POWER, LEGITIMIZATION AND PROPAGANDA IN IMPERIAL ROME

*
Marek Żyromski
Undoubtedly, the question of power and its legitimization is very important – both from theoretical and practical points of view (Żyromski 2004, 179-188). Quite recently (on May 1, 2004) we have faced an enormous enlargement of the European Union – amongst ten new member states also Poland joined the structures of the EU. Fortunately, this is not the end of the process of enlargement of the European Union. In 2007 Romania and Bulgaria should joined the EU and the so-called „pink revolution” in Ukraine opened its path (perhaps very long) to the European Union. On the other hand, the question of European constitution show the problem of European sovereignty and legitimization as distinct from the sovereignty and legitimization of each of the member states.1 The question of legitimacy of the political and social order was perhaps best presented and defined by David Beetham. „Where power is acquired and exercised according to justifiable rules and with evidence of consent, we call it rightful or legitimate. How far power is legitimate, what makes it so, and why it matters, these are all inherently difficult and contentious questions”(Beetham 1991, 3). Of course the ruling elite can rule without the consent of the ruled population – this situation had been described as the so-called „naked power” by B. Russel (Russel 1960). Nevertheless, the situation in which the ruling elite bases only on using force is not favorable not only for the ruled masses of the society but also for the ruling elite itself. In such the situation all the „energy” of the ruling elite is using for taking and holding power and not for solving the difficult political and social problems. This situation quite easily could lead to
* The empirical material used in this article had been gathered during the scholarship in Rome (June 2004), thanks to the Lanckoroński Foundation. The author would like also to express his warm gratitude to personnel of American Institute in Rome (via A. Massina 5) for the possibility of using its very rich library. The flight ticket to Rome was paid by Institute of Political Sciences and Journalism A. Mickiewicz University Poznań.

the revolution and overthrow the ruling elite. So, the question of legitimacy of political order is very important not only for the order and stability of the given social and political system but for the „health” of the political elite itself. „For political institutions, legitimacy means that they can assume, in their routine operations, that subjects or citizens will comply with the orders of political authorities on the basis not only of autoreflecting habit or of fear of punishment, but also of a willing disposition to obey, motivated by a sense of obligation and of moral self-respect” (Poggi 2001, 82). Moreover, there is no absolute legitimacy or absolute lack of legitimacy. We can rather observe the legitimization process, which means the process of constant gaining (or losing) of legitimacy by the political system of the given society. So, we can say that the legitimacy exists only to some extent. „Power can be said to be legitimate to the extent that: I) it conforms to established rules, II) the rules can be justified by reference to beliefs shared by both dominant and subordinate, and III) there is evidence of consent by the subordinate to the particular power relation” (Beetham 1991, 15-16). For instance, the communists in Central and Eastern Europe (in Poland for example) got the power not in concordance with the established rules but as the kind of usurpation of power – thanks to the Yalta Conference (February of 1945) and the dominant and overwhelming position of the Soviet Red Army. But afterwards (especially after the death of Stalin) the communist rule constantly received some sort of popular consent – so the communist elite became legitimate at least to some extent. Quite the opposite situation occurred in Germany where the Nazis obtained its rule almost in democratic way (by winning parliamentary elections) – not counting the SA and SS dealing with the opposition parties. However, during the second world war (and especially after the Stalingrad) the fascist elite gradually lost the social support and so it lost its legitimacy as well. So, each the ruling elite have to

Tyragetia, s.n., vol. I [XVI], nr. 1, 2007, 317-322.

