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Embassies Gone Wrong: Roman Diplomacy In The Constantinian Excerpta De Legationibus

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Chapter Summary

In the Greek inscriptions much is made of the willingness of such-and-such to undertake multiple embassies or to shoulder privately the expenses of state diplomacy. On the Roman side, discussion of embassies in legal texts such as the Digest and the Theodosian Code is very much focused on state diplomacy as a munus, a burdensome obligation for elites. The importance of the De legationibus, and other Constantinian compendia, such as De virtutibus et vitiis and De sententiis, for preserving chunks of central historical authors is well known and scarcely needs underlining. Charming and thus disarming ambassadors was part of the repertoire of ancient power diplomacy, a practice not unknown to the Romans. Instances where envoys are seduced by the formal aspects of their reception clearly must count as embassies gone wrong. Three embassy-skewing factors: logistical, financial and actuarial realities, expectations regarding status and protocol, and the ubiquity of counter-embassies.

Keywords: constantinian compendia; embassies gone wrong; excerpta de legationibus; Greek inscriptions; roman ambassadors; roman diplomacy



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