This introductory chapter begins with a discussion of the Roman perception that the peasants, the rustics, “the lowest sorts of men,” were potentially rebellious. And this perception was a new thing for the Roman Empire. Roman authors of the Principate had not used the stereotype of the rebellious peasant to vilify their enemies or spice up their historical narratives; authors of late antiquity did. The object of this book is to explain why. It casts a wide net to include changes in rural consumption, the transformation of communal structures, and the impact of Christian preaching between the third and sixth centuries
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