EMPIRES OF THE MIND
Then Romulus, proudly clad in the tawny pelt of the she-wolf who nursed
him, will ensure the future of the race, will found the martial walls and from
his own name call them ROMANS. I have fixed no boundaries to their domin-
ions, no fixed term to their rule, I have given them EMPIRE WITHOUT END.
Even harsh Juno, who at present fills land and sea and sky with fear, will in the
end think better of them, and at my side will show her favour to the Romans,
masters of the world, the people of the toga. This has been decreed.
(Virgil, Aeneid 1.275–83)
Empire came to bewitch the Roman imagination. Ours too. Every study of ancient Rome, whether of its love poetry or festivals, its monumental art or the routines of the family, now invokes empire as one—sometimes as the— crucial context. But what they understood and we understand by ‘empire’ is not always the same thing. This chapter explores some of different senses of empire that are entwined at the heart of our stories of Rome.
Sometimes it feels as if empire was written into Roman DNA. The Romans of the classical period definitely believed something like this. When epic