Thursday, October 20, 2005

Pompey by Robin Seager

I see Oxbow books is also offering this revised edition of Seager's biography of Pompey for only half price. I've read quite a bit about Caesar but my knowledge of Pompey has been limited to a view of him from the Caesarian camp. His sensitive portrayal by British actor Kenneth Cranham on HBO's new miniseries "Rome" has peaked my interest even further. So I ordered this book as well.

"First published in 1979, this is a revised edition of Seager's comprehensive biography and analysis of Caesar's son-in-law and rival, Pompeius. A general introduction to Roman politics has been added, along with a glossary, chronology, maps and an afterword which outlines recent research developments, has rendered this study more accessible to a wider readership. Much of the original text remains unchanged and it still provides a useful and interesting survey of one of Rome's more extraordinary characters who is often overlooked in favour of his contemporaries Caesar and Cicero. 269p, maps (Blackwell 2002)"

The Brothers of Romulus by Cynthia J. Bannon

David Brown Book Company: "The Brothers of Romulus
by Cynthia J. Bannon

A study of fraternal pietas in Roman law, literature and society. Bannon examines the relationship between brothers in both the public and private spheres, arguing that the notion of fraternity, with the concept of pietas at its heart, was very important in Roman society and that it became a model for Romns of relationships between friends, lovers and soldiers. She illustrates her arguments with some famous Roman siblings: Cicero and Quintus, Scipio Africanus and Scipio Asiagenus, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus and the most infamous of all: Romulus and Remus. 234p (Princeton UP 1997)"

I noticed this interesting-sounding book that retails for a hefty $49.95 is now on sale for only $14.98. Roman relationships are particularly fascinating to me so I ordered this book.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization

Review by John Sledge (abstract)

"...revisionists have emerged to suggest that the fall [of the Roman Empire] was less a scenario of invasion than one of peaceful transition to Germanic rule, which had its own distinctive culture and traditions worthy of study and respect.

Bryan Ward-Perkins, a British archaeologist, believes this is going too far, and in his new book, "The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization" (Oxford, $28), he demolishes the revisionists' assertions in detail. "Some of the recent literature on the Germanic settlements reads like an account of a tea party at the Roman vicarage," he huffs. "A shy newcomer to the village ... is invited in. There is a brief moment of awkwardness, while the host finds an empty chair and pours a fresh cup of tea; but the conversation, and village life, soon flow on." The reality, he counters, was that "the process of mutual accommodation was painful for the natives, was to take a very long time, and ... left the vicarage in very poor shape." According to Ward-Perkins, Rome's fall was a catastrophe and in its wake economies were wrecked, standards of living plummeted, and theretofore sophisticated institutions destroyed. Furthermore and not least, individuals suffered unspeakable horrors.

He begins with a liberal sprinkling of eyewitness narratives that leave little doubt to the disruption and difficulty the empire's citizens endured. One observer wrote, "There was Death, Misery, Destruction, Burning, and Mourning. The whole of Gaul smoked on a single funeral pyre." While Ward-Perkins admits that some of these accounts were likely exaggerated, the totality of descriptions, he insists, suggest "the experience of invasion was terrible."

He examines the archaeological record for evidence that the fall led to poorer living conditions, and he finds it in everything from pottery to roofing tiles. Before the fall, complicated trade networks delivered well-made goods to the farthest reaches of the empire. Even the ordinary inhabitants of distant Britain enjoyed nicely fashioned dinnerware and amphorae, and their barns were roofed with quality clay tile. Conversely, after the fall, crude, locally made pots replaced the fine imports, and barns were roofed with thatch.

There is other evidence as well. Declining crop yields and agricultural capacity are reflected in the diminished sizes of cow bones, and the near-disappearance of literacy is demonstrated by the absence of graffiti and business signs, once common in even small Roman towns of the late empire.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Iron Hand of Mars by Lindsey Davis

I have begun listening to an unabridged version of Lindsey Davis' "Iron Hand of Mars". This tale of intrigue is set in Germania where Falco, Vespasian's agent, must complete a series of imperial requests amidst a backdrop of rebellion led by the Batavian leader Civilis. Since most of my study of Rome has concentrated on the late Republican period, I was not familiar with this major complication arising during the reign of Vespasian. So, I did a little research and found this interesting overview:

"Gaius Julius Civilis was the leader of the Batavian rebellion against the Romans in 69 AD. By his name, it can be told that he (or one of his male ancestors) was made a Roman citizen (and thus, the tribe a Roman vassal) by either Augustus Caesar or (Roman Emperor who succeeded Tiberius and whose uncontrolled passions resulted in manifest insanity; noted for his cruelty and tyranny; was assassinated (12-41)) Caligula.

