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Rome’s Revolution

ISBN: 9780199739769 - Rome's Revolution

Rome’s Revolution by Richard Alston (OUP) £20

Novelized, televised, and endlessly scrutinized by scholars, the fall of the Roman Republic marks one of history’s great turning points. Historians have studied the descent of the Republic into civil war as a great political tragedy, a warning from the past about the unsustainability of empires; political scientists have labeled it a parable about militarism, populism, moral decay, or the inevitable corruption of political systems. Yet the familiar story of the Roman Republic’s downfall continues to be the story of its elites. What if we started thinking about Roman politics not from the perspectives of Caesar and Cicero, but from the point of view of the soldier, the peasant, or the pauper? In an original account of what he calls Rome’s revolution, Richard Alston reinscribes these humble protagonists into their tumultuous era. They, like the ruthless aristocrats they swore allegiance to, were political agents, negotiating their positions in the context of a “failed state.” Rome’s Revolution blends riveting historical narrative with socio-economic analysis, restoring a rich context to the cataclysmic violence of the period. In addition to chronicling the drama of aristocratic rivalries, the book digs beneath the high politics of Cicero, Caesar, Antony and Octavian to examine the problems of making a living in first-century BC Italy. Portraying the revolution as the crisis of a violent society-both among the citizenry and among a ruling class whose legitimacy was dwindling-Rome’s Revolution provides new insight into the motivations that drove men to march on their capital city and slaughter their compatriots.

Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition

ISBN: 9780198738053 - Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition

Robert Graves and the Classical Tradition (OUP) £75

The poet Robert Graves’ use of material from classical sources has been contentious to scholars for many years, with a number of classicists baulking at his interpretation of myth and his novelization of history, and questioning its academic value. This collection of essays provides the latest scholarship on Graves’ historical fiction (for example in I, Claudius and Count Belisarius) and his use of mythical figures in his poetry, as well as an examination of his controversial retelling of the Greek Myths. The essays explore Graves’ unique perspective and expand our understanding of his works within their original context, while at the same time considering their relevance in how we comprehend the ancient world.

Fame and Infamy

ISBN: 9780199662326 - Fame and Infamy

Fame and Infamy (OUP) £85

Over recent decades, the debate about how individuals are portrayed in prose-texts of Greek and Roman historiography and biography has evolved in increasingly nuanced ways. The sorts of questions which now tend to be raised concerning such prose-texts brings them closely into line with the more subtle analysis usually reserved for poetry. Moreover, the engagement with literary strategies at work in historiography and biography has a fundamental impact both on the relationship of these texts with poetry and on the status of these genres as historical evidence. In twenty-four chapters written by leading experts in their fields, Fame and Infamy considers the central question of characterization within Greek and Roman historiography and biography from a fresh perspective, combining close readings of texts of individual authors and overarching exploration into questions of how and why characterization in the ancient world evolves in the ways that it does. Spanning a wide period of time, and focusing on writers from both the Greek and Roman worlds – from Herodotus to Cassius Dio, and from Cicero to Suetonius and beyond – this volume is essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of the genres of historiography and biography in the ancient world.

The Pseudo-Platonic Seventh Letter

ISBN: 9780198733652 - The Pseudo-Platonic Seventh Letter

The Pseudo-Platonic Seventh Letter (OUP) £30

The Seventh Platonic Letter describes Plato’s attempts to turn the ruler of Sicily, Dionysius II, into a philosopher ruler along the lines of the Republic. It explains why Plato turned from politics to philosophy in his youth and how he then tried to apply his ideas to actual politics later on. It also sets out his views about language, writing and philosophy. As such, it represents a potentially crucial source of information about Plato, who tells us almost nothing about himself in his dialogues. But is it genuine? Scholars have debated the issue for centuries, although recent opinion has moved in its favour. The origin of this book was a seminar given in Oxford in 2001 by Myles Burnyeat and Michael Frede, two of the most eminent scholars of ancient philosophy in recent decades. Michael Frede begins by casting doubt on the Letter by looking at it from the general perspective of letter writing in antiquity, when it was quite normal to fabricate letters by famous figures from the past. Both then attack the authenticity of the letter head-on by showing how its philosophical content conflicts with what we find in the Platonic dialogues. They also reflect on the question of why the Letter was written, whether as an attempt to exculpate Plato from the charge of meddling in politics (Frede), or as an attempt to portray, through literary means, the ways in which human weakness and emotions can lead to disasters in political life (Burnyeat).

