Bread & Circuses: Euergetism and Municipal Patronage in Roman Italy

By Kathryn Lomas; Tim Cornell | Go to book overview

8

'RESTORED UTILITY, ETERNAL CITY'

Patronal imagery at Rome in the fourth century AD

Rowland B.E. Smith


Late Roman patronage: terms of debate

Surveys of the later Roman Empire have commonly depicted it as a period in which the workings of an increasingly pervasive web of patronage were helping to undermine established patterns of political and economic activity in many spheres (e.g. Jones 1973:775-8; Liebeschuetz 1972:204-5; de Ste Croix 1954:32-44; Brunt 1988:420, 440). Provided that 'patronage' is broadly construed, it seems a fair depiction. But debate about patronage's role and importance in particular historical settings slips easily into arguments about terms: patronage wears many faces, and the issue rests in part on the range of social relationships we mean the word to convey in the late Roman setting. Are we focussing mainly on the personal patronage of individual dependants - and how firmly, if so, do we propose to distinguish them from 'mere' graft and corruption (Brown 1992:16-17; Veyne 1981:339-60; cf MacMullen 1988:103, 150-3)? Or are we also including relationships holding between patroni and collective groups or communities? In any case, do we mean to refer just to the kind of reciprocal relationship which rested on formalised and hereditary obligations on each side, or are we thinking as much of a broader range of social display, of the tradition (say) of civic euergetism fuelled by local elites and their 'love of honour'; or of the largesse of the emperor himself, or that of his governors? A lot, too, may hang on what we make of certain emergent forms of support which in late antiquity seem to challenge the assumptions and interests of groups who had long been accustomed to view patronal benefits as theirs to dispense, or theirs to receive: do we classify provision for the destitute, say, as 'patronage', still, in some extended sense, or rather (as a powerful strand in recent scholarship would insist) 1 as a type of charity rooted in Christian conceptions and ideals that were quite distinct from the ideology of old-style civic benefaction?

If views of Roman patronage differ, however, what is in question is not just whether such and such a type of relationship is to be accommodated under the term. A working definition tends to be adopted with a purpose in mind, and the modern debate about Roman patronage, like many another in the study of anti-

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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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