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Dio’s account of the second century AD, the ‘Antonine period’ broadly construed, has not received the same attention when compared with the better-preserved Julio-Claudian books or the exciting contemporary narrative of the Severan age. This chapter examines Dio’s portrayal of five second-century emperors: Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and Pertinax. It focuses particularly on the role that military qualities (or lack thereof) played in the historian’s assessment of their character and reigns. In Dio’s view, the best emperors were not necessarily the best generals, but leaders who were able to maintain the frontiers in the face of foreign threats and kept the troops disciplined and ready for defence at all time. A good emperor should be an all-rounder, able to balance attention to military matters with concern for the civilian government of the empire. In the second-century narrative, it is Marcus Aurelius who best embodies these qualities.
In 53.19, Dio discusses the impact that the transition of Rome’s system of government from a Republic to a monarchy under Augustus had for the flow of accurate political news and information. This programmatic section of the Roman History has often been discussed for the insight it provides into Dio’s historical methodology. This chapter takes a complementary perspective on 53.19, examining Dio’s view that the new monarchical government led to the rise of rumour, and the way that this theme plays out in the Roman History at large. It shows that the presence of rumour in Dio’s narrative increases the closer one comes to Octavian assuming sole power, especially during the triumviral period, which is marked by attempts to control channels of news. Dio’s emphasis on rumour in the imperial books, it is argued, reflects the uncertainty engendered by the concentration of political power in the hands of one man, whose real thoughts and intentions always remained inscrutable.
This chapter begins by contextualizing Cassius Dio’s Roman History in the political and literary culture of Severan Rome. From there, it introduces the major themes of this volume, namely the idea of Roman political culture under the Principate, Cassius Dio’s understanding of this culture, and the reception of Dio’s construction of Roman imperial culture after antiquity.
The Roman History of Cassius Dio provides one of the most important continuous narratives of the early Roman empire, spanning the inception of the Principate under Augustus to the turbulent years of the Severan Dynasty. It has been a major influence on how scholars have thought about Roman imperial history, from the Byzantine period down to the present day, as well as being a work of considerable literary sophistication and merit. This book, the product of an international collaborative project, brings together thirteen chapters written by scholars based in Europe, North America, and Australia. They offer new approaches to Dio's representation of Roman emperors, their courtiers, and key political constituencies such as the army and the people, as well as the literary techniques he uses to illuminate his narrative, from speeches to wonder narratives.
This chapter examines monuments and objects depicting the Roman emperor as a violent agent of conquest which were produced in the eastern provinces during the first and second centuries CE. Imagery of the emperor subjugating and enslaving peoples and provinces could be found on large public buildings, such as the Sebasteion at Aphrodisias, as well as on statues, coins, and terracotta votives. The creators and patrons of these imperial representations were influenced both by local (Greek, Egyptian) and by Roman concepts of rulership and artistic traditions. This desire to depict the violent treatment of foreign peoples by Roman emperors demonstrates that eastern patrons and artists sought to identify themselves with the civilised world of Rome, rather than with the subjugated barbarian ‘other’. The Roman emperor was thus envisioned as a protector of his people, and a guarantor of their safety and security. But it is probable that these images also carried a more sinister message, reminding the emperor’s subjects that he could punish them as well.
This chapter examines how different cultural and religious groups constructed narratives of Roman justice between the late first and late third century, and assesses the interactions and connections between these narratives. It focuses on three case studies: (i) the Acta Alexandrinorum, accounts of embassies and trial scenes between Alexandrian Greeks and emperors; (ii) Christian texts, chiefly the apocryphal acts featuring encounters between apostles and emperors and the martyr acts recounting trials before Roman governors; and (iii) Jewish literature, including 1 and 2 Maccabees, and rabbinic texts which include discussions of Roman justice. The narratives of justice created by Alexandrian Greeks, Christians, and Jews in the High Empire are united by the fact that they all rewrite the public transcript of Roman legal authority. These stories show evidence of cross-cultural interactions in both form and content, but this chapter argues that the ultimate purpose and agenda of the different narratives were specific to the community that produced them.