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Imperialism, Power, and Identity

Imperialism, Power, and Identity: Experiencing the Roman Empire

David J. Mattingly
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  • Book Info
    Imperialism, Power, and Identity
    Book Description:

    Despite what history has taught us about imperialism's destructive effects on colonial societies, many classicists continue to emphasize disproportionately the civilizing and assimilative nature of the Roman Empire and to hold a generally favorable view of Rome's impact on its subject peoples.Imperialism, Power, and Identityboldly challenges this view using insights from postcolonial studies of modern empires to offer a more nuanced understanding of Roman imperialism.

    Rejecting outdated notions about Romanization, David Mattingly focuses instead on the concept of identity to reveal a Roman society made up of far-flung populations whose experience of empire varied enormously. He examines the nature of power in Rome and the means by which the Roman state exploited the natural, mercantile, and human resources within its frontiers. Mattingly draws on his own archaeological work in Britain, Jordan, and North Africa and covers a broad range of topics, including sexual relations and violence; census-taking and taxation; mining and pollution; land and labor; and art and iconography. He shows how the lives of those under Rome's dominion were challenged, enhanced, or destroyed by the empire's power, and in doing so he redefines the meaning and significance of Rome in today's debates about globalization, power, and empire.

    Imperialism, Power, and Identityadvances a new agenda for classical studies, one that views Roman rule from the perspective of the ruled and not just the rulers.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3657-4
    Subjects: History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    R. Bruce Hitchner

    The Miriam S. Balmuth Lectureship in the Department of Classics at Tufts University was established in 2005 through the vision, generosity, and support of the family and friends of Miriam S. Balmuth, professor of classics, archaeology, and art history at Tufts from 1962 to 2004. Its purpose is to explore the continuing relevance of the study of antiquity to the modern world. Professor David Mattingly’s inaugural lectures, Experiencing Empire: Power and Identity in the Roman World, delivered in April 2006 and published here in expanded form, affirms the merit of a lectureship dedicated to this purpose. Issues of power and...

  6. PREFACE: My Roman Empire
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  7. Part One Imperialisms and Colonialisms

    • CHAPTER ONE From Imperium to Imperialism: WRITING THE ROMAN EMPIRE
      (pp. 3-42)

      It is generally agreed that the Roman Empire was one of the most successful and enduring empires in world history.¹ Its reputation was successively foretold, celebrated and mourned in classical antiquity.² There has been a long afterlife, creating a linear link between Western society today and the Roman state, reflected in religion, law, political structures, philosophy, art, and architecture.³ Perhaps partly in consequence, many people in the United States and Europe are curiously nostalgic about the Roman Empire in a way that has become deeply unfashionable in studies of modern empires.⁴

      There have even been attempts to imagine a world...

    • CHAPTER TWO From One Colonialism to Another: IMPERIALISM AND THE MAGHREB
      (pp. 43-72)

      The postcolonial study of Roman Africa is notable for the persistence of the colonialist framework of analysis of Maghrebian (North African) archaeology and history. Modern and ancient colonialism have become so interwoven that this state of affairs is perceived in certain quarters as a natural order of things. However, there are serious distortions in the view of Roman imperialism that was fostered by the self-justifying perspective of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century colonial antiquarians. Both French and Italians in North Africa presented themselves as the direct and natural inheritors of the Romans and actively sought to ape and emulate the achievements of...

  8. Part Two Power

    • CHAPTER THREE Regime Change, Resistance, and Reconstruction: IMPERIALISM ANCIENT AND MODERN
      (pp. 75-93)

      This chapter addresses problems arising from the presentation of the Roman Empire in much modern literature as a largely benign power. Recent world events remind us of the potential messiness of imperial adventures designed to bring about regime change.¹ The events of the conquest period in Britain will be reassessed, with a particular focus on the dismantling of the client kingdom that lay at the heart of the Roman decision to invade.

