A Place for Every Barbarian, A Road for Every Roman: Imperium, Movement, and Roman Identity from Pompey to Hadrian
Shattuck, Jason Scott
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In a purely territorial sense, a Roman empire, defined as Rome's hegemonic domination of the Mediterranean basin, is an inescapable fact beginning at least in the third century BCE with the Punic Wars and the subsequent establishment of Rome's first overseas provinces, Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. A comparable theoretical apparatus, however, did not emerge until long after. Through a careful analysis of literature and material culture between the rise of Pompey in the late first century BCE and the death of Hadrian in 138 CE, I trace the evolution of a Roman conceptual framework of empire, one rooted in the Roman term imperium. I argue that the Romans conceived of and practiced imperium in terms of movement disparity, wherein a person properly endowed with imperium not only had the ability to move freely but also to regulate, both positively and negatively, the movement of those without imperium. While the function of imperium remains remarkably the same between the rise of Pompey and the reign of Hadrian, the identity and relationship of those with imperium and those without shifts dramatically in this time period. I suggest that the rise of the Roman empire is not a tale of territorial hegemony, but of the conceptual transformation of Rome's subjects from inexorably alien populations, which Roman imperium bound to their proper places, to a generically `Roman' population that uniformly shared in the benefits of imperium.
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