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ANCIENT HISTORY: DEFINED
Ancient history is the study of the written past from the beginning of recorded human history to the fall of the Roman Empire in the West in 476 A.D. or, for other historians, the late Middle Ages: the Age of Discoveries, the Renaissance & Reformation. The span of recorded history is, then, roughly 5 thousand years with Cuneiform script, the oldest discovered form of coherent writing, from the protoliterate period around the 30th century BC. This is the beginning of history, as opposed to prehistory, according to the definition used by most historians. The protoliterate perod is also known as the late Uruk period, 34th to 32nd centuries. It saw the gradual emergence of the cuneiform script and corresponds to the Early Bronze Age. It was during this period that pottery painting declined as copper started to become popular, along with cylinder seals. For more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Uruk_period&redirect=no
Prehistory means "before history", or "before knowledge acquired by investigation." The word comes from the Latin word for "before," præ, and historia. It is the span of time before recorded history or the invention of writing systems. Prehistory refers to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins.More broadly, it can refer to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing. for more go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistory
The term classical antiquity is often used to refer to ancient history in the Old World since the beginning of recorded Greek history in 776 BC, the First Olympiad. This roughly coincides with the traditional date of the founding of Rome in 753 BC, the beginning of the history of ancient Rome, and the beginning of the Archaic period in Ancient Greece. Although the ending date of ancient history is disputed, some Western scholars, as I say above, use the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the West in AD 476, the death of the emperor Justinian I, the coming of Islam, or the rise of Charlemagne as the end of ancient and Classical European history.
In India, the period includes the early period of the Middle Kingdoms, and, in China, the time up to the Qin Dynasty is included. But I leave this to readers with wider and more specialist reading interests in ancient history across the planet and its several civilizations. I have always found Arnold Toynbee's massive A Study of History, has provided for me an overview of ancient history from the point of view of civilizations past & present. I have often returned to Toynbee as I have headed into the evening of my life, and I find that he has become a definer of a framework within which I have come to fit further and more specialist reading in the last several decades. Since the 1960s when first studying history seriously at university, 1963-1967, there have been several historians I return to again and again. For more on ancient history go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_history For more on Toynbee & ancient civilizations go to: http://www.fsmitha.com/thinkers/toynbee.htm and several other sites of your choosing.
GREECE AND PERSIA: A COMMENT
Ancient history, as defined above, is a long and complex period and no attempt is made in this sub-section of this site to "cover" the period. Rather, I take issues and subjects, topics and concerns, of interest to me. If they interest readers who come to this site, then they will naturally turn to them if they have the time. If not they won't. What follows is a link of interest to me in relation to Greece, Persia and Alexander the Great:
Peter Green gives readers a review of Matt Waters new book, Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550-330 BCE (Cambridge, 250 pages, 2014) Green begins: "In the early sixth century BCE the Persians occupied a small region known as Parsa (Persis to the Greeks), now Fars, in south-west Iran. They were allies, perhaps subordinate allies, of the Medes, and had no apparent ambition for greater power. Yet under Cyrus II (559-30) they conquered Lydia, Ionia, Media and Babylonia – most of what today is known as the Near and Middle East – and drove northwards to the Russian steppes & eastwards almost as far as India. By the time Cyrus died, while campaigning beyond the Caspian Sea against the Massagetae nomads, Persia was the most powerful nation in Eurasia. Cyrus had been justified in calling himself ‘King of the World, Great King, Strong King, King of Babylon, King of Sumer & Akkad, King of the Four Quarters.' Peter Morris Green(1924- ) is a British classical scholar noted for his works on the Greco-Persian Wars, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age of ancient history. That Age is generally regarded as spanning the era from the death of Alexander in 323 BC up to either the date of theBattle of Actium or the death of Augustus in 14 AD.
For a more comprehensive review of Matt Waters' book go to the Bryn Mawr Classical Review September 2014 http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2014/2014-09-61.html
In high school, 1958-1963, I studied classical or ancient history in five courses: Latin for four years and part of one history course. In university, 1963-1967, I took several courses that involved ancient history in one way or another. I took one course in ancient history, one in the history of education, and two of the philosophy courses. All of these courses brought me in touch with the history and philosophy of the ancients. In the next 21 years, 1967-1988 the years before I taught ancient history myself, long range historical perspectives came into many of the courses I taught, but I it would be far too complex an account to provide the details, the specifics, in which ancient history came into the teaching of the social sciences over those two decades. The names of the courses I taught during those years are found in my CV which I have posted in cyberpsace. The ways in which the content, the story of history before the middle ages came into what I taught from the late 1960s to the early 2000s is, as I say, too complex for this brief introduction.
