Previous Flash Conference

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Via Appia

The Late Republic

Populism(s), Power Structures, and Interpretative Frameworks

May 2-4, 2020

#RomPop2020

A flash conference organized by Carlos Noreña and Liv Mariah Yarrow in response to an April 22, 2020 twitter thread (posted below)

Registration Form

Late Registration for Session Two is open, 10.45-11.45 EST!  Same Zoom link works for session two as for session.  All registered participants should have received a Zoom link via email. If you did not, please email yarrow [at] brooklyn.cuny.edu.

Abstracts and Handouts

Participant Bios

Final Program

Sessions will be held on zoom and recorded.  These recordings will be made available to registered participants ONLY for a 48 hour period.

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, “On the politics of being heard: M. Antonius (cos 99) orator”

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

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

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

 

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.

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

Amy Russell, “The populus Romanus

Tim Elliott, ‘Populist populares in Livy’

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

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

Panayiotis Christoforou, “The populus Romanus in the early Principate

Hosts:

Liv Mariah Yarrow, contact: yarrow [at] brooklyn [dot] cuny [dot] edu

Carlos Noreña, contact: norena [at] berkeley [dot] edu

Format:

Presentations of no more than 10 minutes by scholars interested in the topic who have self-nominated to present, followed by cross talk open discussion.  If a disproportionate number of self nominated presenters are men, women presenters will be recruited.  There will be no more than one hour of formal presentations leaving a full hour for discussion.

Etiquette:

(1) KEEP TO TIME; (2) translate and gloss liberally: assume not everyone participating has read what you’ve read or is necessarily ‘up’ on terms of the debate; (3) defer to those whose voices might get lost in the conversation; (4) attempt to achieve culture-gender balance in the scholarship you use to prepare and which informs your conversation; (5) be as transparent as possible about the question(s) you are trying to answer and any particular type of questions you’d like to pose to the group; consider pre-circulating these by sharing with host for posting on this website; (5) pre-circulate any primary evidence (with translations) that will be key to you presentation by sharing with host for posting on this website; (7) enter Zoom with video on, but audio muted; stay muted during presentations; chat can be used for recording questions and ideas to be followed up in discussion portion of conference; (8) familiarize yourself with the original twitter conversation posted below and attempt to connect your presentation and/or discussion contributions; (9) do not create a personal recording and do not save or distribute official recording of conference; (10) feel free to suggest other useful etiquette guidelines.

Genesis:

Sort answer. Twitter.

Long answer: Georgy Kantor created a stimulating list of reading for quarantine, “40 books on Roman History”. Liv Yarrow responded by highlighting via twitter women who have contributed to the topic particularly women writing on the late Republic and Augustan age.  This led to many replies suggesting further names and highlighting of work of the WCC (UK) to create and maintain Wikipedia pages for female scholars in our field. In this context, David Rafferty brought up the importance of German scholarship for the field.  This generated conversation on two main themes: (1) how that conversation topic in anglophone circles tends toward the reception of male scholarship rather than female scholarship; (2) how one interprets the late republic: do we put more emphasis on elite (oligarchic?) control or the power of the people? do we over value symbols and messaging and systems? Other key discussants on this topic on twitter were John Ma (JM), Carlos Noreña (CN), Christian Rollinger (CR), Matthew Simonton (MS), and Evan Jewell (EJ).  Noreña made the suggestion of a flash conference and voila! here we are.

Conversation Highlights on Conference Theme as of 4/23 AM from Twitter:

If I’ve missed a key thread, DM or email me and I will expand.

JM: What is the specific contribution (substantive, theoretical, perspective) of German scholarship in the history of the (late) Roman Republic ?

CN: To have illustrated, through prosopography (e.g. Münzer), biography (e.g. Gelzer), symbolism (e.g. Hölkeskamp), and structural analysis (e.g. Meier), that the late Republic was in practice a manifestly oligarchic sociopolitical system. PS: and they’re right.

