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Roman sumptuary legislation: Three concepts of liberty

Arena, V; (2011) Roman sumptuary legislation: Three concepts of liberty. European Journal of Political Theory , 10 (4) pp. 463-489. 10.1177/1474885111417778.

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This article argues that, next to a certain intellectual tradition of Roman liberty, often labelled 'neo-Roman' or 'Republican', we should also take into account the existence of, at least, two other conceptions of liberty, which have so far remained occluded under the prominence of Cicero's ideas and the appropriation of them by later thinkers. By analyzing the debate in opposition and in favour of sumptuary laws enacted from the 3rd century BC onwards, the article identifies a first notion of liberty which coincided with the absence of any external legal constraints upon the citizens' private life and was, thereby, incompatible with the rule of law in this sphere. The second intellectual family of concepts equated libertas to the absence of constraints from one's own passions as well as the possession of the capacity to pursue something worth pursuing for the well-being of the community. According to this view, liberty also resided in the supremacy of the rule of law. The third notion of libertas, elaborated by Cicero in the De re publica and De legibus, identified liberty with the absence of arbitrary domination to achieve one's own ends and resided in the supremacy of the rule of law. Its preservation depended on the constitutional arrangements of the commonwealth and the related civic status of the individual. © The Author(s) 2011.

Type: Article
Title: Roman sumptuary legislation: Three concepts of liberty
DOI: 10.1177/1474885111417778
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1305280
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