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PATRIMONIVM Report Summary

Project ID: 716375
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PATRIMONIVM (Geography and economy of the imperial properties in the Roman World (from Augustus to Diocletian).)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2018-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The properties of the Roman emperors were extended throughout Italy and the provinces and included residences, cultivated land, pastureland, woods, mines, quarries, luxury items and slaves. All this constituted the imperial patrimony (patrimonium Caesaris), which originated from the private fortune of Augustus and gradually grew through inheritances from relatives, friends and freedmen, acquisitions of invalid testamentary dispositions of Roman citizens (bona caduca) and confiscations from people convicted to capital punishment. This immense richness played a central role in Augustus’ raise to power during the civil wars (43–30 BC) and remained a key element for the maintenance of the position of supreme power, since the emperor could use it to raise armies and retain their loyalty, to confer social status to individuals or to perform benefactions in favour of communities or veterans.
The peculiarity of the Roman imperial property resides in the ambivalent character of its owner, the princeps, whose institutional position cannot be satisfactorily defined neither as being that of a magistrate or a king, nor that of an private individual. The patrimonium Caesaris was technically a private property since it belonged to a natural person, but it was used for public purposes. The organization and the management of the imperial patrimony retained many typical features of large private households, but it soon became something different: it could receive public revenues (like the bona caduca) and was not transmitted according to the usual principles of Roman civil law, since it did not go to the natural heir, but to the successor on the throne. As Theodor Mommsen famously wrote, the Roman principate lacked proper constitutional legitimacy and therefore its existence needed to be constantly reaffirmed every time a new ruler succeeded the old one. A large consensus among the principal social components of the empire (the Roman élite, the plebs, the armies and the provincial cities) was capital and therefore expenditures from the imperial patrimony needed to outdo those of any potential rival. In the Roman world, personal and familial ties implied patrimonial relations and the testament was one of the most important social acts, since it tangibly showed the range and the value of one’s friendships and political connections. As the most important Roman senator, the emperor participated to this system in both ways, giving and receiving legates to and from a large number of fellow senators, thus building and consolidating his consensus among the élite.
In addition to their significance for the foundation of the emperor’s social and political pre-eminence, the imperial properties, because of their size, had an undeniable economic weight. At local level, they could have a powerful impact on the regions where they were particularly extended. Vast agglomerations of estates, mining and quarrying areas can be seen as productive districts, attracting large numbers of seasonal workers and tradesmen and around which a variety of economic transactions took place. At global level, landed estates in Africa, Egypt and elsewhere contributed to the grain supply of the city of Rome and of the army, while various provincial mines in the imperial ownership largely provided for the needs in iron, lead and precious metals. Since the owner of this wide-ranging set of properties was a global economic player, we can trace a tendency to trans-regional uniformity at least in some aspects of their management and organization. The strong tie with the ruler and the centralized definition of their exploitation means that imperial properties could play an important role in the interaction between Rome and even the most peripheral regions, promoting their integration into the wider context of the empire. In fact, despite some differences to accommodate local needs, the patterns of exploitation were regulated by statutes drafted in Rome according to standard mode

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

"The first step taken by the Principal Investigator has been the the recruitment of an international team, which include an engineer responsible for building the sources database and eight other research fellows, each responsible for a geographic area of the Roman world. The implementation of the project has then followed three main research lines:

1. The database. The Principal Investigator and the database engineer have worked closely to plan the structure and the functionalities of the ""Atlas patrimonii Caesaris"", the documentary base of the project. Once completed, the Atlas will be a unique work tool for ancient historians, since it will be the first system to tightly link together three main aspects: texts, people and places. The Atlas patrimonii Caesaris will therefore: provide free access to all known textual documents concerning the imperial properties; contain a prosopography of the patrimonium, a ""who is who"" of all the people that worked for or had relation with the imperial properties (tenants, administrators, entrepreneurs) or were themselves an imperial property (slaves); allow to dynamically explore and generate a cartography of the imperial properties and of the distribution of our sources. The implemented technologies will also allow for an unprecedented level of interoperability with other online tools, thus allowing the Atlas patrimonii Caesaris to easily connect with and contribute to other scientific projects. This is and will constitute a major achievement in an ever expanding digital humanities landscape, in which interlinking and federating projects will constitute the main challenge for the next decade. The project PATRIMONIVM is currently working with other European epigraphic databases and with the network Linked Pasts in order to contribute to the elaboration of standards and good practices to successfully tackle this issue.