EJ: I think the ground is shifting on that one… this approach has its limits (esp. Hölkeskamp and his school), see e.g., the work of people like Rosillo López, Rosenblitt–and not necessarily a swing back to Millar or Wiseman. Morstein-Marx also masks key issues that I’m working on

CN: I’m eager to learn, and I have, it is true, leaned away from “democratic” readings of the late Republic — but in my defense, I did attempt to characterize “the German contribution” to a deep and complex debate in 280 characters!

EJYou did characterize it well! And I think there’s still so much of value in the various German approaches. I’m working on unpicking M-M’s “ideological monotony” argument … Rosenblitt already did part of it with her reading of Sallust. Completely different aspect is relationship of colonization to popular politics, freedmen, plebs, citizenship–which I’ve started a bit here, but plan on following up on this more soon.

JM: What is the specific contribution (substantive, theoretical, perspective) of German scholarship in the history of the (late) Roman Republic ?

CR: Gelzer‘s „Nobilität“, Münzer’s prosopographic works, Strasburger‘s reconfiguration of Caesar, Meier‘s re-Interpretation of clientela im 1966, the „Krise ohne Alternative“ approach, the political culture/grammar approach of Flaig and Hölkeskamp…

JM: Did the “political culture” approach do more than restate the conventional wisdom about the Roman Republic, though ?

CR: I‘d say it put a new spin on it and spawned newer works on e.g. gestures and emotions (in the tradition of Flaig). Together with work on memorial culture in the republic, I‘d say it reorientated conventional wisdom, not restated it.

DR: I’d also say it does a better job of explaining “how” the nobility maintained its position of prominence over centuries, although I’m reluctant to call it noble control. The best thing to read for a survey is Hökeskamp’s Reconstructing the Roman Republic (2010 Eng, 2004 DE)

JM: This reflected (with some timelag) the linguistic turn undergone by the Humanities at large. But did it really bring deeper insight, or did it end up (in the name of renouncing positivism) taking seriously the self-serving fictions of the powerful ?

CR: There is that danger, absolutely. But I think recent work has been able to offer a better model for understanding the inner workings of the nobility then was previously available. I’m also not exclusively talking of politics, but social history of the elite in general

DR: Which again comes back to Meier – the inadvisability of separating out the social life of the nobility from its political aspects. Yet, at the same time, the importance of thinking about the republic as a whole politically and not just socially.

JM: I am torn: here positivistic flatness of political history of power that leaves out social gestures, there “folkloric” history that thinks soc gestures *were* somehow power. I’m less happy about performativeness than I once was.

CR: Gestures aren’t power; but they contribute to power and sometimes can create a form of power (or authority). Maybe call it aristocratic soft power? I‘m still enthusiastic about performativeness right now.

DR: I’m a bit more with John on this. I’m doing work on 59 now where it comes to a head: Bibulus et al had public opinion, sympathy, performative helplessness etc on their side. Caesar had actual power. They are different things.

CR: I absolutely agree with this; there‘s a difference, and 59 is a good case in point. But my point is that „performance“ is one means of gaining or increasing a form of soft power. It doesn‘t stand up against brute force, but that doesn‘t mean it’s without effect.

JM: Veyne would say it has no real impact, it’s just a “done thing” whose effect depends on the chaos of things rather than any real structural causality

DR: I think we can see an indirect effect, in that performance/behaviour is constitutive of social status, and social status at least controls/limits power.

DR: I’m a bit more with John on this. I’m doing work on 59 now where it comes to a head: Bibulus et al had public opinion, sympathy, performative helplessness etc on their side. Caesar had actual power. They are different things.

JM: Yes I fear academics think texts, images, discourse actually mattered the most, because they work on this stuff and they’re generally mild-mannered. Hence rulers ruled (they imagine fondly) because they managed to express their power legitimately with the right metaphor or image

CR I get the feeling we’re pushing against a language barrier here – I use „power“ because I can‘t think of a better word but it has unwelcome connotations.  Do you really think people think that? Rulers rules because they had influential/powerful groups on their side, not because of legitimacy. They stopped ruling, when they lost support. But that doesn‘t mean that image, performance – dare I say: ceremonial – was unimportant. 

