Perspectives on Romanness

From the foundation of Rome in 754 BC until the fall of Constantinople in 1543 AD, Roman roads, language, religion, and government left an enormous imprint on most of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. Orthodox people of Asia Minor and the Balkans still call themselves Romaioi and Rūm. I am finding it fascinating to read about how the tribes of western Europe, and the Hellenic and Asiatic civilizations of the Middle East, perceived Rome and in time became Roman.

Eager to be Roman: Greek Response to Roman Rule in Pontus and Bithynia

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Jesper Majbom Madsen

Eager to be Roman is an important investigation into the ways in which the population of Pontus and Bithynia, a Greek province in the northwestern part of Asia Minor (on the southern shore of the Black Sea), engaged culturally with the Roman Empire. Scholars have long presented Greek provincials as highly attached to their Hellenic background and less affected by Rome's influence than Spaniards, Gauls or Britons. More recent studies have acknowledged that some elements of Roman culture and civic life found their way into Greek communities and that members of the Greek elite obtained Roman citizen rights and posts in the imperial administration, though for purely pragmatic reasons. Drawing on a detailed investigation of literary works and epigraphic evidence, Jesper Madsen demonstrates that Greek intellectuals and members of the local elite in this province were in fact keen to identify themselves as Roman, and that imperial connections and Roman culture were prestigious in the eyes of their Greek readers and fellow-citizens.

The Politics of Roman Memory: From the Fall of the Western Empire to the Age of Justinian

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Marion Kruse

What did it mean to be Roman after the fall of the western Roman empire in 476, and what were the implications of new formulations of Roman identity for the inhabitants of both east and west? How could an empire be Roman when it was, in fact, at war with Rome? How did these issues motivate and shape historical constructions of Constantinople as the New Rome? And how did the idea that a Roman empire could fall influence political rhetoric in Constantinople? In The Politics of Roman Memory, Marion Kruse visits and revisits these questions to explore the process by which the emperors, historians, jurists, antiquarians, and poets of the eastern Roman empire employed both history and mythologized versions of the same to reimagine themselves not merely as Romans but as the only Romans worthy of the name.

The Politics of Roman Memory challenges conventional narratives of the transformation of the classical world, the supremacy of Christian identity in late antiquity, and the low literary merit of writers in this period. Kruse reconstructs a coherent intellectual movement in Constantinople that redefined Romanness in a Constantinopolitan idiom through the manipulation of Roman historical memory. Debates over the historical parameters of Romanness drew the attention of figures as diverse as Zosimos—long dismissed as a cranky pagan outlier, but here rehabilitated—and the emperor Justinian, as well as the major authors of Justinian's reign, such as Prokopios, Ioannes Lydos, and Jordanes. Finally, by examining the narratives embedded in Justinian's laws, Kruse demonstrates the importance of historical memory to the construction of imperial authority.

The Celtic Empire

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Peter Berresford Ellis

European recorded history north of the Alps begins with the Celts. At their height, they stretched over the ancient world from Ireland and Britain to Turkey and Czechoslovakia, from Belgium and France to Spain and Italy. Celtic armies sacked Rome, invaded Greece, and even attempted to take over the Egypt of the Ptolemies. There can be no recounting the eclipse of the Etruscans and the Punic Wars without focusing on the role of the Celts.

Rome developed into its familiar shape largely in response to its centuries-long conflict with the Celtic peoples. To tell the history of the Celtic presence and meta-culture which never became a literal empire, Ellis adds to the firsthand and classical accounts his own storytelling talents.

Celt and Roman: The Celts of Italy

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Peter Berresford Ellis

This is the first popular account of the Celts of Italy and the land known as Cisalpine Gaul – a much neglected area in the history of Rome’s rise to dominance. In 390 BC, a Celtic army captured Rome and occupied it for seven months until the Roman senate paid them off. For the next fifty years, Celtic armies remained nearby, and for two centuries the Celts of Italy resisted Rome with a stubborn defiance, often annihilating entire consular armies sent against them. Rome could not claim to be master of the Po Valley Celts until 191 BC. This much-needed book explains the historical factors behind Rome’s overt racial prejudice against the Celts and shows at the same time the important Celtic contribution to the development of Roman culture – in weaponry and warfare, in transport technology and, above all, in the Celtic contribution to early Latin literature.

A Greek Roman Empire: Power and Belief under Theodosius II (408–450)

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Fergus Millar

In the first half of the fifth century, the Latin-speaking part of the Roman Empire suffered vast losses of territory to barbarian invaders. But in the Greek-speaking half of the Eastern Mediterranean, with its capital at Constantinople, there was a stable and successful system, using Latin as its official language, but communicating with its subjects in Greek. This book takes an inside look at how this system worked in the long reign of the pious Christian Emperor Theodosius II (408-50), and analyzes its largely successful defense of its frontiers, its internal coherence, and its relations with its subjects, with a flow of demands and suggestions traveling up the hierarchy to the Emperor, and a long series of laws, often set out in elaborately self-justificatory detail, addressed by the Emperor, through his officials, to the people. Above all, this book focuses on the Imperial mission to promote the unity of the Church, the State’s involvement in intensely-debated doctrinal questions, and the calling by the Emperor of two major Church Councils at Ephesus, in 431 and 449. Between the Law codes and the acts of the Church Councils, the material illustrating the working of government and the involvement of State and church, is incomparably richer, more detailed, and more vivid than for any previous period.