Money and Power in the Roman Republic (project completed)

Researchers: Hans Beck, Martin Jehne, John Serrati, plus 10 researchers from 5 countries. 

Sponsors: Thyssen Foundation, Germany; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (workshop grant); The John MacNaughton Chair of Classics.  

Duration: 2011-2015 

Mode of delivery: Hans Beck, John Serrati, and Martin Jehne (eds): Money and Power in the Roman Republic. Collection Latomus, Volume 355. Brussels 2016. 

Rome’s transformation from a regional force in Latium into a Mediterranean superpower was accompanied by an accelerated change of economic realities. The persistent influx of vast natural and monetary resources from abroad deeply altered the basis of Rome’s military. Also, as state income skyrocketed, the exercise of political influence at Rome became increasingly intertwined with issues of personal finance. Despite claims for frugality, the political power of senatorial families was always determined through the accumulation of wealth. By the 1st century BCE, the competition of these families for rank and recognition was dramatically wrapped up with access to monetary capital and economic resources. When the republic finally fell, this was also due to a financial crash that hit the heart of Roman society.

In May 2011, we held a workshop at McGill that targeted the intersection of political culture and economic realities at Rome. The meeting embarked from a pragmatic definition of money as asset to conduct economic transactions. Wealth was considered as a significant accumulation of those assets. To disclose the interconnectedness of political power, social status and wealth, our conference explores four topical clusters that were formative to Rome’s money-power-matrix: (1) Agents and Interests; (2) Discourses on Money and Power; (3) Public Income and State Action; (4) Wealth and Status.

Line-up of contributions that were included in the subsequent publication: David Hollander (Iowa); Elio Lo Cascio (Naples); Hans Beck (McGill); Brahm Kleinman (Princeton); Francisco Pina Polo (Zaragoza); Cristina Rosillo Lopez (Sevilla); Bruno Bleckmann (Düsseldorf); John Serrati (McGill); Nathan Rosenstein (Ohio); Martin Jehne (Dresden); Jonathan Edmondson (York); Elisabeth Deniaux (Paris); Wolfgang Blösel (Duisburg-Essen).