Call for Papers: Politics beyond the Emperor: structures, strategies and evolution of the powers behind the throne from Rome to Byzantium

Italian version

The Association Rodopis – Experience Ancient History in cooperation with the Department of Cultural Heritage and with the Department of History, Civilization and Culture of the Alma mater studiorum – University of Bologna is planning an international workshop to be held in Bologna on 14-15 April 2016, on the following topic:

Politics beyond the Emperor: structures, strategies and evolution of the powers behind the throne from Rome to Byzantium

Starting from the age of Augustus, and for almost 1500 years, several emperors became the head of the Roman State (including Byzantium, which was the political and juridical continuation of the Roman Empire). The new political system based on autocracy, however, did not end the exercise of politics within the State. On the contrary, many actors and interest groups continued to try to influence the decisions of the monarch – and they often succeeded. This was not usually done through conspiracy and open revolt, as it is sometimes assumed, but rather happened within the frame of the normal functioning of the State. Roman and Byzantine history records a wealth of individuals who saw their position rise enormously, only to fall suddenly in the shadows – or worse – shortly afterwards. In these power games, the actors were not moved exclusively by self-interest: rather, they had a complex network of contacts, alliances and patronage on which to build their career – and to which they were somehow accountable. Violent action against the ruler were consequently only the acute phase of an ongoing political debate, even though such debate is not always easy to trace in the sources.

This last aspect has recently come to the attention of the scholars, and there is a new interest for the possibilities of excercising political activity by an “aristocracy” which never ceased to play a key role in the precarious balance of power which characterised the Roman State.

Ph.D. candidates and young researchers are invited to submit an abstract on a topic regarding the exercise of politics within the normal functioning of the State, either by individuals or interest groups (be they military, political, economic or religious groups) between 31 B.C. and 1081 A.D., bearing in mind the following for periods (the dates are merely indicative):

  1. Imperial age (I-IIIcentury A.D.)

  2. Late antiquity (IV-VI century A.D.)

  3. First byzantine period (VII-IX century A.D.)

  4. Middle-byzantine period (X-XI century A.D.)

Each period will be covered in a session involving two/three contributions of 20 minutes each, which can be given in Italian, English or French; afterwards, a short discussion will take place, presided by a chairman with a distinguished academic record in the relative field. At the end of the workshop, a round table will provide an occasion for a general review of the issues emerged during the various sessions.

Rules for the abstract submission

Those interested in participating are invited to send an abstract of no more than 300 words, possibly in pdf format, to the address within 15 March 2016. Contributions may be submitted in Italian, English or French. The abstract should include name, surname, status and affiliation (if applicable) of the applicant. A CV should also be attached to the accompanying e-mail. The result of the application will be made known within 25 March 2016.

For further information contact: Alessandro Roncaglia,; or Federico Alpi,

Kind Regards,

Federico Alpi, Alessandro Roncaglia

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