Greed, Luxury and Imperial Degeneracy

Greed, Luxury and Imperial Degeneracy : The Rhetoric of Vice and Virtue in Late Antiquity

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Why does the discourse of immorality and corruption form such a ubiquitous presence in the written sources of the fourth century Roman Empire? Most modern scholars have viewed such language either as a direct description of the workings of a central government rapidly expanding in size and scope; or else as a reflection of the anxieties of traditional elites over their loss of influence in an increasingly bureaucratic society. Tim W Watson argues, by contrast, that such rhetoric served as an important means of integration, assimilation and social control in an era of unprecedented social mobility. Examining the writings from the period of four figures with diverse religious backgrounds - Quintus Aurelius Symmachus; Libanius; Gregory of Nazianzus; and Ambrose of Milan - the author shows how their emphasis on virtuous conduct over criteria such as wealth and birth created a space for 'new men' in the hierarchies of church and state: but on their terms. It was this focus on virtue and vice that helped established discourses adapt to the fluid worlds of Western Christendom and the Byzantine Empire.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 138 x 216 x 30mm | 552g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1784533653
  • 9781784533656

About Tim W. Watson

Tim W Watson graduated in 2010 with a PhD in classics from the University of California, Riverside, and presently teaches classics at California State University, Long Beach. This is his first book.
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