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Title: The exercise of friendship in the High Roman Empire
Author: Wei, Ryan J. Y.
ISNI:       0000 0000 9842 1452
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2009
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In the introduction, I discuss the problems scholars experience in trying to define the concept of Roman friendship. I argue that amicitia cannot be equated with patronage, and present justification based on some primary literature. Brief words are then offered on the sociology of friendship, and an attempt is made to relate ideas from modern sociology to ancient friendship. The first chapter is based on the Letters of Pliny the Younger, and begins with an analysis of the vocabulary employed by Pliny in describing his friendships. This is considered in conjunction with prosopographical data in order to establish the connection between vocabulary and practice. The derived results are used to conclude that friendship in the Roman world was more involved than simply patronage, and that it was one of the driving forces behind Roman social behaviour as it helps to integrate different levels of society. Chapter two follows a similar methodology, with the correspondence of Fronto as its focus. The conclusions drawn in this chapter are used to reinforce the arguments presented in the first. Also included in chapter two is a brief discussion of the ancient philosophical approaches to friendship, and a solution is presented to resolve the differences between philosophical ideals and the reality of friendship. The third chapter begins with an examination of the secondary literature on the concept of friendship with the emperor. I maintain that scholarship is lacking in this field because it neglects the personal nuances such relationships could have. The chapter then turns to Pliny’s Panegyricus to determine his attitude regarding this issue, which is used as evidence against some modern interpretations of aristocratic perceptions of the emperor. Pliny’s exchanges with Trajan are subsequently analyzed, and it is argued that it was as subject/ruler that Pliny and Trajan defined their association. Chapter four discusses the relationship Fronto shared with the Antonine emperors. I contend that Fronto related differently with each and experienced different levels of intimacy, which points to the importance of personal connections, even with people as uniquely powerful as emperors. I also conclude from this that even emperors were not above the rules and practices of friendship. The concluding remarks draw attention to the advantages of exploring Roman social relationships through the prism of friendship, as opposed to the traditional perspective of patronage. Some future avenues of research are also suggested.
Supervisor: Clarke, Katherine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Roman History ; Roman Literature ; Interpersonal Relationships ; Roman History ; Pliny the Younger ; Fronto ; Roman Emperor