- The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and Its Spaces by Daniel J. Gargola
In this book, Gargola joins those who have been working for decades to roll back the tremendous influence of Theodor Mommsen’s Römisches Staatsrecht (Leipzig 1887–1888) on our understanding of the structure and operation of Rome’s government in the middle and late Republic. Mommsen’s magisterial authority led several generations of scholars to imagine the republican government as a formal system of law-based institutions with fixed legal authorities organized in a defined hierarchy. Many have resisted this view, and Gargola builds on their work, pointing out that the activities of the republican government were not defined by law as much as by custom and habit (6). For this reason, he begins with the proposition—correct, in my view—that “magistracies, priesthoods, and the senate, then, may have been constructed in large part not by formal rules but by what their occupants were seen to have done, how they went about doing it, and the many symbols that surrounded and accompanied their actions” (7). Building on this, his book explores “the ways that the republic functioned spatially, by identifying the relevant elements of the worldview of the Roman elite; the republic’s modes of operation; the ways that official tasks away from the city were conceptualized, defined, and represented; and the manner in which groups who were to be the targets of official activity were characterized” (11). He offers six chapters that examine different ways the Romans viewed their world as a spatial order, and argues that they saw the city of Rome as the center of a series of concentric rings. These rings include the pomerium, the first mile outside the pomerium, Roman lands, allied lands, Italy, and finally the empire itself, although the center in Rome was always the most important in the Roman mind.
Chapter 1 examines how the city of Rome occupied a privileged place in Roman thinking. Descriptions by ancient authors, methods of dividing time and space, and the ways religious cult, antiquarianism, and law shaped Rome’s self-conception all “emphasized the city itself over the territory that it dominated” (43). Chapter 2 studies “the Roman elite’s views about their city’s power, the manner in which they defined the assignments of the chief magistrates, and the development of spatial limits to their exercise of power” (44). It is argued that Rome’s ruling elite knew about their empire through their roles in government, especially the holding of provinciae and their travel between the city and the peoples they dominated. Attention is given to Rome’s roads as conduits for travel and for conceiving of the empire, and to the provinciae, which were only vaguely defined as spaces (if at all).
The third chapter argues that Italy held a special place in Rome’s spatial imagination, because “the Romans from the third century gave to it formal [End Page 589] frontiers, imposed upon it a level of organization not found elsewhere in Rome’s empire, and raised from it the armies with which they would assert power more widely in the Mediterranean world” (83). The relationships between citizens, Latins, and allies are considered, as well as the ways in which the organization of governance and religion made Italy an intermediate sphere or ring between Rome and its overseas provinciae. Chapter 4 focuses on the activity of augury and how it was used to define space. Augurs and their practices are discussed, especially the establishment and use of templa, and the connection between auspicium and imperium. The centrality of the city is again emphasized in the activity of the augurs, who “created a nested series of spaces that they associated with different auspices” (143).
The fifth chapter surveys templa, colonies, army camps, and other spaces to demonstrate how the Romans created centers for defined spaces, emphasizing the ways in which they “tended to create spaces with clearly...