DR: A slightly more complex take on the rituals-create-power thing.

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JM: Maybe both Anglo-Saxons (say Brunt) and Germans (say Flaig) are incapable of knowing how social power really works. Needs combo of radical social theory PLUS living in a gonzo reality. Edouard Will recommended fiction. I think our age is an eye-opener. But we might even say that political argument playing out competitively before a popular argument, disagreement on policy, engagement with the public good, rules-bound behaviour, constitutional alternance, accountability, also played a role. Maybe even the main one.

DR: Brunt is a good one – separate from the “social power” aspect, he gives us the old English way of understanding political stability as balancing competing interests in society. A useful approach, one we should keep in mind.

CR: The last time I taught the late republic was in 2016. Electioneering, corruption, the importance and vulnerability of convention, 59 BC…Roman politics never seemed so topical.

DR: It’s a great grant-writing opportunity: “we are conscious of the great fragility of our own free political system…”

JM: What is the specific contribution (substantive, theoretical, perspective) of German scholarship in the history of the (late) Roman Republic ?

CN: To have illustrated, through prosopography (e.g. Münzer), biography (e.g. Gelzer), symbolism (e.g. Hölkeskamp), and structural analysis (e.g. Meier), that the late Republic was in practice a manifestly oligarchic sociopolitical system. PS: and they’re right.

DRKinda. To an extent. Although, weirdly, what finally drove me away from using “oligarchic” was @ProfSimonton‘s book. Whatever Rome was, it wasn’t oligarchic in that sense.

MSGlad to hear you agree. I was thinking the other day that your average member of the late Republican elite wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the idea that Roman history was the story of the res gestae of the populus Romanus. No Greek oligarch would ever make the demos the protagonist.

CN: Which brings us back, again (!), to Amy Russell, who is developing a major project on the ideology of the *populus Romanus*, as a concept, and one of her foundational points is that it was always fundamentally distinct from the Greek *demos*.

MS: This sounds fascinating. I suspect I agree, perhaps not for the same reasons. On my reading, elite domination at Rome is so entrenched so early on that the “populus” (symbolically or in reality) never mobilized coordinated elite reaction the way “the demos” did.

CN: It has been argued that it came close, though: this was a key point of Morstein-Marx’s *Mass Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic* (2004), which drew *carefully* (and, I think, effectively) on Ober’s *Mass and Elite*.

MS: I like Morstein-Marx’s picture, and I think he’s indeed careful to adapt Josh’s schema to a decidedly Roman context. Does M-M say they came close to what a Greek would recognize as a democratic revolution? That I do not necessarily see.

CN: No.

MS: Okay, thanks, I couldn’t remember. IIRC he does a good job showing how public speaking before popular audiences was crucial in the late Republic, *without* it thereby necessarily being “democratic.” Whereas “oligarchic public oratory” in the Greek world seems non-existent. The question is whether elite power is so entrenched in e.g. Polybius’ Achaean koinon that it’s effectively the same situation as in Rome. I personally don’t believe that, but I also don’t think the answer is obvious.

DR: This leads to a problem I can’t resolve. On the one hand, I agree with Meier et al that no alternative system is ever seriously contemplated. On the other, by 1C the Roman elite are using Greek terms and categories to understand Roman politics. Alternatives exist, they see them. Further point, on which I hope to see work: Cicero’s use of Greek *political* terms in his letters, esp to Atticus. He largely discusses constitutional questions using Greek terminology.

MS: I haven’t looked at it systematically, and I also don’t know the consensus about its date/authenticity, but looking at the Sallustian letter to Caesar could give an idea of the extent one reformer was willing to go.

DR: There is no real consensus around authenticity, and I’ve deliberately avoided it for years!

CR: But [Cicero] also uses Greek terms when discussion philosophy in general. Isn’t that mostly because the vocabulary was that of the works he drew on? And also a way of fashioning self-image (as per J-E Bernard/JP de Giorgio)?

