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Abstract

The late Republic and early Principate witnessed mass expansion of the Roman Empire, and the ensuing consolidation and incorporation efforts in the decades after conquest resulted in dozens of episodes of mass indigenous resistance. Scholars have addressed issues of provincial revolts in several fields of Roman history, and a few have sought to understand provincial revolts phenomenologically. Within acculturation studies, Stephen Dyson has examined the role of socio-economic and political changes brought about by Roman conquest and incorporation in causing revolts, arguing that revolts often broke out in the second generation after conquest because Rome’s attempts to consolidate its power over newly conquered peoples disrupted local practices (1971, 1975). Meanwhile, recent articles by Greg Woolf (2011) and Myles Lavan (2017) call to attention the way ancient authors wrote about revolt, namely revealing how revolt narratives fit into broader historiographic trends (as well as the intertextuality of narratives), tropes, and authorial agendas. Recently, Gil Gambash has approached provincial revolts from the field of Roman imperialism, where he focuses on the agency and various responses of Roman central policymakers, as well as how they managed tensions with provincials, handled revolts when they broke out, and how Rome commemorated revolts (2015). Despite great advancements in our understandings of the nature and functioning of the Roman Empire, its administrative apparatus, and how it incorporated recently conquered peoples into the empire, there is still a need to study systemically the relationship between provincial resistance and the administrative institutions cited for causing mass unrest to make further progress on these aspects. This project utilizes known instances of mass provincial resistance towards Roman provincial institutions as a magnifying glass to study how Rome first implemented its administrative structures in recently acquired territories. Through this endeavor, we may see if and how these provincial institutions were conducted differently than in later (and more settled) periods of the Principate, and to what extent the method and timing of Rome implementing these administrative structures could inadvertently incite resistance. Specifically, in my project, I look at how institutions such as taxation, the provincial census, and conscription were implemented and conducted in the first few decades after conquest in order to show how these institutions could contribute to the occurrence of provincial revolts as well as reveal the previously misunderstood connections between revolts and these institutions. Chapter 1 focuses on the use of military officers as prefects set over local communities (praefecti civitatum) in the early decades of Roman rule. I contextualize the circumstances and periodicity of their use and emphasize that they are only utilized when Rome had concerns about a population’s propensity for unrest or their trustworthiness to conduct specific tasks. The appearance of prefects among provincial communities suggests that in certain places in the early Principate there was a greater Roman presence, allowing us to view the potential relationship between military officers operating at local levels and the occurrence of revolt (such as in the case of the Frisian revolt of 28 CE) in a new way. In Chapter 2, I reconstruct the operation of the provincial census in the early Principate to show how it may have been conducted differently when compared to later periods. Whereas previous scholarship has ascribed census resistance to the modus operandi of Rome’s form of census taking, through case studies of mass resistance against the census (Gaul in 13/2 BCE, Judaea in 6 CE, and Rough Cilicia c. 36 CE) I argue that mass provincial resistance to the census only occurred where Rome or its proxies lacked a control over a region at the time of a census, either due to regional instability or conducting it too soon during the consolidation process. In Chapter 3, after briefly outlining patterns in eleven episodes of anti-fiscal complaints and revolts, I show that many anti-fiscal episodes occurred in a wartime context. I then argue that under certain conditions, such as military campaigning on the fringes of the empire, that certain populations experienced heavier burdens due to the strains placed on populations by increased military recruitment and requisitions on top of routine exactions. This argument is sustained by investigating how the Roman armies’ auxiliary levies, and logistical and requisition systems could negatively impact the production capabilities, resources, and demography of indigenous populations, especially among recently subjugated populations and when considering the unevenness of the spread of burdens among populations across a provincial landscape. Whereas Chapters 1-3 are thematic, namely each one focuses on how resistance could have formed against specific administrative processes, Chapters 4 and 5 approach some of the most well-known and well-attested indigenous revolts: the Varian Disaster in Germania Magna (9 CE), the Tacfarinian revolt in Africa (c. 17-24 CE), and the Boudican revolt in Britain (60/1 CE). In Chapter 4, I contextualize these multi-causal revolts within their regional histories and provide a survey of modern assessments of the causes for each revolt. This chapter then serves as a companion piece to the conclusionary Chapter 5. Here, drawing upon lessons derived from earlier chapters, I add fresh perspectives to these multi-causal revolts by exploring how mass resistance against institutions such as the census, taxation, and conscription only erupted under circumstances where there were undercurrents of tension already present within provincial communities. While the sorts of tensions varied greatly between examples, I contend that revolts were often ignited by opportunism, such as revolts or military campaigning in neighboring regions, or by a Roman inopportune timing in implementing its administrative structures. In this dissertation I argue that ancient explanations for the causes of revolts do not capture the whole story, but these authors had recognized that there was something about censuses, conscription, and extractions that caused mass resistance, which provides a path towards better understandings of why such institutions could create the circumstances for mass provincial resistance. With meaningful examinations of how and when these institutions were implemented and conducted in the first decades of roman rule, I discover that the institutions themselves do not cause resistance, otherwise there would be more examples of such revolts, and they would likely have continued to occur throughout the Principate. Rather, aspects that are largely unique to the early period of Roman rule contributed greatly to the likelihood of revolts against symbols of Roman power (census, taxes, and the military), namely a greater Roman presence (especially of military officers) at local levels in conducting various routine tasks of provincial administration, issues with regional stability and/or a lack of Roman control when operations were conducted, and higher burden levels brought on by the high frequency of Roman campaigning in the Julio-Claudian period. Through the novel approach taken in this manuscript, my work contributes to ongoing debates on the nature of Roman government in areas such as how Rome exercised its control over subjugated populations and integrated them into the empire. Furthermore, I provide fresh insights into why mass movements of resistance were largely limited to the first fifty years of Roman rule over a region.

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