The politics of public records at Rome in the late republic and early empire

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This study explores the relationship between political developments and the keeping of public records at Rome during a crucial time of transition in the inter-connected fields of constitutional law, politics, and administrative practices. The political value of control over records is illustrated in the Struggle of the Orders and remained a dominant issue. That knowledge is power was a reality implicitly recognised in the aristocratic constitution of the Republic, geared as it was to maintain popular political ignorance generally and so to perpetuate the dominance of a particular minority class. Throughout Republican history the question of exposure or repression of such knowledge was grounded in the socio-political tensions of a class-struggle. Translated into the changed setting of the early Principate, the same awareness of the value of control over access to state knowledge is exhibited by the emperor. Particularly relevant was the Augustan ban on the publication of senatorial proceedings, since the relationship between senate and emperor was an area where the increasingly autocratic nature of the emperor's position was most difficult to disguise.

Bibliography: pages 287-298.