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Constantine and the Cities

Imperial Authority and Civic Politics

By Noel Lenski

Over the course of the fourth century, Christianity rose from a religion actively persecuted by the authority of the Roman empire to become the religion of state—a feat largely credited to Constantine the Great. Constantine succeeded in propelling this minority religion to imperial status using the traditional tools of governance, yet his proclamation of his new religious orientation was by no means unambiguous. His coins and inscriptions, public monuments, and pronouncements sent unmistakable signals to his non-Christian subjects that he was willing not only to accept their beliefs about the nature of the divine but also to incorporate traditional forms of religious expression into his own self-presentation. In Constantine and the Cities, Noel Lenski attempts to reconcile these apparent contradictions by examining the dialogic nature of Constantine's power and how his rule was built in the space between his ambitions for the empire and his subjects' efforts to further their own understandings of religious truth.

Focusing on cities and the texts and images produced by their citizens for and about the emperor, Constantine and the Cities uncovers the interplay of signals between ruler and subject, mapping out the terrain within which Constantine nudged his subjects in the direction of conversion. Reading inscriptions, coins, legal texts, letters, orations, and histories, Lenski demonstrates how Constantine and his subjects used the instruments of government in a struggle for authority over the religion of the empire.

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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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Creatures Born of Mud and Slime

The Wonder and Complexity of Spontaneous Generation

Daryn Lehoux

We accept that, at some point in the history of our universe, living creatures emerged from nonliving matter. Yet from the time of Aristotle until the late nineteenth century, many people believed in spontaneous generation, that living creatures sprang into existence from rotting material. As Daryn Lehoux explains in this fascinating book, spontaneous generation was perhaps the last stand of the ancient scientific worldview.

In Creatures Born of Mud and Slime, Lehoux shows that—far from being a superstitious, gullible, or simplistic belief—spontaneous generation was a sophisticated and painstakingly grounded fact that stood up to the best scientific testing. Starting with the ancient Greeks’ careful and detailed investigations into how animals are generated straight through to the early modern period, Lehoux brings to life the intellectual contexts, rivalries, observational evidence, and complex and fascinating theories that were used to understand and explain the phenomena.

The book highlights both the weirdness and the wonder that lie at the heart of investigations into nature. Lehoux concludes with a new look at a set of conflicting experiments that demonstrate that even the best scientific evidence can end up muddying what we take to be the truth about the world. Creatures Born of Mud and Slime is a compelling look at how we understand conceptions of scientific change, truth, and progress.

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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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The Dancing Lares and the Serpent in the Garden

Religion at the Roman Street Corner

Harriet I. Flower

The most pervasive gods in ancient Rome had no traditional mythology attached to them, nor was their worship organized by elites. Throughout the Roman world, neighborhood street corners, farm boundaries, and household hearths featured small shrines to the beloved lares, a pair of cheerful little dancing gods. These shrines were maintained primarily by ordinary Romans, and often by slaves and freedmen, for whom the lares cult provided a unique public leadership role. In this comprehensive and richly illustrated book, the first to focus on the lares, Harriet Flower offers a strikingly original account of these gods and a new way of understanding the lived experience of everyday Roman religion.

Weaving together a wide range of evidence, Flower sets forth a new interpretation of the much-disputed nature of the lares. She makes the case that they are not spirits of the dead, as many have argued, but rather benevolent protectors—gods of place, especially the household and the neighborhood, and of travel. She examines the rituals honoring the lares, their cult sites, and their iconography, as well as the meaning of the snakes often depicted alongside lares in paintings of gardens. She also looks at Compitalia, a popular midwinter neighborhood festival in honor of the lares, and describes how its politics played a key role in Rome’s increasing violence in the 60s and 50s BC, as well as in the efforts of Augustus to reach out to ordinary people living in the city’s local neighborhoods.

A reconsideration of seemingly humble gods that were central to the religious world of the Romans, this is also the first major account of the full range of lares worship in the homes, neighborhoods, and temples of ancient Rome.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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