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take care of the legitimacy of its ruling position in the given social and political system. Certainly, the question of power and the process of its legitimization is worth of analysis and presentation not only on the examples of modern societies but also in case of societies in more or less distant past. For instance, perhaps whole the library can be filled only with books on the question of decline of the Roman Empire. But very few scholars asked the opposite question: how it was possible that the Roman Empire (and the Roman culture and civilization in general) managed to function for such the long time ? The Roman civilization was one of the longest existed in Europe (754/753 B.C.- A.D. 476). Besides, the Byzantian Empire, which lasted up to the May 29, 1453 A.D., can be treated as the transformation of the Eastern Roman Empire (after the division of 396 A.D.). So, what were the causes of such the long existence and functioning of the ancient Roman state ? Perhaps one of the causes was the efficiency of the Roman army and administration. But the Roman rule was not based on the constant use of force only – it was based also (or perhaps mostly) on the legitimation of its rule and the consent of ruled population. And that what this article is about. „The stability of the Roman empire requires substantial and specific explanation. What induced the quietude and then the obedience of her subject ? Roman military power might explain the lack of protests and revolts among provincials, but it cannot account for their gradual Romanization” (Ando 2000, XI). Besides, during the Principate the Roman armed forces formed just the tiny minority of all the population of the vast Roman empire. Quite recently G. Alföldy estimated that at about 400-450th soldiers ruled over 50-80 millions people – „nur eine kleine Minderheit” (Alföldy 2000, 34). On the other hand, the Roman army (and the Roman imperial navy, though its role was subordinate to that of the army), was probably best trained, equipped and organized military force in the ancient world. The Roman legions (or only parts of them – vexillationes) could be moved from the one corner of the Roman empire to another thanks to the excellent Roman roads and thanks to the central position of the Mediterranean Sea (called properly „Mare 318

Nostrum”). So it was, especially in 1st and 2nd centuries A.D., “implicit assumption that the Roman military superiority was absolute and that they could arrange peoples and kingdoms to suit their interests and continue conquering when and where they wished” (Campbell 2002, 13) Besides, as already showed the example of Punic Wars (especially the second one), the Romans and their armed forces were prepared for prolonged wars and military operations. „A deeply ingrained belief existed that Roman forces were quite adequate to deal with any military problem that might occur: the occasioned battle might be lost but the war would inevitably be won” (Austin, Rankov 1995, 12). So, nothing strange that „a primary goal of the Roman government in governing the Empire was to maintain its fundamental basis, the army” (Erdkamp 2002, 7). Many scholars wrote a lot of books on Roman army, in which they underlined many functions fulfilled by Roman military forces. „The role of the army was to defend the empire, control its inhabitants and regulate movement across the empire’s frontiers” (Breeze 2003, 147). Nevertheless, the chief role and obligation of the Roman army was to maintain the position of the emperor himself. „Ultimately the Roman army was the occupying force of an imperial power, and a primary function of the army was the control of acquired territory” (Pollard 2000, 85). During the empire all military victories were used also (or even first of all) to strengthen position of the emperor. „Success in warfare had remained essential to legitimate the candidacy of would-be emperors” (Ando 2000, 277). The question of imperial propaganda by military success became one of the main motives for both the imperial policy and art – architecture in Rome. Undoubtedly „the instances of monumental and symbolic conversion of military victory into political power constituted a huge enterprise in Roman culture and art” (Hoelscher 2003, 16). There is a long discussion in modern historiography on the Roman army commanders. During the Principate the post of a legionary legate (legatus Augusti legionis) became only one stage in the senatorial official career (cursus honorum), taken mostly between the praetorship and consulate. The Roman senators have to learn „in action”, because „Rome did not have a military academy” (Devijver 1998, 204). On the one hand

