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Ancient Society and History

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Ancient Society and History

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Alexandria in Late Antiquity

Topography and Social Conflict

Christopher Haas

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.

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Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome

Gregory S. Aldrete

While the remains of its massive aqueducts serve as tangible reminders of Rome’s efforts to control its supply of drinking water, there are scant physical reminders that other waters sometimes raged out of control. In fact, floods were simply a part of life in ancient Rome, where proximity to the Tiber left a substantial part of the city vulnerable to the river's occasional transgressions. Here, in the first book-length treatment of the impact of floods on an ancient city, Gregory S. Aldrete draws upon a diverse range of scientific and cultural data to develop a rich and detailed account of flooding in Rome throughout the classical period. Aldrete explores in detail the overflowing river’s destructive effects, drawing from ancient and modern written records and literary accounts, analyses of the topography and hydrology of the Tiber drainage basin, visible evidence on surviving structures, and the known engineering methods devised to limit the reach of rising water. He discusses the strategies the Romans employed to alleviate or prevent flooding, their social and religious attitudes toward floods, and how the threat of inundation influenced the development of the city's physical and economic landscapes.

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Late Roman Spain and Its Cities

Michael Kulikowski

The history of Spain in late antiquity offers important insights into the dissolution of the western Roman empire and the emergence of medieval Europe. Nonetheless, scholarship on Spain in this period has lagged behind that on other Roman provinces. Michael Kulikowski draws on the most recent archeological and literary evidence to integrate late antique Spain into the broader history of the Roman empire, providing a definitive narrative and analytical account of the Iberian peninsula from A.D. 300 to 600. Kulikowski begins with a concise introduction to the early history of Roman Spain, and then turns to the Diocletianic reforms of 293 and their long-term implications for Roman administration and the political ambitions of post-Roman contenders. He goes on to examine the settlement of barbarian peoples in Spain, the end of Roman rule, and the imposition of Gothic power in the fifth and sixth centuries. In parallel to this narrative account, Kulikowski offers a wide-ranging thematic history, focusing on political power, Christianity, and urbanism. Kulikowski's portrait of late Roman Spain offers some surprising conclusions. With new archeological evidence and a fresh interpretation of well-known literary sources, Kulikowski contradicts earlier assertions of a catastrophic decline of urbanism, finding that the physical and social world of the Roman city continued well into the sixth century despite the decline of Roman power. This groundbreaking study will prompt further reassessments of the other Roman provinces and of medieval Spanish history.

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Rome and the Barbarians, 100 B.C.–A.D. 400

Thomas S. Burns

The barbarians of antiquity, so long a fixture of the public imagination as the savages who sacked and destroyed Rome, emerge in this colorful, richly textured history as a much more complex—and far more interesting—factor in the expansion, and eventual unmaking, of the Roman Empire. Thomas S. Burns marshals an abundance of archeological and literary evidence, as well as three decades of study and experience, to bring forth an unusually far-sighted and wide-ranging account of the relations between Romans and non-Romans along the frontiers of western Europe from the last years of the Republic into late antiquity. Looking at a 500-year time span beginning with early encounters between barbarians and Romans around 100 B.C. and ending with the spread of barbarian settlement in the western Empire around A.D. 400, Burns removes the barbarians from their narrow niche as invaders and conquerors and places them in the broader context of neighbors, (sometimes bitter) friends, and settlers. His nuanced history subtly shows how Rome's relations with the barbarians—and vice versa—slowly but inexorably evolved from general ignorance, hostility, and suspicion toward tolerance, synergy, and integration. What he describes is, in fact, a drawn-out period of acculturation, characterized more by continuity than by change and conflict and leading to the creation of a new Romano-barbarian hybrid society and culture that anticipated the values and traditions of medieval civilization.

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