Roman history buffs, some suggestions...

samzheresamzhere BannedPosts: 10,923 Senior Member
For buffs of Roman history and particularly Julius Caesar, I've got some recommendations. I might have mentioned these in a previous post but I've got some new info...

Regarding Caesar, two fairly new books, "Caesar: Life of a Colossus" by the Brit historian Adrian Goldsworthy, and "Julius Caesar" by the American Philip Freeman.

Both books are extensive (the Goldsworthy book is quite long) but they read like magazine articles -- quick sentences, common English, total lack of puffed-up rhetoric. By comparison, if you read Gibbon's "Rise and Fall" (written over 200 years ago) it reads like some 75-year old history professor lecturing from notes he made four decades ago, dry and lifeless. But these new books are brisk and very readable.

Both authors also are from the "New Scholarship" crowd. Let me 'splain the term, and please bear with me, because the concept of New Scholarship extends far beyond that of Roman history...

If you examine the various accounts of Roman rule and Caesar especially, some interesting aspects come to view. A great deal of the emphasis on the Romans, and the judgment of history on whether they were particularly brutal or not (for example), depends to a great deal on when the histories were written.

Most of the important histories of Rome written in the past two centuries have been products of British scholarship, and more recently, American. And the slant given is to some degree dependent upon the political climate extant when the history was written.

For example, during the expansive colonial period for England, histories of Rome tend to be more positive, emphasizing the “Pax Romana” (Roman peace) that Rome provided its conquered territories. Conversely, during a decline in British imperialism and a more placid time, Rome is treated much more harshly.

And fairly recently, Roman imperialism has been compared with the imagined imperialism of the United States, both coming off unfavorably. When in fact, Rome’s era of power bears almost no comparison to the present era during which America has been the leader of the world. The attempts to align the two are simply falsehoods and provocative pseudo-historic judgments that align to the present liberal mantra, “America is Bad.”

Julius Caesar also comes under considerable fire in some late nineteenth century and early twentieth century biographies. Fact is, politics during the time the bios were written have always effected a tweak in the assessment of the man.

This has come upon us, particularly in Britain and the US, within the last two decades, after the tragic implications of the Vietnam war became less important in our lives and historians could view their subjects more impartially.

There has been a refreshing change in historic study as a result of this New Scholarship. Essentially, it’s viewing the past with a very nonjudgmental eye, and effecting a totally neutral stance about things such as Roman rule.

We've also got the benefit of more recent archaeological finds, especially those related to smaller communities during the Roman era, a better view of how the average person lived. Naturally, life was harsh and the common person had little chance for a decent life, even as a freedman. But the facts are evident that under Roman law, most people were in better shape. It indicates that “Pax Romana” was an authentically positive measure, for the most part.

Farmers were often subject to seasonal raids by bandits, very similar to the plight of the villagers in “Magnificent Seven,” where their crops were stolen just as harvest neared, and their women and children subject to rape and kidnapping for slavery.

But Roman rule put a stop to that. Yes, the taxes a small farmer paid his new landlords might be onerous, but at least he could feed his family. The Romans were no dummies. The knew full well that if you bludgeon and starve a people, you may obtain a brief large gain, but a dead farmer cannot provide you new wheat for your army, either.

Of course, Roman law was very harsh, true, but in comparison with other ruling groups in that time, the Romans were actually more lenient.

Julius Caesar himself had a deserved reputation for clemency and forgiveness of his military and political enemies, far more generous than other Roman rulers ever had been. This is an historic fact.

And so... both these complex yet very readable bios deliver a neutral and unbiased view of Julius Caesar, and his amazing personality comes out clearly. Sometimes kind and pleasant, sometimes harsh.

Goldsworthy's other books are also terrific. He's got a first rate "Antony and Cleopatra", and "Why Rome Fell" (about the later eras).

Goldsworthy is also a historian of the Napoleonic era, and has written several books on that subject. He's also an overall military historian, with books on fighting techniques and strategies from a number of historic eras.

Okay, I'm done. Anyone here familiar with either Goldsworthy or Freeman's books? I'd highly recommend either authors for their bios of Julius Caesar especially. And anyone who enjoys reading about Caesar needs to check them out.

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

Comments

  • BufordBuford Senior Member Posts: 6,527 Senior Member
    Pictures are there lots of pictures?
    Just look at the flowers Lizzie, just look at the flowers.
  • shushshush Senior Member Posts: 5,928 Senior Member
    Buford wrote: »
    Pictures are there lots of pictures of Gladiators?


    :up: :wink:

    cjp wrote: »

    ..... Oh dear God, I've admitted to liking something Limey.I'll never hear the end of this.

    Jayhawker wrote: »

    ...But seriously Shush....

     


  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    Buford wrote: »
    Pictures are there lots of pictures?

    Not a lot of pitchers, as cameras weren't too reliable in the Roman era, but the Goldsworthy book has plenty of military maps to color in. Be sure to not color over the lines!

