Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History


European History



First Advisor

Bridget Buxton


The study of nations and nationalism is often restricted to the examination of modern nations that appeared after the French Revolution. This is because the dominant trend in academic discourse argues that nations only came into existence as a result of modern technologies, mass printing and high levels of literacy. These features are deemed necessary because it has previously been assumed there was no way for individuals within earlier societies to imagine they were part of a larger nation of people similar to themselves. However, Nations are human communities with common cultural features, languages, myths, ancestral homelands and the legal rights of a state; modern technology is not required for a nation to exist. If the study of nations is artificially restricted to this later modern period, then it also limits potential avenues of research into the behaviors of peoples and states in prior eras back to the ancient world.

This study argues there were indeed ancient nations and that Rome represents one of the best examples. Roman citizens and allies exhibited their national affiliation in a variety of ways, most notably via a willingness to die for the Roman national collective in the face of extreme duress during the Second Punic War. The national loyalty of Roman citizens and allies then proved a critical advantage in Rome's global wars, granting them a consistent pool of recruitment and access to resources that could not be matched by competing ancient states. Rome fostered a common national identity via its more inclusive policies, which included a lighter touch in handling allies, distribution of citizenship regardless of ethnicity and a general willingness to welcome foreigners, displayed in their acceptance foreign cults. This caused a cultural hybridization within Italy, and by the first century BCE the entire peninsula's inhabitants had become culturally and linguistically similar. The end result was the existence of a smaller Roman nation, which then expanded into an Italian nation with Rome at its core.



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