As the Romans Did: A Source Book in Roman Social History

As the Romans Did: A Source Book in Roman Social History

As the Romans Did: A Source Book in Roman Social History

As the Romans Did: A Source Book in Roman Social History

Synopsis

An anthology of translations from Latin and Greek source materials, As the Romans Did offers a highly revealing look at everyday Roman life, providing clear, lively translations of a fascinating array of documents--from personal letters, farming manuals, medical texts, and recipes, to poetry, graffiti, and tombstone inscriptions. Each selection is newly translated into readable, contemporary English and fully annotated to give necessary historical and cultural background. In addition, the book includes abundant biographical notes, maps, appendices, and cross-references to related topics, as well as an extensive bibliography, providing students with substantial background material to broaden their understanding of the selections. Arranged thematically into chapters on family life, housing, education, entertainment, religion, and other important topics, the translations reveal the ambitions and aspirations not only of the upper class, but of the average Roman citizen as well; they tell not only of the success and failure of Rome's grandiose imperialist policies, but also of the pleasures and the hardships of everyday life.

Excerpt

The civilization of the ancient Romans has influenced almost every aspect of our own modern society. On countless occasions we still do as the Romans did. Yet many of us envisage these lively, dynamic, and talkative people as marble statues standing grimly silent in museum hallways. It is the purpose of this book to allow the ancient Romans to step forward and talk to us about themselves. Sociologists gather data about the modern world from personal interviews; social historians must rely for "personal interviews" on the written words of people who lived in the past. This book is an anthology of translations into English of materials written in Latin and Greek about two thousand years ago. It is designed to offer people interested in Roman social history the opportunity to examine at first hand literary source material from the ancient world. These materials include personal letters, legal documents, graffiti, poems, farming manuals, recipes, medical texts, business contracts, and funerary inscriptions. The words were written, engraved, or painted on papyrus, metal, stone, wax, plaster, or clay, and they provide a variety of data.

Our data about the ancient Roman world are paradoxically both incomplete and yet overwhelming. The documents which survive are myriad in number because they accumulated during a thousand years of human history; yet their survival was largely a matter of chance. There exist today, for example, only a few of all the letters written on papyrus in the Roman period, and these are not necessarily the letters a historian would have chosen for preservation. Chance has saved for us some documents which are relatively uninformative, while destroying countless others that might have been very enlightening. Most of the documents, moreover, were never intended by their writers to be informative to subsequent generations, any more than we expect our own personal letters, business contracts, or shopping lists to be of historical value. Gaps exist therefore in our knowledge of the ancient Romans. And since this book contains only a small selection of the extant documents which in turn represent only a small number of the total documents written during the Roman period, it cannot claim to give the reader a complete picture of the lives of the Romans. The passages, however, have been carefully chosen so as to provide data which will enable the reader to gain an accurate perspective on many, diverse aspects of life in the ancient Roman world.

The terms ancient Roman world and Roman civilization resist a single or simple definition. Civilization is never a static phenomenon. And the number of people who participated in the achievements of the Roman world increased even as the borders of the Roman Empire expanded. The people who lived in the farm village on the hills above the mouth of the Tiber River gradually but relentlessly extended their power and influence throughout Italy, and then throughout Europe and the entire Mediterranean world, until their village, Rome, evolved into a cosmopolitan . . .

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