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Remembering the Roman PeopleEssays on Late-Republican Politics and Literature$
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T. P. Wiseman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199239764

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239764.001.0001

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Roman History and the Ideological Vacuum

Roman History and the Ideological Vacuum

(p.5) 1 Roman History and the Ideological Vacuum
Remembering the Roman People

T. P. Wiseman

Oxford University Press

In the Roman republic, only the People could make laws and elect politicians to office; the word respublica means ‘The People's business’. So why is it always assumed that the republic was an oligarchy? The reading of late-republican politics as a non-ideological competition for office was created by Gelzer in 1912 in reaction against the ‘party-political’ model presupposed by Mommsen; reinforced by Münzer (1920) and Syme (1939), it was enshrined as accepted doctrine in ‘Paully-Wissowa’. This chapter argues that the Gelzer model relies on the misinterpretation of a key text, that close reading of the contemporary sources reveals far more ideological conflict than the Gelzer model allows, and that one of the results of assuming its truth has been a failure to appreciate the political background of the historian Licinius Macer.

Keywords:   Gelzer, Matthias, Licinius Macer, Mommsen, Theodor, oligarchy, political ideology, respublica, Roman republic

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