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Orality and the politics of roman peacemaking

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Chapter Summary

Before we condemn the Romans as overly naive in their approach to peace making, we need to understand the role played by orality in the ceremonial procedures that sealed peace-making agreements. Politics entered into these orally formed agreements with a struggle between the senate and the commander in the field over who had the power to make decisions on war and peace. The politics of orality caused a shift in responsibility for peace from the individual general to the senate. Major wars were ended without deditio. Neither Hannibal nor Antiochus III made a formal act of unconditional surrender to a Roman general. This round of the political battle between imperium and auctoritas was won by the senate; but the generals in the following century found new and different ways to reassert the power of imperium.

Keywords: auctoritas; deditio; imperium; individual general; Orality; peace-making agreements; Politics; politics of orality; Roman Peacemaking; Romans

10.1163/ej.9789004145405.i-380.53
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