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The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World by Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff

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By Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzeff

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To what extent does it embrace smaller or less extensive sets of social relations and cultural identities? , who rejects the term entirely, along with the notion that societies form unitary wholes that are in some way “bounded,” preferring to speak of multiple overlapping and intersecting power networks. We are not sure that this is necessarily a better way to theorize “society,” but it does at least ask the right questions. For historically grounded discussion for the late Roman and early Islamic period, see Haldon and Conrad 2004.

Historians have generally referred to the expansive political entities of the East and pre-Renaissance Europe as “empires”—whether that of China, of Charlemagne, of Rome, Russia, Persia, Byzantium, or many others. The “national state” is then something that emerges with the renaissance monarchies of Europe. Yet in fact most so-called national states emerged through conquest or inheritance of previously distinct political or cultural domains, even in Western Europe. This was true of the integration of Ireland into the British monarchy (or monarchies, as Scotland remained institutionally distinct as well until the eighteenth century); it was true of the French incorporation of regions such as Flanders, Alsace-Lorraine, and the Burgundian inheritance; it was true of various Italian peninsular states; and it was a fortiori true for such expansive multinational entities as the properly named Prussian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires.

And, in the case of both Christianity and Islam, ritual incorporation (that is to say, conversion) served as a fundamental tool of political integration and domination. 23 Various elites—religious, political, warrior, mercantile—may each have their own ideological basis for defining their identity and their relationship and integrating ties with the central authorities. Similarly, different popular groups likely have their own group narratives that establish both their identity and the accepted basis of their relationships to local elites and to central state powers.

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