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Title: Constitutio Antoniniana : an edict for the Caracallan Empire
Author: Imrie, Alex
ISNI:       0000 0004 6761 0233
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2015
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The constitutio Antoniniana represents one of the most important legal documents of the Roman imperial period. By means of this edict, the emperor Caracalla enfranchised nearly every free person living within the borders of his empire. Despite its apparent significance, though, the constitutio remains a controversial document among modern scholars. Some consider it to be the logical conclusion to an evolutionary process in Roman citizenship that took over two centuries to achieve. Others, however, believe that it is a meaningless document given retrospective importance, changing little in the daily lives of the empire's population and representing nothing more than a superficial initiative brought forth by an absolute monarch. The primary focus of this thesis concerns the various reasons that Caracalla might have had for passing the constitutio Antoniniana in the opening half of AD 212. By considering elements such as the emperor's fascination with Alexander the Great and religious perspective, as well as issues surrounding the Roman imperial economy and army, I will construct an image of the constitutio that is more multi-faceted than has been presented in the past. The common thread running through these chapters, however, is that Caracalla employed his edict as a tool in a programme of refashioning the Severan dynasty - a programme that he found himself compelled to undertake in the aftermath of the murder of his brother and co-emperor, Geta. I will also argue that modern scholars have been wrong to dismiss the testimony offered by Cassius Dio, in which the senator claimed that a fiscal rationale underlay the legislation. Whilst the detail of Dio's argument is undoubtedly questionable, this thesis will demonstrate that, on a basic level, the senator was correct to identify a fiscal initiative contained within the terms of the constitutio text. The final chapter of the thesis will form a case study of Caracalla's imperial visit to Alexandria in AD 215/6. This is a challenging episode to analyse, since the hostile literary tradition appears content to label the violence which marked the emperor's stay in the city as the result of a merciless massacre ordered by Caracalla in revenge for an assortment of minor slights and insults. This chapter will re-assess the events of the imperial visit and argue that the disturbances were not the result of the emperor's uncontrollable temper, but rather that they resulted from riots among the local population that the local authorities were unable to control. Following this hypothesis, I will examine to what extent the effects and implications of the constitutio Antoniniana had a bearing on the disturbances in Alexandria. I contend that, although it is obviously impossible to draw a direct link between the edict and the unrest, it is possible to see that the social and fiscal implications of the legislation would have exacerbated pre-existing local sensitivities and pressures to breaking point. This work will represent one of the largest studies of Caracalla's constitutio undertaken in the English language to date. The aim of my study is not to function as an apology for the emperor, but it is an attempt to view the constitutio Antoniniana in a more rational way. My thesis thus acknowledges that the context in which the legislation was passed is of critical importance not only to our understanding of the constitutio as a document, but also to our assessment of Caracalla's actions following the murder of his younger brother.
Supervisor: Bingham, Sandra ; Grig, Lucy Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: constitutio Antoniniana ; Caracalla ; Severan ; citizenship ; Roman Empire ; ancient history