From 1989 to 1994 I taught ancient history, Ancient Greece(478 to 404 BC) one year and Ancient Rome(133 BC to 14 AD) the next. It was a matriculation subject producing several volumes of notes for each of the programs. Teaching these subjects over this six year period brought me into my first serious and extended exposure to classical civilization since my university days in the 1960s. This exposure occurred at the time when the Mt. Carmel Project was in full swing in Haifa Israel for the international Baha'i community. In the 20 years(1995-2015) since completing my teaching of these ancient history courses, I have drawn on my many volumes of notes on ancient Greece and Rome. I have also added to them significantly. The subject of classical civilization is of great interest to me particularly since there are obviously so many parallels to my own world. Such a study also provides, I find, many helpful perspectives for understanding the Baha’i Faith, its history, its present situation in the world, & its future.
I studied Latin from 1959 to 1963, some ancient history in grade 11(1960-61) at high school and at university as I indicated above from 1963 to 1967. Ancient Greece and Rome came into my reading again and again from 1968 to 1994 when, in December of that year, my formal teaching of the subject came to an end. Now, twenty years later(1995-2015), I have added much more reading and I possess a greater grounding in this field, although I am far from being what you could call a serious student and scholar of the history of the western classical tradition. There is just too much to consider and my academic interests are far too eclectic. With all the other subjects now striving to find a place under my academic belt, I can not expect to have more that a working knowledge for these general and eclectic interests. This, of course, is characteristic of an academic generalist; a generalist I have been all my life. There are now literally dozens of websites devoted to the study of Roman history, Greek history and classical civilization generally.
I have studied and taught many subjects in the 66 years of my several roles as: a student and scholar, a teacher and tutor, a lecturer and adult educator. Studying and teaching classical history, literature and philosophy only occupied a relatively small place in these learning and teaching experiences over more than six-&-one-half decades. Classical studies have continued to occupy a place of interest, though, in these my retirement years when I no longer teach full-time or part-time. These particular studies are a place of interest I return to occasionally with varying degrees of interest when time, the inclination & some specific writing purpose arises. Of course, this is true of many other subjects as well. Interest & purpose are key variables. There was a core of notes & content to build on in December 1994 when I stopped teaching ancient history. I have been building on that core for the last two decades. I stopped teaching ancient history five years before retiring from full-time work as a professional teacher. I have been adding more and more material to this core now that ancient history has come to occupy this place, however peripheral, in my post-retirement studies. As yet I have not had to draw on these notes for the purposes of writing any journal articles for the many Baha’i Studies journals now in existence. I do write the occasional essay on the internet drawing on ancient history. I do this just for my personal pleasure. I also write the occasional prose-poem drawing on themes from the ancients.
Given the variety of my other academic interests I will remain for the most part only an interested observer of the field. Expertise, it would seem, will not be granted to me in any subject. A generalist I have been and a generalist I will remain. Given the great burgeoning in the social sciences and humanities in the last half century and, given the advice ‘Abdu’l-Baha places before His readers in Secret of Divine Civilization for students to acquire a “comprehensive knowledge,” it seems only appropriate that I be a generalist.
27/6/'08 to 8/8/'15.
WHO WERE THE GREEKS?
A. Travelling across Greece today, Dr Michael Scott visits ancient cities and battlefields, great ruins and wild countryside, all in his search to uncover how the ancient Greeks thought and lived.(June 27, 2013, BBC Two) Who Were the Greeks? was one of those documentaries that flatters to deceive: it sounded serious and promised to inform and educate, and thanks to the telegenic smoothness of its presenter, Dr Michael Scott, it even left the impression it had done just that. Until the credits had rolled. Then you were left to wonder: what exactly do I know about the Greeks? That they had wars? Yep. That they invented the gym? Yep. That they enjoyed sex in its many varieties? Yep. That they had slaves? Yep. And didn’t everyone know all this already? Er, yep. Terry Ramsey reviews the doco as follows in The Telegraph(27 Jun 2013):http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/10146782/Who-Were-the-Greeks-episode-1-BBC-Two-review.html
Who Were the Greeks? was the first part of a new two-episode series in which Dr Scott sets out to tell us what Ancient Greece contributed to the world. Of course the they have given us a lot: language, literature, culture, philosophy, architecture and much more. Plenty of good stuff for Dr Scott to run at, you’d think. Except that he passed over these achievements and instead decided to give things a tabloid spin by telling us that beneath the veneer of culture, the Ancient Greeks indulged in “alien, unsettling and sometimes downright outrageous customs and beliefs”. How fascinating. Tell us more. Well, first he revealed that far from being philosophical souls, the Greeks actually loved a battle. Before we could protest that this was not a surprise (they controlled the Western world for centuries, and you don’t do that just by wondering why the sun comes up each morning), he was sampling a revolting pigs’ blood broth eaten by warriors.
