Well, I’m back from France, and the blog will again be updated regularly. However, this first post after the break is not so much about iconoclasm, but more a short review of some of the books I read while away. Of course, I have also been busy reading up on things for my thesis, and I will give a report on the most interesting stuff in the next couple of days.
A highlight was probably Richard Hingley’s Globalizing Roman Culture: Unity, diversity and empire (London 2005). Not so much because it’s the final word on the growing debate on the nature of Roman cultural imperialism, nor is it as good as Hingley’s earlier book on (almost) the same topic, Roman Officers and English Gentlemen (London 2000), but it introduces some important new ways forward in the discussion as well as providing a useful summary of the use of social theory in Roman archaeology. He successfully pulls the archaeology of the Roman empire together in all its globalized glory.
While reading the book, I was reminded how thorougly disappointed I was with a recent seminar at the Black Sea Centre here in Aarhus on the topic of ‘romanization’. After having discussed the various uses of this term, the opening speaker moved on to discard creolisation (as if this was the only new concept in post-colonial Roman archaeology) and then duely decided to stick with a grand narrative of ‘romanization’ as the theoretical concept behind his paper. The following papers (a whole day’s worth) unfortunately continued on much the same track, while discussing the specifics of various processes of ‘romanization’ inside and outside the empire.
Hingley also addresses an unease I have with the narratives of books such as Paul Zanker’s Augustus und die Macht der Bilder (Munich 1987), the portrayal of (especially) the Augustan age as a golden age for all. It’s a very important book that deservedly has had an immense impact, but the flipside to imperial power is entirely neglected. The recent surge of interest in the archaeology of slavery, smaller settlements and many other cultural aspects of the less fortunate in Roman society will hopefully change this situation in the future. With Globalizing Roman Culture, Hingley is paving the theoretical path for these studies.
Another book that I enjoyed reading was Tom Holland’s Rubicon – The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, a real pageturner account of a story that can never be told too many times. Books such as this are very important to keep Classics vital and relevant.
Don DeLillo’s Underworld – coincidentally covered in Wallace’s book – provided me with loads of entertainment, when tired of work. I have enjoyed much of his other work, especially White Noise, and Underworld is indeed a great book as well.