Dante's Imperial Road Leads to ... Constantinople?

The Internal Logic of the Monarchia

in Theoria
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  • 1 Texas A&M University cary-j-nederman@pols.tamu.edu
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Dante's Monarchia has proven to be an enigmatic contribution to the corpus of medieval political theory. Although typically held up as the quintessential statement of the principles of universal imperial authority, the tract does not conform to many of the standard conventions of medieval Latin defences of the supremacy of the Roman Empire, eschewing, for instance, the theme of translatio imperii. In this article, I examine Dante's critique of the Donation of Constantine and related topics in order to argue that, by his own logic, the legitimacy of a universal Roman Empire resides not with the German Holy Roman Emperor in the West but instead with the Byzantine Emperor. By conceiving of the Roman Empire in a way that undermines the possibility of its 'translation', and by rejecting the alienability of imperial authority at the heart of the Donation, Dante leads a careful reader to conclude that the true Empire has its home in Constantinople, not in Germany or elsewhere in Western Europe.

Theoria

A Journal of Social and Political Theory

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