B. But these tales of fighting and food were just curtain raisers for the stories about sex. By today’s reckoning, the Greeks had wanton sex lives but, Dr Scott explained, there were strict rules to their wantonness. For example, Athens law said husbands had to have sex with their wives at least three times a month. But men also went to the ancient gym, where they all exercised naked, and it was permissible for older men to have liaisons with very young boys. The rules said these relationships had to end by the time the boy acquired “down on the chin” – which is pretty shocking by modern standards.(Note: For more articles by Terry Ramsey go to: http://journalisted.com/terry-ramsey-1?allarticles=yes
Dr Scott’s day job is as a deputy professor at the University of Warwick, which is no surprise because with his casual style, black shirts, shoulder bag and hippy wristbands, he looks like Central Casting’s vision of a trendy lecturer in a BBC Two drama. However, he comes across as genial, enthusiastic and knowledgeable, if a little bit too determined at times to be a heart-throb TV presenter (all those sincere looks into the camera get a bit wearing). This opener was a mixed bag that trotted lightly over its topics. But would I return for episode two? Only under the influence of one of the Greeks’ other gifts to civilisation: ouzo. Episodes 1-2. Go to: https://www.google.com.au/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Who+Were+the+Greeks AND http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0369vm2
INTRODUCTION: Roman Authors
From 1989 to 1994 I taught ancient history, Greece one year(478 to 404 BC), and Rome(133 BC to 14 AD) the next. It was a matriculation subject and in the process of teaching this subject I produced for my use several volumes of notes. It was my first serious and extended exposure to classical civilization and it occurred at the time when the Mt. Carmel Project, the beautification and embellishment of the spiritual and administrative centre of the international Baha'i community, was in full swing.
In the 20 years since completing my teaching of these courses I have drawn on these notes & added to them from time to time. I now have ten large files of notes. This file, of which this is the introduction, is on the subject of Roman authors. The subject of classical civilization is of great interest to me particularly since there are obviously so many parallels and ideas that provide, at least for me, helpful perspectives for understanding: (a) modern history and society since the French revolution in 1789, and (b) the Baha’i Faith, its history(1743-2014 circa) and future(2015--2215 circa). Although I was both a student & teacher of many subjects in the more than 50 years I was in classrooms, classical history, literature and philosophy did not occupy a central place in my studies.
After my retirement from FT paid employment in 1999, the fields I mentioned above came to occupy an important, if not central, place in the many subjects that occupied my attention. I must emphasize in this introduction that, as a generalist and not a specialist on the vast landscape of knowledge, classical history in all its labyrinthine channells will forever remain just one of dozens of fields of learning that interest me as I head through my 70s in the years 2014 to 2024, and 80s, if I last that long.
There is a core of resources in this arch-lever file on Roman Authors on which to build. That is what I have been doing in the 20 years after my formal history teaching of Roman authors came to an end in November 1994. Except for my notes on the Roman writers Cicero & Sallust, virtually all the material in this file has been added in the years 1995 to 2015.
17/7/'04 to 25/12/'14.
Some of MY INTERNET POSTS on ancient history:
AN ASPECT OF REPUBLICAN ROME
Carlin A. Barton has written the following essay in the Stanford Humanities Review(Vol. 6.2, 1995). The essay is entitled: "The 'Moment of Truth' in Ancient Rome: Honor and Embodiment in a Contest Culture". The Romans of the early and middle Republic lived in a small face-to-face culture with an acute sensitivity to the bonds (religiones, obligationes, moenia and munera) that defined them. Community was conceived of and expressed as a product of the bond. At the same time, boundaries were not stable: all Roman boundaries were highly-charged but also restless, irritable, permeable membranes—more like rings of fire than walls of adamant. Every wall was a wager, every bond a risk. The vow and the oath, the Romans' most sacred forms of contract, were wagers or bets in which one staked one's head, one's eyes, one's reputation. For more of this essay go to: http://web.stanford.edu/group/SHR/6-2/html/barton.html
UNIVERSITY COURSES IN ANCIENT/CLASSICAL HISTORY
The Departments of Ancient History around the world offer several dozen units or courses for study at undergraduate level. They cover the antecedents of western civilisation in ancient Egypt, the Ancient Near East and the Graeco-Roman world. Greek history is studied from Homer to the Hellenistic cultures under the Roman empire. This often includes Judaism and early Christianity. Roman history covers the period from the Republic to the Late Empire, the Silk Road and the Medieval and Byzantine period. Egyptian history is taught from the Predynastic period up to that of the Ramesside period. Egypt's later history merges with the Greek, Roman and Coptic streams.
Postgraduate studies also constitute a large part of Ancient History at most universities. Many postgraduate units are offered for those undertaking the MA/Diploma/Certificate by coursework in Ancient History, Egyptology, Coptic Studies, and in Early Christian and Jewish Studies. Research degrees of either MPhil or PhD level are also offered.
Students in Ancient History have the opportunity to undertake units focussing entirely on the study of ancient languages through documentary texts in Greek, Latin, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Coptic and Classical Hebrew either in their degree or via a Certificate or Diploma in Ancient Languages. Other ancient languages may be studied, although not always for credit, through Ancient Languages Summer School among other times and programs. Students are often offered a broad introductory unit on archaeological method with an historical perspective, and can study units in Egyptian and Graeco-Roman archaeology. Practical involvement in archaeological research is also available in the unit Archaeological Fieldwork which links students to teams working in Egypt, Italy, Greece, Israel and, from time to time other sites. Financial support is often available for staff and students excavating in Israel, and in Egypt. Funding may also be sought for other overseas research from various Ancient History Associations or the Society for the Study of Early Christianity within Ancient History Documentary Research Centres.
