Patronage and Benefaction in Ancient Italy

Lomas, K. and Cornell, T.  2003.  “Patronage and Benefaction in Ancient Italy.”  In Bread and Circuses, 1-11.  London: Routledge.

Presenter: Courtney Freese

Ross Adler;
Vasiliki Barakos;
Jenna Bittenbender;
Clareese Chin;
Morgan Fitzgerald

5 thoughts on “Patronage and Benefaction in Ancient Italy

  1. What is euregetism? How id Christianity initiate changes in the concept of euregetism? What’s an example that Lomas/ Cornell provides that speaks to this change?

    • Generally speaking, euregetism is the practice of the elite or high-status members of a society distribute part of their wealth to provide for the common people. In ancient Rome an example of this would be provided through the emperor granting or other patricians providing entertainment for the plebs in the form of gladiatorial games, the provision of public meals, or the construction of public buildings. It is important to realize that this is a separate system than that of the patron-client relationship in which the patron (benefactor) provides goods/services for an individual or family (the beneficiary), rather than a community or the public at large.

      Christianity initiated a change in the concept of euregetism by shifting focus from the idea of patronage and benefaction towards the more Christian ideas of “charity and social obligations to the poor” (Page 7). An interesting example that Cornell and Lomas point to in the article is the shift from the traditional ‘bread and circuses’ to the support of Shrines, saint’s cults and the promotion granted to a local saint’s feast day and events associated with said feast.

      • Like Morgan said, euergetism is the use of funds from the wealthiest citizens to fund public building projects and provide feasting and entertainment for the remaining citizens. Lomas and Cornell’s article points out the difficulty in discerning between acts of euergetism and personal patronage and much of the article is spent in giving examples of each act and defining them accordingly. The introduction of Christianity to Rome and Italy prompted major changes in the practice of personal patronage and civic benefaction. Lomas and Cornell state that the focus of these acts of euergetism shifted to incorporate “Christian ideas of charity and social obligations to the poor” (7). Euergetism now included the funding of shrines, cults, and feasts held in honor of saints in order to accommodate the Christian religion. Lomas and Cornell also reference Constantine and how he utilized euergetism to initiate building projects in Rome and along roads leading to Rome in order to assert the new official religion of Christianity as well as his own regime. This was done by either remodeling pagan buildings or constructing completely new monuments, such as the Arch of Constantine.

        • I like the way you summarized the article Clareese. Also, as a side note, I enjoyed the way in which this article was structured. It was relatively concise, and I feel the authors did a nice job of clearly communicating their ideas.

  2. I completely agree with your definitions of euergetism, but I think its important to point out that this practice was optional. The wealthy citizens could choose to help the city or keep all of their earnings for themselves. The wealthy citizens benefited greatly from this practice because they would construct monuments or inscriptions that would commemorate their good deeds. Come election time the wealthy could boast their ability to provide and use this as leverage over their opponent. However with the rise of Christianity this optional practice became a moral obligation that had negative impacts if one did not participate. The practice of euergetism effectively became a legitimate tax.

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