#classicaltwitter ~ March 27, 2017 (ii)


#classicaltwitter ~ March 27, 2017 (i)

CJ-Online Review ~ War and Society in Early Rome: From Warlords to Generals

War and Society in Early Rome: From Warlords to Generals. By Jeremy Armstrong. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. Pp. xiv + 317. Hardcover, £64.99. ISBN 978-1-107-09357-7.

Reviewed by Carsten Hjort Lange, Aalborg University, Denmark

Armstrong’s new book on warfare in early Rome (c. 570-338 bce) presents us with a much appreciated opportunity to revisit discussions on the significant impact of warfare on (early) Roman society. In six chronological chapters, Armstrong presents his thesis: Roman society from the 6th to the 4th centuries bce transformed from a coalition of warlords into a civic society with an army fighting for common goals. He rejects old hellenocentric models (esp. 10-11), instead relying heavily on van Wees highly revisionist 2004 book (Greek Warfare: Myth and Realities). A metanarrative approach is suggested (16), focusing on the big themes (17: a new paradigm).

Chapter 1 focuses on the evidence. A section on the methodology for the literary evidence (36-39) sets out the principles for his approach: the amount of reliable information cannot exceed what can have been reliably transmitted from the past. The documentary evidence, viz. lists of magistrates, wars, treaties etc. of each year seems to have been transmitted relatively intact. The more narrative aspects of Rome down to the 4th century probably originated in oral traditions and certain core aspects may have been maintained (cf. Cornell 1995, The Beginnings of Rome). This seems a sensible approach. The chapter ends with a brief overview of the archaeological evidence.

Chapter 2 gives an overview of the 8th to the 6th centuries. Armstrong argues for the emergence of a regional aristocracy of “proto-patricians”, mobile with an extra-urban identity, and dominating the region’s warfare and of a “settled, community-based population of the lower socio-economic classes” of “proto-plebeians” (54). The rex was typically a powerful member of the gentilicial elite, supported by his clan etc. (59). Armstrong unsurprisingly concludes that the role of the rex was largely confined to warfare, religion and justice (62). Warfare during the period was dominated by the regions clans (69-72), even if there were community-based regulations.

Chapter 3 on Rome’s regal army focuses on the Servian reforms, emphasizing a shift- or rather operating side by side-from the curial organization associated with the proto-urban/plebeian population, to the centuriate assembly, a new administrative structure designed to include and give power to the gentes who were increasingly settling in and around the city (82-86). Armstrong suggests that the ‘Servian’ centuriate system was only instituted after the establishment of the Republic (84-85), in what seems an arbitrary piece of rewriting. The period also sees a continued presence of independent, warlike clans, led by so called condottieri (86-93). Armstrong rejects the traditional model of the Roman hoplite phalanx (111-126). He concludes that warfare in this period-continuing low-level raiding-remained largely the preserve of the region’s clans led by mobile aristocrats, not the communities.

Chapter 4 focuses on the fall of the Roman rex and the rise of Rome’s aristocratic Republic. The war duties of the rex are shared out among praetores et al. At the same time there is a continuing power of the archaic warband (136-146: mobile clan warlords: Porsenna, Tarquin in exile, Coriolanus, Attus Clausus, Herdonius etc.). Raiding for plunder is still the principal motive for war, but there is a shift to land rather than portable wealth. We also see the emergence of a landed aristocracy (157-163), with evidence for individual clan leaders defending parcels of land (Tarquins, Attus Clausus, Cincinnatus, Fabii), as well as the emergence of community-based military forces (163­-171), with the plebs gradually coming to have some involvement in warfare (166-167 on imperium; 170-171 on ager publicus). In the early 5th century bce the existing urban political structure began to realign itself in opposition to Rome’s new gentilicial regime.

Chapter 5 concentrates on state formation and the incorporation of the plebs (185-211). The period sees the first steps in integrating the gentilicial and urban communities: the Twelve Tables, standardizing social/economic relations between the two groups, the Valerio-Horatian laws, and the institutions of the military tribunes, consular tribunes, and the censorship. The period also sees a continuation of the warband ethos (210-211). Armstrong accepts that a primitive system of state payment for military service introduced in late 5th century. This is the beginning of the state taking over patronage of military service. There is a shift in this period away from raiding to conquest of territory and strategic dominance over the region.

Chapter 6 focuses on the Gallic sack-with only slight destruction- and its aftermath. There was now consular tribunate in every year, bringing to an end the archaic state. There is further integration of patricians and plebs, with a gradual rise of patrician/plebeian aristocracy. There was willingness after the Tumultus Gallicus to commit resources to common defence (257-260: the Servian Walls). The expansion of the citizen body, all increasing Rome’s military might, resulted in an end of the archaic warband and the small independent central Italian community.The result is the new Roman citizenship, dependent on indicated political affiliation (255-256). The period sees an increasing state control of warfare.

Armstrong is to be recommended for this stimulating and provocative book, even if, at least to this reviewer, it was felt at times that he was pushing some of his interpretative lines too far beyond the ancient evidence. He presents what, at times, are highly conjectural reconstructions of the development of the Roman state and society. Gentilicial theories are fashionable, and the notion that warlords were an important feature of archaic Roman society has now become accepted consensus, but Armstrong pushes it all to the point where a unified Roman state and society does not emerge till the 5th/4th century bce. Despite these objections, this book is undoubtedly bound to stimulate much further debate and reflection.

Posted with permission …

©2017 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.

