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8 - Domestic Servants in the Imperial Court

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 September 2022

Benjamin Kelly
Affiliation:
York University, Toronto
Angela Hug
Affiliation:
York University, Toronto
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Summary

Using the rich funerary epigraphy from Rome and environs, this chapter reconstructs the organization of court domestic service, establishes a taxonomy of the various service roles attested at court, and explores the significance of the structural differentiation that can be observed among the (mostly servile) domestic servants. It then considers the impact of the emperor’s domestic servants on court politics, exploring the relationships that developed between the court and the outside world. Literary texts suggest that some domestic staff controlled access to the emperor, that others acted as brokers in distributing imperial patronage, and that a few became favourites of the emperor. The latter could rise to great heights of influence, but could also become lightning-rods of discontent with the regime. As a result, a reconfiguration of power within the court or a change of regime could see the expulsion of favourites from the inner circle – or worse.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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