William V. Harris

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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  • Ancient Roman History
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The idea of Rome and the idea of power are inextricably linked. A system of law is an abstraction, and that will remind us that abstractions, as well as people and groups of people, exercise power: the Roman Empire itself is an abstraction, the Roman state is an abstraction, so is any given social class, and so is religious belief. This article examines whether Roman thinking about power was exceptionally legalistic and discusses the relationship between ideology and reality. It looks at Rome's wars against outsiders up to the reign of Tiberius; the Romans against each other, from Republic to monarchy; the Romans against outsiders from the first to fifth centuries CE; Rome's transition from empire to nation; and the decline of Roman power.

Keywords: Rome; power; social class; ideology; reality; wars; Tiberius; monarchy; empire; nation

Article.  6992 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Ancient Roman History ; Classical History

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