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Ancient World Seminar: Richard Alston (Royal Holloway, University of London), 'Talking about a Revolution: Politics and Economics in the Fall of the Republic'

When:Th 23-05-2013 16:15 - 17:30
Where:Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies: Oude Boteringestraat 38, Room 130
Poster design: Marleen Termeer
Poster design: Marleen Termeer

We are excited to have as our speaker Professor Richard Alston (Royal Holloway, University of London). He has published widely on Roman imperialism, the Roman and Byzantine city, issues of indviduality in the early Roman empire, and the relationship between modern and ancient political ideologies. His work shows a strong interest in the relationship between political and economic structures and the individual. For the Ancient World Seminar he will be

'Talking about a Revolution: Politics and Economics in the Fall of the Republic'

In the seventy five years since the publication of Ronald Syme’s seminal The Roman Revolution his successors have tended to the denial of revolution. Millar finds the triumviral period one of limited adjustment in constitutional matters and political culture. Brunt’s take on the fall of the Republic ultimately finds no direct connection between the social and economic problems faced by Rome and the political crisis: it was events, not structures that knocked over the Republic. More recently, the revolution has become cultural, extended in time and although driven by structural changes in elite (especially) wealth and self-definition, only secondarily socio-economic.

Alston seeks to restore the revolutionary to the Roman revolution. It was an ‘event’, a transformational moment in history, which was remembered as a trauma in which the world was ‘turned upside down’, a working and experiential definition of revolution. The transition was revolutionary in a Greek sense (it led to a new form of government, autocracy) and in its later sense of a transfer of power to a new socio-economic group.

To conceptualise the flows of power in societies and the relationship between the sovereign state and citizenry, Alston looks to contemporary Africanist experiences of revolution, employing in particular notions of the patrimonial state and the ‘postcolony’. His argument will focus on the transfer and distribution of resource in the triumviral period and the socio-economic disruption that triumviral violence brought about. The triumviral period saw the development of a patrimonial state (distinctly not a return to old models of patronage networks). Further, the Augustan period saw a stabilisation of the patrimonial state, deploying the resources of empire to maintain imperial political structures and to overwhelm political opposition.

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