Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2004.06.20
Elio Lo Cascio, Il Princeps e il suo Impero. Studi di storia amministriva e finanziaria romana. Documenti e studi. Collana del Dipartimento di Scienze dell'antichità dell'Università di Bari Sezione storica 26. Bari: Edipuglia, 2000. Pp. 369. ISBN 88-7228-265-9.. €25.82.
Reviewed by William E. Metcalf, Yale University (email@example.com)
Word count: 593 words
This book is not what its title suggests: I undertook to review it on the basis that Lo Cascio has been responsible for some of the most provocative work in Roman history in recent decades, and I thought this might synthesize some of his views. It is in fact, with two exceptions, a collection of previously-published papers. The rubrics and their contents are "L'organizzazione dell'amministrazione," including "Le tecniche dell'amministrazione" (originally from Storia di Roma, ed. A. Schiavone, 1991), and "Impero e confini nell'età del principato" (1995); "Le finanze del princeps," including "Patrimonium, ratio privata, res privata" (1971/2 , "I greges oviarici dell'inscrizione de Sepino (CIL IX 2438) e la transumanza in età imperiale" (1990) and "Fiscus principis nostri (Sc. de Cn. Pisone patre, ll. 54-55): ancora sulla configurazione giuridica del fisco imperiale" (new); "Princeps e i tributi, including "La struttura fiscale dell'Impero Romano" (1986) and "Census provinciale, imposizione fiscale a amministrazioni cittadine nel Principato" (1999); and "L'Italia e gli alimenta", including "Gli alimenta, l'agricoltura italica e l'approvvigionamento di Roma," "Alimenta Italiae" (in press); "Curatores viarum praefecti e procuratores alimentorum a proposito dei distretti alimentari" (1980) and finally "Gli alimenta e la 'politica economica' di Pertinace" (1980).
Many of these pieces originally appeared in journals that are on the acquisition lists only of major research libraries, and the volume represents an admirably economical way to collect the highlights of LoCascio's Italian language output. Unfortunately none of the older papers is equipped with more than the slightest updated bibliography. The volume escapes the status of artefact because of the inherent interest of the author's approaches to his material.
There is little point in rehearsing work that has been published elsewhere, but it may be worth drawing attention to the one new contribution, "Fiscus principis nostri", which revisits the question of fiscus, aerarium and res privata in light of the SC de Pisone patre. In L.'s view, the expression "fiscus Caesaris nostri" in l. 55 of the SCPP refers to the provincial fiscus, which is here regarded as the emperor's property. In his view, the confusion that has attended the sometimes tortuous treatments of Millar, Brunt, Alpers et al. results from our failure to distinguish between the fact that the fiscus is private in a Roman sense, while provincial revenues are public (only) in a modern sense (p. 172).1 The discussion is not bogged down by consideration of what actually happened to the revenues -- this is dealt with by reference to the treatment by Eck, Caballos and Fernández -- but rather with nuances of the interpretations of modern scholars, with a preference for the views of Mommsen. In the end L. is content to note that we can force most of our sources to say what we want them to say; but particularly on this complicated issue, one can sympathize wth R. J. A. Talbert: "The question of administration is really a red herring: Augustus and his successors controlled the state finances by monopolizing the decision-making on financial matters" (CAH 10 p. 322).
The book, perhaps in part because it consists exclusively of contributions in Italian, omits some of the more interesting work L. has published in English. To that extent, and insofar as it focuses on older work, we are deprived of some of the more imaginative approaches to Roman history that are characteristic of Lo Cascio in person. But the collection provides, in an accessible and inexpensive format, solid discussions of the issues treated, and a sample of the bibliographical thoroughness and rigorous method of the author; one can hardly ask for more.
1. F. Millar, "The fiscus in the first two centuries," JRS 53 (1963) 29-42; P. A. Brunt, "The 'fiscus' and its development," JRS 56 (1966) 75-91 = idem, Roman Imperial Themes (Oxford, 1990) 134-162; M. Alpers, Das nachrepublikanische Finanzsystem. Fiscus und Fisci in der frühen Kaiserzeit (Berlin-New York, 1995).