The repute and reality of being a Roman emperor
The repute and reality of being a Roman emperor

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The repute and reality of being a Roman emperor

2 The emperor and the provinces

2.1 The provinces

Controlling and governing the provinces was a substantial part of an emperor's remit. Here you will consider different ways in which the emperor had contact with his provincial subjects. You will work through some sections from books by Goodman and Lewis, and Reinhold and watch a short video sequence.

Exercise 1

Initially I would like you to consider, in general terms, how the face, name and authority of the emperor were promoted across the vast territories of the empire. In the Res Gestae of Augustus (a vast inscription in which Augustus recorded his achievements as a type of autobiographical epitaph) he was presented as a world ruler in both Rome and the provinces. Can you suggest some other major mechanisms through which the provincials would have come into contact with the emperor or would have been reminded of his importance? Very briefly note down your ideas.


These are the four major areas which I have thought of – you may have considered some additional factors or may have organised your answer differently.

  • Personal contact. The emperor or members of the imperial family could visit and travel the empire.

  • Intermediaries. Subordinates and representatives, whether administrative officials, governors or army commanders, could act in the emperor's name and were a reminder of his authority.

  • Image. The emperor's image could be promoted through statues, inscriptions, coins and benefactions, such as buildings, which were funded by the imperial family.

  • Cult. The emperor could be represented as a saviour, the bringer of peace and security, which made him appear superhuman or divine.

I want now to consider each of these factors in more detail.


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