Mary Beard The Roman Triumph

ISBN 13: 9780674026131

The Roman Triumph

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9780674026131: The Roman Triumph
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It followed every major military victory in ancient Rome: the successful general drove through the streets to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill; behind him streamed his raucous soldiers; in front were his most glamorous prisoners, as well as the booty he'd captured, from enemy ships and precious statues to plants and animals from the conquered territory. Occasionally there was so much on display that the show lasted two or three days.

A radical reexamination of this most extraordinary of ancient ceremonies, this book explores the magnificence of the Roman triumph--but also its darker side. What did it mean when the axle broke under Julius Caesar's chariot? Or when Pompey's elephants got stuck trying to squeeze through an arch? Or when exotic or pathetic prisoners stole the general's show? And what are the implications of the Roman triumph, as a celebration of imperialism and military might, for questions about military power and "victory" in our own day? The triumph, Mary Beard contends, prompted the Romans to question as well as celebrate military glory.

Her richly illustrated work is a testament to the profound importance of the triumph in Roman culture--and for monarchs, dynasts and generals ever since. But how can we re-create the ceremony as it was celebrated in Rome? How can we piece together its elusive traces in art and literature? Beard addresses these questions, opening a window on the intriguing process of sifting through and making sense of what constitutes "history."

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About the Author:

Mary Beard has a Chair of Classics at Cambridge and is a Fellow of Newnham College. She is classics editor of The Times Literary Supplement and author of the blog “A Don’s Life”. She is also a winner of the 2008 Wolfson History Prize.

Review:

In this highly individual book Mary Beard plays havoc with conventional ideas about the Roman triumph, while at the same time scrupulously presenting the evidence with which we can make up our own minds. It is the most important statement to date by a major historian of Roman culture.
--William V. Harris, Shepherd Professor of History, Columbia University

Occasionally one comes across a work of history which lights up a whole era as if by a lightning flash. Mary Beard's new book falls into this rare category. By focusing on the specific ritual of the triumph, she brilliantly illuminates the Roman world in all its aspects - military and political, social and literary, religious and geographical - and also reminds us how much of our own language and culture of success is drawn from this gaudy and often bloody spectacle.
--Robert Harris, author of Imperium

From the first (uncertain) moment when Romans came to think of triumph as a bundle of victory rites that could be repeatedly improved upon, generals fought and lobbied for their moment in the limelight. Enemies, rivals and spectators could not resist being drawn into the show. Beard's Roman Triumph will exercise a similar fascination on its readers.
--Greg Woolf (The Guardian 2007-12-22)

Beautifully written, brilliantly insightful, this book is highly recommended to all those Romanists, professional and amateur, excavators and tourists, who want to get under the skin of the empire-builders of ancient Rome.
--Neil Faulkner (Current Archaeology 2008-02-01)

[Beard] is immensely knowledgeable, and lays forth one of the paradoxes of history (and not only ancient history, one may add). This is that the more we know, the less certain we can be of anything...This is a fascinating book which offers another paradox. By showing how much that we thought we knew is uncertain, Mary Beard teaches us far more than any confident account of the triumphal ceremony ever could.
--Allan Massie (Literary Review 2007-11-01)

Conjectures and conclusions grow from and around the triumphus like kudzu. It takes the mighty vorpal sword of Mary Beard to clear a path through this jabberwocky jungle, snicker-snack. She stands in the great tradition of myth-puncturing Latin classicists--scholars like Richard Bentley, Basil Gildersleeve. A. E. Housman. or Ronald Syme--when she points out that almost all the established views on the triumph are dubious or plain wrong...Her prose, for all its learning, is jaunty. Her book is, in short, a triumph.
--Garry Wills (New York Review of Books 2007-12-20)

A book that manages to be simultaneously both brilliantly subtle and splendidly swaggering. Throughout it, [Beard] subjects our sources for the Roman triumph to merciless dissection, exposing with a pathologist's scalpel how beneath all its outward sheen there lurked profound insecurities and ambivalences...[It] can be enjoyed by readers far beyond the purlieus of classics departments...A book that is, in every sense of that complex word, a triumph.
--Tom Holland (Sunday Times 2007-11-11)

At every turn Beard happily strips away misconceptions and hypotheses, emphasizing the fragility of the facts...It's hard to imagine a more perceptive and questioning study of a central cultural practice that lasted into the Christian era, and was constantly being subverted, extended, and absorbed into representations of empire and even of divinity.
--Helen Meany (Irish Times 2007-11-17)

Thorough, minutely detailed and closely argued...[Beard's] account certainly brings us closer to the complex and fascinating reality than any Rome according to MGM or Paramount.
--Christopher Hart (Independent on Sunday 2007-11-18)

This rich and provocative book offers such a full account of what it means to call ancient Rome "a triumphal culture."
--William Fitzgerald (Times Literary Supplement 2007-12-07)

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Publisher: Belknap Press, 2009
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