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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 9:08 pm
by Gnaeus Dionysius Draco
Salve Mari,

Hehe, passing judgment is something many "historians" have done (including Gibbons), I'm afraid. Recently I was at Sergia Fausta's place and picked up a book there that discussed "Eros in Antiquity" (as in "love", not as in 'the boy with the wings and the magic wand'). Its author is not ashamed to call most female characters wenches and depraved people. Alas, misogyny is a frequent trait of classicists.

Vale bene,

PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2005 9:43 pm
by Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Gnæus Dionysius Draco wrote:Alas, misogyny is a frequent trait of classicists.

I'm afraid that's a somewhat too generalising statement, mi Draco. Surely, in the proto-feminist era (say, before the sixties) classicists more than often showed misogynic traits and even today a few fossils (I won't mention any professor's name :lol: ) often remarkably disparaging of women remain, but the main stream of classicists - I think - have noticed the feminist revolution and its consequences.

Classical studies, generally speaking, are no longer the dusty, conservative department, noticing paradigma changes, intrest in new subject matter and methods of approach only after a few decades. The content of recent review periodicals can serve as a demonstration of that : feminism, anthropology, mentalities, social distinction, self-representation and similar 'contemporary' fields of intrest may even be said to be prominent topics in present-day ancient historiography.



PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 4:59 pm
by Cleopatra Aelia
Avete Amici,

Primus Aurelius Tergestus wrote:I did read a history of Iraq about a month ago that touched on Roman incursions.

I'm looking on sources about topics like the above quote. Could anyone recommend web sites or books which are about Roman incursions or even only expeditions to the fringes of the world known to them. I once just read that they tried to cross the Arabian dessert but forgot where I read about it. I just even heard that a Roman delegation made it to China, but don't know if they ever came back.

So if anyone could provide me with info on that topic it would be nice. Thanks in advance.

Here's One!

PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 7:55 pm
by Aldus Marius
Ave iterum, amica!

I've got just the thing: Mortimer Adler's Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers. (I may be a little shaky on the author's last name, but that is the title.) There's a Penguin Books edition, so it should be readily available. He talks about Romans and people who had dealings with Romans in Persia (Iraq), India, way-north Scotland, and other places.

The Romans-in-China thing has been going around for quite some time; I believe we even have a thread here about it, or it might have been mentioned as part of the 'News Flash!' topic (in which we share archaeological discoveries). The version I got (back when the stars were coalescing) has a few thousand survivors of the Legions of Crassus being taken captive after their defeat at Carrhae. A cohort or two were sold as slaves by the Parthians to peoples further east. And further. And further...("My, what an interesting souvenir you've got there, Chandra!")

Fast-forward about two hundred years. A certain Chinese warlord spanked a certain other Chinese warlord on the Mongolian border. In the process of kicking over everything he could (they're very thorough, these Chinese warlords), he encountered a town, all laid out in straight lines (hard to do anywhere near Mongolia!), whose inhabitants were definitely not Chinese or even Asian, but who were damn good builders if I do say so m'self.

The name of the town was Li-jien.

That's also the Chinese name for Rome. China was trading with Rome (indirectly, over the Silk Road) right up until the time of the Triumvirate or a little before, so they'd have a name for it. Then the Chinese Emperor (unsure which dynasty...Han?) decided he wasn't going to send any more money or goods to anybody...and it was the loss of this income, as much as anything, that made financial trouble for the late Republic.

I've read, also, that a Chinese delegation was sent Way West around Marcus Aurelius' time. They were supposed to be sounding out territories for conquest. They called it quits less than 500 miles from the border of the Roman Province of Mesopotamia...

...Least that's what I heard, as best as I remember it, which ain't good. The essence is accurate, but don't quote me on any figures!

In amicitia,


PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 7:13 am
by Aldus Marius
Salvete iterum,

A correction: I have since unearthed my copy of Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers; the author's name is Sir Mortimer Wheeler.

My apologies for any prior confusion...

PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 4:00 pm
by Publius Dionysius Mus

Besides my notes for the upcoming exam on Medieval culture, there a lot of books on my desk and near my bed:
- Ian Christe: "Sound of the beast, the headbanging history of heavy metal"
- Mick St. Michael: "Heavy metal" (in a Dutch translation)
- John Fordham: "Jazz" (in a Dutch translation)
- David Harrison: "The world of blues" (in a Dutch translation)

- Fergus Millar: "The Roman Near East"
- Philip V. Hill: "The coinage of Septimius Severus and his family at the mint of Rome, AD 193-217"
- Alfred R. Bellinger: "The Syrian tetradrachms of Caracalla and Macrinus"
- Anna M. McCann: "The portraits of Septimius Severus"
- Anne Daguet-Gagey: "Septime Sévère"
- Anthony R. Birley: "Septimius Severus, the African emperor"

This last series is for my thesis (term paper) on the provincial coinage of Septimius Severus (see another post on this forum).

Valete bene!


PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2005 10:06 am
by Aldus Marius
Salvete iterum!

I was working in my Boxen today and, quite by accident, I came upon my source for the Li-jien story. It's in a book called East and West by one C. Northcote Parkinson, published by London's John Murray Press in 1963.

As I thought might have happened, I have rather badly misremembered the story as recounted in this book. Parkinson's account (which he in turn got from a Homer H. Dubs) has the Chinese warlord, Yen-shun, capturing the town of Jzh-jzh from a rival chieftain in 38BC.

"Of the prisoners taken," (says Parkinson) "145 received special treatment. They were settled in a newly-founded frontier city called Li-jien; the Chinese name for Rome. There can be little doubt that these soldiers were Legionaries taken prisoner at Carrhae who had served afterwards in the Parthian armies and then came to enter the service of Jzh-jzh. As Dubs writes in conclusion: 'The presence of Romans in ancient China indicates how small the world actually was, even in those days.'

A little further down Parkinson adds:

"They were connected by the Trade Route and the fact that Mithridates had talked with ambassadors from China as well as Rome would seem to suggest that more direct contact may have taken place. Roman jugglers reached China if no other free Romans did, and Parthian envoys went both East and West. Indirectly, at least, Rome and China were in touch."

So there it is. Li-jien ('legion'!) was supposedly founded by survivors of Carrhae after a Chinese general made their lives just a bit more interesting, rather than him tripping over their descendents a couple hundred years later. Can't you just see those poor Romans, taking cover when the crossbow bolts started flying? "I don't know what that is, but it don't look friendly and it's headed this way!!" (ducks) >({|;-)

Of course, I'd give my fangs for a look at Dubs' work. And where did Parkinson get the bit about Roman jugglers? And other sources say the whole thing's been disproved, and I haven't seen any of that work either. So as far as I'm concerned...? It is still within the realm of possibility. Very exciting possibility!

In fide (and No, there is no separate thread on this subject; I looked...),

PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 12:46 pm
by Cleopatra Aelia
Salve Lucia,

Lucia Dionysia Veneta wrote:I am currently reading... Asterix and Obelix! Does that count? :wink:

Of course Asterix and Obelix do count. Actually I love the Asterix comics and have them all in German translation and am building up the collection of the French originals. Also I have to blame them that I became interested in Ancient Rome, though in those comics the Romans always get beaten up :wink:

PostPosted: Sun Jan 23, 2005 1:38 pm
by Anonymous

I also enjoyed the comic series 'Murena'. But I suppose it doesn't reflect reality very well... Anyone?


PostPosted: Mon Jan 24, 2005 9:33 am
by Aldus Marius
Wotcher, lectores!

I have been an Asterix fan since high school (btw, this was not recently!). Back then I didn't even know what a Gaul was, and the only reason I'd ever heard of the Romans was 'cause they got more (but not better) press. Nevertheless, I loved the books. First read 'em in Spanish, where I found them on the foreign-language shelves in the children's section of my local Library. Asterix el Galo and Asterix y Cleopatra kept me entertained for long, long hours. "Si esos Romanos son majaretes!" --the great Obelix.

A commilito of my early Air Force years sent me the entire set, in English, from Britain. I deified him on the spot, of course, and still drop a pinch to him now and again! Next, I found Spanish versions of the first two I'd read; and when I was in Berkeley, CA I scored three of them in Latin. These are listed as the 'Roman Empire Edition', didja know that?? --Very sporting of them; if you're going to pick on the Romans, do it in a language they can understand!

By then I had come into my Heritage. Scholarly works were calling Asterix the Gaul one of the better recreations of life in an ancient Gaulish village. The Roman military life is pretty close, too; maybe this is where I got my love for the day-to-day doings of the Roman soldier, his chores and his pouts and his eagerness to be called to dinner.

