Bread & Circuses: Euergetism and Municipal Patronage in Roman Italy

By Kathryn Lomas; Tim Cornell | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Patronage and benefaction in ancient Italy

Kathryn Lomas and Tim Cornell

Paul Veyne, in his ground-breaking work Bread and Circuses, famously defined the phenomenon of euergetism as 'private munificence for public benefit', a means of harnessing the wealth of the elites of the Roman empire to provide the public amenities needed by cities and to provide entertainment for their citizens. Veyne's magisterial analysis explored the motivations of these elites, the types of activities undertaken, and the impact of their benefactions extensively and in detail. However, there is one major gap in his analysis: his work covers Hellenistic kings and kingdoms, the cities of the Roman provinces, and the role of the emperor as euergetes. He does not, however, include any detailed discussion of the role of euergetism, benefaction and public patronage in the cities of Roman Italy, restricting his comments to observations that the benefactions and privileges to Italy were part of a more general development of the emperor as euergetes on a global scale (Veyne 1990:362, discussed further by Patterson in Chapter 5).

This constitutes a major gap in the literature on ancient patronage and benefaction. The cities of Italy occupied a unique - even anomalous - position in the Roman empire. Until 90BC, they had been allied to Rome and were for the most part autonomous and self-governing city-states, rather than administered by a provincial governor. After that date, they were communities of Roman citizens - part of the Roman state in a way that most provincial cities never could be, but in practice continuing to govern themselves and occupying an ill-defined relationship with the central power of Rome. Italy did not constitute a province, and therefore did not have an army or any administrative structures controlled from the centre, and ultimate responsibility for Italian communities was sometimes a matter of debate between senate and emperor (Tac. Ann. 14.17). Italian cities were thus in a highly anomalous position. In many respects similar in their social structure to the cities of the provinces, they were nevertheless subject to a range of different conditions and constraints. The physical proximity of Rome gives an added twist to the history of benefaction and public patronage in Italy which it does not possess elsewhere in the empire. The nobility of Italy began to be absorbed into the Roman senatorial order in larger numbers and at an earlier date than was the case in the provinces, thus creating different motivations for benefaction and different arenas for it to take place. From the Augustan era onwards the presence

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Bread & Circuses: Euergetism and Municipal Patronage in Roman Italy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Patron as Banker 12
  • 2 - Public Building, Urban Renewal and Euergetism in Early Imperial Italy 28
  • 3 - The Development of Public Entertainment Venues in Rome and Italy 46
  • 4 - Euergetism in Its Place 61
  • 5 - The Emperor and the Cities of Italy 89
  • 6 - Imperial Building at Rome 105
  • 7 - Favor Populi 125
  • 8 - 'Restored Utility, Eternal City' 142
  • Index 167
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