Roman Senators and Absent Emperors in Late Antiquity

Humphries, Mark (2003) Roman Senators and Absent Emperors in Late Antiquity. Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia, 17. pp. 27-46.

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It is often assumed that the political fortunes of the city of Rome and of its élite, the Senate, decline in late antiquity. Such decline is attributed to emperors residing in other centres closer to the frontiers and to the inflation of senatorial status in the fourth century. This article argues, however, that the senators of Rome continued to see themselves as important participants in imperial high politics throughout the period. Such ambitions were ably demonstrated by Q. Aurelius Symmachus, whose role as senatorial ambassador to the imperial court was predicated on the basis that the Senate in Rome was still an important political institution. Similar ambitions motivated Roman senators to give active support to rival sides in political usurpations in the fourth century; this activity was advertised, moreover, by an impressive series of dedications set up in the Forum Romanum in close proximity to the Senate House itself. The climax of these aspirations came in the unstable circumstances of the fifth century when, for the first time in over a hundred years, Roman senators seated themselves on the imperial throne. Far from being a moribund political anachronism, then, the Senate in Rome continued to act as a major partner in the running of the Empire throughout the last centuries of Roman rule in the West.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Late Antiquity
Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts,Celtic Studies and Philosophy > Ancient Classics
Item ID: 366
Depositing User: M Humphries
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2006
Journal or Publication Title: Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia
Publisher: Bardi Editore, Rome, on behalf of the Norwegian Institute in Rome
Refereed: Yes

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