Bread & Circuses: Euergetism and Municipal Patronage in Roman Italy

By Kathryn Lomas; Tim Cornell | Go to book overview

5

THE EMPEROR AND THE CITIES OF ITALY

John R. Patterson

Providing 'bread and circuses' (Juv. Sat. 10.77-81) for the inhabitants of Rome was a major concern of Roman emperors. 'The emperor did not neglect even actors and the other performers … knowing as he did that the Roman people are principally held fast by two things, the corn distributions and the shows …' (Fronto, Princip. Hist. 17). Imperial generosity was not limited to the city of Rome, though, as Veyne notes in passing in the book which borrows Juvenal's phrase as its title:

I hardly need to list the Imperial buildings erected in Italy and the provinces. It is enough to have shown that Augustus' patronage was the origin of a public service and that it caused the Imperial government to abandon the narrow outlook of the City, which was that of the Republican censors, in favour of that of a great state.

(Veyne 1990:362)

This chapter, however, seeks to distinguish Italy from the provinces; it examines the phenomenon of imperial generosity towards the cities of Italy, in particular imperial building projects, road-building schemes, and grants of privileges to Italy more generally in the first two centuries AD, and explores possible motivations for such initiatives. In the case of 'bread and circuses' in the city of Rome the explanations seem fairly clear; in particular the need for the emperor to keep the favour of the plebs urbana and to maintain peace and order in the city, and his desire to demonstrate his own magnificence. In the case of imperial benefactions in the towns of Italy the motivation is much less obvious, since Italy was now of marginal importance in terms of the day-to-day politics of imperial rule (Millar 1986:295; see also Dyson 1992:89-121, Lomas 1996:111-19 for general discussions); ideological considerations seem to have been of major importance. The subject is a large one and the evidence and bibliography cited necessarily selective.


Building

As always, the starting point is with Augustus himself, whose long reign takes us from the civil war years through to an established monarchy. For Octavian, the provision of public buildings was part of his strategy of establishing influence

-89-

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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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