The Roman Way Info

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Drawing on the greatest writers of its civilization,
Hamilton vividly depicts the life and spirit of Rome.

In
this informal history of Roman civilization, Edith Hamilton vividly
depicts the Roman life and spirit as they are revealed in the greatest
writers of the time. Among these literary guides are Cicero, who left an
incomparable collection of letters; Catullus, the quintessential poet
of love; Horace, the chronicler of a cruel and materialistic Rome; and
the Romantics Virgil, Livy, and Seneca. The story concludes with the
stark contrast between high-minded Stoicism and the collapse of values
witnessed by Tacitus and Juvenal.

“No one in modern times has
shown us more vividly . . . ‘the grandeur that was Rome.’ Filtering the
golden essence from the mass of classical literature, she proved how
applicable to our daily lives are the humor and wisdom of more than
2,000 years ago.”― New York Times


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for The Roman Way:

5

Jan 31, 2017

Edith Hamilton not only appreciates Latin literature for its use in the analysis of Roman history, but also the brilliance of their writings. By using Roman playwrights and poets, Hamilton traces the development of Rome, from its origin as something not-Greek, to the romantic and grandiose poems of Virgil, and the sentimental romantic that is Seneca.

The expression of Roman morals is first seen through its character within the plays of Terence and Plautus. The Mother, The Son, The Slave: each Edith Hamilton not only appreciates Latin literature for its use in the analysis of Roman history, but also the brilliance of their writings. By using Roman playwrights and poets, Hamilton traces the development of Rome, from its origin as something not-Greek, to the romantic and grandiose poems of Virgil, and the sentimental romantic that is Seneca.

The expression of Roman morals is first seen through its character within the plays of Terence and Plautus. The Mother, The Son, The Slave: each with their own role within society. Interestingly, these assigned roles continue to influence literature and society. For example, The Son's duty is to his Mother above all.

FATHER: Right, my boy. Your mother first. There's nothing you should put head.

This application of Roman morals in theatre is also seen through the treatment of women:

"Strict virtues within the house for everyone. Outside, all the pleasant virtues for the men […] one of Rome's greatest achievements was the successful education of their women in the idea that their supreme duty was to be chaste."

"In Roman literature, a woman is always a woman. Her sex is never in the background of the picture [unlike Greek literature]."

Catullus, the lover of "Lesbia", personifies the role of The Young Man. Writing his love poems, he is emotional, his life only worth living when he is able to embrace Lesbia into his arms.

Would I too could so play with you, sweet sparrow
I would lift from my spirit its dark trouble.

In comparison, although Horace was a romantic, "enjoying keenly all life's simplest pleasures", he is clear, cool, and balanced. Horace is a passionless poet, not soaring the skies with gods and goddesses. He wanted only the pleasant ways of the earth. Acknowledging that the Republic had died, and that Augustus was alive, Horace extolled Augustus with praise and devotion. Horace had realised how important money had become.

"If I make use of people who have money, I can dispense with poor fare."

The Roman character was not borne for servility, however Horace was a product of an age where it was more important to have a great deal of money, that the sense of honour in its pursuits had been lost.

"Everything, virtue, honour, fame, everything human and divine, obey beautiful riches."

TBC ...more
4

Jun 19, 2017

Edith Hamilton was an interesting woman. She was an educator and read Greek and Latin (and French and German) all her life for her own pleasure. She wrote this book in her 60's. It reflected her life-long love of literature and was insightful. In her words, “What the Romans did has always interested me much less than what they were and what the historians have said they were is beyond all comparison less interesting to me than what they themselves said.” She focused on what we can derive from Edith Hamilton was an interesting woman. She was an educator and read Greek and Latin (and French and German) all her life for her own pleasure. She wrote this book in her 60's. It reflected her life-long love of literature and was insightful. In her words, “What the Romans did has always interested me much less than what they were and what the historians have said they were is beyond all comparison less interesting to me than what they themselves said.” She focused on what we can derive from literature about the Romans. I found her style straight-forward and stimulating.

Hamilton opened by pointing out that the “fountainhead of our knowledge” begins with the comedic writers Plautus and Terence, that comedy is a mirror, reflecting a people by what they find humorous. She moved through more famous figures; Cicero, Caesar, Horace, keeping to her promise to draw portraits of the Romans from what they themselves said about Rome. Though these men were famous, they were not all necessarily from privileged backgrounds. So there really is quite a disparity sometimes in the picture we get.

