In recent years, modern scholars have applied various methodologies to the study of local elites in the Roman Empire. Judith Perkins in Roman Imperial Identities in the Early Christian Era examines the concept of elite, like many other classicists, through an analysis of written texts—in her case, Greek novels and political writings of the first and second centuries. Models and theories borrowed from cultural anthropology or sociology—such as Michael Mann's sociological theory of power—offer a new way to resolve difficulties of interpretation that traditional methodological tools cannot address.

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