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Fiscal explanations often given for Rome's first coins fail to account for the shape of monetary development. Nothing in the mid-republican budget matches the small scale and sporadic production of Roman coins during the early third century, or coinage's rapid expansion in the lead-up to the Second Punic War. Instead, I locate early Roman coinage within a broader reconfiguration of wealth and political power during the early phases of imperial expansion. Coins facilitated the exchange of wealth in the absence of strong social ties; conquest opened up Roman society to vast wealth of this order while also sparking debate about wealth's integration into the political community. Archaeological and textual evidence permits us to trace the contested and uneven development of elite accommodation to impersonal wealth during the third century. This context, I argue, offers the best explanation for Rome's initial coins.
Since its rediscovery in the late nineteenth century, the ‘Ara of Domitius Ahenobarbus’ has become a keystone in the history of Roman republican art. Following the seminal interpretation of Alfred von Domaszewski, the monument is usually understood as commemorating the key stages of the Roman census. This paper offers a fundamental reappraisal of the Ara's imagery, based on an iconographic analysis which takes into account all relevant signs of rank and status such as shoes, clothing and other attributes. From this it becomes clear that none of the three protagonists on the Ara can be identified as a censor. Consequently, the monument neither commemorated a census nor was it a censorial location. Instead, I suggest that the Ara actually shows another important political event, namely the deductio of a Roman colony which I tentatively identify as the colonia Neptunia founded by Gaius Gracchus in 123 b.c.
This article proposes a new reading of a late first-century c.e. inscribed dedication from Todi (Umbria) as an accusation of witchcraft, a rhetorical text aimed at propagating a particular story among the local community. Historical and anthropological studies of witchcraft accusations in other societies have emphasised how they can reveal tensions and anxieties that are normally not visible to the observer. By drawing on these studies and close examination of the language and content of the inscription, this article analyses an historical agent's experience of the social structure of early imperial Italy. The accusation is read as a freedman's response to his ambiguous position in a slave society, the ambivalent power of writing in Roman culture and the religious claims of Flavian imperial discourse.
This article tackles a relatively under-studied aspect of the Christianisation of the Roman aristocracy. It considers the influence of Christian norms on a key stage in the elite male life course: service to the state. Drawing on the letters of Isidore of Pelusium, Augustine of Hippo and Theodoret of Cyrrhus to imperial officials, this article argues that a Christian rhetoric of office-holding had developed across the Mediterranean by the first half of the fifth century. It traces these authors’ varying expectations of how the religious identities of elite Christian men would shape their political agency. Their letters demonstrate the diffusion of Christian political ideas within the imperial state — and the terms on which Christian affiliations and traditional public careers were understood to be compatible — under the Theodosian dynasty.
The use of the suffect consulship began to change with Caesar in 45 b.c., after a number of decades in which no suffect consul had been elected. The office altered dramatically during the triumviral period. The triumvirs openly made use of the suffect consulship as a means of rewarding loyalty. Many of the suffect consuls, who were no longer elected by the people, but designated in advance by the triumvirs, were homines novi who belonged to previously unknown and insignificant Roman or Italian families. Increasing the number of consuls each year eliminated de facto the traditional annuality of the office and reduced its authority. The implicit consequence of these actions was a gradual devaluation of the consulship. The suffect consulship was therefore a powerful tool in the hands of the triumvirs for strengthening their political position, weakening the old aristocracy and giving birth to a new elite based more firmly on personal loyalties.
This article seeks to jumpstart the politico-historicist scholarship on Virgil's Georgics in the direction of Marxist criticism. I argue that the Georgics should be understood less as a battle site for intra-elite power struggles or civil strife, more as an ideological stomping ground to work out, and dig in, the particular relationships of slavery and imperialism disfiguring the Roman world in 29 b.c.e. After a brief analysis of the dynamics of labor in Books 1–3, I train on a close reading of Book 4, which sees the bees (et al.) as crucial to the new dominant logic of compelling others (whether slaves or provincial subjects) to produce and give up the fruits of their labour — all for the leisured enjoyment of the upper crust.
This paper concerns the water imagery of two iconic passages of Roman satire: Horace's figuration of Lucilius as a river churning with mud at Sat. 1.4.11, and the transformation of that image at Juvenal, Sat. 3.62–8 (the Orontes flowing into the Tiber). It posits new ways of reckoning with the codifications and further potentials of these images by establishing points of contact with the workings of water in the Roman world. The main point of reference will be to the work of Rome's censors, who were charged not only with protecting the moral health of the state, but with ensuring the purity and abundance of the city's water supply as well.
A rash of new festivals, a fashion for calendars and a renamed month all attest to the strength of anniversary culture in the Augustan era, and to Augustus’ own facility for capitalising upon it. We can safely assume that he would have understood, and perhaps even anticipated, that the bimillennium of his death might be commemorated. Whether he would quite have expected the exhibitions, conferences and publications with which twenty-first-century academics chose to mark it is perhaps another matter. This review article examines some of the scholarly fruits of Augustus’ 2014 anniversary, encompassing twelve books which were published that year, took it as an explicit prompt or were developed out of bimillennial conferences. They are tackled in three broad groups, the better to bring out the characteristic interests and approaches of each.
There is hardly any aspect of scholarly work and teaching in Roman Studies today not marked by digital technology. We assume that readers regularly access digital images of Roman material culture, use digitised corpora of primary sources in the original language or translation or consult online books and articles. The availability of digital resources on the internet is also a welcome enabler of ongoing public interest and even participation in the field. This overall state of affairs is generally a positive development, but both general trends and specific digital resources deserve a critical appraisal.