The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece

ISBN: 9780691140919 - The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece

The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece by Josiah Ober (Princeton UP) £24.95

Lord Byron described Greece as great, fallen, and immortal, a characterization more apt than he knew. Through most of its long history, Greece was poor. But in the classical era, Greece was densely populated and highly urbanized. Many surprisingly healthy Greeks lived in remarkably big houses and worked for high wages at specialized occupations. Middle-class spending drove sustained economic growth and classical wealth produced a stunning cultural efflorescence lasting hundreds of years. Why did Greece reach such heights in the classical period-and why only then? And how, after “the Greek miracle” had endured for centuries, did the Macedonians defeat the Greeks, seemingly bringing an end to their glory? Drawing on a massive body of newly available data and employing novel approaches to evidence, Josiah Ober offers a major new history of classical Greece and an unprecedented account of its rise and fall. Ober argues that Greece’s rise was no miracle but rather the result of political breakthroughs and economic development. The extraordinary emergence of citizen-centered city-states transformed Greece into a society that defeated the mighty Persian Empire. Yet Philip and Alexander of Macedon were able to beat the Greeks in the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BCE, a victory made possible by the Macedonians’ appropriation of Greek innovations. After Alexander’s death, battle-hardened warlords fought ruthlessly over the remnants of his empire. But Greek cities remained populous and wealthy, their economy and culture surviving to be passed on to the Romans-and to us. A compelling narrative filled with uncanny modern parallels, this is a book for anyone interested in how great civilizations are born and die. This book is based on evidence available on a new interactive website. To learn more, please visit: http://polis.stanford.edu/.

The Greeks in Asia

ISBN: 9780500252130 - The Greeks in Asia

The Greeks in Asia by John Boardman £27 (£5 off RRP £32)

This book, by Britains most distinguished historian of ancient Greek art, recounts the influence of Greek communities and their culture through Central Asia, India and Western China, from the Bronze Age through to the rise of Islam. Boardman examines a wealth of art and artifacts as well as literary sources to reveal the remarkable influence of Greek culture upon peoples Anatolians, Levantines, Persians, Asiatics, Indians, Chinese whose settled civilizations were far older, with their own strong traditions in life, government and the arts. The Greeks were not empire-builders. They did not seek to conquer or rule. However, they were highly literate and adept at trade; they spread a monetary economy through Eurasia; their religion was easily adapted to that of others; their art developed a form of narrative that was to be dominant for centuries to come; and their poets and philosophers were widely respected outside their homeland. As Boardman notes, They are an odd phenomenon in world history. Through their travels they came to leave a very distinctive imprint on the lives and arts of many distant peoples, and over centuries, some to the present day’.

Laughing Awry

ISBN: 9780198729303 - Laughing Awry

Laughing Awry. Plautus and Tragicomedy (OUP) £60

Laughing Awry offers a comprehensive overview of key themes in the interpretation of the plays of Plautus, and explores the connections between deception, desire, slavery, genre, and audience. In doing so, it offers an account of the mechanisms of Plautus’ humour and the uncomfortable origins of laughter, revealing how his dramas do not just play to but also work on the audience. The volume examines the whole corpus of Plautine plays, providing longer accounts of selected dramas and choice scenes. An emphasis on methodological and theoretical questions is maintained throughout, and particular attention is paid to the psychic life of humour and its relationship to questions of social power. Chapters discuss, among other topics, the problem of writing about humour, Plautus’ reception by subsequent Roman authors, the plays’ embedded social theory, the intersection of circuits of desire, laughter as a scandalous surfeit, and the sublime perversity of laughter. The volume asks what we are laughing at, why we laugh, and what this laughter means.
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