Despite what history has taught us about imperialism's destructive effects on colonial societies, many classicists continue to emphasize disproportionately the civilizing and assimilative nature of the Roman Empire and to hold a generally favorable view of Rome's impact on its subject peoples. Imperialism, Power, and Identity boldly challenges this view using insights from postcolonial studies of modern empires to offer a more nuanced understanding of Roman imperialism.
Rejecting outdated notions about Romanization, David Mattingly focuses instead on the concept of identity to reveal a Roman society made up of far-flung populations whose experience of empire varied enormously. He examines the nature of power in Rome and the means by which the Roman state exploited the natural, mercantile, and human resources within its frontiers. Mattingly draws on his own archaeological work in Britain, Jordan, and North Africa and covers a broad range of topics, including sexual relations and violence; census-taking and taxation; mining and pollution; land and labor; and art and iconography. He shows how the lives of those under Rome's dominion were challenged, enhanced, or destroyed by the empire's power, and in doing so he redefines the meaning and significance of Rome in today's debates about globalization, power, and empire.
Imperialism, Power, and Identity advances a new agenda for classical studies, one that views Roman rule from the perspective of the ruled and not just the rulers.
In a new preface, Mattingly reflects on some of the reactions prompted by the initial publication of the book.
David J. Mattingly is professor of Roman archaeology at the University of Leicester and a fellow of the British Academy. His many books include An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, Tripolitania, Farming the Desert, Archaeology and Desertification, and The Cambridge Dictionary of Classical Civilization.
"Imperialism, Power, and Identity is an ambitious attempt to map the transformation of lifestyles and experience among Rome's provincial subjects in the first three centuries AD. . . . This is 'history from below' at its best."--Peter Thonemann, Times Literary Supplement
"Although appealingly and sometimes passionately written, this is a substantial and technically detailed book. . . . An advanced and theoretically sophisticated approach, it will shift the centre of debate over the merits of Roman imperialism for many years to come."--Edith Hall, History Today
"[T]his volume is provocative, passionate and personal. It ranges widely across time, space and categories of evidence. Importantly, it is a contribution which does not unquestioningly import and impose concepts such as post-colonial theory, but rather it critically examines their value, refines them and contributes back to wider contemporary debates."--Robert Witcher, Classical Review
"Imperialism, Power, and Identity provides an excellent summation of both Roman imperialism and Mattingly's unique perspective on the relationship between empires and local peoples. His writing style, engrossing case studies, and distinctive interpretations are welcome additions to the study of Roman imperial encounters. The book should be of great interest to specialists and postgraduates, as well as anyone interested in understanding Roman imperialism from a vantage other than the traditional one."--Anna Lucille Boozer, British Archaeology
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