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Title: Usurpation and the construction of legitimacy in imperial panegyric, 289-389
Author: Omissi, Adrastos
ISNI:       0000 0004 2506 4115
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is an attempt to address the surprising lack of study into the question of usurpation in late antiquity. During a period defined by a textual corpus (289-389), the thesis looks at how usurpers and usurpation were presented in the panegyrics delivered to emperors and their courts. That usurpation features very heavily in this corpus should tell us something in itself, but it is a feature of these texts which has hardly been observed. The thesis shows how the panegyrics employed aggressive rhetorical tactics that sought not to bury usurpers in silence but rather to glory in their destruction and to create characters for the usurpers and their regimes that were designed to reinforce the legitimacy claims of the victorious emperor. The language of the panegyrics concerning usurpers and usurpation is thus virtually worthless as a tool to reconstruct the historical actualities of the people and times that they discuss. It cannot be used, as some scholars have done, to give insight into the working of particular usurpations. But the study also demonstrates that the panegyrics are far too valuable a body of sources to simply ignore, as many more scholars have tended to do. The panegyrics demonstrate the beginnings of the processes of memory sanction, or damnatio memoriae, that were imposed upon defeated usurpers and, as such, give us a valuable insight into how imperial Romans recorded their history and conceived of the power structures through which they were governed. Panegyrics are vital to our understanding of usurpers and usurpation because they are the first step in the process of understanding why our narrative sources are so unreliable concerning such men.
Supervisor: McLynn, Neil Sponsor: AHRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History ; Late antiquity and the Middle Ages ; usurpation ; legitimacy ; panegyric ; civil war ; later Roman Empire