The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and Its Spaces

The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and Its Spaces

The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and Its Spaces

The Shape of the Roman Order: The Republic and Its Spaces

Synopsis

In recent years, a long-established view of the Roman Empire during its great age of expansion has been called into question by scholars who contend that this model has made Rome appear too much like a modern state. This is especially true in terms of understanding how the Roman government ordered the city--and the world around it--geographically. In this innovative, systematic approach, Daniel J. Gargola demonstrates how important the concept of space was to the governance of Rome. He explains how Roman rulers, without the means for making detailed maps, conceptualized the territories under Rome's power as a set of concentric zones surrounding the city. In exploring these geographic zones and analyzing how their magistrates performed their duties, Gargola examines the idiosyncratic way the elite made sense of the world around them and how it fundamentally informed the way they ruled over their dominion.

From what geometrical patterns Roman elites preferred to how they constructed their hierarchies in space, Gargola considers a wide body of disparate materials to demonstrate how spatial orientation dictated action, shedding new light on the complex peculiarities of Roman political organization.

Excerpt

From as far in the past as we can see, Romans often made a simple and sharp distinction between the city and everything under its sway or within the reach of its armies and embassies. At different times and in different contexts, this dichotomy might be expressed in terms of a contrast between “at home” (domi) and “on campaign” (militiae), between the city (urbs) and the surrounding fields (ager), between the city and the “towns and villages” (fora et conciliabula), between the urbs and “all of Italy” (tota Italia), between the city and the provinces (provinciae), or, more grandly, between the urbs and the “inhabited world” (orbis terrarum). When the Augustan historian Livy proclaims in the general preface (praef. 9) to his history of Rome that he intends to examine “through what men and by what policies, at home and on campaign [domi militiaeque], the imperium was established and enlarged,” he announces his intention to survey those crucial acts at Rome and in war that contributed to the acquisition of Rome’s empire.

This emphasis on Rome certainly had deep roots. After all, the city provided the core around which the Roman state developed and from which its power expanded, and it long served as the primary locus of the most important decision-making groups; as S. E. Finer notes, the ways in which states were built is one of the most important factors in determining how they came to be governed. But the dichotomy between the city and its hinterlands is also a representation of the broader polity as a spatial order, and here controversy has arisen. Because our sources focus on events in Rome and with its magistrates, embassies, and armies in the field, developments and arrangements away from the center or the regions of active campaigning often remain obscure, resulting in different reconstructions of . . .

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