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An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire
This is a sweeping tour of the Mediterranean world from the Atlantic to Persia during the last half-century of the Roman Empire. By focusing on a single year not overshadowed by an epochal event, 428 AD provides a truly fresh look at a civilization in the midst of enormous change--as Christianity takes hold in rural areas across the empire, as western Roman provinces fall away from those in the Byzantine east, and as power shifts from Rome to Constantinople. Taking readers on a journey through the region, Giusto Traina describes the empires' people, places, and events in all their simultaneous richness and variety. The result is an original snapshot of a fraying Roman world on the edge of the medieval era. The result is an original snapshot of a fraying Roman world on the edge of the medieval era.
Readers meet many important figures, including the Roman general Flavius Dionysius as he encounters a delegation from Persia after the Sassanids annex Armenia; the Christian ascetic Simeon Stylites as he stands and preaches atop his column near Antioch; the eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II as he prepares to commission his legal code; and Genseric as he is elected king of the Vandals and begins to turn his people into a formidable power. We are also introduced to Pulcheria, the powerful sister of Theodosius, and Galla Placidia, the queen mother of the western empire, as well as Augustine, Pope Celestine I, and nine-year-old Roman emperor Valentinian III.
Full of telling details, 428 AD illustrates the uneven march of history. As the west unravels, the east remains intact. As Christianity spreads, pagan ideas and schools persist. And, despite the presence of the forces that will eventually tear the classical world apart, Rome remains at the center, exerting a powerful unifying force over disparate peoples stretched across the Mediterranean.
Gender, Drama, and Nostalgia in Ancient Greece
Greek drama demands a story of origins, writes Karen Bassi in Acting Like Men. Abandoning the search for ritual and native origins of Greek drama, Bassi argues for a more secular and less formalist approach to the emergence of theater in ancient Greece. Bassi takes a broad view of Greek drama as a cultural phenomenon, and she discusses a wide variety of texts and artifacts that include epic poetry, historical narrative, philosophical treatises, visual media, and the dramatic texts themselves. In her discussion of theaterlike practices and experiences, Bassi proposes new conceptual categories for understanding Greek drama as a cultural institution, viewing theatrical performance as part of what Foucault has called a discursive formation. Bassi also provides an important new analysis of gender in Greek culture at large and in Athenian civic ideology in particular, where spectatorship at the civic theater was a distinguishing feature of citizenship, and where citizenship was denied women. Acting Like Men includes detailed discussions of message-sending as a form of scripted speech in the Iliad, of disguise and the theatrical body of Odysseus in the Odyssey, of tyranny as a theaterlike phenomenon in the narratives of Herodotus, and of Dionysus as the tyrannical and effeminate god of the theater in Euripides' Bacchae and Aristophanes' Frogs. Bassi concludes that the validity of an idealized masculine identity in Greek and Athenian culture is highly contested in the theater, where--in principle--citizens become passive spectators. Thereafter the author considers Athenian theater and Athenian democracy as mutually reinforcing mimetic regimes. Acting Like Men will interest those interested in the history of the theater, performance theory, gender and cultural studies, and feminist approaches to ancient texts. Karen Bassi is Associate Professor of Classics, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose
Examining the figure of Aesop and the traditions surrounding him, Aesopic Conversations offers a portrait of what Greek popular culture might have looked like in the ancient world. What has survived from the literary record of antiquity is almost entirely the product of an elite of birth, wealth, and education, limiting our access to a fuller range of voices from the ancient past. This book, however, explores the anonymous Life of Aesop and offers a different set of perspectives. Leslie Kurke argues that the traditions surrounding this strange text, when read with and against the works of Greek high culture, allow us to reconstruct an ongoing conversation of "great" and "little" traditions spanning centuries.
Evidence going back to the fifth century BCE suggests that Aesop participated in the practices of nonphilosophical wisdom (sophia) while challenging it from below, and Kurke traces Aesop's double relation to this wisdom tradition. She also looks at the hidden influence of Aesop in early Greek mimetic or narrative prose writings, focusing particularly on the Socratic dialogues of Plato and the Histories of Herodotus. Challenging conventional accounts of the invention of Greek prose and recognizing the problematic sociopolitics of humble prose fable, Kurke provides a new approach to the beginnings of prose narrative and what would ultimately become the novel.
Delving into Aesop, his adventures, and his crafting of fables, Aesopic Conversations shows how this low, noncanonical figure was--unexpectedly--central to the construction of ancient Greek literature.
Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.
Explaining Nature in Ancient Greece and Rome
Classical authors used both prose and poetry to explore and explain the natural world. In Aetna and the Moon, Liba Taub examines the variety of ways in which ancient Greeks and Romans conveyed scientific information. Oregon State University Press is proud to present this inaugural volume in the Horning Visiting Scholars Series.
