Temples, Religion, and Politics in the Roman Republic

Temples, Religion, and Politics in the Roman Republic

Temples, Religion, and Politics in the Roman Republic

Temples, Religion, and Politics in the Roman Republic

Synopsis

The success and smooth functioning of the Roman Republic depended on a careful balancing of the interests of the individual and the interests of the commonwealth. In this study, Eric Orlin examines the process through which new temples were vowed, built, and dedicated as a way of examining key features of the interrelated political and religious systems of Republican Rome. Orlin questions previous scholarship on several points, suggesting that the Senate, and not just individual generals, played an active and significant role in the construction of new temples and emphasizing the high degree of cooperation between the senate and its magistrates. The means by which the Romans erected new temples sheds important light on the relationship between individual initiative and collective responsibility in Republican Rome. This publication has also been published in paperback, please click here for details."

Excerpt

The success and smooth functioning of the Roman Republic depended on a careful balancing of the interests of the individual and the interests of the commonwealth. On the one hand, the state depended on the accomplishments of individual Romans to ensure its safety and prosperity. Over the course of four hundred years, Rome expanded from a small city on the banks of the Tiber River to become the dominant state in the entire Mediterranean basin. This feat was made possible through the successes in war of a series of Roman generals, who fought campaigns almost every year to defend and expand Roman territory. In this way the achievements of the state were predicated on the achievements of individual Romans, and it was therefore necessary for the Senate to find ways of rewarding individuals who had helped the state to prosper. On the other hand, in order to ensure that the welfare of the state remained the paramount concern, the Senate needed to keep control over state affairs. It was essential to create mechanisms so that individual generals took actions which served the best interests of the state, and not merely their own best interests. For the system to work properly, the Senate needed to allow sufficient room for the individual initiative and accomplishment on which the state depended while at the same time maintaining overall authority for the direction of affairs in Rome.

The generals who fought on Rome's behalf had their own concerns in addition to merely protecting their homeland; they fought not only to defend and expand Roman territory, but also to enhance their own glory and prestige. The Roman aristocracy was highly competitive, especially in the Middle and Late Republic when our evidence is most abundant. Regardless of whether one views the Romans as fundamentally imperialistic, it is clear that the acquisition

As the focus in this study is on Republican Rome, all dates are B.C.E., unless
otherwise noted.

Cf. the comments of Brunt (1988), 11–15, on the operation of the Roman gov
ernment.

Competition and ambition among the Roman aristocracy has been remarked
on by many scholars. See recently Wiseman (1985), 3–16, Brunt (1988), esp. 43ff.,
and Rosenstein, (1990).

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