Imperial Neighbors: Empires and Land Allotment in the Ancient Mediterranean World

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This dissertation is a comparative history of imperial land allotment in the ancient Mediterranean world. Living in a profoundly agrarian world, the Athenians c. 510-413 BCE, Syracusans c. 483-380, and Romans c. 396-264 each created imperial territories by dividing up, or “allotting,” land they confiscated in war. They also experimented with forms of republicanism: as citizens, they participated in popular assemblies, fought together, and shared access to imperial land. By exploring the historical links between land allotment and shared governance, I reconstruct how the citizen communities at Athens, Syracuse, and Rome developed alongside new ideas about imperial territory, mobility, and the value of labor. Because land allotment moved people to and from confiscated land, and in and out of each republic, it also reorganized, concentrated, and displaced people within each empire. However, the way the Athenians, Syracusans, and Romans allotted land had drastically different effects on how people moved across the three empires: the Athenians went to great lengths to keep their citizen lotholders at home in Attica, whereas the Syracusans brought the people they dispossessed back to Syracuse to become citizens, and the Romans sent their citizens away from Rome, all across central Italy. I develop a new heuristic model for historians to explain why each group allotted land as they did by drawing on recent trends in Francophone political geography and the macroeconomic concept of human capital. By reframing historical texts with archaeological case studies, I show how each group collectively drew lessons from their own political culture to imagine their imperial territory, and then how they used land allotment to find their citizens’ place within it. As such, land allotment was a means to an end, more self-reflexive than aimed at imperial control: instead, I argue that the three patterns of land allotment can be distinguished, first and foremost, in the way each community valued and accumulated human capital. Comparing the three approaches to land allotment allows us to confront and turn on its head the consensus among historians that people in antiquity allotted land primarily as a state-strategy of imperial control. Altogether, it recaptures some of the many ways people in antiquity reconciled empire with citizenship and, in doing so, how land allotment helped shape the political and economic history of the ancient Mediterranean world.

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2018-05-30
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History; Empire; Human Capital; Imperial Territory; Land Allotment; imperialism; Mediterranean; Ancient history; Classical studies
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Strauss, Barry Stuart
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Rebillard, Eric
Manning, Sturt
Travers, Thomas Robert
Degree Discipline
History
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Ph. D., History
Degree Level
Doctor of Philosophy
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dissertation or thesis
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