Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order

Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order


By (author) Christopher J. Fuhrmann


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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Paperback | 356 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 232mm x 22mm | 460g
  • Publication date: 10 July 2014
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199360014
  • ISBN 13: 9780199360017
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: 4 illus.
  • Sales rank: 734,557

Product description

Historians often regard the police as a modern development, and indeed, many pre-modern societies had no such institution. Most recent scholarship has claimed that Roman society relied on kinship networks or community self-regulation as a means of conflict resolution and social control. This model, according to Christopher Fuhrmann, fails to properly account for the imperial-era evidence, which argues in fact for an expansion of state-sponsored policing activities in the first three centuries of the Common Era. Drawing on a wide variety of source material-from art, archaeology, administrative documents, Egyptian papyri, laws, Jewish and Christian religious texts, and ancient narratives-Policing the Roman Empire provides a comprehensive overview of Roman imperial policing practices with chapters devoted to fugitive slave hunting, the pivotal role of Augustus, the expansion of policing under his successors, and communities lacking soldier-police that were forced to rely on self-help or civilian police. Rather than merely cataloguing references to police, this study sets policing in the broader context of Roman attitudes towards power, public order, and administration. Fuhrmann argues that a broad range of groups understood the potential value of police, from the emperors to the peasantry. Years of different police initiatives coalesced into an uneven patchwork of police institutions that were not always coordinated, effective, or upright. But the end result was a new means by which the Roman state-more ambitious than often supposed-could seek to control the lives of its subjects, as in the imperial persecutions of Christians. The first synoptic analysis of Roman policing in over a hundred years, and the first ever in English, Policing the Roman Empire will be of great interest to scholars and students of classics, history, law, and religion.

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Author information

Christopher J. Fuhrmann is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Texas.

Review quote

"Fuhrmann's book is a very well documented and convenient synthesis on the contribution of the Roman army to law enforcement in peacetime during the imperial period."--Cedric Brelaz, Bryn Mawr Classical Review"This is a stimulating investigation into a subject hitherto treated insufficiently. Always attentive to regional and local distinctions in Rome and the provinces, in the western and eastern provinces, and even within eastern provinces themselves, Fuhrmann argues convincingly for an overall growth of state policing from Augustus to Constantine, for the gradual intermingling of civilian and military policing, and for policing as a metaphor for the evolution of the Roman Empire. His broad scope results in a richly textured and fascinating rendering of daily life for the usually undifferentiated millions within Rome's Empire, and for the soldiers and others who interacted with them to maintain order." --Mary T. Boatwright, Duke University "Anyone who studies ancient Rome knows that there were no police. And yet, the same individual also knows that there were, here and there, chasers of bandits, night watchmen, stationarii, and in fact a host of other groups of men recruited by one governmental official or another in hopes of keeping the peace. Put more accurately, then, what has been lacking are not police-like formations among the ancient Romans, but rather, anything like a systematic account of these. Now we have it. This book will immediately become a crucial component in our ever-sharpening comprehension of the ancient Roman cosmos." --Michael Peachin, New York University "A thoroughly documented, well-argued treatise...considerably enhances understanding of how law was enforced throughout the Roman Empire."--CHOICE

Table of contents

Abbreviations ; Roman Emperors from Augustus to Julian ; Maps of the Roman Empire ; 1. Introduction ; 2. "Arrest me, for I have run away": Fugitive Slave Hunting in the Roman Empire ; 3. "Like a thief in the night": Self-help, Magisterial Authority, and Civilian Policing ; 4. "I brought peace to the provinces": Augustus and The Rhetoric of Imperial Peace ; 5. "To squelch the discord of the rabble": Military Policing in Rome and Italy under Augustus' Successors ; 6. "Let there be no violence contrary to my wish": Emperors and Provincial Order ; 7. "Keep your province pacified and quiet": Provincial Governors, Public Order, and Policing ; 8. "Military stations throughout all provinces": Detached-Service Soldier-Police ; 9. Conclusion ; Appendix: Differentiating stationarii from beneficiarii consulares and Other Detached-Service Soldiers ; Bibliography ; Index of Ancient Sources ; General Index