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Constructing Autocracy

Aristocrats and Emperors in Julio-Claudian Rome

Matthew B. Roller

Rome's transition from a republican system of government to an imperial regime comprised more than a century of civil upheaval and rapid institutional change. Yet the establishment of a ruling dynasty, centered around a single leader, came as a cultural and political shock to Rome’s aristocracy, who had shared power in the previous political order. How did the imperial regime manage to establish itself and how did the Roman elites from the time of Julius Caesar to Nero make sense of it? In this compelling book, Matthew Roller reveals a "dialogical" process at work, in which writers and philosophers vigorously negotiated and contested the nature and scope of the emperor’s authority, despite the consensus that he was the ultimate authority figure in Roman society.

Roller seeks evidence for this "thinking out" of the new order in a wide range of republican and imperial authors, with an emphasis on Lucan and Seneca the Younger. He shows how elites assessed the impact of the imperial system on traditional aristocratic ethics and examines how several longstanding authority relationships in Roman society--those of master to slave, father to son, and gift-creditor to gift-debtor--became competing models for how the emperor did or should relate to his aristocratic subjects. By revealing this ideological activity to be not merely reactive but also constitutive of the new order, Roller contributes to ongoing debates about the character of the Roman imperial system and about the "politics" of literature.

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Controlling Laughter

Anthony Corbeill

Although numerous scholars have studied Late Republican humor, this is the first book to examine its social and political context. Anthony Corbeill maintains that political abuse exercised real powers of persuasion over Roman audiences and he demonstrates how public humor both creates and enforces a society's norms.

Previous scholarship has offered two explanations for why abusive language proliferated in Roman oratory. The first asserts that public rhetoric, filled with extravagant lies, was unconstrained by strictures of propriety. The second contends that invective represents an artifice borrowed from the Greeks. After a fresh reading of all extant literary works from the period, Corbeill concludes that the topics exploited in political invective arise from biases already present in Roman society. The author assesses evidence outside political discourse—from prayer ritual to philosophical speculation to physiognomic texts—in order to locate independently the biases in Roman society that enabled an orator's jokes to persuade. Within each instance of abusive humor—a name pun, for example, or the mockery of a physical deformity—resided values and preconceptions that were essential to the way a Roman citizen of the Late Republic defined himself in relation to his community.

Originally published in 1996.

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.

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Corrupting Luxury in Ancient Greek Literature

Robert J. Gorman and Vanessa B. Gorman

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Creating a Common Polity

Religion, Economy, and Politics in the Making of the Greek Koinon

Emily Mackil

In the ancient Greece of Pericles and Plato, the polis, or city-state, reigned supreme, but by the time of Alexander, nearly half of the mainland Greek city-states had surrendered part of their autonomy to join the larger political entities called koina. In the first book in fifty years to tackle the rise of these so-called Greek federal states, Emily Mackil charts a complex, fascinating map of how shared religious practices and long-standing economic interactions faciliated political cooperation and the emergence of a new kind of state. Mackil provides a detailed historical narrative spanning five centuries to contextualize her analyses, which focus on the three best-attested areas of mainland Greece—Boiotia, Achaia, and Aitolia. The analysis is supported by a dossier of Greek inscriptions, each text accompanied by an English translation and commentary.

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A Critical History of Early Rome

From Prehistory to the First Punic War

Gary Forsythe

During the period from Rome's Stone Age beginnings on the Tiber River to its conquest of the Italian peninsula in 264 B.C., the Romans in large measure developed the social, political, and military structure that would be the foundation of their spectacular imperial success. In this comprehensive and clearly written account, Gary Forsythe draws extensively from historical, archaeological, linguistic, epigraphic, religious, and legal evidence as he traces Rome's early development within a multicultural environment of Latins, Sabines, Etruscans, Greeks, and Phoenicians. His study charts the development of the classical republican institutions that would eventually enable Rome to create its vast empire, and provides fascinating discussions of topics including Roman prehistory, religion, and language.

In addition to its value as an authoritative synthesis of current research, A Critical History of Early Rome offers a revisionist interpretation of Rome's early history through its innovative use of ancient sources. The history of this period is notoriously difficult to uncover because there are no extant written records, and because the later historiography that affords the only narrative accounts of Rome's early days is shaped by the issues, conflicts, and ways of thinking of its own time. This book provides a groundbreaking examination of those surviving ancient sources in light of their underlying biases, thereby reconstructing early Roman history upon a more solid evidentiary foundation.

