The Roman World 44 BC-AD 180.
A biography of any emperor must, of necessity, concern itself with
both the private and public aspects of its subject. In the case of
Trajan evidence for the private man is virtually nonexistent, but the
importance of his public acts is not for a moment in question. Julian
Bennett in his (B)(*)Trajan(1) recognises this and presents us with a
picture of the public man. Trajan is made known to us through his
achievements. The resulting work is, perhaps, a trifle dull but is full
and learned. Bennett's book amply Us the need for a biography of
this great emperor. The far nastier emperor Domitian has been
commanding; a considerable amount of attention of late. Hard on the
heels of Brian W. Jones's edition of Suetonius' Life (G&R
44 , 238) we now have Pat Southern's biography
(B)(*)Domitian.(2) Faced with the hostile tradition surrounding this
particular emperor Southern does what all good biographers do: gives a
measured and balanced account of the reign and the achievements of the
ruler. This work is competently done but what attracts me most is
Southern's final chapter where she discusses the subject's
character. Like her I believe psychology has a place in ancient history.
Fortunately in the case of Domitian there is enough evidence to allow
him to be brought to the psychiatrist's couch and, after due
examination, Southern, with some plausibility, suggests he may have been
suffering from paranoia in the full clinical sense. On page 24 of his
(B)(**)Empire of Honour(3) J. E. Lendon succinctly tells us what is the
aim of his book: `to describe and analyse the role relations of honour
played in Roman imperial government.' In other words his emperor is
an uomo di rispetto -- a term which Lendon himself does not use although
he does introduce a delicious modern man of honour on page 52. But there
were other men shown respect beside the emperor and so we have a
comprehensive examination of the role of honour in society in general,
among imperial officials and in the army. What emerges with great
clarity from this well documented and fascinating study is the degree to
which the wheels of society and government were lubricated by the oil of
honour. In short, as Lendon convincingly demonstrates, Greco-Roman
society is permeated with the concept of honour and an understanding of
its working is vital to our understanding of that society. Lendon's
institutional affiliation is American but he eschews the dreariness of
much American academic prose, writes with wit and fluency, and makes
only a half hearted bow (239) in the direction of that strange dogma
known as political correctness. In the preface to his (B)(**)A
Commentary on Livy Books VI-X(4) S. P. Oakley speaks of the inspiration
of the late and much missed Robert Ogilvie. He, in fact, goes much
further than his inspirer. While Ogilvie dealt with five books of Livy
in 772 pages, Oakley needs almost eight hundred to provide an
introduction and commentary to one book. Two further instalments, we are
told, will be needed to deal with the remaining four books. Not that any
of this paper is wasted. On the contrary, the breadth and depth of
Oakley's learning is obvious on every page. However, perhaps the
most poignant reflection his magnificent work evokes is that, thanks to
the demands of the dreaded RAE exercise, few scholars in Britain are
Rely to be given time to produce a work on this scale again. But we
should not end on an elegiac note. The advanced nature of the work makes
it unsuitable for the school library and its awesome price puts it
beyond the pocket of the individual scholar, but every serious student
of Livy or Roman history should see to it that their university library
possesses a copy. The latest addition to the Routledge History of the
Ancient World series is Martin Goodman's (B)(*)The Roman World 44
BC-AD1 80.(5) As the author himself recognizes (xvii) it is no easy task
to synthesize the vast body of scholarship which deals with this period
and, it must be said, there are some rough edges. The definition of an
eques (17) is a bit simplistic although the author does better when he
has a second shot at it (172). Likewise the discussion of appeals to the
emperor is somewhat curt because he takes too little account of
republican precedent (98), a problem which recurs when he comes to
Augustus' sumptuary laws (171-2). Once more there is a failure to
consider these laws in the light of the many which have gone before.
Despite the author's claim on page 206 there are no Irish ballads
dating back to the eighth century A.D. I suspect Goodman is thinking of
the Ulster cycle. Cyrene was probably annexed in 75 B.C. (see 278), and
throughout the book Gaul is anachronistically called France. But these
are points of detail. What of the work taken as a whole? The book is
divided into five parts. There is an introduction dealing with the
sources, a section on political history, another on the workings of the
state, a fourth which surveys Rome and the provinces, and the last
section which deals with religion. The political section is workmanlike
but does not mark much of an advance on the work of Scullard and
Garzetti which the author, a little unwisely, dismisses as superseded.
However, it is in the remainder of the book that the author really comes
into his own. This is a kind of survey (or balance sheet?) of the Roman
world between 44 B.C. and A.D. 180. It is consistently lucid, readable,
and informative and should be required reading for every student of the
period. In the preface to her (B)(**)Later Roman Colonate and Freedom(6)
(vii) Miroslava Mirkovic states simply her aim to discover `how the free
tenant became a servus terrae'. Her command of the ancient sources
and secondary material is impressive and the importance of her theme is
not in doubt. However, the somewhat dense exposition means that this is
strictly a monograph for the specialists who, I suspect, will find much
to engage them in it.
((*) denotes that a book is specially recommended for school
libraries; (**) that it is suitable for advanced students only; (B) that
a bibliography is included.)
(1.) Trajan, Optimus Princeps. A Life and Times. By Julian Bennett.
Routledge, London and New York, 1997. Pp. xviii + 317, with 32 plates
and 11 figures and maps. 45.00 [pounds sterling].
(2.) Domitian, Tragic Tyrant. By Pat Southern. Routledge, London and
New York, 1997. PP. viii + 164, with 24 plates and 7 illustrations.
40.00 [pounds sterling].
(3.) Empire and Honour. The Art of Government in the Roman World. By
J. E. Lendon. Oxford U.P., 1997. Pp. xii + 320. 40.00 [pounds sterling].
(4.) A Commentary on Livy Books VI-X. Volume I Introduction and Book
VI. Edited by S. P. Oakley. Oxford U.P., 1997. Pp. xxi + 799, with 13
figures and I map. 75.00 [pounds sterling].
(5.) The Roman World 44 BC-AD180. Routledge History of the Ancient
World. By Martin Goodman. Routledge, London and New York, 1997. Pp.
xxiii + 380, with 18 plates and 22 figures. Paper 16.99 [pounds
(6.) The Later Roman Colonate and Freedom. Trans. Am. Phil. Soc. Vol.
87, Pt. 2. By Miroslava Mirkovic. Am. Philosophical Soc., Philadelphia,
1997. Pp. viii + 143. Paper $18.00.