M. Żyromski, Power, legitimization and propaganda in Imperial Rome

there is the notion that the Roman armies were commanded by amateurs. But what about the military success and stability of the Roman empire (especially in first two centuries of the Principate) ? „The view that the Roman senators who commanded the imperial armies were amateurs has often enough been repeated” (Birley 2000, 97). But, on the other hand is the question of specialization, which shows that in greatest provincial armies of the empire (especially on Lower Danube), we can find many commanders with detailed experience on this area of the empire (Żyromski 1991, 59-102). Certainly, this discussion is far from being solved. Moreover, „army commanders were themselves mostly cultivated men. Away from Rome, they would appreciate having congenial types to entertain them when they toured their province and at their own table at headquarters. Hence the emphasis on culture in the letters of recommendation by Pliny and Fronto” (Birley 2003, 5). The military victories became one of the important tools of imperial propaganda – and so the title of imperator gradually became the monopoly of emperors. „Emperors advertised their military success in triumphal arches and other victory monuments and in spectacular triumphal ceremonies” (Mattern 1999, 196). These monuments served both in internal affairs (against possible uprising in Rome itself) and in external affairs – against the possible attack by the barbarians. For instance the Tropaeum Traiani at Adamklissi (built in 109 A.D.) „was to stand as a warning memento for barbarians who had not grasped the new state of affairs” (Hannestad 1988, 172). The other important question in Roman imperial propaganda was that of a succession of imperial power. Unfortunately „the imperial succession at Rome was notoriously uncertain, because of the several possible methods which could be used” (Grainger 2003, XXV). So, even during the first two centuries of the Principate, the Roman empire was torn apart by two great civil wars (69, 193-197 A.D.). „Septimius Severus, who had come to power after civil war, sought to secure his position by emphasizing the return to stability brought about by his regime and the resulting restoration and renewal of the Roman state. […] The prominence given to the imperial family, and the dynastic intent behind this, was reflected on

the coinage and public monuments of the reign” (Gorrie 2004, 61). His family was presented on the triumphal arch in Leptis Magna and on the arch commissioned by the argentarii. Moreover, many emperors ordered or simply commissioned large and expensive funerary monuments. „For the ruling family, the future of the living was depended, in a large degree, upon the honors (or lack thereof) bestowed upon the dead. This dependency is visible in the design of imperial memorials” (Davies 2000, 1). The emperor presented himself (in the imperial propaganda) not only as the successful chief commander of the Roman armed forces but also as the benefactor of the Romans. This was in concordance with the patronus – cliens relationship, in which all Roman citizens could be labeled as the imperial clientes. And so „giving and receiving is central to the establishment and maintenance of social relations, especially relations of unequal power. One manifestation of this linkage is the social institution of patronage” (Roller 2001, 130). Besides, there was an important „tradition whereby triumphing generals were expected to contribute to the public welfare by devoting a part of the booty from their campaign to building” (Ward 1981, 22). So, the emperors commissioned not only triumphal arches, but also aqueducts, baths, amphitheatres, libraries, temples or imperial fora. For instance „Porta Maggiore in Rome (inaugurated A.D. 52). The deliberately unfinished structure carries the conducts of the acqueducts Aqua Claudia and Aqua Nova over two roads, the Via Prenestina and the Via Labicana” (Jones 2000, 119). On all these public buildings were placed inscriptions which testified the high position of the emperor himself. „The inscribing of the full imperial titulature combined a visual and verbal language to express concepts of authority, grandeur and unsurpassed achievement” (Campbell 2002, 145). Nevertheless, the emperor embodied not only the imperial power but at the same time the position of Roman state. “The emperor walked a careful line, however, between the display of his individual power and the power and might of the Empire. Glorification of the emperor as an individual had to be counterbalanced by buildings and acts which glorified the gods and the might of Rome and which advantages the gen319

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eral populace. Buildings could be interpreted as a sign of the greatness of both Rome and the emperor” (Hope 2000, 79). The Roman emperor (and his court) had to take care to chose best measures to propagate his achievements. „Roman emperors had no information office or press secretaries to ensure favorable publicity by putting the best interpretation on imperial policy” (Campbell 2002, 146). Besides, „The Romans were not ashamed to advertise their success” (Mattern 1999, 162). In the situation when the greatest part of the Roman society (but it is impossible to be more accurate) was illiterate, the imperial propaganda was realized almost exclusively by means of art – especially in coinage. Undoubtedly, „art during the Roman period may be regarded as more or less direct manifestations of propaganda. Art served primarily to strengthen the power and reputation of the person who paid for or commissioned, since every work of art bears a message” (Hannestad 1988, 9). Nevertheless, an important function of imperial propaganda was not only to show the greatness of Rome and the imperial himself. „The Romans desired to make their public buildings and monuments throughout the Empire an impressive manifestation of the enduring supremacy of the state” (Smith 1956, 74). It was especially important for the emperor, who practically embodied the Roman state. „For the emperor, the representation of his power was as important in the maintenance of his rule as passing laws and commanding armies” (Miles 2000, 37). As the propaganda showed also (or perhaps first of all) peace, order and stability introduced by the Roman rule into the whole Mediterranean – propaganda also built a kind of bonds between the emperor (and a tiny ruling elite) and the vast ruled masses. At the same time „as the propagan-

