Post-Roman Gaul: An Epistolary Society

2014 - 141 pagina's
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The following thesis examines Gallo-Roman letter networks of the late-fifth century. The late-fifth century was a period of social fluidity and change as Roman authority withdrew from Gaul and was replaced by three barbarian kingdoms. Our primary evidence for aristocratic life in this period is the letter collections of the Gallo-Roman elite, particularly those of Sidonius Apollinaris, Ruricius of Limoges, and Avitus of Vienne. This uses social network analysis, politeness theory, and literary analysis in the study of these letter collections. Social network analysis is not a methodology commonly used by ancient historians but it offers many new avenues of investigation. In this study it shows that the individuals who participated in Gallo-Roman letter networks were highly interconnected despite the social disruption that occurred during the late-fifth century. The concepts of literary politeness are well understood for the age of Cicero, but have not been applied to the study of post-Roman letter collections. Literary politeness helped aristocrats to maintain important relationships, particularly amicitia. Many complex social interactions took place through the medium of letters: requests for favours, the promotion and advocacy of clients, rebukes, and even jokes. These interactions could cause an individual to lose face through the failure to follow social conventions. Literary politeness provided a set of conventions and tools to help aristocrats navigate these challenges. Letters were also a medium for promoting aristocratic identities. The defining feature of an aristocrat in the later-fifth century was participation in amicitia. Amicitia was a relationship built on reciprocation and provided aristocrats with social validation of their identities. In addition verecundia, the knowledge of literary politeness and social mores, distinguished aristocrats from other powerful individuals. Shared literary culture was another means of gaining social validation. Aristocratic culture was not exclusive to Gallo-Romans. Barbarian elites could and did participate in the letter networks of the later-fifth century. They could obtain the same social validation as Gallo-Romans, through amicitia, verecundia, and literary culture. This thesis takes new approaches to the study of post-Roman Gaul and challenges existing ideas about the nature of elite Gallo-Roman society.

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