Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire  book cover
1st Edition

Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire

ISBN 9780367480462
Published December 31, 2020 by Routledge
216 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations

FREE Standard Shipping
SAVE $32.00
was $160.00
USD $128.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

This volume explores the role that republican political participation played in forging elite Roman masculinity. It situates familiarly "manly" traits like militarism, aggressive sexuality, and the pursuit of power within a political system based on power sharing and cooperation.

In deliberations in the Senate, at social gatherings, and on military campaign, displays of consensus with other men greased the wheels of social discourse and built elite comradery. Through literary sources and inscriptions that offer censorious or affirmative appraisal of male behavior from the Middle and Late Republic (ca. 300–31 BCE) to the Principate or Early Empire (ca. 100 CE), this book shows how the vir bonus, or "good man," the Roman persona of male aristocratic excellence, modulated imperatives for personal distinction and military and sexual violence with political cooperation and moral exemplarity. While the advent of one-man rule in the Empire transformed political power relations, ideals forged in the Republic adapted to the new climate and provided a coherent model of masculinity for emperor and senator alike. Scholars often paint a picture of Republic and Principate as distinct landscapes, but enduring ideals of male self-fashioning constitute an important continuity.

Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire provides a fascinating insight into the intertwined nature of masculinity and political power for anyone interested in Roman political and social history, and those working on gender in the ancient world more broadly.

Table of Contents

List of figures



List of abbreviations


Masculinity, individuality, and the persona

Chapter outline

Chapter One: The Roman Vir

Power, aggression, and dominance

Tyranny and the vir malus

"Republican" masculinity


Chapter Two: The Old Boys’ Club in the Middle Republic

Early values: the convivial brotherhood

Father knows best: imitatio patris

The censor’s task

Militiae: the bad man abroad

Militiae: the good man abroad

Domi: the bad man at home

Domi: the good man at home

Competition from within: electoral contexts

Competition from below: the business class


Chapter Three: Vir and Populus in the Late Republic

A changed political world

Courting the populus

Changes to training and education

Cato and Caesar

Popular apotheosis

Vir divus: Pompey’s command in the East


Chapter Four: Decline and the Imperial Senate

The motif of the decline of manliness

Forging a moral consensus

Imperial electioneering

Competition in performative oratory and literature

Oppositional stances

Agricola’s gloria through obsequium

Chapter Five: Good Emperors and Good Men

Pliny’s optimus princeps

Tiberius in the SC de Cn. Pisone Patre

Imperial exemplarity

Youth’s alternative: Caligula and Nero




View More



Charles Goldberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Bethel University, USA. He studies Greek and Roman political culture, and has published on the history of gender, imperialism, and religion.