In a distant corner of the late antique world, along the Atlantic river valleys of western Iberia, local elite populations lived through the ebb and flow of empire and kingdoms as historical agents with their own social strategies. Contrary to earlier historiographical accounts, these aristocrats were not oppressed by a centralized Roman empire or its successor kingdoms; nor was there an inherent conflict between central states and local elites. Instead, Damián Fernández argues, there was an interdependency of state and local aristocracies. The upper classes embraced state projects to assert their ascendancy within their communities. By doing so, they enacted statehood at the local level, bringing state presence to the remotest corners of Iberia, both under Roman rule and during the later Suevic and Visigothic kingdoms.
Aristocrats and Statehood in Western Iberia, 300-600 C.E. combines archaeological and literary sources to reconstruct the history of late antique Iberian aristocracies, facilitating the study of a social class that has proved elusive when approached through the lens of a single type of evidence. This is the first study of Iberian elites that covers both the late Roman and the post-Roman periods in similar depth, and the chronological approach allows for a new perspective on social agency of late antique nobility. While the end of the Roman empire changed the political, economic, and social strategies of local aristocrats, the book also demonstrates a considerable degree of continuity that lasted until the late sixth century.
Introduction. An Invisible Class in a Silent Land
PART I. WESTERN IBERIAN ARISTOCRACIES IN THE LATE ROMAN EMPIRE
Chapter 1. In the Shadow of Empire: Settlement and Society in the Late Roman Period
Chapter 2. An Unprovincial Aristocracy: Aristocratic Identity in a Renewed Empire
Chapter 3. Economic Strategies in a Renewed Empire: Aristocratic Economic Units in the Late Roman Period
PART II. WESTERN IBERIAN ARISTOCRACIES IN THE POST-ROMAN WORLD
Chapter 4. Adapting to a New World: Post-Roman Settlement in Western Iberia
Chapter 5. Crafting Fragmented Statehood: Aristocratic Identity in the Post-Roman World
Chapter 6. Preserving Wealth in a Changing World: Post-Roman Aristocratic Economic Strategies
List of Abbreviations
"A very timely and wide-ranging work that makes an important and original argument that the local elite were crucial to the day-to-day operation of the state in western Iberia in both the late Roman and post-Roman periods. It is theoretically sophisticated, very well researched, and the argument is substantiated by reference to a wealth of literary, epigraphic, and, especially, archaeological evidence, much of which is not generally known outside specialist circles."—Jonathan Edmondson, York University