The study of Egyptian civilization, taught within the Australian Centre for Egyptology, is a special feature of Ancient History at Macquarie University and it is possible to complete an MA degree in Ancient History entirely in Egyptology. Macquarie was the first Australian university to conduct its own excavations in Egypt. It presently has five sites there, and the Centre has published some 18 volumes of excavation reports in the past decade.
Continuing excavations and manuscript research ensure that Ancient History is not a static study. New archaeological finds continually reshape history; new perspectives are also provided by other fields of study, such as anthropology, social science and religion. The wide range of staff research ensures that these fresh perspectives are consistently brought to bear on their areas of study. Ourhistorians have interests in practical archaeology, classical and Near Eastern languages, papyrology, epigraphy, numismatics, historiography, museum studies, religious studies and gender studies.
Teaching units are supported by material held within the Museum of Ancient Cultures. From small beginnings in 1974 the Museum now houses a large and significant collection of some 800 papyri as well as over 4000 artefacts from the Egyptian, Greek, Roman , Cypriot and Near Eastern cultures, among which are pottery, some 800 coins and inscriptions. The Museum runs various education programs involving thousands of school students and community groups per year. Macquarie University students and members of the general public are most welcome to visit. The Museum of Ancient Cultures is housed in its own purpose-built rooms.
Ancient Near Eastern history is studied from the Neolithic to the Roman periods with a special focus on the archaeology of the southern Levant (modern Israel, Jordan, and southern Lebanon) and Mesopotamia. This historical range traces the development and interaction of groups such as the Israelites, Phoenicians, Canaanites, Philistines, Arameans, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians.
The Australian Centre for Numismatic Studies was established in 1999 with a large endowment from Dr and Mrs W.L. Gale. Its role is to promote the study of ancient Greek and Roman coins as a means of understanding the history and material culture of ancient societies. It administers several important collections of ancient coins, including the extensive one on loan from the Gale family. The purpose-built Centre contains a numismatic library and coin study room. Limited access is available to these collections and facilities (by prior arrangement with the Director) for staff and students with special projects. The Centre also offers two junior research fellowships each year to students who have completed a BA, and has a senior research fellowship for established scholars.
Ancient History at Macquarie is actively involved in the community in a variety of programs. The Education Officers of the Museum of Ancient Cultures conduct study days for schools throughout the year and courses of interest to the general public are also offered such as Face to Face with the New Testament. The Macquarie journal Ancient History: Resources for Teachers appears twice a year and contains articles of interest to secondary school teachers and senior students as well as to the wider public. The Bulletin of the Australian Centre for Egytology is published annually and contains articles of interest to both scholars and the wider community.Community interest in the ancient world is also encouraged by several affiliated societies such as the Macquarie Ancient History Association, the Rundle Foundation for Egyptian Archaeology and the Society for the Study of Early Christianity. Publication series such as the Excavation Reports of the Australian Centre for Egyptology and New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity published by the Ancient History Documentary Research Centre also make available recent research on artefacts and documentary material.
Within the Ancient History Documentary Research Centre a number of major research projects are being undertaken with Australian Research Council and other funding. These include the Christian Papyri for illustrating the Rise of Christianity in Egypt, the Corpus of Manichaean Sources, and a Dictionary of Roman Political Biography. Within the Australian Centre for Egyptology research effort is presently focussed on the Saqqara Project (in collaboration with the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation), the Helwan Project, and the Theban Tombs Project.
