chapter  13
10 Pages

The extension of state power

The division of Italy into eleven regions by Augustus has already been discussed in the previous chapter. There I was concerned with the creation of an imagined community that could have been defined as Italia based on the regional use of ethnonyms that constituted the people of the peninsula. The eleven regions of Italy were not simply a device to create a united Italy, but were also a method for the organisation of state power and the extension of Rome’s control over the city states of Italy. The regions of Italy provided a means for the organisation of geographical knowledge through the Augu­ stan listing of towns (Plin.N.H.3). Indeed, I wish to argue that the system of regions was also a means for the control of the population by a centralised administration in Rome from the time of Augustus. Key to the establish­ ment of this system was Octavian’s suppression of brigandage in Italy during the 30s BC. The magistrates of the cities of Italy had been ineffectual in the suppression of violence, because any action against brigandage was fragmented by a system of government based on annual elections locally and a lack of jurisdiction over a wider territory. In terms of government, much was done locally, but there were key problems that could not be dealt with at that level. These tended to involve disputes between towns or basic acts of violence. Most important for the discussion here is the suppression of brigandage. This would seem to have been a constant problem for the Roman state and permeated the culture of travel. Part of Octavian’s success in the 30s BC was to create an image of the bandit that was a threat to the moral order of Italy. The fundamental study of banditry by Shaw (1984) has shown how the state was in conflict with the bandits as outsiders within the state. What has not been considered is the organisa­ tion of the state for the control of banditry and prevention of the threat of violence to travellers. I will argue here that the division of Italy discussed in the previous chapter facilitated the extension of state power across space via the road system. The argument rests on a number of specific texts that point to a strong case which requires some historical speculation in order for them to provide a coherent picture of the use of the eleven Augustan regions (Figure 12.1).