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Jesper Majbom Madsen


Research profile

My main interests are the Romanization of the Black sea provinces, Roman villas in Italy, and economic development in the 3rd century Roman Empire.
Prior to my appointment at the Danish National Research Foundation' s Centre for Black sea Studies, I taught Greek and Roman history to undergraduate students at the University of Southern Denmark; I was a visiting scholar at the University of Parma in 2000-2001, and a fellow at the Danish Institute in Rome in 1999-2001.

Project description

Project title: The romanization of Bithynia et Pontus. A study of the local elite’s response to the Roman hegemony in the early Empire.
At the centre I will primarily be working with research activity 4.b The Coming of Rome: Greeks under the Roman Empire. My main focus will be the study of how the local elite in the provinces of Bithynia et Pontos and Moesia Inferior responded to Roman hegemony. To what extent did the local elite participate in administrating the local towns, in organising Roman festivals, and in constructing public buildings such as temples, fora, baths and aqueducts or other buildings that normally resulted from Roman conquests?
Scholars generally agree that Greeks never adopted Roman culture, which is illustrated by their strong resistance to Latin and Latin literature and by their slow adoption of Roman cultural events such as gladiatorial plays in amphitheatres.
This traditional view of the relation between Romans and Greeks is not without problems. Keeping Greek as the official language in the east necessarily indicates a firm resistance towards the Roman occupation or even Romanization. A recent study by J. Hall indicates that language has been over-interpreted in relation to self-identification. Romans did give the Greeks special treatment and allowed them to use Greek as the administrative language in the east. Furthermore, Roman magistrates were generally educated in Greek and therefore did not experience any problems while addressing or being addressed by a Greek population. It is also generally accepted that members of the local elite carried out the Roman provincial administration, which means that all daily matters in the east were taken care of by Greek magistrates.
It is true that the criticism of the intellectual class does seem persistent, but we cannot compare it to objections that might have come from other parts of the empire, because we simply do not have records of any. In this connection it is also important to note that the Greek critics that have been taken as the most critical between the Greeks, such as Dio Chrysostom, Aristides and Plutarch, are in just as many examples very positive towards Rome and the Roman present.
The idea that Greece resisted the Romans is open to dispute, and it is the object of this project to study the relations that existed between the Romans and the Greek and native population along the southern and southwestern coast of the Black Sea (Bithynia et Pontos). Wether members of the local elite did identify themselves as Romans is decisive. During the 1st and 2nd century it became still more common to appear with Roman names and show ones engagement in the Roman community a kind of behaviour that in other parts of the empire is seen as strong indication of a Roman identity.

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