HelRAW: David Rafferty 7.11.2022

The Helsinki Research on the Ancient World (HelRAW) is a monthly research seminar. HelRAW is organized by the SpaceLaw project together with the Digital Grammar of Greek Documentary Papyri (PapyGreek) project.

7.11.2022 at 17.15 (UTC+2)

Room 11, Metsätalo (Unioninkatu 40, 3rd floor)

Online: https://helsinki.zoom.us/j/64129444826?pwd=OTgzbGIxc0phakJKSjVSbjhOV3Qw…

Meeting ID: 641 2944 4826

Passcode: 953226


David Rafferty (University of Adelaide): How Republics Die: Rome’s democratic decay in the 50s BCE


With the rise of authoritarianism across the world, and especially since Trump’s election in 2016, political scientists have showed renewed interest in the decay and collapse of long-established democracies. This emerging body of scholarship is useful in helping us understand the breakdown of Rome’s own centuries-old republic, but also gives us the possibility of framing Rome as a case study for political scientists to use.

My talk focuses on the 50s BCE and the confrontation between the triumvirs and their opponents. But rather than telling the familiar tale of a countdown to civil war, it analyses the ‘how’ of Roman politics using the tools provided by this interdisciplinary scholarship. It is a story of ambition, escalation, stubbornness, miscalculation and manure. But it is also a story of institutional change, of rapid precedent-setting, and of the failure of norms of forbearance, which led indirectly to the emergence of an authoritarian ruler in Rome. Not Caesar (or at least, not initially), but his erstwhile partner and onetime son-in-law, Pompeius Magnus.

Dr David Rafferty is currently ARC DECRA Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Adelaide in Australia, working on the project “How Republics Die: Rome's democratic breakdown in the first century BCE”. His monograph Provincial Allocations in Rome, 123-52 BCE was published by Steiner in 2019.