In ancient Greece and Rome, most of the technical literature on scientific, mathematical, technological, and medical subjects was written in prose, as it is today. However, Greek and Roman poets produced a significant number of widely read poems that dealt with scientific topics. Why would an author choose poetry to explain the natural world? This question is complicated by claims made, since antiquity, that the growth of rational explanation involved the abandonment of poetry and the rejection of myth in favor of science.
Taub uses two texts to explore how scientific ideas were disseminated in the ancient world. The anonymous author of the Latin Aetna poem explained the science behind the volcano Etna with poetry. The Greek author Plutarch juxtaposed scientific and mythic explanations in his dialogue On the Face on the Moon.
Both texts provide a lens through which Taub considers the nature of scientific communication in ancient Greece and Rome. General readers will appreciate Taub’s thoughtful discussion concerning the choices available to ancient authors to convey their ideas about science—as important today as it was in antiquity—while Taub’s careful research and lively writing will engage classicists as well as historians of science.
Late Antique Responses and Practices
Charis in Early Greek Poetry
Although "grace" in today's secular usage often connotes beauty or good manners, to the ancient Greeks it was both an aesthetic and a moral concept central to social order--a transformative power grounded in favor, thanks, repayment, delight, pleasure, and, above all, reciprocity. Here Bonnie MacLachlan explores the Greek concept of grace, or charis, as depicted in poetic works from Homer to Aeschylus, to tap into the essential meaning behind the manifold uses of the term. She also relates it to other important concepts in the moral language of the eighth century \B.C.E.
Examining epic, lyric, erotic, epinician, and tragic poetry, and the cult of the Charites themselves, MacLachlan shows how charis governed human relations of all sorts, from the battlefield to bed: Achilles sulks, and jeopardizes the Greek victory in the Trojan War, because there was no charis in Agamemnon's gesture of reconciliation; the young Telemachus, filled with the gift of charis, speaks persuasively before the assembly of Ithacans; young men and women in erotic poems shine with charis when they are sexually mature. In shaping her definition of charis as a mutually shared pleasure that breaks down the barriers of the self, MacLachlan seeks to elucidate many poetic passages that have long mystified the commentators.
Originally published in 1993.
The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.
This first focused analysis of veterans’ experiences in ancient Greece offers a fresh, “bottom-up” perspective on important military and political aspects of early Hellenistic history.
To all those who witnessed his extraordinary conquests, from Albania to India, Alexander the Great appeared invincible. How Alexander himself promoted this appearance—how he abetted the belief that he enjoyed divine favor and commanded even the forces of nature against his enemies—is the subject of Frank L. Holt's absorbing book.
Solid evidence for the "supernaturalized" Alexander lies in a rare series of medallions that depict the triumphant young king at war against the elephants, archers, and chariots of Rajah Porus of India at the Battle of the Hydaspes River. Recovered from Afghanistan and Iraq in sensational and sometimes perilous circumstances, these ancient artifacts have long animated the modern historical debate about Alexander. Holt's book, the first devoted to the mystery of these ancient medallions, takes us into the history of their discovery and interpretation, into the knowable facts of their manufacture and meaning, and, ultimately, into the king's own psyche and his frightening theology of war. The result is a valuable analysis of Alexander history and myth, a vivid account of numismatics, and a spellbinding look into the age-old mechanics of megalomania.
Topography and Social Conflict
Second only to Rome in the ancient world, Alexandria was home to many of late antiquity's most brilliant writers, philosophers, and theologians—among them Philo, Origen, Arius, Athanasius, Hypatia, Cyril, and John Philoponus. Now, in Alexandria in Late Antiquity, Christopher Haas offers the first book to place these figures within the physical and social context of Alexandria's bustling urban milieu. Because of its clear demarcation of communal boundaries, Alexandria provides the modern historian with an ideal opportunity to probe the multicultural makeup of an ancient urban unit. Haas explores the broad avenues and back alleys of Alexandria's neighborhoods, its suburbs and waterfront, and aspects of material culture that underlay Alexandrian social and intellectual life. Organizing his discussion around the city's religious and ethnic blocs—Jews, pagans, and Christians—he details the fiercely competitive nature of Alexandrian social dynamics. In contrast to recent scholarship, which cites Alexandria as a model for peaceful coexistence within a culturally diverse community, Haas finds that the diverse groups' struggles for social dominance and cultural hegemony often resulted in violence and bloodshed—a volatile situation frequently exacerbated by imperial intervention on one side or the other. Eventually, Haas concludes, Alexandrian society achieved a certain stability and reintegration—a process that resulted in the transformation of Alexandrian civic identity during the crucial centuries between antiquity and the Middle Ages.