da finds expression in the monuments, it serves primarily to create goodwill towards the emperor among important groups of subjects” (Hannestad 1988, 343). Undoubtedly, the Roman social and political system (including the dominant position of the emperor) did not rely exclusively on using a „naked power” or simply on constant threat of war. “Force, authority and patronage cannot complete the reconstruction of imperial power. There are still aspects that need explaining: the working of honor and pride, the underpinnings of loyalty and gratitude for benefactions” (London 1997, 13) Besides, it is interesting that the imperial propaganda was quite well understood and perceived by perhaps an overwhelming majority of ancient Roman society (and not only by modern historians !). „Literary sources suggest that contemporaries consciously identified coins and monuments as carriers of ideological meaning and as symbols of Rome and the legitimacy of her rule” (Ando 2000, 212). Undoubtedly, such the situation strengthened the Roman domination over the conquered nations, tribes and territories. „The study of Roman interaction with provincials at the local level likewise suggests that the internal stability of the empire relied not on Roman power alone, but on a slowly realized consensus regarding Rome’s right to maintain social order and to establish a normative political culture. In this essay I argue that the official discourse of the imperial government, and the principles of legitimation to which it gave voice, found a ready audience in the polyglot population of the Roman provinces” (Ando 2000, XI). And so the power, legitimization and propaganda were strictly interconnected in the political and social system of the imperial Rome – as they are in the title of this article.

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Birley 2003: A.R. Birley, The commissioning of equestrian officers. In: (Ed. J.J. Wilkes) Documenting the Roman Army. Essays in honour of Margaret Roxan (London 2003), 1-18. Breeze 2003: D.J. Breeze, Auxiliaries, legionaries and the operation of Hadrian’s Wall. In: (Ed. J.J.Wilkes) Documenting the Roman Army. Essays in honour of Margaret Roxan (London 2003), 147-151. Campbell 2002: B. Campbell, War and Society in Imperial Rome 31 B.C.- A.D.284 (London and New York 2002). Devijver 1998: H. Devijver, Commanders and officers of legio IIII Scythica. In: (Ed. D. Kennedy), The twin towns of Zeugma on the Euphrates. Rescue works and historical studies, (Portsmouth RI 1988), 204-232. Davies 2000: P.J.A. Davies, Death and the Emperor. Roman imperial funerary monuments from Augustus to Marcus Aurelius (Cambridge 2000). Erdkamp 2002: (Ed. P. Erdkamp), Introduction. In: The Roman Army and the Economy (Amsterdam 2002), 5-16. Gorrie 2004: C. Gorrie, Julia Domna’s Building Patronage, Imperial Family Roles and the Severan Revival of Moral Legislation. Historia 53, 2004, 61-80. Grainger 2003: J.D. Grainger, Nerva and the Roman succession crisis of A.D.96-99 (London 2003). Hannestad 1988: N. Hannestad, Roman art. and imperial policy (Aarchus 1988). Hope 2000: V. Hope, The city of Rome: capital and symbol. In: (Ed. J. Huskinson), Experiencing Rome. Culture, Identity and Power in the Roman Empire (New York 2000), 63-93. Jones 2000: M.W. Jones, Principles of Roman architecture (New Haven and London 2000). Lendon 1997: J.E. Lendon, Empire of Honour. The Art of Government in the Roman World (Oxford 1997). Hannestad 1988: N. Hannestad, Roman art. and imperial policy (Aarchus 1988). Hoelscher 2003: J. Hoelscher, Images of war in Greece and Rome, between military practice, public memory and cultural symbolism. The Journal of Roman Studies 93, 2003, 1-17 Mattern 1999: S.P. Mattern, Rome and the Enemy. Imperial Strategy in the Principate (Berkeley 1999). Miles 2000: R. Miles, Communicating culture, identity and power. In: (Ed. J. Huskinson), Experiencing Rome. Culture, Identity and Power in the Roman Empire (New York 2000). Poggi 2001: G. Poggi. Forms of Power (Cambridge 2001), 29-62. Pollard 2000: N. Pollard, Soldiers, Cities and Civilians in Roman Syria (Ann Arbor 2000). Roller 2001: M.B. Roller, Constructing autocracy. Aristocrats and emperors in Julio – Claudian Rome (Princeton and Oxford 2001). Russel 1960: B. Russel, Power. A new social analysis (2nd ed.) (London 1960). Smith 1956: B. Smith, Architectural Symbolism of Imperial Rome and the Middle Ages (Princeton 1956). Ward 1981: J.B. Ward-Perkins, Roman Imperial Architecture (London 1981). Żyromski 1991: M. Żyromski, Specialization in the Roman provinces of Moesia. Athenaeum 79, 1991, 59-102. Żyromski 2004: M. Żyromski, Power and Legitimization. Between political sciences and sociology. In: (Ed. R. Kozłowski, K.M. Cern) Prawo – władza – suwerenność (Poznań 2004), 179-188.

