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Article

John Weisweiler

The just distribution of social goods was fiercely debated in the ancient Mediterranean and the ideologies of egalitarianism and inegalitarianism developed in Rome and Athens shaped Euro-American political thought from the Enlightenment onward. By contrast, the study of actual income and wealth distributions in ancient societies is a more recent development. Only in the early 21st century have scholars begun to make systematic attempts to quantify levels of inequality in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East. Since we lack the documentary sources on which the study of inequality in contemporary economies is based, most of these reconstructions rely on a combination of modelling and the interpretation of isolated figures found in literary texts. This fragmentary evidence suggests that in the best-attested regions of the ancient Mediterranean and Near East inequality was considerable. In particular, the formation of large territorial states—most notably the empires of Babylon, Persia, and Rome—facilitated the concentration of wealth into fewer hands. But it is unclear whether inequality increased over time. At least, there is no unambiguous evidence that wealth and income were more unequally distributed in late antiquity than in earlier periods of Roman history.

Article

The Greeks and Romans did not develop a concept of “the economy” or discuss economic matters at any length; the study of the ancient economy therefore began only in the late 18th century, in parallel with the developing study of contemporary economic development, and was heavily influenced from the beginning by the question of the relationship between antiquity and modernity. The field has long been dominated by two different but closely connected debates about the nature and degree of development of the ancient economy (was it “primitive” or, on the contrary, proto-modern?) and about the correct theoretical and methodological tools for studying it, with constant anxieties about the dangers of anachronism. A notable trend has been the increasing weight given to material as compared with literary evidence, as archaeologists have accumulated ever greater information about economic activity, leading to calls in recent years to focus on ancient economic performance rather than on the structures of culture and thought that supposedly inhibited ancient development.

Article

While migration and mobility have become crucial themes in the study of the Roman world, their relationship with citizenship has been underestimated and understudied. Yet, migrants were not only foreigners who came to Rome voluntarily or by force. Citizens moved too: those, peasants or new citizens, who had come to settle in the city, or those who emigrated from Rome to a colony in Italy and, later, to a provincial city. What was the impact of this mobility on the conception and practice of citizenship? What did the Romans think of these citizens who travelled or lived abroad?

Such questions make it necessary to distinguish between the period when Rome was still one city among others (6th–3rd centuries) and the period of its conquests, when Rome extended its hegemony through the Mediterranean and became a so-called imperial republic (3rd–1st centuries) before becoming an Empire (27 bce–476 ce). In the first period, apart from the double movement of immigration and emigration of citizens, various measures concerning mobility shed light on the very close link between citizenship, property, and territory (loss of citizenship by emigration, recall of citizens every five years for the census, right to return, privileges granted to the Latins who settled in Rome, expulsions of non-citizens, etc.). In the second period, new practices (like the end of civic exclusivism) led, on the one hand, to limits on the immigration of new citizens to Rome, and, on the other hand, to efforts to facilitate emigration to the provinces (these included, in particular, the recognition of legal domicile outside of Italy, and the development of controls and protections for absentees). All these practices suggest the image of a rather fluid world, one which did not end in Late Antiquity. However, this freedom of movement has to be considered alongside the multiple rules aimed at controlling certain categories of people. Over time, mobility and migration progressively became a significant topic within Roman law, as is shown by the semantic evolutions of the main terms designating migrants.

Article

Carsten Hjort Lange

Sea power as a concept is a question of input (the fleet, shipsheds, and related maritime industry) and output and control (influence exerted on other people’s use of the sea). This can be approached theoretically from two classic angles: the destruction of the enemy fleet in decisive naval battles (power at sea) vs. how sea power can influence the outcome of events on land (power from the sea). In reality, sea control may have been impossible due to the limitations of ancient ships, whereas sea denialdenying the enemy the local use of the sea—was not. Ancient naval history is consequently not just about naval battles, but also about naval infrastructure: harbours, ships, trained sailors, shipsheds, and a complex naval organization. Roman naval activity before 260 bce is highly disputed, but whatever we make of this, the First Punic War and Cn. Duilius’ victory at Mylae in 260 bce marked a radical departure from traditional Roman strategy. The fleet turned into a tool of aggression. The prize was Sicily. After the First Punic War, Roman fleets were involved in numerous hostilities and wars. However, the Roman fleet was an ad hoc organisation: there was no permanent fleet, and temporary fleets arose circumstantially in order to confront crises and emergencies. With the victory of Augustus came a standing Roman fleet, protecting Rome and Italy with naval bases. It was only at this late stage that the navalists—champions of a permanent fleet—won the day. After Actium, Rome controlled the Mediterranean and there was simply no room for any enemy naval bases.

Article

Andrew M. Riggsby

There is a large body of evidence for Roman use of weights and measures. In theory, they would have been able to measure a variety of quantities with great precision, given the variety of different-sized units at their disposal and an elaborate system of fractional subdivisions of those units. Moreover, those measurements could have been accurate with respect to a shared system because of publicly available exemplary standards, a theoretical connection between the definitions of the most important measurements, and the existence of state officials who could enforce the standards. As a result, Romans could, in principle, have conveyed very specific metrological information across a great deal of space and time. In practice, measurement was considerably less predictable and less precise. Actual measurement did not necessarily avail itself of the full resources of the theoretical system, and sometimes did not appeal to any general system. Moreover, overtly competing systems coexisted with the “official” ones at all times. Finally, it is not clear how coherent that official system was, nor were the actual systems of enforcement particularly robust. As a result, measurement was often imprecise and/or tightly localized (which probably generated weak expectations of being able to replicate measurement across different contexts).