ENNION: MASTER OF ROMAN GLASS
Roman glass objects have been recovered across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used primarily for the production of vessels, although mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. Roman glass production developed from Hellenistic technical traditions, initially concentrating on the production of intensely coloured cast glass vessels. However, during the 1st century AD the industry underwent rapid technical growth that saw the introduction of glass blowing and the dominance of colourless or ‘aqua’ glasses. Production of raw glass was undertaken in geographically separate locations to the working of glass into finished vessels, and by the end of the 1st century AD large scale manufacturing resulted in the establishment of glass as a commonly available material in the Roman world, & one which also had technically very difficult specialized types of luxury glass, which must have been very expensive. For more on this subject go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_glass
Much of what remains from antiquity is monumental: travertine temples, marble statues, bronze armor—these were built to last. But glass is fragile. It seems almost impossible to believe that a vessel that touched Roman lips two thousand years ago could be on display today. “Ennion: Master of Roman Glass” was the Metropolitan Museum’s first ancient glass exhibit. This lovely small show presented the work of Ennion, the best-known glassmaker of antiquity. During his career in the first century AD, Ennion’s tablewares, prized for their crystalline elegance, decorated the homes of Rome’s upper & middle classes from Jerusalem to Venice. The show, which has traveled to the Corning Museum as part of an even larger exhibition on ancient glass, is a welcome reminder of just how keen the Romans were about precious glassware, from glass beads to brightly variegated millefiori glass—easy to forget, since so little of it survives. For more on this subject go to: http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/gallery/2015/may/31/ennion-roman-lips/
THE ART OF THE ANCIENTS
In The New York Review of Books(13/8/'15) readers will find a review of: (i) Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World an exhibition (a) at Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, March 14–June 21, 2015; (b) at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, July 28–November 1, 2015; and (c) at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., December 13, 2015–March 20, 2016. The catalog of the exhibition has been edited by Jens M. Daehner and Kenneth Lapatin, Getty Publications, 400 pages; (ii) Piccoli Grandi Bronzian exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum, Florence, March 20–August 31, 2015. The catalog of that exhibition has been edited by Barbara Arbeid and Mario Iozzo, Florence: Edizioni Polistampa, 250 pages; (iii) the Serial Classican exhibition at the Fondazione Prada, Milan, May 9–August 24, 2015; (iv) the Portable Classican exhibition at the Fondazione Prada, Ca’ Corner della Regina, Venice, May 9–September 13, 2015; (v) Serial/Portable Classic: The Greek Canon and Its Mutations with a catalog of the exhibitions at the Fondazione Prada, Milan, and Palazzo Corner, Venice, edited by Salvatore Settis with Anna Anguissola and Davide Gasparotto Fondazione Prada, 400 pages. For the review go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/aug/13/greek-bronze-grandest-art-ancients/
CLASSICAL HISTORY: AN ESTABLISHED PLACE
These five books, outlined below and all published in the second half of 1979, are very good evidence for the established place of Roman history in contemporary English-speaking culture and education. Books on familiar subjects continue to be written, and to find publishers and readers. One of the five, indeed, is offered with the sole justification(& outdated by the time the book appeared) that no biography of Pompey exists in English. Each of these books also bears witness to the quite high standards of scholarship and the respect for facts which prevail in English ancient history. Yet, in another way, they all, with the exception of Wiseman’s Clio’s Cosmetics, give an uneasy impression of parochialism, of an unconsciousness of debates and questions current elsewhere in the writing of history, and of a lack of any perspective on the very particular problems posed by the enormous but erratically distributed mass of different types of evidence surviving from the ancient world.
One possible strategem might be to have the courage to abandon these familiar territories and to try to write the history of one of those areas where chance has preserved some aspects at least of the life of a whole community. For instance, the modest town of Oxyrhynchus in Egypt is the source of some three thousand published documents and literary texts in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri alone, with perhaps as many more to come. Why not see what the attempt to produce an Oxyrhynchus to match Ladurie’s Montaillou would be like? Or, alternatively, our libraries are deluged with endless series of archaeological reports from all over the Roman world. But no one since Rostovtzeff, a Braudel before his time, for all the conceptual naiveties for which it is so easy to criticise him, has attempted to gather it all into any sort of framework.
The five books in question are: (i) Romans and Aliens by J.P.V.D. Balsdon(Duckworth, 310 pages, 1979); (ii) Pompey: A Political Biography by Robin Seager(Blackwell, 209 pages, 1979); (iii) The Gracchi by David Stockton(Oxford, 251 pages,1979); (iv) Cicero: the Ascending Years by Thomas Mitchell(Yale, 257 pages, 1979); (v) Clio’s Cosmetics: Three Studies in Greco-Roman Literature by T.P. Wiseman(Leicester University Press, 209 pages, 1979). For more of a review of these 5 books go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v02/n12/fergus-millar/roman-history-in-chains
CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY: VICTORIAN VIEWS
"They Couldn’t Escape the Greeks," by Peter Green is a review in The New York Review of Books on 24/4/'14 of Simon Goldhill's book Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity: Art, Opera, Fiction, and the Proclamation of Modernity(Princeton University Press, 350 pages). Peter Morris Green(1924-) is a British classical scholar noted for his works on Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age of ancient history, generally regarded as spanning the era from the death of Alexander in 323 BC up to either the date of the Battle of Actium or the death of Augustus in 14 AD. Green's most famous books are Alexander of Macedon, a historical biography first issued in 1970, then in a revised and expanded edition in 1974, which was first published in the United States in 1991; his Alexander to Actium, a general account of the Hellenistic Age, and other works. He is also the author of a translation of The Satires of the Roman poet Juvenal. For more on Green go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Green_(historian)
