ProjectMacht und Einfluss. Einflussnahme auf den Herrscher zwischen Antike und Mittelalter

Basic data

Macht und Einfluss. Einflussnahme auf den Herrscher zwischen Antike und Mittelalter
01/07/2018 to 30/06/2019
Abstract / short description:
The fact that in autocratic regimes, those who manage to influence the decisions and opinions of rulers enjoy great power, stirs up rivalry and rumours. This evident but largely neglected correlation is best studied in the case of late antiquity, when important conditions of influence were subject to political, social and intellectual change. After the Migration Period caused the Roman Empire to split up, emperors continued to exist in the byzantine East. In the West, Germanic kings arose. Many agents tried to have the ear of the ruler: from court eunuchs, who were very close to the emperors, to bishops, who were enabled by the rise of Christianity. As a consequence, there was bitter rivalry between these various agents, which led to conflicts and promoted polemic literature. It was usually the opinion of the prevailing one which made history.

Those protagonists who exerted influence on rulers have not been investigated thoroughly yet, as they formed a heterogeneous group of people that can neither be entirely understood in terms of institutions nor grasped by their proximity to the emperor. Furthermore, their means not only comprised words, but also gestures. Biased sources, in which influencing agents are based on role models (warner or temptress), influence on beliefs (like religion) and its representation on narratives (good king/ bad advisor), have either been taken for granted by scholarship or wholly rejected. Finally, neither in Classics nor in Medieval History is there a tradition of studying interpersonal influence.

This project, by employing the Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence by social psychologist Bertram Raven, aims to analyse the resources and strategies of influencing agents as well as the modes and conditions of influence attempts, bypassing thereby common oppositions, which often shape or shaped the understanding of influence, like male/ female, pagan/ Christian, roman/ Germanic. At the same time, representations of agents and interactions are to be scrutinized with the instruments of discourse analysis. By casting new light on the interrelation of historical agent, literary figure and social stereotype, it is possible to distinguish between real and perceived power-shifts. The chronological and geographical disposition of the sub-projects (284-395, 395-565 East, 395-568 West) is to highlight how influence and its discourse correlate with the aforementioned shifts, thereby illustrating their historical and cultural dimension. The goal of the project is to establish interpersonal influence as a subject of historical research and to make a contribution towards political history as well as the history of mentalities by analysing influence on rulers.
late antiquity
Interpersonal influence
Bertram Raven

Involved staff


Institute of Ancient History
Department of History, Faculty of Humanities

Local organizational units

Institute of Ancient History
Department of History
Faculty of Humanities


Bonn, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany

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