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The Roman Triumph by Mary Beard
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The Roman Triumph (2007)

by Mary Beard

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The very concept of a Roman triumph is evocative; Hollywood (or HBO) have tackled it with abandon and deep pockets, militaristic rulers have aped it with gusto.
The challenge in pinpointing its form is that the sources are varied (from literature to art) and in disagreement over what happened, how and why.
Beard's approach is both readable and transparent in examining the undertow of academic debate. This may leave some readers unsatistied as there are no straightforward answers delivered, but I found it refreshing to see the complexities of the evidence meshed with a reasonable discussion of what may have occured.
There is an interesting current running through the work where Beard suggests that the triumph may not have been the glorious military display we assume it is, but instead sought to remind society that glory was fleeting and conquering achievements not all that. I'm not entirely convinced by the arguments, but it does raise some very interesting points.
Unlike most academic texts, Beard goes from the specific (Pompey's triumph following his victories in the east) to the general (origins in and impact on society).
She then examines the nitty-gritty (the route of the triumph, the changing format, the artistic, architectural and numismatic evidence) before rounding on the academic debate.
This represents an accesible, even-handed and pretty comprehensive examination of this fascinating cultural, political and religious ritual. ( )
2 vote Donogh | Jun 25, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674026136, Hardcover)

Listen to a short interview with Mary Beard Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

It followed every major military victory in ancient Rome: the successful general drove through the streets to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill; behind him streamed his raucous soldiers; in front were his most glamorous prisoners, as well as the booty he'd captured, from enemy ships and precious statues to plants and animals from the conquered territory. Occasionally there was so much on display that the show lasted two or three days.

A radical reexamination of this most extraordinary of ancient ceremonies, this book explores the magnificence of the Roman triumph--but also its darker side. What did it mean when the axle broke under Julius Caesar's chariot? Or when Pompey's elephants got stuck trying to squeeze through an arch? Or when exotic or pathetic prisoners stole the general's show? And what are the implications of the Roman triumph, as a celebration of imperialism and military might, for questions about military power and "victory" in our own day? The triumph, Mary Beard contends, prompted the Romans to question as well as celebrate military glory.

Her richly illustrated work is a testament to the profound importance of the triumph in Roman culture--and for monarchs, dynasts and generals ever since. But how can we re-create the ceremony as it was celebrated in Rome? How can we piece together its elusive traces in art and literature? Beard addresses these questions, opening a window on the intriguing process of sifting through and making sense of what constitutes "history."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:19 -0400)

It followed every major military victory in ancinet Rome, the successful general drove through the streets to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. A reexamination of this most extraordinary of ancient ceremonies, this book explores the magnificence of the Roman triumph but also its darker side.… (more)

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