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Citizen Scatters and Uneasy Statuses in the Roman World

Nicholas Purcell

Diasporas – of subject peoples – have long been seen as characteristic of the Roman empire, and Rome the city has always been seen as the product of in-migration. Neither point can be fully understood without reference to a parallel, Roman, diaspora.

The scatter of ‘Romans’ across the world ruled from Rome was another prominent strand in the weave of empire: though it has been generally under-estimated, and remains rather poorly understood. These diaspora ‘Romans’ were, very generally, united by a shared citizenship. This framework, however - an apparently homogeneous institution - was actually articulated in several different ways, and susceptible to uncomfortable and shifting gradations of status, and thus generated divisions among its participants too. Formal regulation and sentiment alike demoted citizens resident outside Italy, many of whom were also ex-slaves or their descendants. Regions, communities and activities had different degrees of social esteem. The economic activities of Romans of the provinces, in particular, and their permeation by the irregularly enfranchised, led to stigma. My aim is to raise some questions about how the unstable triage of status which resulted, among Romans, and between Romans and non-Romans, changed the dynamic of social power and cohesion in the imperial state.

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Diaspora and Migration

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