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
  • DanChamberlainDanChamberlain Senior Member Posts: 2,925 Senior Member
    If you have a Kindle or computer with a Kindle app, Amazon has two free books by Tacitus who wrote during the later years of the Roman Empire. They are difficult reading, as some of the paragraphs are particularly long winded, but they illustrate the savagery and intrigue that was Rome. Tacitus was a former Roman senator and his days were those days! Around the time of Jesus.
    It's a source of great pride for me, that when my name is googled, one finds book titles and not mug shots. Daniel C. Chamberlain
  • horselipshorselips Senior Member Posts: 3,470 Senior Member
    "What wert thou Rome unbroken, when thy ruin is greater than the whole world else besides." - Hildebert, Bishop of LeMans. (~1096)
  • DoctorWhoDoctorWho Senior Member Posts: 9,481 Senior Member
    Well, many of you old folks were alive back then..... So it is straight from the horses lips to our ears, or rear in one particular case.
    "There is some evil in all of us, Doctor, even you, the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation, and I may say, you do not improve with age. Founding member of the G&A forum since 1996
  • Pelagic KayakerPelagic Kayaker Banned Posts: 1,503 Senior Member
    Sam, are you following me around today? Just came back from Barnes and Noble with a Simon Scarrow novel.

    btw... I have the hardcover edition of Freeman's "Caesar". Excellent book! Like his history Q&A lesson to his students in the Intro. His book on Alexander the Great is also a great read.

    :up:
    "The reflection upon my situation and that of this army produces many an uneasy hour when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in" ~General George Washington, January 14, 1776
  • TeachTeach Senior Member Posts: 17,915 Senior Member
    Shakespeare's original title- - - -

    "Julius- - - -grab her quick before she gets away!"

    :devil:
    Jerry
    Hide and wail in terror, Eloi- - - -We Morlocks are on the hunt!
    ASK-HOLE Someone who asks for advice and always does something opposite
  • Big ChiefBig Chief Senior Member Posts: 30,085 Senior Member
    The Fall of the Roman Empire
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fall_of_the_Roman_Empire_(film)

    Original film poster by Renato Fratini
    Directed by Anthony Mann
    Produced by Samuel Bronston
    Written by Ben Barzman
    Basilio Franchina
    Philip Yordan
    Starring
    Sophia Loren
    Stephen Boyd
    Alec Guinness
    James Mason
    Christopher Plummer
    Mel Ferrer
    Omar Sharif
    Release dates
    24 March 1964 (UK)
    26 March 1964 (US)
    Running time
    188 minutes
    Budget
    $20 million
    The Fall of the Roman Empire is a 1964 epic film starring Sophia Loren, Stephen Boyd, Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer, Mel Ferrer and Omar Sharif. It was directed by Anthony Mann and produced by Samuel Bronston, with a screenplay by Ben Barzman, Basilio Franchina and Philip Yordan.

    The film was a financial failure at the box-office. However, it is considered unusually intelligent and thoughtful for a film of the contemporary sword and sandal genre and also enjoys a 100% "Fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes
    It's only true if it's on this forum where opinions are facts and facts are opinions
    Words of wisdom from Big Chief: Flush twice, it's a long way to the Mess Hall
    I'd rather have my sister work in a whorehouse than own another Taurus!
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    Teach wrote: »
    Shakespeare's original title- - - -

    "Julius- - - -grab her quick before she gets away!"

    :devil:
    Jerry

    Ahhh... it took a while to sink in, then a smile!

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    Big Chief wrote: »
    The Fall of the Roman Empire

    Dreadful movie. Movies rarely are accurate histories. Fun reading the Wiki copy/paste, I guess.

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    DoctorWho wrote: »
    Well, many of you old folks were alive back then.....

    I was right there when Caesar fell, mortally wounded, at the base of Pompey's statue. I had just been outside the forum, chatting with Marc Antony, and we rushed in at all the commotion, but it was too late.

    We did, however hear Caesar's last words, directed to Brutus: “Kai su, teknon?” (Even you, my child?) in Greek. A few years later, Shakespeare changed it to Latin, "Et tu, Brute?" even after I told him it didn't happen that way. Will was always stubborn, making his own changes to the plays we wrote for him...

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
  • Big ChiefBig Chief Senior Member Posts: 30,085 Senior Member
    One of them Brutus boys did it?
    It's only true if it's on this forum where opinions are facts and facts are opinions
    Words of wisdom from Big Chief: Flush twice, it's a long way to the Mess Hall
    I'd rather have my sister work in a whorehouse than own another Taurus!
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 20,687 Senior Member
    There ya go Sam, bad mouthing Uncle Will again. Man! Give the man a break! He really wasn't all that bad. Besides he used to give us kids Mead around the back of his house in Stratford Upon Avon. I always liked to go to his house because all the good looking babes of the day hung around there. Well a couple had wooden teeth, but they were for the most part pretty hot looking, especially right after their monthly bath.
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 20,687 Senior Member
    Big Chief wrote: »
    One of them Brutus boys did it?

    But..But...But Chief If Brutus really did it, I wanna know where the hell was Popeye!
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    snake284 wrote: »
    But..But...But Chief If Brutus really did it, I wanna know where the hell was Popeye!

    I think you're confusing Brutus with Bluto, eh?

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. - Groucho Marx
  • Big ChiefBig Chief Senior Member Posts: 30,085 Senior Member
    Both names were used on Popeye.


    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1548/is-popeyes-nemesis-named-bluto-or-brutus

    samzhere wrote: »
    I think you're confusing Brutus with Bluto, eh?
    It's only true if it's on this forum where opinions are facts and facts are opinions
    Words of wisdom from Big Chief: Flush twice, it's a long way to the Mess Hall
    I'd rather have my sister work in a whorehouse than own another Taurus!
  • samzheresamzhere Banned Posts: 10,923 Senior Member
    I bow to the superior intellect...

    Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. - Groucho Marx

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