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Globalisation and Roman Imperialism : perspectives on identities in Roman Italy.

Witcher, R. E. (2000) 'Globalisation and Roman Imperialism : perspectives on identities in Roman Italy.', in The emergence of state identities in Italy in the first millennium BC. London: Accordia Research Institute, University of London, pp. 213-225.


In the contemporary world we are increasingly aware of global processes which transcend the interests of individual nations and affect the population of the entire world. In spite of this shrinking globe, simultaneously we live in a world of fragmenting identities. The sociological models advanced to account for these trends are grouped together as theories of globalization. In this paper, I note some apparently similar trends in the material culture and historical sources of Roman Italy. I do not intend to claim that theories of globalization can be applied wholesale to the past; only that these ideas offer a vocabulary and a series of models with which to explore identities in Roman Italy. In particular, the apparently contradictory trends of universalization / particularization and integration / fragmentation are considered. Through the expansion of Roman power within Italy, ethnic and cultural identities were created and destroyed, strengthened and weakened, purified and blended. The size of the Empire meant that power was devolved to local elites, requiring the universalization of a particular model of elite social power (urbanism, munificence, etc.) and the particularization of that model for local requirements. The elite was drawn into a real and imagined community of interest, initially based on material exchange. However, as time and space were never significantly compressed in the ancient world, this level of integration could not be maintained indefinitely. The only means through which this community could be held together was through symbolic exchange - the circulation of signs. It was in this cultural arena that Roman Italy - and the Empire - reached its most 'globalized'.

Item Type:Book chapter
Keywords:Roman Italy, Globalization, Identity, Imperialism.
Full text:(AM) Accepted Manuscript
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Status:Not peer-reviewed
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Record Created:05 Dec 2008
Last Modified:11 Sep 2012 12:25

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