This book is the first comprehensive treatment of the 'small politics' of rural communities in the Late Roman world. It places the diverse fates of those communities within a generalized model for exploring rural social systems. Fundamentally, social interactions in rural contexts in the period revolved around the desire of individual households to insure themselves against catastrophic subsistence failure and the need of the communities in which they lived to manage the attendant social tensions, inequalities and conflicts. A focus upon the politics of reputation in those communities provides a striking contrast to the picture painted by the legislation and the writings of Rome's literate elite: when viewed from the point of view of the peasantry, issues such as the Christianization of the countryside, the emergence of new types of patronage relations, and the effects of the new system of taxation upon rural social structures take on a different aspect.

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