Roman Politics

History 280A/285A

Spring 2017
001 (280A)
2231 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Th 2-5
Class Number: 
16257 (280A)

This seminar will examine Roman politics through an investigation of three interrelated topics: (i) political thought, (ii) political institutions, and (iii) political culture.  In assessing the nature of Roman political thought, we will focus on Cicero, with attention both to philosophical works (De Republica and De Legibus) and to the changing political program sketched in the speeches.  We will also consider important Hellenistic influences on Ciceronian thought, as well as early-imperial developments in Roman political theory (Seneca, Tacitus, Pliny, and the Roman jurists).  Study of Roman political institutions will address the logistics of collective decision-making in the republican system.  Here the focus will be on the legislative and electoral assemblies of the middle and late Republic, and on the transmission of distinctively republican forms of collective knowledge.  The problem of Roman political culture will be approached from the perspectives of public ceremonial (funerals and triumphs) and public space in the city of Rome (Forum and Campus Martius), with emphasis on the convergence of ideology, representation, and authority, and on the relationship between discourse and order.  Throughout the seminar, the material will be addressed both synchronically, in an effort to grasp Roman politics as a type of “system,” and diachronically, from the middle Republic through the early imperial period, in an effort to trace (and explain) change over time in the distribution of social power.