Bread & Circuses: Euergetism and Municipal Patronage in Roman Italy

By Kathryn Lomas; Tim Cornell | Go to book overview

2

PUBLIC BUILDING, URBAN RENEWAL AND EUERGETISM IN EARLY IMPERIAL ITALY

Kathryn Lomas

One of the most high-profile, but possibly one of the most problematic, forms of euergetism undertaken by the elites of Roman Italy was the construction of public buildings. This a vast range of activity in both scope and cost, ranging from dedications of small structures or repairs and refurbishment of existing buildings to the construction of vast new complexes and remodelling of whole areas of a city. 1 It was, therefore, a form of benefaction which had a unique impact on the physical development of the urban environment, and also provides a powerful reflection of the cultural identity of a city and the way in which it was shaped by civic patrons and benefactors. Paradoxically, it is also one of the areas in which patterns of benefaction, and in particular the motivations for it, are least clear. There is a wealth of evidence - mostly archaeological and epigraphic - for the construction and reconstruction of public buildings in Roman Italy, but the reasons for preferring certain types of building at particular times, and for undertaking the cost of a construction programme at all, are frequently ambiguous. One of the reasons for this ambiguity is that it falls into a grey area between euergetism in the strictest sense, undertaken at private cost and by private initiative, and activities which formed part of the responsibilities of the civic magistrates (Pobjoy 2000:89-92). Given the importance and high profile of much of the rebuilding programmes and their impact on the development of the urban environment, an examination of who was choosing to build what, and the motivations involved, may give some useful insights into definition and redefinition of cultural identity in the Italy of the late Republic and early Empire. Study of the patterns of public building can provide us with a way of studying the world-view of the municipal elites of Roman Italy, their relationship with the central power of Rome and the emperor, and their role in shaping the identity of their communities.

The construction of large-scale public buildings, and the patterns of euergetism and benefaction associated with this, were vital elements in the changes taking place in urban structure and urban culture in the late Republic and early Empire. A notable feature of the development of urbanisation and urban culture in Italy is the extent to which cities underwent a physical transformation during the period between the Social War and the end of the first century AD. The impact of this,

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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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