He was twice imprisoned on a charge of rebellion, and narrowly escaped execution. During the disturbances that followed the death of (Roman Emperor notorious for his monstrous vice and fantastic luxury (was said to have started a fire that destroyed much of Rome in 64) but the Empire remained prosperous during his rule (37-68)) Nero, he took up arms under pretence of siding with (Emperor of Rome and founder of the Flavian dynasty who consolidated Roman rule in Germany and Britain and reformed the army and brought prosperity to the empire; began the construction of the Colosseum (9-79)) Vespasian and induced the inhabitants of his native country to rebel. The Batavians, who had rendered valuable aid under the early emperors, had been well treated in order to attach them to the cause of Rome. They were exempt from tribute, but were obliged to supply a large number of men for the army, and the burden of conscription and the oppressions of provincial governors were important incentives to revolt. The Batavians were immediately joined by several neighbouring German tribes, the most important of whom were the (A West Germanic language spoken in Friesland in the northwestern Netherlands; a near relative of English) Frisians.

The Roman garrisons near the Rhine were driven out, and twenty-four ships captured. Two legions under Mummius Lupercus were defeated at Castra Vetera (near the modern Xanten) and surrounded. Eight cohorts of Batavian veterans joined their countrymen, and the troops sent by Vespasian to the relief of Vetera threw in their lot with them.

The result of these accessions to the forces of Civilis was a rising in (A Celt of ancient Gaul) Gaul. Hordeonius Flaccus was murdered by his troops ( (The cardinal number that is the product of ten and seven) 70), and the whole of the Roman forces were induced by two commanders of the Gallic auxiliaries--Julius Classicus and Julius Tutor--to revolt from Rome and join Civilis. The whole of Gaul thus practically declared itself independent, and the foundation of a new kingdom of Gaul was contemplated. The prophetess Veleda predicted the complete success of Civilis and the fall of the (An empire established by Augustus in 27 BC and divided in AD 395 into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern or Byzantine Empire; at its peak lands in Europe and Africa and Asia were ruled by ancient Rome) Roman Empire. But disputes broke out amongst the different tribes and rendered co-operation impossible; Vespasian, having successfully ended the civil war, called upon Civilis to lay down his arms, and on his refusal resolved to take strong measures for the suppression of the revolt.

The arrival of Potillius Cerealis with a strong force awed the Gauls and mutinous troops into submission; Civilis was defeated at Augusta Treverorum (Trier, Trèves) and Vetera, and forced to withdraw to the island of the Batavians. He finally came to an agreement with Cerialis whereby his countrymen obtained certain advantages, and resumed amicable relations with Rome. From this time Civilis disappears from history.

The chief authority for the history of the insurrection is Tacitus, Histories, iv., v., whose account breaks off at the beginning of Civilis's speech to Cerialis; see also (Jewish general who led the revolt of the Jews against the Romans and then wrote a history of those events (37-100)) Josephus, Bellum Judaicum, vii. 4. There is a monograph by E. Meyer, Der Freiheitskrieg der Bataver unter Civilis (1856); see also Merivale, Hist. of the Romans under the Empire, ch. 58; H. Schiller, Geschichte der romischen Kaiserzeit, bk. ii. ch. 2,,f 54 (1883)."

I was also intrigued by the reference to the prophetess Valeda. So I looked her up too:

Veleda was a (A person who has never had sex) virginal holy woman of the Germanic tribe of the Bructeri who achieved some prominence during the Batavian rebellion of 69 - 70 CE that was headed by the Romanized Batavian chieftain Civilis, when she correctly predicted the initial successes of the rebels against Roman legions. When the Batavian leader Civilis captured the legionary base at Castra Vetera (near modern Xanten in Niederrhein, Germany), the commander of the Roman garrison, Munius Lupercus, was being sent to Veleda when he was killed en route. When the pretorian trireme was captured, it was rowed upriver as a gift to Veleda.

The name may actually be a generic title for a prophetess. Tacitus (in Germania books iv and v) mentioned a previous seeress, whose name he translated as Aurinia. Veleda enjoyed wide influence over the tribe of the Bructeri and beyond, for the inhabitants of the Roman settlement at (A commercial center and river port in western Germany on the Rhine River; flourished during the 15th century as a member of the Hanseatic League) Cologne accepted her arbitration in a conflict with the Tencteri, an unfederated tribe in Germany. Later the Romans took her, perhaps as hostage, and perhaps kept her at Ardea, south of Rome, for a Greek epigram found there satirizes her prophetic powers."