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Koenraad Verboven

Voluntary associations are attested already in early republican times, but they became important especially during the late Republic. Their role in street politics in the 1st century bce led to a general ban and lasting imperial apprehension. Yet by the mid-2nd century ce, important collegia were an essential part of urban public life, participating in processions and ceremonies and having reserved seats in (amphi)theatres. The three central activities of all associations were shared dinners, religious cults, and funerary practices. Religious (and) neighbourhood-based collegia prevailed during the Republic. Professional associations became more important during the Principate as authorities began to use them to facilitate and supervise public works and provisions (particularly for the annona), and for levying taxes. Some collegia received privileges and had extensive funds and property. Professional collegia continued to be important at least until early Byzantine times. Imperial control intensified in late antiquity, but the overall legal framework hardly changed.