I did have a few questions. She had a brief discussion on the treatment of women in Greek and Roman literature, pointing out that Virgil's treatment of Dido set the precedent for how women are treated in consequent works. Virgil's Dido “made the fatal slip” and loses all while the matter is merely incidental to Aeneas. Meanwhile, Homer's Helen is not blamed at all for her “slip”. It simply was what it was. The contrast was interesting, but I wondered if it was that simple? Homer's treatment of Penelope seems to suggest otherwise. She was praised for remaining faithful to Odysseus. Or was she? Did I just read it that way but Homer was actually just recounting one woman's faithfulness in the same way he recounted Helen's story? I'm not sure.

Another question was on her comments about pleasure and morality in the ancient world. She says, ”Pleasure and morality were not seen as opposed to each other in Greece.”. Then she recounts a story from Xenophon about Socrates visiting a courtesan as representative of all Greece and follows it with, ”But to the Romans the opposition between duty and pleasure was absolute. Men's natural inclinations were evil; their manifest obligation was sternly to control them.” It was my understanding that Socrates (or Plato?) thought pleasure an evil of the body to be escaped from. For him and his followers, would not pleasure and morality be opposed? And her comment about the Romans can be seen in drinking laws, but what about their pleasure in the arena? Why wasn't that seen as evil and “sternly controlled” rather than growing to outrageous proportions? I wondered if her comments here could only be partially applied. Or maybe she was thinking of the Stoic sect of Romans...

Of Stoics she says, “Alone in the Roman world their voice was heard denouncing the centuries-old gladiatorial games.” This seems to ignore the Christian voices that denounced the gladiatorial games.

As is the case with many parallels drawn after reading about ancient Rome, I found one of her closing paragraphs chilling: ”What Rome was capable of, the achievement of her empire shows. The Roman character had great qualities, great potential strength. If the people had held together, realizing their interdependence and working for a common good, their problems, completely strange and enormously difficult though they were, would not, it may well be believed, have proved too much for them. But they were split into sharpest oppositions, extremes that ever grew more extreme and so more irresponsible. A narrow selfishness kept men blind when their own self-preservation demanded a world-wide outlook.”

Basically, I think this book is perfect for the devoted dilettante transitioning from Greek to Roman literature. ...more
4

Oct 26, 2011

Like the Greek Way, the Roman Way is a collection of interpretive essays on specific writers and their broader cultural context, this time, of course, relocated to Italy's capital. Hamilton of course brings her astonishing breadth of knowledge of the subject to this work, as well as the fascinating fruits of a lifetime spent in the contemplation of the works that have been the focus of her study. Her insight into Roman culture is, in my opinion, indispensable to anyone interested in the topic, Like the Greek Way, the Roman Way is a collection of interpretive essays on specific writers and their broader cultural context, this time, of course, relocated to Italy's capital. Hamilton of course brings her astonishing breadth of knowledge of the subject to this work, as well as the fascinating fruits of a lifetime spent in the contemplation of the works that have been the focus of her study. Her insight into Roman culture is, in my opinion, indispensable to anyone interested in the topic, even now, almost 80 years after the publication of the Roman Way.

Hamilton's subject matter and method in all of the books of hers that I've read so far appeal to me a great deal and I have been hard pressed to find anything to criticize. So it is, too, with the Roman Way save one: the passion and joy that came through the stolid, academic language of her volumes on Greece seem dimmed in the Roman Way, if not absent entirely sometimes. The feeling I got reading this book was that Hamilton felt like she had to produce a Roman companion to the Greek Way in order to give a full treatment to the Classical World, and thus The Roman Way was a work of necessity and the Greek Way was a labor of love.

That notwithstanding, I'm very glad to have read this book: it's given me much to think about and a new appreciation for the writers whom she treats. ...more
4

Mar 25, 2010

What does it mean to be an American? Despite living smack dab in the middle of the U.S. my entire life, despite being surrounded by other so-called Americans, despite all my obvious expertise, of course I can't answer that question. It is ridiculous, of course, to even consider that one worldview or way of thinking surrounds everyone in a particular country, from the homeless black man to the millionaire heiress. Hit the streets with intentions of gathering opinions and then draw a general What does it mean to be an American? Despite living smack dab in the middle of the U.S. my entire life, despite being surrounded by other so-called Americans, despite all my obvious expertise, of course I can't answer that question. It is ridiculous, of course, to even consider that one worldview or way of thinking surrounds everyone in a particular country, from the homeless black man to the millionaire heiress. Hit the streets with intentions of gathering opinions and then draw a general consensus, and I doubt you will hold in the end little more than vague generalizations.

