The Emperor's Ear: Lobbying and Networking at the Roman Imperial Court during the Principate

01 October 2019 → 31 August 2022
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Ancient history
    • Political history
    • Regional and urban history
Political culture lobbying epigraphy Roman Empire Roman emperor imperial court decisionmaking rhetoric Asia Minor Elite networks History
Project description

The phenomenon of lobbyists attempting to influence the decisions of government is nothing new. While official, regulated lobbying is a modern institution, informal lobbying is much older. In Roman Antiquity, many individuals and groups tried to influence imperial decisions to their advantage. I will investigate the lobby work of Greeks from Asia Minor in the first three centuries CE. Texts by famous orators stress the role of their rhetorically trained colleagues in embassies to the emperor – though at least one such orator is known to have been so nervous on his first mission that he fainted in front of the emperor. The one-sided picture of these literary sources can and should be counterbalanced by and complemented with epigraphical texts, i.e. Greek inscriptions that were erected in large numbers in the province of Asia. These reveal that people with different backgrounds such as athletes or artists could equally play a role in deliberations at the imperial court. The project aims to come to a better understanding of the hotly debated political system of the Roman Empire by broadening the traditional focus and sharpening the analysis: the concept of lobbying enables us to consider more aspects of decision-making than the aims and methods of people with formal power positions. For those who had the right background, the right connections and the right strategies, Rome was a power that could be negotiated with and, in some cases, even used to one’s own advantage.