“Political Assassination in the Late Roman Empire” - The birth of the Early Medieval culture of political violence

01 October 2019 → 31 October 2020
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Ancient history
Late Antiquity. Violence. Politics
Project description

Modern scholarship has examined political violence in the Late
Roman Empire (late fourth to early sixth centuries CE) primarily 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 imperial leadership structures and a competition for
shrinking state resources. Preliminary research reveals that highranking
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 premodern
state formation or contraction. Validation of the research
hypothesis will have major implications for the genesis of Early
Medieval legal cultures of violence.