1st Edition

Roman Masculinity and Politics from Republic to Empire

By Charles Goldberg Copyright 2021
    216 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Continue Shopping

    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.

    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





    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.