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Spoils of war in the Roman Republic

Dr. Saskia Roselaar
Delft, The Netherlands


Prof. Bernhard Linke
Ancient History

Spoils of war in the Roman Republic

Any study on the Roman Republic attributes great importance to its ability of acquiring and distributing external resources in order to satisfy the demands of citizens and allies alike, thus fueling further military activities. However, this contrasts starkly with the lack of a detailed analysis of how the profits of expansion influenced and changed the political, social and economic fabric of the Republic and its allies. Furthermore, spoils have often been regarded as a rather static category instead of being seen in their respective historical context. This distorts the relevance of external resources for the Imperium Romanum; simply put, there is a huge difference between capturing livestock and territory in the fourth century B.C. compared to the coercion of huge war indemnities from Hellenistic kingdoms in later times. Therefore, the topic will be approached chronologically in order to identify and highlight development and changes in the way spoils were acquired, distributed and valued. This will also provide insights into the material component of a slowly developing “system of hegemony” in Italy and the Mediterranean.

In order to investigate the impact of spoils we have decided to take a broad perspective on the subject. “Spoils” are to be defined as any investment or transfer of resources into the area under Roman dominion deriving from military activity. To achieve this it will be necessary to define the participants and the quality and quantity of resources at play in this process, as well as their distribution within and their wider impact on the Roman dominion. In accordance with the chronological approach, our analytic procedure will rely on a staged perspective, which will move from the direct involvement in creating spoils to a more abstract level of wider social, political and economic impact on the Roman dominion. Thus a multi-layered perspective is to be achieved, in which the different components of the analysis are to be interconnected and gradually developed. The main categories to be investigated will be the acquisition, distribution, utilization and appropriation of spoils, and the long-term effects of resource reallocation.

21 January 2016

The project 'Spoils of war in the Roman Republic' was officially started .

The VIP, Dr. Saskia Roselaar, and the collaborators from Bochum, Marian Helm and Stefan Schörning, presented the project to the Department of History. They presented a short outline of the main questions and debates that the project intends to address, as well as the plans to organize a workshop in Bochum in late August 2016. The project was well received; the audience made a number of very useful suggestions to further strengthen the focus of the project.