All the same, the series threw me on a few details: It took me forever to accept that Legionaries' tunics were not green, that mere Centurions did not run camps or dress like Military Tribunes, or that pilum did not rhyme with "File 'em". I still have Asterix-style piping on the sleeves and collar of my (red!) tunic; and my reporting-statement goes, "Aldus Marius Peregrinus: Sixth Legion, Fourth Cohort, First Maniple, Second Century!"--straight outta Asterix the Legionary!!

So, the feisty little warrior with the moustache and his big, dog-loving friend have occupied a corner of my personal Empire for a very long time. I could wish they'd share some of that salutory drink with us; but then there'd be no story!

In amicitia,

PostPosted: Thu Jan 27, 2005 5:18 pm
by Quintus Pomponius Atticus

I went to my favourite bookstore again this afternoon and was able to lay my hands upon :

1. Ronald Syme's 'The Roman Revolution' (a classic first published in 1939 and still in print !). Here's the flap text :

The Roman Revolution is a profound and unconventional treatment of a great theme - the fall of the Republic and the decline of freedom in Rome between 60 BC and AD 14, and the rise to power of the greatest of the Roman Emperors, Augustus. The transformation of state and society, the violent transference of power and property, and the establishment of Augustus' rule are presented in an unconventional narrative, which quotes from ancient evidence, refers seldomly to modern authorities, and states controversial opinions quite openly. The result is a book which is both fresh and compelling.

2. D.H. Lawrence, Sketches of Etruscan Places :

One of the most widely read books on the Etruscans in English and probably Lawrence's most successful achievement in the genre of travel literature - Simonetta de Filippis

For D.H. Lawrence, Italy was the land of naturalness and vitality where he found inspiration for his writing and to which he returned frequently to free hipmself from what he saw as the bourgeois conventions and the grim materialism of his native England. During his final stay in Italy, Lawrence became intrigued by Etruscan civilization. To him, the Etruscan love of pleasure is in direct contrast to the Roman desire for power, and he sees evidence of their quality of life and joy in their remaining works of art.

I think I'll greatly enjoy them...when I find the time to read them... :roll:


Q. Pomponius Atticus

PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:45 am
by Horatius Piscinus
Salvete amici et amicae

Today in the mails arrived a new copy of Scheid's "An Introduction to the Roman Religion," to replace a copy I gave to a friend. And along with it came Valerie M Warrior's "Roman Religion: A Sourcebook." Rather interesting. Little commentary and a lot of excerpts from the usual sources. I would have liked to have seen a great variety of sources, but as a quick reference, used along with some other books, like Valerius Maximus, I am sure it will come in handy.

Yesterday a trip to a bookstore also found me buying another copy of Frazer's "Golden Bough," whose approach I still find refreshing compared to that of some later authors.

Valete optime

Cheerful (almost-)reunion

PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 6:15 am
by Aldus Marius
Salve, Attice!

Thank you for reminding me that Etruscan Places exists! I was moved by it in college, but have not seen a copy in many years...which, with my memory the way it is, means I'd forgotten I was looking for it. Now I have your reminder in writing before me, I shall do my best to be reunited with this meant a lot to me, and I like to have the things that have affected me close at hand in case I need them again.

Gratias ago, amice!

PostPosted: Fri Jan 28, 2005 11:40 pm
by Gnaeus Dionysius Draco
Salve Attice,

DH Lawrence writing about Etruscans? That should be interesting. I might borrow it from you sometime.

Vale bene,

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2005 12:24 am
by Quintus Pomponius Atticus
Lawrence fan, mi Draco ? *Respect* 8)

PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2005 11:46 am
by Gnaeus Dionysius Draco
Salve Attice,

No, I'm not a Lawrence fan. But the prospect just seemed interesting.


PostPosted: Sat Jan 29, 2005 4:02 pm
by Cleopatra Aelia
Salve Mari,

I'm not surprised that you - since it happened that you live in the USA - didn't know Asterix at first. It doesn't seem popular in the States, maybe because it's such an European topic. When I was an exchange student at a hight school in NY State I had French. My French teacher, who was from France actually, brought in comic books one day to class (it was something like end of term, so we did chocolate fondue and read Franco-Belgian comics). I, of course, grabbed an Asterix book. The others didn't know Asterix before.

