University of Pennsylvania Press

Empire and After

Clifford Ando, Series Editor

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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Empire and After

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Constantine and the Cities

Imperial Authority and Civic Politics

By Noel Lenski

Over the course of the fourth century, Christianity rose from a religion actively persecuted by the authority of the Roman empire to become the religion of state—a feat largely credited to Constantine the Great. Constantine succeeded in propelling this minority religion to imperial status using the traditional tools of governance, yet his proclamation of his new religious orientation was by no means unambiguous. His coins and inscriptions, public monuments, and pronouncements sent unmistakable signals to his non-Christian subjects that he was willing not only to accept their beliefs about the nature of the divine but also to incorporate traditional forms of religious expression into his own self-presentation. In Constantine and the Cities, Noel Lenski attempts to reconcile these apparent contradictions by examining the dialogic nature of Constantine's power and how his rule was built in the space between his ambitions for the empire and his subjects' efforts to further their own understandings of religious truth.

Focusing on cities and the texts and images produced by their citizens for and about the emperor, Constantine and the Cities uncovers the interplay of signals between ruler and subject, mapping out the terrain within which Constantine nudged his subjects in the direction of conversion. Reading inscriptions, coins, legal texts, letters, orations, and histories, Lenski demonstrates how Constantine and his subjects used the instruments of government in a struggle for authority over the religion of the empire.

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Ethnography After Antiquity

Foreign Lands and Peoples in Byzantine Literature

By Anthony Kaldellis

Although Greek and Roman authors wrote ethnographic texts describing foreign cultures, ethnography seems to disappear from Byzantine literature after the seventh century C.E.—a perplexing exception for a culture so strongly self-identified with the Roman empire. Yet the Byzantines, geographically located at the heart of the upheavals that led from the ancient to the modern world, had abundant and sophisticated knowledge of the cultures with which they struggled and bargained. Ethnography After Antiquity examines both the instances and omissions of Byzantine ethnography, exploring the political and religious motivations for writing (or not writing) about other peoples.

Through the ethnographies embedded in classical histories, military manuals, Constantine VII's De administrando imperio, and religious literature, Anthony Kaldellis shows Byzantine authors using accounts of foreign cultures as vehicles to critique their own state or to demonstrate Romano-Christian superiority over Islam. He comes to the startling conclusion that the Byzantines did not view cultural differences through a purely theological prism: their Roman identity, rather than their orthodoxy, was the vital distinction from cultures they considered heretic and barbarian. Filling in the previously unexplained gap between antiquity and the resurgence of ethnography in the late Byzantine period, Ethnography After Antiquity offers new perspective on how Byzantium positioned itself with and against the dramatically shifting world.

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The Gods, the State, and the Individual

Reflections on Civic Religion in Rome

John Scheid. Translated and with a foreword by Clifford Ando

Roman religion has long presented a number of challenges to historians approaching the subject from a perspective framed by the three Abrahamic religions. The Romans had no sacred text that espoused its creed or offered a portrait of its foundational myth. They described relations with the divine using technical terms widely employed to describe relations with other humans. Indeed, there was not even a word in classical Latin that corresponds to the English word religion.

In The Gods, the State, and the Individual, John Scheid confronts these and other challenges directly. If Roman religious practice has long been dismissed as a cynical or naïve system of borrowed structures unmarked by any true piety, Scheid contends that this is the result of a misplaced expectation that the basis of religion lies in an individual's personal and revelatory relationship with his or her god. He argues that when viewed in the light of secular history as opposed to Christian theology, Roman religion emerges as a legitimate phenomenon in which rituals, both public and private, enforced a sense of communal, civic, and state identity.

Since the 1970s, Scheid has been one of the most influential figures reshaping scholarly understanding of ancient Roman religion. The Gods, the State, and the Individual presents a translation of Scheid's work that chronicles the development of his field-changing scholarship.

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Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition

By Clifford Ando

The Romans depicted the civil law as a body of rules crafted through communal deliberation for the purpose of self-government. Yet, as Clifford Ando demonstrates in Law, Language, and Empire in the Roman Tradition, the civil law was also an instrument of empire: many of its most characteristic features developed in response to the challenges posed when the legal system of Rome was deployed to embrace, incorporate, and govern people and cultures far afield.

Ando studies the processes through which lawyers at Rome grappled with the legal pluralism resulting from imperial conquests. He focuses primarily on the tools—most prominently analogy and fiction—used to extend the system and enable it to regulate the lives of persons far from the minds of the original legislators, and he traces the central place that philosophy of language came to occupy in Roman legal thought.

In the second part of the book Ando examines the relationship between civil, public, and international law. Despite the prominence accorded public and international law in legal theory, it was civil law that provided conceptual resources to those other fields in the Roman tradition. Ultimately it was the civil law's implication in systems of domination outside its own narrow sphere that opened the door to its own subversion. When political turmoil at Rome upended the institutions of political and legislative authority and effectively ended Roman democracy, the concepts and language that the civil law supplied to the project of Republican empire saw their meanings transformed. As a result, forms of domination once exercised by Romans over others were inscribed in the workings of law at Rome, henceforth to be exercised by the Romans over themselves.

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Religion in Republican Rome

Rationalization and Ritual Change

By Jorg Rupke

Roman religion as we know it is largely the product of the middle and late republic, the period falling roughly between the victory of Rome over its Latin allies in 338 B.C.E. and the attempt of the Italian peoples in the Social War to stop Roman domination, resulting in the victory of Rome over all of Italy in 89 B.C.E. This period witnessed the expansion and elaboration of large public rituals such as the games and the triumph as well as significant changes to Roman intellectual life, including the emergence of new media like the written calendar and new genres such as law, antiquarian writing, and philosophical discourse.

In Religion in Republican Rome Jörg Rüpke argues that religious change in the period is best understood as a process of rationalization: rules and principles were abstracted from practice, then made the object of a specialized discourse with its own rules of argument and institutional loci. Thus codified and elaborated, these then guided future conduct and elaboration. Rüpke concentrates on figures both famous and less well known, including Gnaeus Flavius, Ennius, Accius, Varro, Cicero, and Julius Caesar. He contextualizes the development of rational argument about religion and antiquarian systematization of religious practices with respect to two complex processes: Roman expansion in its manifold dimensions on the one hand and cultural exchange between Greece and Rome on the other.

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Violence in Roman Egypt

A Study in Legal Interpretation

By Ari Z. Bryen

What can we learn about the world of an ancient empire from the ways that people complain when they feel that they have been violated? What role did law play in people's lives? And what did they expect their government to do for them when they felt harmed and helpless?

If ancient historians have frequently written about nonelite people as if they were undifferentiated and interchangeable, Ari Z. Bryen counters by drawing on one of our few sources of personal narratives from the Roman world: over a hundred papyrus petitions, submitted to local and imperial officials, in which individuals from the Egyptian countryside sought redress for acts of violence committed against them. By assembling these long-neglected materials (also translated as an appendix to the book) and putting them in conversation with contemporary perspectives from legal anthropology and social theory, Bryen shows how legal stories were used to work out relations of deference within local communities.

Rather than a simple force of imperial power, an open legal system allowed petitioners to define their relationships with their local adversaries while contributing to the body of rules and expectations by which they would live in the future. In so doing, these Egyptian petitioners contributed to the creation of Roman imperial order more generally.

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