The Roman Way attempts something of the sort with Ancient Rome, and the prospect seems even more absurd. Hamilton asserts, simply by writing this book, that there is some kind of "Roman Way," a peculiarly Roman way of thinking. To support these claims she goes to the Romans themselves, or what's left of them; that is, she relies only on the literary remains. In a way this approach makes sense: "The writings of the day show the quality of the people as no historical reconstruction can." But there are some obvious caveats: the "Roman Way" gleaned from these writings, of course, will not be that of women, slaves, free men of the lower classes, etc. --in short, 90-something percent of the population. These people are mentioned in the works of the privileged, and consequently in The Roman Way, but always through the very partial lenses of those writers. So this book is not the evaluation of how some 50 million people from two millennia ago thought about the world, but how a few dozen men wrote about it, in a perspective representative of a few thousand.

This much narrower scope makes the subject much more manageable, and there is still much room for discussion. Edith Hamilton does an admiral job, running through Roman literature, from Plautus and Terrence to Juvenal and the Stoics, discussing each author's unique spot in literature as well their commonality with other Roman authors. Homogeneous bunch, they may seem to some -- yet Catullus, Cicero, and Horace, three rich white men of approximately the same era, were each of vastly different stuff. To support her thesis, Edith Hamilton must somehow bring these people together, threading together their common thought.

Just what did bind these people together? Maybe it is Nationalism, sometimes manifested as simple pride in one's country, sometimes shaped into an almost fanatical devotion to Queen Roma. It is a good first guess: the sentiment seems to pervade every inch of some authors' works, especially the political authors. The poems fit in, too, to some extent --The Aeneid was one large advertisement for Rome, after all-- but just how much did the dreamy and intense Catullus care for such things?

Then there is Romanticism -- a tough sell when talking of such a common sense, seemingly unimaginative group as the Romans, but Hamilton convinced me. She drove home her point especially through comparing the Roman works with Greek counterparts. For example, in the Aeneid, when Vulcan forges a shield for the hero, "flames lick the sky." In the Illiad, when Hephaestus fulfills a similar request for Achilles he simply makes the darn thing -- it is loud, fiery, and perhaps even divine, but it lacks that sky-licking flare. I have not read the Illiad, but Hamilton asserts that, though it has a thoroughly romantic subject, it never strays far from what she calls classicism. Those day-dreaming Greeks, it seemed, preferred to keep their daydreaming within the realm of possibility, while many of the normally practical Romans let their minds soar when putting words on paper.

For further analysis of the differences between the Greek and Roman minds we have very convenient sources, namely the Latin plays of Terence, Plautus, and Seneca, and those of their Greek counterparts, on which they were based. Some are intended as direct copies, yet somehow turned out different, probably the influence of that mysterious force again. Then there are the plays of Seneca, which he intended from the beginning to be different, maybe romantic, and even distinctly Roman. Now there's some food for Common Sense: why would Seneca set out to create something so different from the Greek original if he didn't sense another, more home-spun style and sentiment?

It is an interesting theory, but it does require some squeezing and pushing, and I am still not sure what common feelings bound these men together --yet I am sure there was something of that sort, some kind of "Roman Way." Ultimately, it is one of those classic questions of the liberal arts: "you will never be able to answer it, but you will learn a lot by asking it." In this Edith Hamilton does an admirable job, a goddess of classical literature, laying out the facts for us mere mortals --and not shying away from liberal amounts of conjecture and digression.

