Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights


25 October 2018
16:00 - 17:30
Faculty Club, Kanunnikenzaal

Lecture: Competing Citizenships in the Roman Empire

Prof. Cédric Brélaz (University of Fribourg) will give a lecture titled Competing Citizenships in the Roman Empire: communis patria vs local patris.

It is a general assumption in scholarship that Roman citizenship would have been largely widespread through the provinces already before the Constitutio Antoniniana was issued in 212 CE and that its significance would have consequently decreased in the Roman Empire by the second century CE. Relying on recent model-based studies as well as on the reassessment of epigraphic evidence, both suggesting that the percentage of Roman citizens among the total population of the Empire has been overemphasized, this lecture will address the issue as to why there were so large discrepancies in the number of Roman citizens among local elite within the Greek-speaking provinces depending on the city.

In particular, this lecture will explore the conflicting interests of local elite with regard to Roman and local citizenships, as well as the local contexts which can explain the contrasting attitudes of local elite towards Roman citizenship in Greek cities. Contrary to the common view, it will be shown that only a small part of the local elite in the provinces had Roman citizenship by the second century CE, that Roman citizenship was not necessarily attractive for all local elite, that Roman citizenship was primarily used as a status symbol at local level, and that the interest in universal citizenship was determined by more local concerns.

This lecture will lead to a reappraisal of the narrative about the decline of the value of universal and local citizenships in the Roman Empire.