Cosmopolitanism and the Roman Empire.

Political, Theological and Linguistic Responses—Three Case Studies (Cicero, Augustine, Valla)

  • Christoph Pieper Leiden University


My article explores the tension between idealized cosmopolitan ideas, of a single citizenry for all people in the world, and imperial Roman nationalism between the late Roman Republic and the Italian Renaissance. In the form of three case studies (and without any claim that those are representative for the development) it focusses on three important thinkers whose work shows affinity with cosmopolitan discourse, but who at the same time also explicitly reflected on the political realities they were living in: Cicero, Augustine, and Lorenzo Valla. All three favour cosmopolitan ideals over political egoism, and all three reflect on whether and how the historical reign under which they are living can live up to the philosophical or theological ideals they advocate. Finally, all three authors do not only share similar discursive patterns, but also react to each other intertextually (links will be mentioned especially between Cicero and Augustine and between Augustine and Valla). Thus, while all three are distinct in their argument and use cosmopolitan concepts for hugely different aims, the comparison can share light both on the boundaries and the discursive power of the concept in Latin literature.