Abstracts and Handouts

Relief of women processing poultry from the Museo della Civiltà Romana
Main Conference Schedule, Bios


Session One

Saturday, May 2, 2020, 4-6 pm San Francisco, 7-9 pm New York  =  Sunday, May 3, 2020, midnight-2 am London, 1-3 am Sevilla, 8.30-10.30 am Adelaide, 9-11 am Sydney

In this session discussion and questions will be held until after all five presenters have spoken.

Ayelet Haimson Lushkov, “Populist Historiography in Livy”

Kathryn Welch, “The Politics of Being Heard: Marcus Antonius (cos 99)” (Handout)

David Rafferty, “Caesar’s consulship in 59 and Levitsky & Ziblatt’s ‘How Democracies Die’” (Handout)

Levitsky and Ziblatt’s How Democracies Die (2018) deploys the political science idea of “competitive authoritarianism” to explain why Trump happened, the danger, and how best to respond. I apply this idea to Caesar’s first consulship in 59. Some questions (hopefully to be answered in the paper and questioning):
    • How can concepts from 20th and 21st century political science be useful for explaining processes in Roman history?
    • How do we solve the problem of applying such concepts to very different societies?
    • What effects did Caesar’s consulship have on Roman political culture and institutions? Who was responsible for this damage?
    • While we often recognise the unhealthiness and instability of the Republic in the 60s and 50s, in what ways was it unhealthy or unstable? How did this become worse?

Anise Strong, “A Quantitative Analysis of Elite Marital Alliances in the late Republic” (Handout)

[This is an extract of the longer extended abstract available on the handout] When considering one of this conference’s central questions, whether, in fact, “the late Roman Republic was in practice a manifestly oligarchic sociopolitical system” (Noreña 2020), I want to address today three common social and familial tropes of oligarchies with regard to the late Roman Republic. My database can establish proof of these tropes for this era. First, oligarchies are generally characterized by predominantly endogamous marriages (Winters 2011). Secondly, while most oligarchies allow for some entry by extraordinarily competent and lucky outsiders into their ranks, a far more common pattern is the presence of what I will call the “Failson Principle” – that it is extremely uncommon for incompetent and untalented members of oligarchic families to fail to reach high office or status, due to the strong safety net provided by their oligarchic network (Morris et al 1997). Finally, there frequently exist subgroups and inner social hierarchies within oligarchic societies that are not as readily perceivable to outside observers, such as the Dutch families in the New York 400 of the late 19th century or, for the late Republic, the persistence of patrician families.  By examining the political success or lack of success of the men in my dataset, I can test out each of these particular tropes to determine its applicability to the middle and late Roman Republic.

Carlos Noreña, “The Exclusionary Politics of the Late-Republican Aristocracy” (Handout)

This paper argues that while Roman aristocrats at all periods, especially from the mid Republic through the middle Empire, mobilized ideals and values as a way of expressing, defining, legitimating, and sustaining their power, what was distinctive about the late-Republican period was the pronounced abstraction and complexity of those ideals and values, a form of what I will call “discursive exclusion” that was more effective even than that achieved by Augustus and his successors.

Session Two

Sunday, May 3, 2020, 9-11 am San Francisco, noon-2pm New York, 5-7 pm London, 6-8 pm Sevilla = May 4, 2020, 1.30-3.30 am Adelaide, 2-4 am Sydney

In this session discussion and questions will follow each individual paper.

Amy Russell, “The populus Romanus” (Handout)

A whistle-stop tour through the possibilities of thinking about the populus Romanus. What was it, and what was its relationship to the individuals who formed it? What happens if we stop asking whether the people had power, and start asking if the populus had power? Can we even rescue institutional history?

Dominic Machado,”What is Popular Politics? A Postcolonial Reappraisal of Republican Power Dynamics” (Handout)

This paper will consider how studies of modern popular politics can help to move us beyond the focus on institutions that has dominated scholarship on Republican politics over the last two decades. In particular, I will look at Dipesh Chakrabarty’s conception of a sublime history, as outlined in his 2006 essay “Subaltern History as Political Thought.” Chakrabarty’s sublime history attempts to capture the paradox of popular movements – they are disorderly, confusing, and ephemeral, yet also extremely powerful. I will examine how Chakrabarty’s framework applies in the case of Roman soldiers and their attempts at political action in the second century BCE.

Tim Elliott, ‘Populist populares in Livy’ (Handout)

This presentation considers the hermeneutics of Gadamer and Jauss in relation to historiography as a philosophical/theoretical basis for comparative political analysis, in order to compare modern and ancient conceptions of populism using the example of Livy’s portrayal of ‘proto-populares’ in Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita Libri.

Cristina Rosillo-López, “Politics outside institutions in Late Republican Rome” (Handout)

The study of politics in the Late Roman Republic has focused mainly in institutions: the Senate, the magistrates, the assemblies. Such strict focus has left aside many aspects that could not be fitted in those boxes.

The main question posed in this paper is:

Could we go beyond an institutional perspective for the study of Roman politics?

My present research aims at answering this question through the study of conversations and face-to-face meetings between senators, as preserved in Cicero’s Letters. It considers a new perspective, analysing how Roman senators and their entourage interacted with each other beyond an institutional setting and positing that politics were not solely restricted to institutions. It is a fact of life, both in ancient Rome as nowadays, that the written text of a decision does not reflect the previous groundwork, negotiations and discussions that made it possible. Politics outside institutions were essential for the proper workings of the Roman political system.

Olivia Thompson, “Res publica and res familiaris: a property ‘metaphor’” (Handout)

In his seminal article on ‘Cicero’s Definition of Res Publica’, Malcolm Schofield describes the definition ‘res publica, res populi’ as a ‘property metaphor’. This paper argues that while Cicero’s work may be innovative, calling this definition a ‘metaphor’ suppresses serious questions about what to do with several types of property that are clearly depicted as belonging to the populus Romanus, and in what sense the populus may fulfil its role as owner. Drawing on recent work by Louise Hodgson (2017), who argues that Caesar comes to embody the res publica when it is otherwise lost, and Claudia Moatti (2018), who sees two twin conceptions of res publica and populus, as alienable/inalienable and the sum of its citizens/a juridical entity respectively, my thesis explores ways that the semantic import of the res in res publica can enhance our understanding of how Rome functioned as corporate entity.

I will briefly discuss two of these: Cicero’s ‘rhetoric of ownership’, in which he appeals to the populus to act in the interests of the res publica because it is theirs. and the role of the hearth as a locus thinking about the relationship between the individual citizen and the community, as part of a tentative hypothesis that Augustus’ conflation of his personal hearth with the cult of Vesta is not an Augustan innovation but the culmination of several attempts to resolve the discrepancy between the institutions of a res familiaris and a res publica.

Panayiotis A. Christoforou, “The populus Romanus in the early Principate“ (Handout)
Building on work on the populus Romanus in the late Republic, and studies by Katie Low, Barbara Levick and Miriam Griffin, this paper will look at a couple of selected passages in Tacitus, Josephus and Pliny where the Roman People were presented in their role as the sovereign body of the state. This presentation is a tentative start (and work-in-progress) to a wider project on the imagined place of the imperial populus in the ideology and political culture of the Roman principate, arguing for the populus Romanus as a fundamental symbolic entity in Roman communal identity. The main question is: What is the role of the People of Rome in the early Roman Empire? Some questions will be posed in the paper:
    • How does the developing work on the political role of the populus Romanus in the late Republic help us understand the same in the principate?
    • Can views of ‘populism’ and politics of the principate be a useful comparison with that of the late Republic?
    • Where does the emperor fit into this picture?