Hartwin Brandt Search for Acceptance – Wissenschaft.de

The history of the Roman Empire, penned by the Bamberg ancient historian Hartwin Brandt, goes back to Diocletian’s assumption of government in 284 AD. It is part of the “Handbook of Classical Studies” published by CH Beck Verlag since 1885. The titles published in this series provide factual information on a solid, scholarly foundation.

Accordingly, the author emphasizes the scientific foundation of his work and sets it apart from books of similar size, although he misleadingly only cites the undocumented “People’s Edition” of Michael Sommer’s presentation, but not the annotated “Roman History II” (Kröner Verlag 2009).

The conceptual problem of depicting this epoch has been in the world since Theodor Mommsen had separated a sterile imperial and court history from a panorama of the empire in the form of its provinces. A separate volume is planned in the manual on the latter topic, which is why Brandt concentrates on imperial government practice, the actions of the actors working for the emperor, the communication mechanisms and the unplanned work of the rulers.

Proceeding chronologically according to emperors and dynasties is also convincing. This is the only way that it becomes sufficiently clear how the situation changed, how about 100 years after the appearance of Octavian (later Augustus), rule and government under the Flavians became more stable.

Brandt describes the political order with a term that has been struggled to be removed from more recent research as the “system of needs for acceptance”. The common thread of his portrayal is the successful or unsuccessful communication of the rulers with the important groups of the urban Roman population (i.e. the Senate, Praetorian Guard and plebs), with the Roman citizens in Italy and beyond, and finally with the residents of the provinces.

Brandt cleverly places the discussion of important general points of view with individual emperors. Rome experienced a “monarchization of the cityscape” under Augustus and “imperialization” under Trajan. With Caligula, Nero and Domitian, the author shows where the extremely demanding system of rule (principality), which grew out of very different conditions, tried out certain options and where it more or less derailed: three variants of “autocratization”.

Brandt clarifies how the so-called adoptive emperors from Nerva to Mark Aurel – with all their differences and developments – basically reflected the establishment of the principle by Augustus. The Severan emperors are summarized under the keyword “dynasty”, while the accumulation of crises in the half century of the “soldier emperors” is made transparent as an expression of “loss of acceptance”.

Unfortunately, Brandt failed to classify the epoch in the history of science, global history or post-colonial debates. The Roman imperial era is no longer a matter of course as an object – but in its contexts it is more exciting than ever.

Review: Prof. Dr. Uwe Walter

Hartwin Brandt
The imperial era
Roman history from Octavian to Diocletian 31 BC Chr. To 284 AD
Verlag CH Beck, Munich 2021, 707 pages, € 98, –

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