Lobbying in late antiquity. Letters, networks and decision processes, 4th - 5th c. A.D.

Start - End 
2017 - 2022 (ongoing)
Department of History
Department of Literary Studies
Research Focus 



This project presents a new interpretation of the functioning of the late antique state and society (4th-5th c. A.D.). Long neglected, Late Antiquity is now a blooming field of research thanks to two research paradigms: institutional and economic historians working in the tradition of A.H.M. Jones have documented in detail the bureaucracy, economy, and administration of the later Roman state, whilst cultural historians in the wake of Peter Brown have shown how charismatic individuals or ‘holy men’ often gained authority to a level that far exceeded their social status. Whilst both approaches have great merits, they largely function side by side: neither institutional-economic, nor cultural historians have extensively examined the interaction between the very different actors and aspects of the late antique world which they study. As a result, it is not clear exactly how and to what extent people such as Brown’s holy men impacted on decisions at all levels of Jones’ Later Roman Empire, and thus, how the late antique state and society interacted.

Bridging this crucial gap in late antique studies, this project radically shifts the focus of research: the centre of stage does not go to the decisions or to the officials who take them, but rather to the various people who tried to influence decision processes at all levels, and to the complex, multi-faceted ways in which they did so. By shifting attention away from the decisions and their execution towards the decision-making process itself, this project will, for the first time, detail how various actors and interest groups sought to influence holders of institutional power, and which strategies and networks they developed to this end. The result is a fundamental reassessment of the later Roman state and society, which emphasises how the later Roman Empire took shape in the interaction between Jones’ bureaucratic officials and Brown’s holy men.