Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Claude Eilers


Evan W. Haley



Committee Member

Martin Beckman


The aim of this thesis is to explore the Roman salutatio. The morning ritual was reiterated daily throughout the Republic and Empire, and was a fundamental facet of Roman interactions between citizens of varying status. This thesis moves beyond the traditional interpretation of the ritual as a manifestation of Roman patronage, and rather examines the asymmetrical social relationships that existed at the salutatio within the context of the applicable socio-political ideologies of the Republic and Empire. As a ritual that was enacted on a daily basis for centuries, the salutatio is a useful conduit to understand the complexities of social interaction in Roman society.

Much of the traditional scholarship on the salutatio has interpreted the salutator/salutatee relationship essentially as a system of social acquiescence, where the salutatee was able to accrue significant social esteem, and the salutator was merely a humble cliens or social inferior. This thesis dissects the abundant, yet fleeting references to the social practice in the ancient sources to analyze how participation in the salutatio impacted individual social status within the greater Roman collective, which was inherently hierarchical. The sources consequently suggest that the ritual was not a system of social subordination, but was rather an accepted behavioural practice which served as a mechanism to promote or establish a distinct ‘Roman-ness’ within the collective Roman identity, irrespective of status. This study furthermore considers influences which prompted significant adaptations of the salutatio over time, which consequently illuminates greater complexities of the Roman social structure.

This thesis ultimately presents the salutatio as a Republican ritual which was monopolized by the emperor after the substantial socio-political shift that ensued from the political modification of Republic to Empire. The ritual of the salutatio is therefore a manifestation of the instabilities of the Roman social structure.

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