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Dangerous Gifts

Gender and Exchange in Ancient Greece

By Deborah Lyons

Inspired by anthropological writing on reciprocity and kinship, this book applies the idea of gendered wealth to ancient Greek myth for the first time, and also highlights the importance of the sister-brother bond in the Classical world.

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The Day Commodus Killed a Rhino

Understanding the Roman Games

Jerry Toner

The Roman emperor Commodus wanted to kill a rhinoceros with a bow and arrow, and he wanted to do it in the Colosseum. Commodus’s passion for hunting animals was so fervent that he dreamt of shooting a tiger, an elephant, and a hippopotamus; his prowess was such that people claimed he never missed when hurling his javelin or firing arrows from his bow. For fourteen days near the end of AD 192, the emperor mounted one of the most lavish and spectacular gladiatorial games Rome had ever seen. Commodus himself was the star attraction, and people rushed from all over Italy to witness the spectacle. But this slaughter was simply the warm-up act to the main event: the emperor was also planning to fight as a gladiator. Why did Roman rulers spend vast resources on such over-the-top displays—and why did some emperors appear in them as combatants? Why did the Roman rabble enjoy watching the slaughter of animals and the sight of men fighting to the death? And how best can we in the modern world understand what was truly at stake in the circus and the arena? In The Day Commodus Killed a Rhino, Jerry Toner set out to answer these questions by vividly describing what it would have been like to attend Commodus’ fantastic shows and watch one of his many appearances as both hunter and fighter. Highlighting the massive logistical effort needed to supply the games with animals, performers, and criminals for execution, the book reveals how blood and gore were actually incidental to what really mattered. Gladiatorial games played a key role in establishing a forum for political debate between the rulers and the ruled. Roman crowds were not passive: they were made up of sophisticated consumers with their own political aims, which they used the games to secure. In addition, the games also served as a pure expression of what it meant to be a true Roman. Drawing on notions of personal honor, manly vigor, and sophisticated craftsmanship, the games were a story that the Romans loved to tell themselves about themselves.

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Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt

by Jan Assmann; translated by David Lorton

"Human beings," the acclaimed Egyptologist Jan Assmann writes, "are the animals that have to live with the knowledge of their death, and culture is the world they create so they can live with that knowledge." In his new book, Assmann explores images of death and of death rites in ancient Egypt to provide startling new insights into the particular character of the civilization as a whole. Drawing on the unfamiliar genre of the death liturgy, he arrives at a remarkably comprehensive view of the religion of death in ancient Egypt.

Assmann describes in detail nine different images of death: death as the body being torn apart, as social isolation, the notion of the court of the dead, the dead body, the mummy, the soul and ancestral spirit of the dead, death as separation and transition, as homecoming, and as secret. Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt also includes a fascinating discussion of rites that reflect beliefs about death through language and ritual.

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Death to Tyrants!

Ancient Greek Democracy and the Struggle against Tyranny

David Teegarden

Death to Tyrants! is the first comprehensive study of ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation--laws that explicitly gave individuals incentives to "kill a tyrant." David Teegarden demonstrates that the ancient Greeks promulgated these laws to harness the dynamics of mass uprisings and preserve popular democratic rule in the face of anti-democratic threats. He presents detailed historical and sociopolitical analyses of each law and considers a variety of issues: What is the nature of an anti-democratic threat? How would various provisions of the laws help pro-democrats counter those threats? And did the laws work?

Teegarden argues that tyrant-killing legislation facilitated pro-democracy mobilization both by encouraging brave individuals to strike the first blow against a nondemocratic regime and by convincing others that it was safe to follow the tyrant killer's lead. Such legislation thus deterred anti-democrats from staging a coup by ensuring that they would be overwhelmed by their numerically superior opponents. Drawing on modern social science models, Teegarden looks at how the institution of public law affects the behavior of individuals and groups, thereby exploring the foundation of democracy's persistence in the ancient Greek world. He also provides the first English translation of the tyrant-killing laws from Eretria and Ilion.

By analyzing crucial ancient Greek tyrant-killing legislation, Death to Tyrants! explains how certain laws enabled citizens to draw on collective strength in order to defend and preserve their democracy in the face of motivated opposition.

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