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Mobility and Secession in the Early Roman Republic*

  • Guy Bradley (a1)


One consequence of the globalisation of the modern world in recent years has been to focus historical interest on human migration and movement. Sociologists and historians have argued that mobility is much more characteristic of past historical eras than we might expect given our modern nationalistic perspectives. This paper aims to contribute to this subject by surveying some of the evidence for mobility in central Italy and by examining its implications for early Rome. I will focus primarily on the plebeian movement, which is normally seen in terms of an internal political dispute. Our understanding of the ‘Struggle of the Orders’ is conditioned by the idealising view of our literary sources, which look back on the early Republic from a period when the plebeians provided many of the key members of the nobility. However, if we see the plebeian movement in its contemporary central Italian context, it emerges as much more threatening and potentially subversive. The key plebeian tactic – secession from the state – is often regarded as little more than a military strike. Instead, I argue that it was a genuine threat to abandon the community, and secessions can be seen as ‘paused migrations’. This paper also considers two other episodes that support this picture, the migration to Rome of Attus Clausus and the Claudian gens and the proposed move to Veii by the plebs.



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I would like to thank the editors, the anonymous referee, and audiences in Auckland, Dublin, and Cardiff for their comments, which have much improved the finished article.



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