Hamilton was a "popularizer" --because she dumbed things down, says the cynic -- because she made things interesting and fun, says the enthusiast. I am obviously a fan: Hamilton herself is classy and classic, and this is the kind of book that will always have a place. The question is one many will never grow tired of asking, the answer one that will eternally remain elusive, and, even though originally published in the '30s, "The Roman Way" has not lost its relevance in the discussion. It is one of the lucky few nonfiction books that will surely grace the shelves of public and school libraries for years to come. ...more
5

Sep 02, 2018

I read this book in my studies of ancient history this year, alongside Plutarch and Cicero. While I enjoyed this book, I don’t think it compares to The Greek Way, which was excellent. This book is very good and insightful, it just falls short of all of the beauty that was captured in The Greek Way. But—that is sort of how history played out—I don’t think there were as many beautiful things to write about during this time in history. I still love how Edith Hamilton brings it all to life and helps I read this book in my studies of ancient history this year, alongside Plutarch and Cicero. While I enjoyed this book, I don’t think it compares to The Greek Way, which was excellent. This book is very good and insightful, it just falls short of all of the beauty that was captured in The Greek Way. But—that is sort of how history played out—I don’t think there were as many beautiful things to write about during this time in history. I still love how Edith Hamilton brings it all to life and helps us to understand the mind of the ancient Romans. ...more
5

Dec 09, 2007

Edith Hamilton is sassy. I wish I had gone to Bryn Mayr Girl's school in the 1920s and taken her class. Yet another life changing experience I missed out on.
5

Jun 18, 2010

The author succeeds in bringing an understanding of what the Romans thought and felt, and what their legacy to the modern world has been. Well and clearly written with interesting analyses and use of examples of source documents. I loved this book.
4

Oct 03, 2012

This book is easy-to-read, well-written and insightful. Hamilton gives an authoritative account of the lives of a distant culture and their broader cultural context to today’s world. I really got a feeling for what the Romans thought and felt. Referencing such representational figures as Plautus and Terence, and even Cicero, she provided much interesting analyses from using examples of source documents. It isn’t that long though, and I wish she provide more of a history of Rome and a more This book is easy-to-read, well-written and insightful. Hamilton gives an authoritative account of the lives of a distant culture and their broader cultural context to today’s world. I really got a feeling for what the Romans thought and felt. Referencing such representational figures as Plautus and Terence, and even Cicero, she provided much interesting analyses from using examples of source documents. It isn’t that long though, and I wish she provide more of a history of Rome and a more comprehensive survey of Roman literature instead of character sketches of the chief Roman literary figures. But this is well worth the read. But her depiction of such things like the empire’s slaves and the games is absolutely astonishing and frightening. ...more
5

Dec 26, 2017

Fascinating although the parallels between now and then are a little alarming.
3

A good overview of Roman Culture. I did not think it was quite as astute as her Greek book.Full Review
5

May 29, 2018

The Roman Way is a book I wish I had read at the beginning of my undergraduate education. I was a Latin and Ancient Greek major. This book is a great introduction and overview to Roman history, society, and literature.

It covers the high points of Rome and gives a taste of the major writers. Even as a Classics major, I came away feeling like I had learned a lot.

Hamilton's description of Horace gave me a new role model. Here's a snippet:

"Who would not like to see Horace walk in through his door The Roman Way is a book I wish I had read at the beginning of my undergraduate education. I was a Latin and Ancient Greek major. This book is a great introduction and overview to Roman history, society, and literature.

It covers the high points of Rome and gives a taste of the major writers. Even as a Classics major, I came away feeling like I had learned a lot.

Hamilton's description of Horace gave me a new role model. Here's a snippet:

"Who would not like to see Horace walk in through his door any day in the year? Immediately everything would seem more agreeable, the cocktails better flavored, the armchairs softer, even the comfort of the warm sheltered room would take on the proportions of an active delight."

Of course, this is an anachronistic description, but it made me want to meet Horace. It also made me think that it would be great to have cocktails with Edith Hamilton herself. I plan to read more of her books. This book left me with a lot to think about and a desire to read more.

Anyone interested in the History of Rome, literature, or political science would do well to read this relatively short, fun book as a starting point. ...more
4

Aug 20, 2012

This is Hamilton's examination of Roman literature, a companion to "The Greek Way." The drama and poetry of Rome was hugely influenced by the Greek tradition, and by her lights it pales by comparison. While she does not dismiss all of the other achievements of ancient Rome, she treats them as if they were impediments to its culture rather than its basis. It seems to be an unfair treatment, but to be impartial would in this case be dishonest. Her argument seems to be that life as a Roman citizen This is Hamilton's examination of Roman literature, a companion to "The Greek Way." The drama and poetry of Rome was hugely influenced by the Greek tradition, and by her lights it pales by comparison. While she does not dismiss all of the other achievements of ancient Rome, she treats them as if they were impediments to its culture rather than its basis. It seems to be an unfair treatment, but to be impartial would in this case be dishonest. Her argument seems to be that life as a Roman citizen was far more duty-bound than was the Greek's, and that is reflected in the literature. She begins with Plautus, who is a total bore when compared to Aristophanes. She is somewhat kinder to Cicero, but that is about as nice as she gets. She appreciates Vergil but labels him a "romantic," a term which is again useful only when compared to his Greek counterpart, Homer. In almost every case it seems that whatever value there is to find in Roman literature, the Greek original is better.