DR: That would make sense – how else are you going to discuss these concepts with other educated in the same tradition except in Greek? And also before the heavy lifting was done of creating a Latin philosophical vocabulary – by Cicero himself, but later. I don’t know enough about the post-republican tradition of political philosophy to know if this kept being looked at under the Principate. I can see why the political climate would have been…not conducive to such discussions.

CN: I did try to address that very question in Balot’s *Companion to Greek and Roman Political Thought* (2009), arguing that political thought as a whole came to revolve tightly around the question of the ruler’s character. The scope was narrow, but the thinking on ethics complex. And the debt to Greek thought was still profound…

DR: One of the fun courses I got to teach was one on leadership in the ancient world – from Achilles and Agamemnon through Xenophon down to Seneca. That thinking about “what makes a good leader” is great to work through with students. And would be better with mature students.

MSGlad to hear you agree. I was thinking the other day that your average member of the late Republican elite wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the idea that Roman history was the story of the res gestae of the populus Romanus. No Greek oligarch would ever make the demos the protagonist.

DR: I think the elder Cato’s history writing is important here – no named commanders, RGPR all the way. Both as an exemplum and reflecting this thinking. But also the (relative) openness of the elite, which we tend to overlook because the consulship was comparatively closed.

CN: But Cato may be unrepresentative in the same ways Cicero was. And for the same reason! I still think Q. Caecilius Metellus’ funeral oration for his father in 221 BCE (as preserved in Plin. NH 7.139-40) is our best insight into mid-Republican elite mentalité.

MS: Yes, and while the genre no doubt affects the presentation, the focus on the auctoritas gained through holding so many superlative positions seems to me very different from how Greek poleis honored their benefactors, whose works were inevitably in the service of the demos.

DR: Yeah, office-as-honos (and thus source of honour/status/auctoritas) doesn’t seem to exist in anything like this form in the Greek world, from what I can see. And thus, to the Romans, honores as countable, measurable, comparable things.

MS: It might depend on when and where we’re talking about. The archai *were* timai, after all! If you look at late Hell/Imp decrees for benefactors, definitely a proliferation of titles, but it’s often couched in terms of *what* exactly the individual did in office for demos.

LY: Erskine is helpful here on Romans as Common benefactors. (Mis)translation of honorifics.

DR: Good point. Poleis honouring governors for a particular benefaction (e.g. tax relief), and magistrates honouring the populus Romanus for a particular benefaction (election to office) would be an interesting comparative case. What language is used, what presuppositions etc.

MS: Yes, and while the genre no doubt affects the presentation, the focus on the auctoritas gained through holding so many superlative positions seems to me very different from how Greek poleis honored their benefactors, whose works were inevitably in the service of the demos.

CN: The Romans were certainly influenced by that logic, too. It’s particularly clear in the discourse around the ideal of *virtus*, from mid Rep through mid Empire, in which service to the *res publica*, esp. in military sphere, was of the essence.

MS: I wonder if res publica/populus is unlike demos in one way in that the former terms are really closer to something like “hê polis tôn Rhômaiôn.” Again less politically threatening. Coincidentally, Greek oligarchies often substitute “polis” for “demos” in inscribed decrees.

CN: Ando has lots of good stuff on those terminological, semantic, and ideological differences.

CN: We should have a flash Zoom conference. This weekend. Everyone in this thread, and anyone interested, can present 10 mins max on these themes. Everyone invited. We’d be empirical, theoretical, historical and historiographical, and comparative.

MS: I fully endorse doing this *at some point*, anyway. My own work is getting into terra relatively incognita (Imperial-era poleis), where the influence back and forth with Rome is considerable, and I’d like to develop some kind of general comparative framework.

DR: That’s an interesting idea. There’s been lots of work saying “Rome was not a polis!” (e.g. Ando). An interesting approach would be “If we treat Rome as a polis, what do we see that is the same, and what do we see that is different?” Comparative politics, but ancient.

MS: Somewhere I have a presentation about how the staging of protests at the funeral of Lamarque is totally in line with the dynamics of popular rebellions in world history. Easy focal point for mass coordination.