Constraints and Tradition

Roman Power in Changing Societies

Traditions influence ways in which new systems of the rule are communicated, contested and accepted in changing societies. How this process functions is a major historical question, with implications for analyzing the representation of power in past and present.

This project develops a new approach that combines longitudinal historical analysis with an innovative interdisciplinary theoretical framework to show how traditions formed constraints in presenting Roman rule. Read more about the project here.


Project director

Prof. Olivier Hekster

Project coordinator

Dr. Erika Manders

PO Box 9103
6500 HD, Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Between AD 293-312, the Roman Empire was ruled by four collegiate emperors. How this Tetrarchic system of four rulers could be presented as legitimate in a society that had never seen this political constellation before is one of the questions of our project.

Recent publications

  • S. Heijnen, 'Living up to expectations: Hadrian's military representation in freestanding sculpture', BABESCH 95 (2020), 195-212.
  • D. Jussen, 'Following in the Footsteps of Trajan: A Note on Traditional Emperorship in Late Fourth-Century Panegryic', Classical Philology (forthcoming).
  • D. Jussen, 'The Collection and its Collective: Pacatus and the XII Panegyrici Latini', The Classical Quarterly (forthcoming).
  • O. Hekster, 'Anchoring political change: adaptive government in the classical world', Journal of Comparative Politics 13 (2020), 99-107.
  • O. Hekster, 'Imperial Justice? The absence of images of Roman emperors in a legal role', The Classical Quarterly (2020), 1-14.
  • O. Hekster, 'Hadrian and the limits to power' in: C. Gazdac (ed.), Group and individual tragedies in Roman Europe. The evidence of hoards, epigraphic and literary sources, Journal of Ancient History and Archaeology Monographic Series 1 (2020), 277-287.


The Constraints and Tradition research project involves four interrelated PhD projects dealing with single source types from 50 BC-AD 565: central coinage, central portraiture, literary praise, and local monumental art.

Ammodo KNAW Award Laureaat 2017 for Oliver Hekster

In 2017, project director Olivier Hekster won the Ammodo KNAW Award. Find out more about the award and the focus of our research in the video (in Dutch)​ below.