Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Claude Eilers




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The Latin word mandata referred to a variety of relationships in Roman society that were based on trust, honor, and obligation. These conventions united the private and the public spheres, the personal and the political, and the domestic and the foreign. Modern scholarship has tended to study these phenomena in isolation. Legal scholars have investigated the workings of the contract of mandate as a form of agency between private citizens. Others have focused on the imperial mandata that emperors sent to provincial governors to facilitate administration. The aim of this study is to bridge the gap between these seemingly disparate elements. The fIrst chapter exposes the social norms operating behind the legal contract of mandate, and looks to examples from the early Latin playwright Plautus to illustrate the dynamics of interpersonal trust that gave shape to the law. The second chapter is devoted to the works of Cicero, and shows how the conventions of mandata in personal settings carried over into political and diplomatic duties. In the third chapter I argue that the late 1st century BC authors Caesar, Sallust, and Livy reinforce the patterns found in Cicero, and their writings demonstrate that diplomatic mandata were effectively their own genre. The final chapter focuses on the surviving texts from Suetonius, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger, and addresses the development of imperial mandata and their impact on Roman society. The literary evidence makes it clear that the Romans did not approach personal, public, and international relations as discrete fields of action, and that they conceptualized their roles within these various spheres according to the same set of values.

McMaster University Library

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