      A simple definition ofempireis “rule over very large territory and many peoples without their consent” (see the introduction to the present volume). The Roman Empire was...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Power, Sex, and Empire
      (pp. 94-122)

      This chapter concerns the workings of power on the body and the centrality of power as a sociological and historical theme. It explores the dynamics of power in imperial situations and assesses the value of comparative studies in colonial discourse by examining aspects of sex in the Roman world and more recent colonial societies. I owe much in this respect to my reading of Michel Foucault, but, as will become apparent, my argument diverges significantly from the line taken by his last works.¹

      The chapter is also written in reaction to much recent scholarship on the concept of power in...

  9. Part Three Resources

    • CHAPTER FIVE Ruling Regions, Exploiting Resources
      (pp. 125-145)

      Since Moses Finley shredded the modernist views of Michael Rostovtzeff, the consensus model of the Roman economy has tended to emphasize its primitiveness and underdevelopment, its subsistence base, and its relative lack of growth.¹ Finley was strongly influenced, of course, by Karl Polanyi’s theoretical work on the embedded nature of ancient economies.² Polanyi is also to be credited for introducing to the debate on the ancient economy the social structures of redistribution and reciprocity, and these have become important concepts alongside market exchange in our exploration of the Roman world.³ The formalist/substantivist debate that Polanyi’s work sparked has reverberated far...

      (pp. 146-166)

      In recent years a strong case has been made for identifying intensive economic growth in the provinces of Africa Proconsularis and Numidia—notably, between the second and fourth centuries AD.¹ This thesis is supported by comparative studies of other preindustrial societies,² since Roman Africa reveals virtually all the classic elements associated with this phenomenon. These include growth in agricultural production and rural population, an increase in exports of primary products, raised levels of import substitution, larger-scale units of production (farms to oileries, workshop to manufactory pottery production), the emergence of a society that was patently involved in risk taking, economic...

      (pp. 167-200)

      The prospect of increasing state revenues may not have been the prime motor of imperial expansion, but the Roman state and its ruling order became adept at exploiting the opportunities that conquest and domination afforded them. Indeed, this was a necessity for the maintenance and prolongation of the empire. Just sustaining an army of 500,000 men should have been challenge enough; but the Roman Empire was extraordinarily profligate in other ways.¹ Conspicuous consumption at the center ran at a terrifying level (whether on the imperial court, on the building schemes of emperors, or on luxuries and status symbols in elite...

  10. Part Four Identity

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Identity and Discrepancy
      (pp. 203-245)

      This chapter explores aspects of identity in the Roman provinces, with an emphasis on examples from Britain and North Africa. The first section reviews current approaches to identity and related problems (including a reprise of some of the difficulties with the Romanization paradigm). In the second part, I explain my ideas about “discrepant experience” of empire and the existence of “discrepant identities” within provincial communities. In the third and fourth sections, I illustrate this theme with reference to two provincial areas: Britannia and Tripolitana. In exploring issues like religion and the epigraphic habit, I attempt to identify distinct communities that...

      (pp. 246-268)

      This chapter concerns the intersection of art and power in the Roman world, but it is also about how we study Roman art. A common emphasis on theformalqualities of so-called Romanized art has created the perception of art as symbolic of the success of Rome and of the acquiescence of indigenous peoples to its rule. From this perspective, provincial art can easily be dismissed as an often inadequate imitation of Roman style and images. In turn, this tendency has also led to greatest emphasis being placed on recording and displaying those works that attained the highest technical and...

  11. AFTERWORD: Empire Experienced
    (pp. 269-276)

    In exploring the experience of empire I have tried to bring together a series of new ideas about the character of Roman imperialism and colonialism, about its economic impacts, about the operation of power in colonial societies, and about the way in which people under imperial rule construct complex and overlapping identities to mediate their experience. I believe that I have offered a viable alternative to Romanization as a framework for interpretation.

    At the heart of the essays that make up this volume there is a series of ideas about the nature of the Roman Empire and Roman imperialism. I...

    (pp. 277-324)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 325-342)