Imperial Structures and Representations
Academic Year April 2020 - March 2021
“Imperial Structures and Representations” addresses different cultures of imperial rule that projected their power onto the same geographical space in the western Mediterranean, albeit with a changing indigenous population. Constitutive elements of political rule in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa are explored by focusing on specific, related aspects in each research year. The focus of the first research year will be on administrative geography and its structures – the institutions and legal systems.
The topic of the first year advances a theme that was researched in Stefan Heidemann’s ERC Project The Early Empire at Work – The View from the Regions Toward the Center in which the term province assumes a multi-level understanding of regional governance. As such, a province is regarded as a military, administrative, and fiscal projection of imperial rule over a core region rather than a territorial entity. Where maintaining control over specific populations (mountain populations, nomads, etc.) proved too costly, forms of mutual exchange – whether goods, tribute, or services – and religious influence were utilized. Whether this model can be applied to the Iberian Peninsula and sub-Saharan African regions (closely connected with North Africa), and even further to the pre-Islamic period, will be examined during this project year.
In 284, Diocletian’s reform, which almost doubled the number of provinces, introduced the system of dioceses. The necessity for smaller organizational units was due to a change in the perception of administrative territory. Conventus and province boundaries, like main cities, ceased to maintain the same significance as they had during the earlier imperial era. In contrast, coloniae and municipia of the early imperial era retained their traditional freedom and authority. Questions are raised as to the effects of these legal criteria and what replaced them in the exercise of political control. With the progress of Christianization the towns with martyrs as patrons particularly gained significance. The consequences of this status, in relation to existing city networks of legal, economic, and religious provenance, challenges our understanding of the very concept of province.