AUGUSTUS: The Biography

Originally posted on Classics for All Reviews:

By Jochen Bleicken (tr. Anthea Bell)

Allen Lane (2015) h/b 771pp £30.00 (ISBN 9780713994773)

In this work de longue haleine, first published in Germany in 1998, and now admirably (one confidently hazards) translated by Anthea Bell, B. gives a very detailed account of how the 18 year-old Gaius Octavius, with little to back him in terms of birth, wealth, appearance, or military accomplishment, and indeed of distinctly poor health and dubious physical courage, yet rose to become, as Augustus, the first Roman emperor and one whose auctoritas enabled him to rule as princeps for over forty years, while establishing the Roman empire—in doing so he travelled widely and often—in a form that successfully endured for centuries. His one great advantage was that he had been named as son and heir in the will of the assassinated Julius Caesar; and besides steely ambition and will-power, he also enjoyed considerable good…

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Ed. by Henry Stead & Edith Hall

Bloomsbury (2015) h/b 368pp £80 (ISBN 9781472584267)

This is the first substantial published product of the pioneering Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘Classics and Class in Britain 1789-1939’ project, to which Dr Stead, the author of A Cockney Catullus (OUP, 2015), is attached as a postdoctoral student. Prof. Edith Hall needs no authorial—or indeed edithorial—introduction. She inspired and oversaw the 2010 Conference held at the surely classy British Academy on which this published collection is based, and contributes no fewer than three out of its fifteen essays (more than a fifth of the book’s total pages), as well as co-authoring the sparky introduction.

Besides her, there are six other women contributors, and six men including such eminences within the broad field of classical reception as Lorna Hardwick and Christopher Stray. The collection is full of unexpected gems, e.g. R.H. Tawney teaching a WEA…

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Ed. by Mark Walker

Pineapple Publications (2015) p/b 195pp £4.99 (ISBN 978095474343)

In 1850 the editors of Sabrinae Corolla gloomily observed, of verse composition, that these were studia quae veremur ne in dies obsolescant. They were premature, and 50 or more years later no less a scholar than Wilamowitz commended the English for keeping up a practice which was dying out in Germany. And he could have pointed to distinguished practitioners: Benjamin Hall Kennedy, H.A.J. Munro, Sir Richard Jebb, Gilbert Murray, and many others of high scholarly achievement. Even up to the 1960s a group of Oxford classical scholars (including Bowra, Denniston and Platnauer) were able to publish Some (and then More) Oxford Compositions, which included prose and verse, in both languages, of very high quality.

The up-to-date book under notice here, edited by W., confines itself to Latin verse, mainly in hexameters and elegiacs; but many other…

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GREEK TRAGIC STYLE: Form, Language and Interpretation

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by R.B. Rutherford

CUP (2012) p/b 471pp £22.99 (ISBN 9781107470750)

No better book on Greek tragedy has been published in the 21st century than this one. R.’s project is highly ambitious. Always giving chapter and verse, he discusses what the characters and the choruses say or sing and how they say or sing it. Vocabulary, imagery, rhetoric, irony and characterization are all grist to his mill. And in a brilliant final chapter, he investigates the alchemy through which Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides transform generalizing statements into great poetry. R.’s ambitions are triumphantly realized.

His discussions of excerpts from the plays are consistently judicious and insightful as well as thought-provoking. I found myself almost always nodding in assent and then frequently stimulated to build on his perceptions. For example, to his illuminating discussion of the agôn in Hippolytus, one might add that Theseus and his son are eventually granted…

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Translated and with Introduction and Historical Commentary

By D. Wardle

OUP (2014) p/b 603pp £100 (ISBN 9780199686469)

 If you want all the lies and smears about the early Roman emperors, and a lot more mildly random information, Suetonius is your man. I, Claudius was based on Robert Graves’s novel, and he translated Suetonius for Penguin. But Suetonius was no fool. A serious historian, he worked in the imperial civil service under the emperor Trajan as director of archives AD 114-5 and director of the imperial library 116-7, and finally (under Hadrian) chief secretary i/c correspondence 118-122 (he was dismissed for an offence related to Hadrian’s wife). So the whole of the imperial archives was open to him, together with the works of large numbers of Roman historians otherwise unknown to us, as Suetonius reveals by quoting them. His major work, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, was published…

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Ed. by Judith Evans Grubbs and Tim Parkin with Roslynne Bell

OUP (2013) h/b 690pp £100 (ISBN 9780199781546)

This large, heavy volume is dedicated to the memory of the renowned scholar of Roman family studies, Beryl Rawson, who sadly died while it was being compiled. It is not really a ‘handbook’: one cannot look up certain topics and necessarily find information on them, such as children’s clothing, children in Roman religion, the registration of births, child abuse or child labour. Rather, it is a collection of specially written essays, all in English, on different aspects of the subject by scholars in the field, mainly from the USA and other English-speaking countries, with a few from northern Europe. As Grubbs and Parkin say in the Introduction, the aim is ‘to build on existing scholarship and to point to ways forward.’

