Imperial Ideology and Provincial Loyalty in the Roman Empire

By Clifford Ando | Go to book overview

CHAPTER NINE
The King Is a Body Politick …
for that a Body Politique Never Dieth

HOW DID ONE JOIN THE ROMAN COMMUNITY?

The emperor of the Roman world did not seize the imagination and then hold the allegiance of his subjects merely by asserting his invincibility in war, however divinely ordained.1 Awareness of the engendering of loyalty as a process, indeed, one that came to fruition over generations, should not diminish our estimation of the cumulative effect of Rome's six centuries of undisputed hegemony over the Mediterranean world. “Dazzled with the extensive sway, the irresistible strength, and the real or affected moderation of the emperors, [the ancients] permitted themselves to despise, and sometimes to forget, the outlying countries which had been left in the enjoyment of a barbarous independence; and they gradually usurped the license of confounding the Roman monarchy with the globe of the earth. ”2 Already in the late Republic, Romans could despair that flight beyond the empire was impossible, through a parochial unwillingness to contemplate life beyond the bounds of civilization. As Cicero remarked to Marcellus, on the subject of Caesar: “You ought to think of this: wherever you are, you will be in the

____________________
1
The title of this chapter is quoted from John Marsh, An argument or debate in law: Of the great question concerning the militia; as it is now settled by ordinance of both the Houses of Parliament (London: Underhill, 1642), 27: “For there is such a reciprocall and dependent relation, betwixt the King and his Kingdom, that the one cannot subsist without the other, for if they permit the kingdom to be destroyed, the King must of necessitie be ruined also. If the Master die, the relation of a servant must needs cease: for that relatives cannot subsist, the one, without the other. And if the kingdom fail, the King and Scepter must needs fall to the ground. And this is, in part the reason of that policy of Law, in the 7. Rep. Calvins case, that the King is a body politick, lest there should be an interregnum; for that a body politique never dieth. ”
2
Gibbon chapter 1 (1.55).

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