Empire and the Politics of Faction: Mérida and Toledo Revisited

Barrett, Graham (2022) Empire and the Politics of Faction: Mérida and Toledo Revisited. In: Rome and Byzantium in the Visigothic Kingdom: Beyond Imitatio Imperii. Late Antique and Early Medieval Iberia . Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Empire and the Politics of Faction: Mérida and Toledo Revisited

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Abstract

When Reccared presided over the conversion of the Visigoths in 589, the chronicler John of Biclarum wrote that he embodied the emperor Constantine at Nicaea, Marcian at Chalcedon. It is tempting to see state formation in Late Antiquity through the lens of imitatio imperii interposed by such sources, the orthodox prince forging unity from diversity by his fiat, but what did that mean in practice, beyond the familiar realm of Romanising symbolism? Our understanding of the confessional conflict leading up to the ‘baptism of Spain’ is framed above all by the unique access which the seventh-century Lives of the Fathers of Mérida us: as conjured by Roger Collins in a classic essay, it brings to life through local eyes the passage of one major urban centre from autonomous city-state to component of the Nicene kingdom of Toledo. What I explore here is how the text can further contribute not so much hard data on elements of Visigothic ‘imperial’ governance as a diagnosis of the resources of rulership available and the dynamics resulting from them. From its polemical sketches of civic politics and factions, we can reconstruct something of royal interactions with local elites: to make their influence felt on the ground in Mérida, successive Visigothic kings had to work with or around local actors claiming to represent the city, to respond to local parties aiming to rule it, and in doing so they recapitulated a defining feature of Roman imperium.

Keywords:Visigothic kingship, local politics, hagiography, epigraphy, Mérida, Toledo
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V224 Iberian History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V110 Ancient History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V130 Medieval History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V320 Social History
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q612 Medieval Latin
Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q620 Latin Literature
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:47838
Deposited On:21 Jan 2022 10:57

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