The volume comprises thirty essays as well as an introduction and…

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By Harry Mount

Bloomsbury (2015) h/b 264pp £18.99 (ISBN 9781472904678)

Despite the pretentious title, this book is both modest and entertaining, if a little self—indulgent. Mount is a journalist, writer (Amo, Amas, Amat and All That) and classical scholar in the British tradition—Westminster and Oxford—and the book records the author’s journey round sites of ancient Greece loosely following the trail of Odysseus. Its inspiration, Mount asserts, is his rejection in love and the need for cathartic refuge in travel—almost mythically he parted from his girl friend in Naxos. It is light-hearted but not lightweight, including erudite references and creating a coherent structure on to which he can tag his own comments and experiences. He has the happy knack of relating ancient sites and practices to modern life. But throughout it all his respect and love of Homer shines through.

The book is not completely faithful to Odysseus’s post…

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Classics in Communities conference: Access to Classics in schools and communities – Sat 19th Sept 2015

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Dear Classicists,

This is reminder that we are exactly a month away from the second Classics in Communities conference to be held at the Faculty of Classics, Cambridge.

Spaces are still available for this conference.

Title: Access to Classics in schools and communities – two years on
Date: Saturday 19th September 2015
Venue: Faculty of Classics, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge
Cost: £20 (to include registration, lunch and wine reception)

This conference aims to bring together all those interested in the teaching and learning of Latin and Greek in schools, colleges, universities and communities in the UK and around the world. Building on the success of the first ‘Classics in Communities’ conference in Oxford in November 2013, the themes of this year’s conference will include: widening access to Classical languages; emerging practices in Classics pedagogies; improving community cohesion through Classics; the cross-curricular value of Classical languages and the appeal/merits of non-linguistic Classics.

Keynote speakers will be Tim Whitmarsh, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at the University of Cambridge and Tom Holland, celebrated British novelist and Ancient historian.

In addition to those teaching Classical subjects at all levels, the audience for this conference might also include senior leadership, educationalists and policy makers.

Thanks to generous funding from the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, and the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies, a limited number of bursaries are available for PGCE students, postgraduate students and school teachers to attend free of charge.

Further information on booking and programme details is available on our website In the meantime if you have any queries about the conference or the project then please do not hesitate to contact the conference organisers.

Mai Musié, University of Oxford mai.musie​ AT ​
Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, University of Oxford
Dr Lorna Robinson, The Iris Project
Steven Hunt, University of Cambridge

THE SHADOW OF CREUSA: Negotiating Fictionality in Late Antique Latin Literature

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By Anders Cullhed (tr. by Michael Knight)

De Gruyter (2015) h/b 703pp £97.99 (ISBN 9783110310863)

Imagine that you are a writer and your aim is to set up a school to promote the teaching of Christian religion; that you live in the Roman Empire at some point between the second and the fifth century AD, that you are a newly converted Christian who has been educated by pagan teachers and, therefore, your education has been essentially formed on the works of Homer, Cicero, Horace, Ovid and Vergil. How would you now confront the classics? Would you be a ‘traditionalist’ who repudiates the value of pagan literature, or an ‘innovator’ who finds a compromise and negotiates ideas and themes of pagan culture by means of allegorical interpretations? These are the problems of ‘fictionality’ in late antique Latin literature at the heart of Cullhed’s investigation.

C. covers about three centuries of late…

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By Richard Sorabji

OUP (2014) h/b 265pp £22.50 (ISBN 9780199685547)

S. provides a wide-ranging survey of moral conscience throughout the whole Western tradition right up to the present day, beginning with the Greeks. He explains that the word conscience itself comes from a Latin translation of the Greek term suneidenai, which was used originally to mean sharing knowledge with oneself. To understand this metaphor you need to imagine that you are two people, the one with a secret and the one who shares that secret. This first gets a foothold in classical Athenian drama with the case of Orestes, and was developed by the Romans who placed more emphasis on knowing one’s merits rather than one’s defects. Thus the focus on split personality associated with modern Freudianism is there at the very birth of the concept.

S. goes on to describe in learned detail the process whereby this originally…

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