Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire

By Clifford Ando | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Ideology in the Roman Empire

No date identifies that moment when Rome ceased to rule her subjects through coercion and began to rely on their good will; no event marked the transformation of her empire from an aggregate of ethnic groups into a communis patria. The history of that transformation cannot seek certainties. The provincial population of the empire was probably never unanimous in its appreciation of Rome, nor would all residents of the empire have agreed on every detail of their shared culture. The existence of the communis patria relied not on any genuine identity between the patriotic sentiments of its members, but on their faith in the existence of such an identity. The components of that faith were manifold, but they all began with, indeed, were predicated upon, the universality of Rome and her emperors: for these were the men who provided and participated in the symbolic representation of Romanitas, who wrote and featured in the res gestae populi Romani, and who defined and defended the orbis Romanus.

The attempt to identify the shared concerns of the citizens of the empire—to distinguish, as it were, what was “Roman” about the Roman empire,1 or what criteria were assumed to define those who belonged and to exclude those who did not—makes a strong claim for the existence of a Roman imperial ideology. This claim may arouse controversy, for it stands in

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1
Brunt 1990, 269, states that “what was specifically Latin in the common civilization of the empire made little impact in the east. ” I suggest that too little effort has been devoted to defining “what was specifically” Roman “in the common civilization of the empire. ” Compare Amory 1997, 5: “What did the word 'Roman' mean to the millions of inhabitants of the Mediterranean littoral and its hinterland?” Amory's brief answer is rather different than my own.

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