Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones

By Carlin A. Barton | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The realm of ideas and symbols will have to be lived closer to the bone. TERRENCE DES PRES1

This book is an attempt to coax Roman history closer to the bone, to the breath and matter of the living being, to what the young Marx called “immediate sensuous consciousness. ”2 It deals with what, for the Romans, was the life that mattered, the life of matter—and the life of matter was honor.

If my previous work concerned the icy mineral opacity of Roman violence and cruelty, this is a book about the airy white flame that was always, as it were, in the marrow. And so, in this book, I attempt to give as much attention to the radiant as to the frost-hardened aspects of Roman emotional life.

This book addresses Roman emotional life through its volatile equilibrations, its daring homeopathic and homeostatic adjustments, its points of stress and dizziness and collapse, its radical realignments. It deals with a set of patterns of sentiment and the ways these patterns are inflected or inverted in the course of Roman history.

With this book, finally, I offer to the broadest audience I can reach the most complex understanding of the spiritual and emotional life of the ancient Romans I can articulate. I hope that it will convey to the reader some small part of the joy and yearning that went into its writing and the love that its author feels for a dead race.

____________________
1
The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps, Oxford, 1996, p. 209. “Words, as it were, must return to base” (Godfrey Lienhardt, “Self: Public, Private: Some African Representations, ” in The Category of the Person: Anthropology, Philosophy, History, ed. Michael Carrithers, Steven Collins, and Steven Lukes, Cambridge, 1985, pp. 141–155.
2
“All history is the preparation for 'man' to become the object of sensuous consciousness… immediate sensuous consciousness” (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, in The Marx-Engels Reader, 2d ed., ed. Robert C. Tucker, New York, 1978, p. 90).

-xi-

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