Un-Roman Empires, Post-Roman Worlds: Rome and Imperial Ideology in a Comparative European Context, 800-1000

  • Domantas Audronis

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores imperial representation and authority in early medieval Europe, c. 800 - c. 1000. Twentieth-century historiography surrounding imperial titulature and the exercise of emperorship as a form of rulership distinct from kingship is extensive, especially in German scholarship, where Carl Erdmann’s ideas regarding his two proposed categories of early medieval emperorship - Roman and non-Roman - have been debated and developed at length. However, recent scholarship has shown that there is room for significant reinterpretation in our approach to contemporary conceptualisations of both emperorship and romanitas. The present study examines the interactions between emperorship and romanitas, especially the Roman imperial tradition. Four case studies are examined: the imperial coronation of Charlemagne; the reign of Symeon of Bulgaria; the imperial styles of the Anglo-Saxon kings Æthelstan and Edgar; and the evolving imperial representation of the first three Ottonian emperors. Within this comparative framework, it is argued that early medieval imperial authority and its representation drew upon a Roman ‘vocabulary of empire’ - the imagery and symbolism of both ancient and early medieval (Byzantine) Roman emperorship. However, this was not done out of a desire to become Roman, or to recreate or usurp Roman emperorship. Instead, imperial romanitas was used throughout early medieval Europe as a convenient language through which emperorship as an elevated form of political authority could be expressed. This was deployed alongside a variety of different and evolving meanings that ‘Rome’ and romanitas could take on - including the idea of Rome as the wellspring of orthodox Christendom, which was becoming increasingly central in the Latin Christian West in this period. At its heart, early medieval imperial authority outside of the Byzantine Empire was hegemonic rather than specifically Roman. Imperial representation generally seemed to revolve around articulating the ruler’s special preeminence, and the means by which this was done could change depending on the setting and the audience of the imperial display in question.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorIngrid Rembold (Supervisor) & Charles Insley (Supervisor)


  • Medieval Bulgaria
  • Ottonians
  • Anglo-Saxon England
  • Charlemagne
  • Imperium
  • Emperorship
  • Empire
  • Early Medieval Europe

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