Communal Responses to Socio-Economic Problems in Italy and Gaul 31 BC - AD 284

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Steven Spiegl

Abstract

This thesis looks at the nature and evolution of communal responses to socio- economic problems in imperial Italy and Gaul. Ancient analysis of this topic tended to view any popular expression of discontent as the result of the moral failings of the plebs, or, somewhat more generously, as being due to poverty. These two lines of thought have had an effect on modern scholarship, shaping opinion not only on how the Roman elite viewed the general population, but also influencing and distorting our view of the actual situation. In some cases, poverty certainly was the underlying cause of unrest, as it has so often been throughout human history; to see it as the sole cause (and to imagine that the Romans perceived it to be the sole cause) is, however, an oversimplification. This thesis aims to show that a complex array of factors was responsible for those popular actions (e.g. grain riots) traditionally seen as reactions to deprivation. It will be seen that not only the socio-economic problems that caused these actions, but also the underlying customs and social mores that dictated how people reacted to these problems were manifold. In addition to showing the socio-economic complexities that dictated popular response, this thesis will show that said response could take a variety of forms, and that just as we must steer ourselves away from simplistic adages like panem et circenses when searching for a cause, we must move beyond the more sensational instances of violence, crime and unrest when looking for a response. A number of reactions, from beggary to banditry, are therefore considered, in order to show the various communal responses available to those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale. Given the vast amount of time and space covered, this thesis will explore diachronic and geographical developments in the nature of communal response. By considering the wider socio-economic developments that precipitated the various responses considered, it will be shown that there was indeed a distinct evolution in the way in which the people reacted to specific stimuli, governed by factors such as the amount of imperial contact, adherence to pre-existing social structures, and, interestingly, a growing sense of popular political involvement.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date31 Dec 2013