Green begins his review: "From the onset of the Dark Ages down to our own time, the fraught and variegated relationship between Greek or Roman civilization and those civilizations’ heirs has never been less than significant and fascinating. Initially there was an emphasis on the survival and influence of classical literature. More recently, the range of interest has broadened to encourage closer scrutiny of the subtle way in which the classical legacy has been used—not always consciously—to manipulate latter-day politics, social problems, and religion. In these works, now known as “reception studies,” the Victorian Age of nineteenth-century Britain has been perceived, rightly, as a particularly rewarding lode to mine: during this period the classical legacy was disseminated, and discussed, more widely than ever before. For more of this review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2014/apr/24/victorians-they-couldnt-escape-greeks/?insrc=toc
PETER GREEN AND PERICLES
In the 6/11/'14 issue of the London Review of Books Peter Green reviews the book Pericles of Athens by Vincent Azoulay, translated by Janet Lloyd
(Princeton, 300 pages). The review begins: "The fifth volume of the Cambridge Ancient History, covering the fifth century BC, was first published in 1927. The League of Nations still mattered, the exploits of T.E. Lawrence were a welcome antidote to memories of the Somme and Passchendaele, and the British Empire still coloured a sizeable proportion of the world’s maps red. In classics, W.W. Tarn (perhaps influenced by both Lawrence and the League of Nations, not to mention missionary fervour) was spreading the message that Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian Empire in order to establish the Brotherhood of Man. CAH V, too, was indelibly marked by the era that produced it. Its subtitle was ‘Athens 478-401 BC’, and its cover bore, embossed in gold, a reproduction of the helmeted bust of Pericles in the British Museum. For more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n21/peter-green/image-problems
Some megalomaniacs bequeath their names to a city, like Léopoldville or Constantinople. Most great men settle for a statue or a street sign. But a few, a very few, are immortalised as the epithet of their age: Le siècle de Louis XIV, for instance, or the Age of Pericles. Periclean Athens is Western civilisation’s most intimidating forebear. In the sublime period from 461 to 429 BC, the young democracy created astonishing works of art: the Parthenon, the Oresteia and, perhaps, at the very end, Oedipus Rex. Here, if anywhere, occurred what Victorian scholars used to call “the Greek miracle”. For the rest of this 29/7/'14 review in The Telegraph go to:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/10988194/Pericles-of-Athens-by-Vincent-Azoulay-review-masterfully-crisp.html
I first came across both Peter Green and classical Athens when I taught ancient history in the early-to-mid-1990s at what is now a polytechnic in Perth Western Australia. I enjoyed this update, this revisting, of classical Athens by this French scholar. There are now several reviews in cyberspace.
ANCIENT ATHENS: A MODEL FOR US?
"Democracy and Knowledge is the final book in an extraordinary trilogy. It follows Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens, which appeared in 1989. I was teaching ancient Greek history at the time. By the time Ober's second volume appeared, Political Dissent in Democratic Athens, in 1998, I was just about to retire from a 50 year student and teaching life, 1949 to 1999. This third book arrived in 2010 when I had just begun my life on an old-age pension. This third volume of the trilogy incorporates the central conclusions of the first two &, with this volume, Ober shows how democracy can lead to prosperity and security. Ober uses a highly original historical argument about Athens to prove his case about prosperity & security. These are among the most pressing political challenges of modern times. Ober's careful historical work and his theoretical framework generate a convincing portrait of a flourishing participatory democracy that overcame real crises, & achieved a stable balancing of the interests of masses and wealthy elites, and responded to collective action problems by developing institutional & cultural solutions that focused on the social distribution & the social valuation of knowledge. Is it too much to ask that members of the government administrations in Western nations to turn to a dense work of ancient history to help them make good on their several visions of the modern state that combines the resources of representative, participatory, democracy? They would take away from Democracy and Knowledge at least a few important general ideas." At least that is how Danielle Allen of The New Republic puts it. There are several other reviews which readers can examine with a little Googling, if they have the interest.
PUNISHMENT IN ANCIENT ATHENS
The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens is a book by Danielle Allen(Princeton, 450 pages, 2000). What is so striking about the Greek punitive imagination is not the horror, nor, quite, the mere inventiveness, but its riddling character, close to the paradoxes thought up by Zeno, Polygnotus’ contemporary – the arrow, for instance, that must cross an infinite number of possible halves of any distance and cannot therefore ever reach its target. The Greek Underworld seems more like a plausible nightmare than the Christian laboratory of exquisite exemplary pain, and it is this which has recommended it to modernity. The Greek inferno is Freudian in its strangeness, Chaplin on a production line, Kafka on trial. Lacanians, particularly Jean-Claude Milner and Slavoj Žižek, have thought a lot about these adunata, and found them useful teaching aids with which to explore the comedy of desire and impossible satisfaction. In contrast to the Inferno, which seems merely an overheated location in which people get punished, Tartarus is bottomless like eternity, as terrifying as topography can ever be, a space where even the least paradoxical arrow will never find its target, the deepest place on earth.
