Pericles of Athens b Vincent Azoulay (PUP) £24.99 (20% off RRP in store)
Pericles has had the rare distinction of giving his name to an entire period of history, embodying what has often been taken as the golden age of the ancient Greek world. “Periclean” Athens witnessed tumultuous political and military events, and achievements of the highest order in philosophy, drama, poetry, oratory, and architecture. Pericles of Athens is the first book in more than two decades to reassess the life and legacy of one of the greatest generals, orators, and statesmen of the classical world. In this compelling critical biography, Vincent Azoulay provides an unforgettable portrait of Pericles and his turbulent era, shedding light on his powerful family, his patronage of the arts, and his unrivaled influence on Athenian politics and culture. He takes a fresh look at both the classical and modern reception of Pericles, recognizing his achievements as well as his failings while deftly avoiding the adulatory or hypercritical positions staked out by some scholars today. From Thucydides and Plutarch to Voltaire and Hegel, ancient and modern authors have questioned the great statesman’s relationship with democracy and Athenian society. Did Pericles hold supreme power over willing masses or was he just a gifted representative of popular aspirations? Was Periclean Athens a democracy in name only, as Thucydides suggests? This is the enigma that Azoulay investigates in this groundbreaking book. Pericles of Athens offers a balanced look at the complex life and afterlife of the legendary “first citizen of Athens” who presided over the birth of democracy.
The War with God by Pramit Chaudhuri (OUP) £48
Epic and tragedy, from Homer’s Achilles and Euripides’ Pentheus to Marlowe’s Tamburlaine and Milton’s Satan, are filled with characters challenging and warring against the gods. Nowhere is the theme of theomachy more frequently and powerfully represented, however, than in the poetry of early imperial Rome, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses at the beginning of the first century AD to Statius’ Thebaid near its end. This book – the first full-length study of human-divine conflict in Roman literature – asks why the war against god was so important to the poets of the time and how this understudied period of literary history influenced a larger tradition in Western literature. Drawing on a variety of contexts – politics, religion, philosophy, and aesthetics – Pramit Chaudhuri argues for the fundamental importance of battles between humans and gods in representing the Roman world. A cast of tyrants, emperors, rebels, iconoclasts, philosophers, and ambitious poets brings to life some of the most extraordinary artistic products of classical antiquity. Based on close readings of the major extant epics and selected tragedies, the book replaces a traditionally Virgiliocentric view of imperial epic with a richer dialogue between Greek and Roman texts, contemporary authors, and diverse genres. The renewed sense of a tradition reveals how the conflicts these works represent constitute a distinctive theology informed by other discourses yet peculiar to epic and tragedy. Beginning with the Greek background and ending by looking ahead to developments in the Renaissance, this book charts the history of a theme that would find its richest expression in a time when men became gods and impiety threatened the very order of the world. Covering a wide range of literary and historical topics – from metapoetics to the sublime, from divination to Epicureanism, and from madness to apotheosis – the book will appeal to all readers interested in Latin literature, Roman cultural history, poetic theology, and the epic and tragic traditions from antiquity to modernity.
Wandering Greeks by Robert Garland (PUP) £24.95
Most classical authors and modern historians depict the ancient Greek world as essentially stable and even static, once the so-called colonization movement came to an end. But Robert Garland argues that the Greeks were highly mobile, that their movement was essential to the survival, success, and sheer sustainability of their society, and that this wandering became a defining characteristic of their culture. Addressing a neglected but essential subject, Wandering Greeks focuses on the diaspora of tens of thousands of people between about 700 and 325 BCE, demonstrating the degree to which Greeks were liable to be forced to leave their homes due to political upheaval, oppression, poverty, warfare, or simply a desire to better themselves. Attempting to enter into the mind-set of these wanderers, the book provides an insightful and sympathetic account of what it meant for ancient Greeks to part from everyone and everything they held dear, to start a new life elsewhere–or even to become homeless, living on the open road or on the high seas with no end to their journey in sight. Each chapter identifies a specific kind of “wanderer,” including the overseas settler, the deportee, the evacuee, the asylum-seeker, the fugitive, the economic migrant, and the itinerant, and the book also addresses repatriation and the idea of the “portable polis.” The result is a vivid and unique portrait of ancient Greece as a culture of displaced persons.