CJ-Online Reviews Archive

CJ-Online Review ~ Latin of New Spain

Latin of New Spain. By Rose Williams. Mundelein, IL: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishing, 2015. Pp. xx + 280. Paper, $19.00. ISBN 978-0-86516-833-6.


Reviewed by Tom Garvey, The Meadows School


Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of extant Latin derives from later than, and not infrequently from places geographically outside, the historical core of the Roman Empire, the study of Latin is far too often confined to works from authors on a narrow list of canonical classical authors. Williams seeks to combat this trend by making available a well-rounded selection of Latin written about, and even sometimes in, the territories comprising a more recent empire, namely New Spain.

Three genres are represented in the volume: Erasmian prose (with selections from Jesuit José de Acosta, Columbus, and Cortés); epic poetry (Jesuit Rafael Landívar and Francisco José Cabrera); and dialogue (Francisco Cervantes de Salazar). Supplementary materials include a map of Columbus’s voyages, 36 generally well-chosen illustrations, and five separate appendices. Appendix 1 is comprised of 15 pages of background notes on significant persons, places, and terms ranging from Aristotle to Lactantius to Lake Texcoco. Appendix 2 is a historical timeline including what the author considers benchmark dates and events in both Europe and the Americas germane to the texts included in the volume. Especially helpful, appendix 3 provides concise definitions of 24 common figures of speech encountered in the text’s selections. Appendix 4 (on rhythm and meter in poetry) expands, perhaps unnecessarily, beyond the scope of what is immediately useful to the actual selections in the text, which are exclusively dactylic hexameter. Appendix 5 is a master list of Latin neologisms coined by the primary authors. There are also a 34-page Latin-to-English glossary and a short bibliography.

Each set of selections is prefaced by a biography of its author, and each individual Latin selection preceded by an introductory paragraph designed to provide the context necessary to allow the reader to dive directly into the text. Separate sections with vocabulary, neologisms, grammar and word use questions, comprehension questions, and poetry questions (for the verse selections) follow the Latin text, though not every Latin selection contains all of these. The introductory paragraphs and the Latin text always begin on the left-side page, but there seems to be precious little uniformity of formatting beyond that. When the text is longer than would fit on a single page, it sometimes continues on the facing right-side page, but sometimes picks up again on the next left-side page, with vocabulary for the first page of text facing it on the right instead. For shorter selections, the vocabulary can even begin on the selfsame page as the Latin text itself, though apparently not in order to maximize efficient use of space. (There are countless large blank spots throughout the edition.)

Unfortunately, predicting where exactly it will be relative to the Latin text is the least problematic aspect of the vocabulary section. As is true also (and perhaps most especially) of the ‘Grammar and Word Use Questions,’ the vocabulary section evinces a less-than-clear/-unified picture of the entire edition’s target audience (supposedly an intermediate reader, if the introduction is to be trusted). The words chosen for glossing beside/below the text don’t seem to have been chosen by any set of established criteria, but rather at the whimsy of the author. Very often, individual vocabulary sections will simultaneously contain one or more words that no intermediate reader should need, while conversely omitting many others that they are unlikely to know (quam and ut are glossed, e.g., but not improbare meaning “disprove” [22-23]; pater but not egregius [36-37]; eo and indigenus, but not vehemens [45]; praeeo and vinculum, but not ostrum or crista [52-53]; factum and foveo, but not vexare meaning “inspire” or the “indeclinable” frugi [58-59]; etc.).

And while most words used in the Latin text can be found in the master glossary at the back, several words (such as advento [67] and partio [82]) cannot be found there either. And while not often, occasionally a vocabulary word will be placed in the section before or after the one it belongs in (as with fluito [91]). I also noticed that an archaic dat./abl. ending in quercubus [91] was misconstrued as a nominative singular (despite being contextually impossible) and granted its very own dictionary entry as a 2nd-declension noun. More generally frustrating, the system of dots used to separate stems from endings is often misleading, representing not actual stems, but simply the point in the word up to which all forms are spelled identically (as tru·x -cis [67]). Questionable also is the choice to gloss a single case of a word rather than its standard dictionary entry, as with the genitive uniuscuiusque [passim]. Several of these choices seem to overlook, if not outright prevent, opportunities for learning.

Perhaps the single biggest frustration this reviewer found was with the lack of grammatical help/notes. While still somewhat useful, the ‘Grammar and Word Use Questions’ section often feels like a “now find this,” hunt-and-peck scavenger hunt. Many questions are asked, obviously, but without the direct guidance/oversight of a teacher, many (if not most) intermediate students will feel lost without confirmation that their answers are or aren’t right. Of much more use would be (even very short) explanations of exactly what is happening syntactically. Not all intermediate students will be able to follow the leading questions to the logical conclusions to which the author seeks to guide them. And to be completely honest, sometimes there aren’t even leading questions when you want them. Several constructions (especially the ones idiosyncratic to later Latin) for which there is little-to-no specific help will be outside even the more advanced high-school student’s ken. In brief, the bar is simply set too high for the alleged target audience.

In the end, Latin of New Spain’s major contribution to the field-and this is not to be underestimated-will be the access it grants large audiences to various texts that would most likely otherwise remain inaccessible. While this reviewer would hesitate to recommend the edition to students wanting to hack through the texts on their own, any teacher willing to put together a not-insignificant “grammatical notes” section will find herein a solid skeleton upon which to flesh them out.

Posted with permission …

©2017 by The Classical Association of the Middle West and South. All rights reserved.

CJ-Online Reviews Archive

#classicaltwitter ~ March 26, 2017