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This chapter examines the rituals and ceremonies that took place in court spaces, especially the salutatio, and state ceremonial involving the court, such as the rituals that grew up surrounding imperial accessions. Particular attention is given to the development of the salutatio, to the spaces in which this ritual was staged, and to the management and ordering of courtiers during it. Also examined are the forms of greeting given to the emperor: the imperial kiss in the Principate, and adoratio in the Tetrarchic period. The chapter argues that ceremonial involving the imperial court functioned as a performance of the socio-political hierarchy of the Roman state and an acknowledgement of that hierarchy by its participants. Although grounded in routine and tradition, these ceremonies were subject to negotiation by emperor and subject, and this process of negotiation was sometimes responsible for long-term developments in ceremonial practices.
The texts and images in this chapter illustrate events involving the Roman imperial court that can be regarded as rituals. These included regular occurrences that took place on a daily or near-daily basis, such as the salutatio, dinners, and religious sacrifices. They also included special occasions like festivals, diplomatic receptions, lavish banquets, and the acclamation of a new emperor. Some of these events occurred in court spaces, and involved a wide cross-section of the court community. These ceremonies functioned as displays of consensus among members of the court community, as their actions demonstrated shared values and expectations. Others did not consistently take place in court spaces, but merit inclusion here because they involved key members of the court community. The sources show how the rules and expectations of these rituals were subject to modification both by emperors and courtiers, who experimented with new types of address, greeting, and physical contact.
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