2. Analysis of the sources: from September 2017 to July 2018, the PI and the research fellows have held monthly meetings during which each fellow has presented her/his work in progress. In addition to giving to the PI the opportunity to guide and assist the fellows in their work, these meetings have been a very fruitful occasion for discussing the main historical questions of the project and for elucidating particular regional contexts with examples from other parts of the Roman Empire. Work is still in progress and the results will be published in single articles in peer-reviewed journals and in the volumes directly linked to the project. In particular, the PI and other research fellows are currently reevaluating our sources about the birth of the patrimonium Caesaris under Augustus in order to propose a new, coherent model of historical development that can reflect the advancements in our knowledge of the sources and of the functioning of the imperial state at this early stage. Significant progress has been done in the study of the epigraphic evidence concerning the imperial properties in the Iberian Peninsula, with the first ever comprehensive overview of the evidence to be published in the next months by one of the research fellows of the project.

3. The workshops. Two international workshops have been organized around two central topics for the project: the definition of the research object and the exploitation of imperial quarries and mines. The workshops have been an occasion for re-discussing the most problematic aspects of our documentation and of our interpretative models. Moreover, they have been an efficient way to advertise the project internationally. Thanks particularly to this line of work, the PI works now in tight collaboration with scholars in France, Italy, Belgium, Tunisia and Serbia."

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

As a modern, efficient research tool, the Atlas Patrimonii Caesaris will include the most recent technologies and develop new ways to store, manage and search the data. A new epigraphic editor capable of easily importing and editing texts in the Epidoc format is under development. Our engineer is currently working with the international project in order to make this tool available to a wider scientific audience. Moreover, technologies developed for PATRIMONIVM are already being implemented in new digital humanities project within the Host Institution. These promising first results boost our confidence in the fact that the Atlas Patrimonii Caesaris will, once complete, be one of the most advanced online research tool available for ancient historians and will constitute a model for other projects in the future.
As far as the central core of our research, the work of these first months is already showing the potential of having a comprehensive approach to the topic. The work in progress covers many areas:
• The geographical distribution of the properties. This point intends to answer the question “where was the imperial property concentrated?” The variations in size and importance of the patrimonium need to be firstly assessed in a region by region survey, in order to place the data in their local context and avoid dangerous generalizations. Only in this way can an overall picture of the historical geography of the properties be drawn. The expected result is a detailed overview that will immediately render the differences between the various regions and give a hint of the reasons laying behind it (difference in the quantity and quality of the documentation, difference in the imperial policy of acquisition between regions etc.).
• The determination of the patterns of growth of the properties. This axe of research answers the question “how did the imperial property grow in a particular region?” This point is of capital importance, since the Roman emperors could increase their patrimony in many ways, but always passively, that is by voluntary decisions of third parties (inheritances, donations) or forced alienations under the terms of law (confiscations). Surprisingly enough, apart one or possibly two examples under Augustus and Tiberius, the direct purchase of an estate is not attested nor is contemplated by Roman legal texts. This fundamental issue did not attract any particular attention in the scholarly research up to now and therefore will be tackled more in depth. An assessment of the patterns of growth will be made according to our knowledge of the characters of private property in each region. The expected results will be a much clearer picture for each province that will enable us to highlight or rule out certain factors of acquisition (from condemned senators, from relatives, from former rulers, from the invalid testaments of the growing number of Roman citizens, from freedmen etc.). Highly urbanized regions will more likely have produced families that attained the senatorial rank and therefore we can expect there similar patterns of growth as, for example, in Italy. Peripheral regions probably saw a greater impact of the presence of wealthy imperial freedmen (under normal circumstances they must bequeath 50% of their fortune to their former master, the emperor) or a larger presence of ancient possessions of the family of Augustus or of conquered rulers. These are theoretical expectations, but the actual research has allowed us to identify some well documented urbanized areas that surely saw the confiscation of tracts of land from certain local aristocrats, in which we do not have significant traces of imperial estates. That probably means that the emperor decided to immediately resell all confiscated property to avoid concentrating too much land in his hands, since this had limited the quantity available to local aristocrats. This is a new line of research, that had never received attention befo

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