Triumph in Defeat by Jessica H. Clark (OUP)
Although a great deal of historical work has been done in the past decade on Roman triumphs, defeats and their place in Roman culture have been relatively neglected. Why should we investigate the defeats of a society that almost never lost a war? In Triumph in Defeat, Jessica H. Clark answers this question by showing what responses to defeat can tell us about the Roman definition of victory. First opening with a general discussion of defeat and commemoration at Rome and then following the Second Punic War from its commencement to its afterlife in Roman historical memory through the second century BCE, culminating in the career of Gaius Marius, Clark examines both the successful production of victory narratives within the Senate and the gradual breakdown of those narratives. The result sheds light on the wars of the Republic, the Romans who wrote about these wars, and the ways in which both the events and their telling informed the political landscape of the Roman state. Triumph in Defeat not only fills a major gap in the study of Roman military, political, and cultural life, but also contributes to a more nuanced picture of Roman society, one that acknowledges the extent to which political discourse shaped Rome’s status as a world power. Clark’s work shows how defeat shaped the society whose massive reputation was-and still often is-built on its successes.
Suetonius the Biographer edited by Tristan Power & Roy K. Gibson (OUP) £70
The biographer Suetonius is one of the most fascinating writers of ancient Rome, but he is rarely afforded serious critical attention. This volume of new essays focuses on the various aspects of Suetonius’ work, from his lost biographical writing on Roman courtesans to his imperial portraits of the Caesars. Beginning with an introduction that assesses the originality of Suetonius as a writer and situates the essays within the context of debates and controversies over his biographical form, the collection addresses the issues surrounding his style, themes, and early influence on literature in three parts. The first part discusses formal features of Suetonian biography, such as his literary techniques, manners of citation and quotation, and devices of allusion and closure. The middle section is devoted to readings of the individual Lives, treating several topics – from Suetonius’ decision to begin his collection with Julius Caesar, to fictional elements in his death scene of the emperor Caligula, and to the theme of solitude in his Life of Domitian. The last part examines the ways in which Suetonius transgresses the boundaries of ancient biography by looking at his influence on epistolographers, antiquarians, commentators, and later biographers. This volume is essential reading for anyone who wants to know why Suetonius’ Lives are such a unique and powerful medium for the stories of ancient Rome, and how they became the primary model for later biography.
Alexander the Great. A very short introduction. £7.99 (3 for 2 in store or £3 off online)
Alexander the Great became king of Macedon in 336 BC, when he was only 20 years old, and died at the age of 32, twelve years later. During his reign he conquered the Achaemenid Persian Empire, the largest empire that had ever existed, leading his army from Greece to Pakistan, and from the Libyan desert to the steppes of Central Asia. His meteoric career, as leader of an alliance of Greek cities, Pharaoh of Egypt, and King of Persia, had a profound effect on the world he moved through. Even in his lifetime his achievements became legendary and in the centuries that following his story was told and retold throughout Europe and the East. Greek became the language of power in the Eastern Mediterranean and much of the Near East, as powerful Macedonian dynasts carved up Alexander’s empire into kingdoms of their own, underlaying the flourishing Hellenistic civilization that emerged after his death. But what do we really know about Alexander? In this Very Short Introduction, Hugh Bowden goes behind the usual historical accounts of Alexander’s life and career. Instead, he focuses on the evidence from Alexander’s own time – letters from officials in Afghanistan, Babylonian diaries, records from Egyptian temples – to try and understand how Alexander appeared to those who encountered him. In doing so he also demonstrates the profound influence the legends of his life have had on our historical understanding and the controversy they continue to generate worldwide. ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
The Last Days of Troy by Simon Armitage £11.99 (£3 off RRP £14.99)
Simon Armitage is rightly celebrated as one of the country’s most original and engaging poets; but he is also an adaptor and translator of some of our most important epics, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Death of King Arthur and Homer’s Odyssey. The latter, originally a commission for BBC Radio, rendered the classical tale with all the flare, wit and engagement that we have come to expect from this most distinctive of contemporary authors, and in so doing brought Odysseus’ return from the Trojan War memorably to life.