Aristocratic Dignity and Indignity in Republican Public Life

Alexander Yakobson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


It is often stressed that the spectacles and rituals of Roman public life – including those surrounding popular assemblies – fostered the prestige of individual nobles and senators, of their families, and of the nobility and the senate as a whole. This is no doubt true, but there was another side to this coin. In a competitive culture obsessed with honour and dignity, the prospect of dishonour and indignity, inflicted by failing in the fierce aristocratic competition, or by incurring some public slight, had to be constantly on people’s minds. One man’s victory in the never-endingcompetition inevitably meant another man’s loss. This happened most directly at the polls, when honores were conferred (on some, and by the same token denied to others) by the Roman people. In a contio, a Roman “oligarch” had many opportunities for ostentation and self-glorification – but was also exposed to the danger of public loss of face and humiliation. This aspect of Roman public life is well attested in the sources. The life and career of a Roman senator should be conceived as dedicated not solely to the pursuit of honour, but also to the avoidance of dishonor.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationInstitutions and Ideology in Republican Rome
Subtitle of host publicationSpeech, Audience and Decision
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781108681476
ISBN (Print)9781108429016
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2018.


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