“Political Assassination in the Late Roman Empire” - Towards a new approach to studying state power and weakness in Ancient Europe and the Mediterranean

01 November 2020 → 14 April 2023
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Other history and archaeology not elsewhere classified
Violence Late Antiquity Politics
Project description

Modern scholarship has examined political violence in the Late Roman Empire (late fourth to early sixth centuries CE) mainly as the result of mass migration processes, or as the self-evident outcome of imperial disintegration in the western Mediterranean and its hinterland. Instead, my project investigates this era’s increase in murder (in sharp contrast to the late third and fourth centuries) in both western and eastern spheres of the Late Empire as an index for crises of state authority and a competition for shrinking state resources. Preliminary research reveals that high-ranking officials who were the culprits or victims of assassination, defined here as ‘the murder of prominent individuals for political gain’, share something hitherto unnoticed: the role of bodyguards. Approaching the problem through the lens of private military factions and allegiance networks, I can fill a significant research lacuna on violence in this period, and contribute to our understanding of pre-modern state formation or contraction.