ancient times.