The Latin edition by the way is published by the German publishers. If you want I could check them out on and send you the order number so you could order them on

The more I got familiar with Roman (military) history I, too noticed that Uderzo is not accurate with the clothing (green tunics instead of red ones)and the ranks of the Romans (centurio instead of military tribune). But the houses of the Gauls are not accurate either. But who cares in a comic like this...?

PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2005 1:31 pm
by Gnaeus Dionysius Draco

I actually appreciated Asterix most because of its element of contemporary satire. Especially the satirisation of the British is superb. I never really regarded it as truly historical, although it did help to shape my ideas on Antiquity a bit. I always felt so bad for those beautiful Roman armours and weapons to be crushed like that :).


On my nightstand

PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2005 8:30 am
by Anonymous
I've heard of Asterix but I haven't found any of the comics maybe I didn't look hard enough.

I too am reading Ogilvies book on Roman religion in the Augustan periond. For me, it is a great read - easy to follow and informative too. Also I'm reading my Penguin copy of Livy again. As I understand it, Livy seems to be the National Historian for Rome. He tres to recount the entire history of Rome up to his time in detail, I guess he does a decent job but he is clearly writing his stuff as a biased, official Imperial account of trhe history of Rome. Still, it is a viewpoint on Rome by one of its own authors and is valuablle for that fact.

Official Livy?

PostPosted: Thu Feb 03, 2005 7:42 am
by Aldus Marius
Salve, Numeri, et Salvete Omnes...

('Salve' or 'Ave' being for greeting one person, and 'Salvete/Avete' for a larger number)

I don't think Titus Livius was an official 'National Historian' of Rome. That I know of, no Emperor had one until Justinian hired Procopius. (And when parroting the Official Version got to be more b.s. than he could stand, Procopius corked off and wrote a Secret History containing The Rest of the Story.) Virgil's Aeneid was a commissioned work, and many people still regard the epic as a propaganda piece. But Livy's History of Rome was a life-work, rather--a thing started on his own initiative while he ws still youngish, and which he worked on for almost the rest of his time on the planet.

We don't have the books dealing with the late Republic and the reign of Augustus, so we can't be sure how he treated events in those times. But other historians mention them, saying Livy held off publishing the most recent parts until after Augustus' death--raising the possibility that the Princeps just might have found them offensive had he been permitted to see them. Livy himself never sought public office, so he was beholden to neither the power structure nor the populace. He could write what he liked.

The writing of history back then was not the same as the very painstaking, exhaustively-researched, documented-to-death sort of thing that it is nowadays. Divine prodigies were as acceptable as more conventional forms of evidence. Indeed, the only thing the Roman writers have in common with the modern ones was that everybody had an angle. The Roman histories that have come down to us were written variously to enlighten, to entertain, to shame a ruler or correct an oversight or work off bile. Moderns do the same thing. And Livy's purpose, most of all, was to tell a moral History of Rome, by presenting a series of character-studies.

We know these guys: Horatius, Camillus, Cincinnatus, Scaevola...all those stories we still tell ourselves and each other as examples of Roman courage and rectitude. We read about the worship of a certain God falling into decline, and are not surprised when the next campaign season finds Roma suffering military reverses. Acts of propitiation are performed, and things get better again. A Consul who has lost almost Rome's entire military-age population in a single battle returns home in seeming disgrace--and is commended by the Senate for "not having despaired of the Republic". Livy is full of stories like this. That's one reason why he is one of the most accessable Roman historians, and also why he is my personal favorite.

Livy gave early-Imperial Rome a common ground. By spelling out the Heritage, he made unity possible. Not always probable, mind...but possible. Everyone knew what you were talking about when you mentioned a particular hero or tale. Everyone understood what lessons you were drawing from that. Poets dropped their names like crazy, without further explanation. Satirists hinted with a sly grin that they knew what the hero was really up to. But they were all talking about the same thing, about stories a young Roman would have heard on his tutor's or his daddy's knee.

I think that one way Livius is of immense value to the SVR is that he shows us what was important to the Romans, and how they preferred to think of themselves. Like any self-concept, this one contains inaccuracies. But like any other, even having it available gives us a priceless insight into the Roman mind, one that has the power to change our own self-concepts, just a little.

This is the thing we are trying to live up to. That alone is a token of Livy's success!

In amicitia et fide,