Populism i antikens Rom

Moderna teorier och äldre politik


  • Johan Vekselius


Populism in ancient Rome – modern theories, politics, and Roman antiquity

This essay applies theoretical approaches concurrent in political science and sociology to ancient Roman politics. Thus, it assesses two hypotheses. Firstly, that modern theories can further our understanding of Roman politics. Secondly, that the endeavour helps us appreciate populism as a contemporary concept and phenomenon. Theoretical schools current in scholarship are discussed; populism as discourse, ideology, discursive frame, strategy, and performance, before conceptualising a combination of the performative and discursive frame perspectives as a working framework. In the essay’s second half, Roman political history is discussed through the lens of populism theory. It is shown that popular representation was a constant factor during the Republic, a vector, in a political system where expansion brought with it demands for representation that could be politicized with populist politics, rhetoric, and performances. The Empire inherited this popular vector that the emperor needed to respect as long as the Empire was centred on the city of Rome. The essay suggests the potential of populist theories when applied without normative prejudices.