Puterea, legitimarea ei şi propaganda în Imperiul Roman
Rezumat Neîndoios, problema puterii de stat şi a legitimării ei este una extrem de importantă, atât din punct de vedere teoretic, cât şi practic. Problema puterii şi procesul legitimării ei sunt demne de o analiză şi o prezentare prin raportarea lor la exemple din societăţile contemporane, dar şi la societăţi din perioade mai mult sau mai puţin îndepărtate. În articolul de faţă se examinează chestiunea puterii şi a legitimării ei (în special, prin diverse formă de propagandă) pornindu-se de la exemplul puterii supreme de stat din Roma antică (mai exact, Imperiul Roman timpuriu, anii 27 a. Chr. - 287 p. Chr.). Scopul principal pe care-l urmărea propaganda din acea epocă era consolidarea poziţiilor imperatorului. Aceluiaşi scop erau subordonate şi victoriile armatei, izbânzile în războaie, în campanii şi conflicte militare. În acest context, se cuvine a fi analizate monumente cum ar fi Columna lui Traian, de la Roma, Tropaeum Traiani de la Adamclisi, judeţul Constanţa, dar şi Arcul de Triumf în onoarea lui Septimiu Sever (Lucius Septimius Severus) şi a familiei sale, de la Leptis Magna, monumente înălţate tocmai în scopurile menţionate mai sus. Propaganda la care se dedau imperatorii s-a dovedit a fi un instrument extrem de eficient al puterii, capabil să completeze cu succes activitatea armatei romane, bine instruită şi bine dotată, precum şi a aparatului birocratic, şi acesta bine pus la punct.

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Власть, её легитимация и пропаганда в Римской Империи
Резюме Несомненно, вопрос власти и её легитимации очень важный, как с теоретической, так и с практической точек зрения. Вопрос власти и процесс ее легитимации достоин анализа и представления не только на примерах современных обществ, а также обществ более или менее далекого прошлого. В данной статье рассматривается вопрос власти и ее легитимации (в особенности различными способами пропаганды) на примере высшей власти древнего Рима (ранняя Римская Империя 27 г. до н.э. – 284 г. н. э.). Усиление позиции императора являлось основной целью пропаганды. Все военные победы также использовались для усиления позиции императора. В этой связи следует проанализировать такие памятники как Колонна Траяна в Риме и памятник в Адамклисси (современная Румыния), а также триумфальная арка, посвященная Септимиусу Северу и его семье в Лептис Магна, служившие этой цели. Императорская пропаганда оказалась весьма успешным инструментом власти, наряду с хорошо подготовленной и вооруженной Римской армией и очень эффективной бюрократией.

01.03.2007
Dr. Marek Żyromski, Poznań University, Szamarzewskiego 89a, Poznań 60-567, Poland, e-mail: zyromski@interia.pl

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