Dr James Davidson works on Greek social and cultural history and historiography. He has written articles on Polybius, Greek public bars and Dido and child-sacrifice. He is a regular contributor to The London Review of Books, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times. His first book, Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens was published in 1997. He has just published The Greeks and Greek Love for Weidenfeld and is currently working on a translation of some Attic speeches for Penguin Classics. For more of James Davidson's review of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens in the London Review of Books(August 2000) go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v22/n16/james-davidson/clinging-to-the-sides-of-a-black-precipitous-hole
ROME AND SPACE ARCHEOLOGY
Just when you thought television had had its fill of Ancient Rome, along come two more BBC documentaries. On BBC Four, Simon Sebag Montefiore has started a three-part series exploring the central role of religion in the city. While on BBC One, Dan Snow’s Rome’s Lost Empire harnessed satellite technology to understand more about Roman military might. Snow’s adventures certainly lived up to their mainstream billing. In tandem with Dr Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist from Alabama State university who’d recently discovered thousands of sites in Egypt using satellite imagery, they set off to repeat her success with Roman remains.
They didn’t have much luck in Romania, where the thick forest meant that they had to use an aircraft firing laser beams, but the other sites yielded remarkable discoveries. Near Petra in Jordan, the satellites revealed that the now barren countryside had flourished under the Romans, the comfortable farmers happy to swap occupation for security. In Tunis, they found a frontier system which explained how Rome managed to defend its vast granary. And in Portus, once the great harbour of Rome, they discovered not only a new canal (straight, of course, like the roads), but also an amphitheatre and a lighthouse, one of the wonders of the ancient world, sought by archaeologist for centuries.
The excitement as Snow and Dr Parcak, armed only with their handheld computers, swooped on another hoary expert to share their findings was contagious – like Indiana Jones and the Last iPad. Computer imagery helped you imagine that you were looking at an ancient lighthouse, not a car scrapyard near an airport. Snow was an excellent presenter, although somewhat prone to cliché. “Arabia. Exotic. Sophisticated. A land of adventure. And opportunity,” he intoned, as if fronting an advertisement for an Airlines. There were also signs that he might have been watching too much Top Gear for he has adopted Jeremy Clarkson’s irritating pauses. “After working all night, Sarah has found… nothing,” he declared, somewhat melodramatically
The Romans were one of the most intriguing and powerful civilisations to have ever lived. Now, building on the extraordinary techniques used in Egypt: What Lies Beneath, Dr Sarah Parcak and her team re-harness space-archaeology to discover what the glory of the Roman Empire was really like. With satellite archaeology and high-tech remote-sensing tools at its heart. Rome - What Lies Beneath peels back the layers of history to literally see Rome in all its magnificence. Culminating in a visually mind-blowing series of CGI revelations, viewers will be able to walk the streets of legend and discover the history of Rome as never before. Rome - What Lies Beneath is an epic BBC history documentary which will bring Roman history to life. For more go to:http://www.bbcactivevideoforlearning.com/1/TitleDetails.aspx?TitleID=24285
Peter Green has reviewed: (i) Ian Worthington's By the Spear: Philip II, Alexander the Great, and the Rise and Fall of the Macedonian Empire(Oxford University Press, 400 pages, 2014): (ii) Alexander’s Heirs: The Age of the Successors by Edward M. Anson(Wiley-Blackwell, 220 pages, 2014); (iii) The Age of the Successors and the Creation of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (323–276 B.C.) edited by Hans Hauben and Alexander Meeus(Peeters, 700 pages, 2014); and (iv) Taken at the Flood: The Roman Conquest of Greece by Robin Waterfield(Oxford University Press, 300 pages, 2014). The review appeared in The New York Review of Books(5/3/'15).
Peter Green(1924 – ) is a British classical scholar noted for his works on the Greco-Persian Wars, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age of ancient history. That Age is generally regarded as spanning the era from the death of Alexander in 323 BC up to either the date of the Battle of Actium or the death of Augustus in 14 AD. Green's most famous books are Alexander of Macedon, a historical biography first issued in 1970, then in a revised and expanded edition in 1974, which was first published in the United States in 1991; his Alexander to Actium is a general account of the Hellenistic Age, and he has other works. He is the author of a translation of the Satires of the Roman poet Juvenal, now in its third edition. For more on Green go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Green_%28historian%29
Green writes: “Is there any human being so indifferent or idle,” wrote Polybius in the introduction to his Histories, “as not to want to know how, and through what kind of regime, almost the entire society of the inhabited world, in less than fifty-three years, came under the sole rule of the Romans—an event to which the past offers no parallel?” Probably not; but Polybius himself (circa 200–117 BC), a Greek statesman from Arcadia, in the central Peloponnese, and a member of the Achaean League (a confederacy of Peloponnesian city-states), had good reason to ask this question. After the crushing victory over King Perseus of Macedonia, won at Pydna in 168 by the Roman general Aemilius Paullus—a battle that finally and fully established Roman hegemony in Greece—a thousand Achaean citizens suspected of anti-Roman tendencies were deported to Italy. Among them was Polybius. For more of this review go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/mar/05/when-roman-empire-didnt-stop/?insrc=toc
