Exeter Studies in History No. 7, pub. Univ. of Exeter, 1985. ISBN 0859892255.
This eighty-page booklet contains three academic essays by experts in their field and includes full references, bibliography, and index. Aimed at the relatively advanced reader it presupposes good general background knowledge of the period and a little Latin. The essay order is chronological but with a large element of overlap. I found it useful as supplementary background to the world of the New Testament, which contains numerous references to Roman leaders of this time. The ambitious beginner who is not put off by this will probably get by with the aid of a good dictionary and occasional reference to a Latin dictionary (online or book form).
Introduction by T.P. Wiseman (editor).
The quality and variety of historical sources is discussed. The most useful evidence is from Cicero and Tacitus.
Essay 1: 'Competition and co-operation', by T.P. Wiseman.
Traces the documentary and epigraphic evidence for 'a society where personal glory mattered so much' that the great men of the day constantly brooded on their social status - in the words of Julius Caesar: 'it's harder to push me down from first place to second than from second to last'. Wealth and power mattered, but fame, preferably undying fame, mattered most. Those fighting men who ran out of kings and armies to defeat recorded their achievements in whatever field lay open to them; if you built roads, you had to record, by stone inscription, the prodigious number of miles of road laid. The drive to be 'primus, maximus, optimus' amongst the aristocracy and army led to the end of the republic and the beginning of the Caesars. The 'heroic ethos', which descended to the Romans from Homeric Greece, is traced in Cicero. This is the most complex and most penetrating of the three essays and demands close reading.
Essay 2: 'Politics in the late Republic', by Jeremy Paterson.
Straightforward and very factually argued, this considers political techniques, propaganda, and motivations of Cicero, Sulla, Caesar, and the aristocracy as a whole. The careers and skills required to attain the greatest political 'dignitas' lay in the army as a general, or as a lawyer. There were no political parties (factio), which only existed in times of crisis and fell apart as soon as the 'aggressive individualism' of the aristocracy re-asserted itself.
Essay 3: 'The politics of the early Principate', by Barbara Levick.
The themes of success measured in wealth, power, and fame are continued. The dwindling fate of the Senate is analysed. From Caesar to Tiberius the road to success lies increasingly in a military career as the empire expands rapidly. There is reference to P. Sulpicius Quirinius of Lanuvium who is referenced in the gospel of Luke, the paradigm of the successful 'new man', both distinguished and loyal to the throne. Politicians are shown to use their position to gain great wealth. The legal system is abused by malicious speculative charges brought to gain compensation. Sic transit gloria mundi.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose