Emperors and Usurpers in the Later Roman Empire: Civil War, Panegyric, and the Construction of Legitimacy

Omissi, A. (2018) Emperors and Usurpers in the Later Roman Empire: Civil War, Panegyric, and the Construction of Legitimacy. Series: Oxford studies in Byzantium. Oxford University Press: Oxford. ISBN 9780198824824

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Abstract

This book is the first history of civil war in the later Roman Empire to be written in English. It advances the thesis that civil war was endemic to the later Empire (3rd-5th centuries AD) and explores the way in which successive imperial dynasties – many of whose founding members had themselves usurped power – attempted to legitimate themselves and counter the threat of almost perpetual internal challenge to their rule. The work takes as its operating principle that history is written by the victors, and seeks to employ panegyric as a tool to understand the processes that, according to one contemporary commentator, ‘made tyrants by the victory of others’. Panegyric provides direct evidence of how, in the wake of civil wars, emperors attempted to publish their legitimacy and to delegitimise their enemies. The book explores the ceremony and oratory that surrounded imperial courts, examines how and why this ceremony was aggressively used to dramatize and constantly recall the events of recent civil wars, and, above all, it explores how the narratives produced by the court in this context went on to have enormous influence on the messages and narratives found within contemporary historical texts. The resulting book is a thoroughly original reworking of late Roman domestic politics, an exploration of the way that successive imperial courts sought to communicate with their subjects, and an examination of the fallibility of history.

Item Type:Books
Status:Published
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Omissi, Dr Adrastos
Authors: Omissi, A.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Classics
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISBN:9780198824824
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