Article

Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Katherine Blouin

Natural environments such as the air currents, temperatures, waters, and topography were thought to shape humans, animals, and plants. For humans, the impact was physical, behavioural, and cultural. For animals, the impacts were mostly physical (e.g., oxen in Scythia have no horns because of the cold). This is typically referred to as environmental or climatic determinism. Early explicit examples of this idea include the HippocraticAirs, Waters, Places and occasional comments in Herodotus, but arguments for such a relationship between identity and environment as early as Homer’s Odyssey and Hesiod have been made.1 There is a long-standing tradition beginning with Homer and extending through the Roman imperial period of humans, animals, and their hybrids being associated with geographic distance from an imagined centre, dwelling in designated climate bands, or being earth-born or autochthonous (gēgenēs, autochthōn) that may reflect early forms of environmental determinism. The ideas continue to circulate in much the same form as found in the Hippocratic Airs in Roman authors such as Vitruvius, Manilius, Pliny the Elder, and Vegetius.

Article

Laura Mecella

Eustathius of Epiphania (modern-day Hama, Syria), late 5th–early 6th ce. He authored a lost summary of universal history in Greek, known only from Evagrius Scholasticus, John Malalas, the Suda, and Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos (14th century). It seems likely that both Evagrius and Malalas had direct access to it, while the Suda knew its existence only from Hesychius of Miletus’s Table of Eminent Writers (Onomatologos). We do not know the details of the link with Nicephorus, who quotes Eustathius in a passage concerning Theodosius II’s reign and Attila’s campaigns against the Romans (Historia ecclesiastica 14.57). A Patmos manuscript attests the existence of Eustathius’s work as late as the 13th century, so such direct access by Nicephorus cannot be ruled out.1 However, Nicephorus’s narrative is based on several different sources, and it is impossible to identify what could have been taken from Eustathius.2 Furthermore, the possibility that many fragments of John of Antioch’s Chronological History preserve a large part of Eustathius’s work has little credibility: according to this hypothesis, both John Malalas and John of Antioch would have drawn widely on Eustathius’s history, copying it extensively.

Article

Marilyn B. Skinner

Volumnia Cytheris, a freedwoman of P. Volumnius Eutrapelus, was a celebrated mime actress (see mime, roman), notorious during the 40s bce for her affairs with prominent political figures. Her lovers included Mark Antony and C. Cornelius Gallus, the inventor of Roman love elegy, who celebrated her under the pseudonym “Lycoris” in four books of amatory verse (Serv. ad Verg. Ecl. 10.1 and 6). According to a late source (De vir. ill. 82.2) she was also the paramour of the tyrannicide M. Iunius Brutus (2). All three men were, like Eutrapelus, at one time adherents of C. Iulius Caesar (2), and her association with them may have furthered her former owner’s ambitions.1 While the name “Cytheris,” alluding to Venus’s birthplace, sexualizes its possessor and is thus a suitable appellation for a stage performer, “Lycoris,” reminiscent of a cult title of Apollo, transports her into the realm of literature.

Article

Emma Cole

Ancient drama has had a vast influence upon the literary, performance, and intellectual culture of modernity. From ancient Greece thirty-two tragedies, eleven comedies, and one satyr play survive, and from ancient Rome ten tragedies and twenty-seven comedies remain, alongside countless fragments from all genres. Many of the surviving plays are staged in contemporary theatre in both literal translation and more liberal adaptation, and today more ancient drama is seen in professional theatres than at any point since antiquity. Although all ancient dramatic genres have a rich reception history, Greek tragedy dominates the field, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. Productions of Greek tragedy today range from masked performances in the original language through to radical, avant-garde, immersive, and postdramatic reinventions. Greek tragedy is also frequently used as a touchstone within literary theory and broader intellectual discourse, from the theorisation of the ideal form of performance (Wagner’s Gesamtkuntswerk) to the development of psychoanalytic theory (Freud’s Oedipus complex) and structuralism (Lévi-Strauss). Ancient drama has also provided inspiration for entirely new dramatic forms; the influence of Roman tragedy, for example, can be felt within the revenge tragedies of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, while traces of Roman comedy can be felt in slapstick comedy and Italian commedia dell’arte. Current growth areas within both artistic practice, and academic research into the reception of ancient drama, include the performance reception of dramatic fragments, an increased interest in forms such as burlesque and pantomime, and the use of ancient drama as a tool of resistance against oppressive political regimes.

Article

stola  

Kelly Olson

The stola was a long, sleeveless overdress or slip-like garment suspended from shoulder straps that is claimed by literary sources to be the distinguishing garment of the Roman matrona. The stola was worn over the tunic and belted with a cord (see Figure 1). It was a sign that the wearer (perhaps freeborn) was married in a iustum matrimonium. The term is not mentioned by Terence, Cato, or Plautus, and so the garment may not have been commonplace before about 50 bce. It is by no means referred to by all authors even after this date: often the garment of the married woman is referred to in general terms as longa vestis (e.g., Ov. Fast. 4.134), which may refer to her long enveloping tunic, and not the stola at all. It is uncertain whether or not freedwomen wore the stola (see ILLRP 977; = CLE 56; Macr. Sat.