GREEK AND ROMAN MAPS
On 21/2/'02 in the London Review of Books we find a useful review of the following books: (i) The Extraordinary Voyage of Pytheas the Greek, the Man who Discovered Britain by Barry Cunliffe(Allen Lane, 200 pages, 2001); (ii) Ptolemy’s Geography: An Annotated Translation of the Theoretical Chapters edited by J. Lennart Berggren and Alexander Jones (Princeton, 250 pages, 2002), and (iii) Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World: Atlas and Map-By-Map Directory by Richard J.A. Talbert(Princeton, three volumes, 2000). This review is useful to those who have an interest in the Greek and Roman world. Go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n04/peter-green/what-columbus-didnt-know
Winifred Mary Beard(1955- )is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of Newnham College, and Royal Academy of Arts Professor of Ancient Literature. She is the Classics editor of theTimes Literary Supplement, and author of the blog "A Don's Life", which appears in The Times as a regular column. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes controversial public statements have led to her being described as "Britain's best-known classicist". She is the author of many books and several docos on ancient Rome. Meet the Romans with Mary Beard is a 2012 documentary written and presented by Mary Beardabout the ordinary citizen of ancient Rome, the world's first metropolis. For more on this famous classicist go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Beard_(classicist)
The durability of the Roman ruling class, despite the continuing loss of individual families, was perhaps unique in history. From the establishment of a republic at the end of the sixth century BC to, anyway, the death of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius seven hundred years later, the Roman state, which had grown by conquest from a small autonomous city on the Tiber to a great empire reaching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Euphrates River, was dominated and ruled by a relatively small aristocracy which had survived not only various threats from below but also the replacement of the republic by the monarchy of Augustus. There were all kinds of changes, of course, especially those made necessary by the vastly increased scale of activity, the vastly increased wealth and luxury, the vastly increased armies and military operations, and so on. Yet ‘durability’ is the correct term.
Occasionally there were nicely illustrative personal examples: both Julius Caesar and his assassin Brutus could claim membership of lineages that traced their high status back half a millennium. For more of this study of the Roman aristocracy go to the London Review of Books, Vo. 5, No. 24, 22/12/'83, "Aristocracies" by M.I. Finley. Finley reviews the book Death and Renewal. Sociological Studies in Roman History: Vol. II by Keith Hopkins (Cambridge, 300 pages, 1983) at: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v05/n24/mi-finley/aristocracies
We used to be told that Rome rose to imperial greatness through the native wit and lean frames of its farmer soldiers. And that if it wasn’t lead poisoning, orgies and overindulgence of every kind, it was race-mixing that brought about its fall, the descendants of Oriental slaves having weakened the native stock. As for Roman culture, that was a contradiction in terms: Roman art consisted almost entirely of thefts or copies of Greek masterpieces, while Roman literature was translated, generally rather badly, from Greek classics. The Romans were a capable people, there was no doubt about that, but their capabilities lay in more practical pursuits: conquest, engineering – roads, aqueducts and drains – and getting the barbarians to take a bath and appreciate a little solid urban architecture.
For all the snobbery of Cicero, with his habit of dropping the Greek equivalent of le mot juste into his correspondence or of writing conceitedly about his art collection, to attribute creativity, originality or sophisticated ideas to the Romans would have been laughable. For more of Emma Dench's review in the London Review of Books(Vol. 32, No. 4, 25/2/'10) of the book Rome’s Cultural Revolution by Andrew( Wallace-Hadrill, Cambridge, 500 pages, 2008), go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n04/emma-dench/when-rome-conquered-italy
EMMA DENCH: AN OVERVIEW
Emma Dench was born in York, grew up near Stratford-Upon-Avon, and studied at Wadham College, Oxford (BA Hons Literae Humaniores 1987) and at St. Hugh's College, Oxford (DPhil in Ancient History 1993). Before taking up a joint appointment in the Departments of the Classics and of History at Harvard in January 2007, she taught classics and ancient history at Birkbeck College, University of London (1992-2006). She has been a Craven Fellow at the University of Oxford (1989-91), a Rome Scholar (1991-2) and a Hugh Last Fellow (1996) at the British School of Rome, a Cotton Fellow (1997-8), a Member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton (2002-03), and a Visiting Professor of the Classics and of History at Harvard (2005-06).
Emma Dench is the author of From Barbarians to New Men:Greek, Roman, & Modern Perceptions of Peoples from the Central Apennines (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995) and Romulus' Asylum: Roman Identities from the Age of Alexander to the Age of Hadrian (Oxford University Press, 2005). She is currently preparing Culture and Imperialism in the Roman World for the Cambridge University Press series Key Themes in Ancient History. Other current projects include a study of the retrospective writing of the Roman Republican past in classical antiquity.
SOME WRITERS DURING CLASSICAL/ANCIENT HISTORY OF INTEREST TO ME
Having been a teacher of ancient history many times over the years, I developed an interest in the period, defined as I indicated above, the years up to 476 A.D. especially in Greece and Rome. Two writers from that period were Virgil and Herodotus. For interesting articles on: (a) Virgil go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/jun/26/virgil-lives/, and on Herodotus/Thucydides go to: