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'Without Body or Form': Res Publica and the Roman Republic

HODGSON, LOUISE,LOVELACE (2013) 'Without Body or Form': Res Publica and the Roman Republic. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores the crisis of political legitimacy at the end of the Roman Republic from the angle of the increasing politicisation of a key concept in the Roman political vocabulary – that of the political sphere itself, the res publica. Exactly how the ‘consensual’ political world of the classic Republic disintegrated is one of the key questions of Roman history. The politicisation of the political sphere is an important part of this crisis that has received relatively little attention to date, partly because of the difficulty involved in pinning down just what res publica meant. Since the concept of res publica is politically ubiquitous, often used emotively and in consequence very hard to define, the temptation to take it as a universally understood and relatively uncontroversial given is rarely resisted. Julius Caesar’s notorious opinion that ‘the res publica is nothing, a mere name without body or form’ (Suet. Jul. 77), however, supplies only one indication that this was not the case. From P. Scipio Nasica’s efforts to keep the res publica salva to L. Cornelius Sulla’s reconstitution of the res publica in 82–1 and Caesar’s sarcasm on the subject of its very existence, the perceived condition and needs of the res publica were a source of concern, controversy, division and self-justification throughout this period. I examine how res publica was historically understood and manipulated as a source of political legitimacy in the late Roman Republic, with implications not just for the claims of contemporary political actors but also for their (and our) understanding of what their fragmenting political sphere was and should be.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Roman History, Roman Republic, res publica, history, ancient history, Roman politics
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Nov 2013 15:24

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