The research project Law, Governance and Space: Questioning the Foundations of the Republican Tradition (SpaceLaw) is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) and hosted by the University of Helsinki. It is headed by Dr. Kaius Tuori and located at the Centre of European Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

The project poses the questions: Why there were no offices in ancient Rome? How is it possible that it nevertheless forms the model for the Western administrative state? The project seeks to investigate this neglected issue with the spatial analysis of power relations and meanings. The significance of these issues extends much beyond this: the development of administrative space in the European context amounts to nothing less than the emergence of the concept of public.

Administrative professionalization has conventionally been the hallmark of a modern state. Ever since Weber, the conceptual separation of the office and its holder has defined the European way of governance. The origin of this European tradition of the separation of public and private has often been seen in the Roman Republican state with its strict responsibilities, term limits and defined powers of its magistracies, who operated in public spaces. The purpose of this project is to challenge that assumption and to propose a new model of the Roman Republican governance. It is a comprehensive re-evaluation of the ancient Roman administrative tradition and its links with the European heritage through the lens of administrative space.

The project’s two main research questions explore the confrontation of ideas and their contexts from the Roman Republic to modern Republicanism:

  1. How the conflict between Republican ideals, political power and administrative practices transformed the spaces of administration?
  2. How this conflict changed the social topography of Rome, the public and private spheres of governance?

It will analyse four main themes through which these changes are addressed through the developments in the political, economic and social context from the Republic to the Empire and beyond. While much of the earlier research on Republican administration has been constitutional, focused on sovereignty or the individual magistrates, this project advances a radical new interpretation through spatial and topographical analysis. Using unconventional methodological tools, it explores the social and cultural dimensions of legal and administrative space.

The project is divided into four subprojects (A-D) that examine the different facets of the research questions. Each subproject will serve as a primary individual project for one team member.

Subproject A: The Emergence of the Republican Tradition

The main question of this subproject is to explore how the Republican tradition of administration was shaped by its historic, spatial, economic, social and philosophical contexts by examining four case studies. How does the change in the interpretations of the tradition correspond with the changes in its spatial and immaterial context? It will explore the forgotten strand of administrative tradition and its relationship with both the Republican tradition and its changes and continuities in meaning and interpretation, producing a novel theory of the creation and formation of the administrative tradition between law and politics. The results of a survey of the corpus of the Roman Republican texts on the theory and practice of administration and administrative space will be compared with the other case studies of the Republicanist tradition. This enables for the first time the creation of an interpretative sequence of the Republicanist tradition and its relation to the spatial dimension of administration such as the places of administration.

Subproject B: The Transformation of Administrative Space between Public and Private

This subproject will produce a new inquiry into the administrative space in the city of Rome and compare it with examples from both classical world and the later historical tradition. The aim is to combine archaeological and historical data to trace the work of administrative magistracies and their contexts. Of particular interest are functions where a fixed post was necessary for e.g. meeting citizens, handling and storing documents or money, or the running of a large staff of workers. What this subproject will produce is a new spatial understanding of the formation and changes of administrative space in Republican Rome and to compare it with the spatial dimension of the other layers of the Republicanist tradition. Using data from the very latest excavations and published data, it will produce a series of interactive models to chart the development of administrative space in the centre of Rome, linking it with its residential surroundings. The use of alternative models and hypotheses is vital because there is still controversy over the locations of some of the most important public buildings such as the Villa Publica, the tabularium or the aerarium. How was the use of archives combined with the fact that magistrates kept their records in their homes? This data from the physical remains will be cross-referenced with the known loci of epigraphical texts pertaining to magistrates, magistracies and administration.

Subproject C: The Legal Framework and the Administrative Process

Its task is to analyse how Roman jurists and other elite authors conceptualized the legal framework of the administrative state and the process of administration. How jurisprudence and legal practice conceptualized space in administration? What were the needs and requirements of space for legal administration and how do legal texts reflect space? Were the curae mentioned in legal texts offices or mere duties? How did the legal administration cope with the spread of the city? Instead of simply describing the administrative law, it will study the modes of writing and the prioritization of the expert knowledge and the self-definition of law as a closed sphere. Reaching beyond the core of the juristic tradition, the project will present a narrative of the process of exclusion and defining that shaped the formation of the concept of state in the Republican tradition and its relation to other forms of organization. The result will be an unorthodox interpretation of how the law created space and was created in spaces such as the Forum.

Subproject D: The Social Topography of the Administrative Space

Drawing from the political and social history of the domestic and public spheres, the subproject will investigate administrative space as a space in between the political and the private domains and how their boundaries were demarcated? It will equally look at how people from different backgrounds and tasks from magistrates to scribes to domestics operated in these spaces. Using tools of social topography, historical geography and prosopography, the subproject will produce a new theory of the overlapping areas of privacy, intimacy and sociability in relation to the “public” areas of politics, military or religious activities as well as the spatial dimension of administration intermingling with them all. In conjunction with the subproject B, it map the magistrate’s social space extending from their homes, country homes, and other dwellings to their site of their official duties, allies, clients, collegia and family. It will study the act of writing and the drafting, transfer and storage of documents as administrative and social facts. Linking prosopographical data with archaeological data, it will trace the evolution of the movements of magistrates through private and public space and the impact of their private wealth and connections.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 771874).