The Roman Way also serves as a competent introduction to Roman literature, if it doesn't turn the reader off most of it completely. (Except Catullus, oddly enough. She loves Catullus, and to a lesser extent, Horace.) Despite Hamilton's obvious slant on things, I did enjoy the book a lot. ...more
5

Mar 14, 2015

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Marcus Tullius Cicero

Edith Hamilton's premise for this book is that we learn more about a time period or people by reading their literature, poetry, speeches and plays. By doing this we know what they were interested in and how they thought.

This small volume entertains us with silly comedies of cuckolded husbands and their shrewish wives, poems that speak of love and honor and classic speeches by Cicero and Mark Antony.

I don't "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." Marcus Tullius Cicero

Edith Hamilton's premise for this book is that we learn more about a time period or people by reading their literature, poetry, speeches and plays. By doing this we know what they were interested in and how they thought.

This small volume entertains us with silly comedies of cuckolded husbands and their shrewish wives, poems that speak of love and honor and classic speeches by Cicero and Mark Antony.

I don't know if this helped me with any chronological history of the Roman Empire but I do feel I understand the Romans better than before I read this book.

Cicero was the great Orator of Rome and was not a fan of Julius Caesar because he wanted to downgrade the Senates role in government. I enjoyed learning about him and his death at the hands of Mark Anthony's men.

Horace and Virgil were also interesting subjects to learn about.

Ms. Hamilton said the greatest poets were romantics like Virgil not classicists who only spoke what really happened. I think that would be true about poetry but not about history where you need facts not flowery statements.

I enjoyed this book and will probably try her first book "The Greek Way". The narration was done by Nadia May, not Wanda McFaddon as stated on the book. Nadia May is my favorite Audrey Hepburn sound alike. ...more
4

Jul 15, 2012

Hamilton's slim little volume is not a history of Rome. Nor is it a comprehensive survey of Roman culture or literature. It is a series of character sketches of the chief Roman literary figures from the time of Plautus to the that of Tacitus, roughly 200 B.C. to A.D. 100. Hamilton uses these sketches to explicate what the congeries of attitudes and beliefs she styles the "Roman Way." The Romans as they emerge from her portrait are down-to-earth, stolid people, more practical than the Greeks. Hamilton's slim little volume is not a history of Rome. Nor is it a comprehensive survey of Roman culture or literature. It is a series of character sketches of the chief Roman literary figures from the time of Plautus to the that of Tacitus, roughly 200 B.C. to A.D. 100. Hamilton uses these sketches to explicate what the congeries of attitudes and beliefs she styles the "Roman Way." The Romans as they emerge from her portrait are down-to-earth, stolid people, more practical than the Greeks. Their great achievements are law codes and sewer systems. Yet she makes a convincing argument that Western culture generally, because of Rome's more direct influence upon it, owes more to the Romans than the Greeks.

Contemporary scholars no doubt would reject some of Hamilton's judgments, yet it is the brevity and conviction with which she renders them that is the source of most of the book's value and interest. One unpardonalbe fault is that she does not talk at all about Ovid. Another flaw is that her translations are, by her own admission, sometimes rather loose; they may not always be reliable. But when she explores the romanticism of Virgil, or Caesar's futile attempts to win Cicero's approbation, if not his friendship, we know instinctively we are in the hands of a sure guide.



7/22/12 ...more
4

Jul 24, 2011

I'm one of those people who reads the ancients in translation and Roman history/historical fiction for pleasure, but I must confess "The Roman Way", though informative, was more of a duty than a pleasure to read. It does make an excellent introduction to the figures whose writings Hamilton employs to illustrate Roman mores -- Plautus and Terence, Cicero, Catullus, Horace, Livy, Virgil, and Juvenal. Excepting the last of these I'd read only excerpts of these writers, and now look forward to I'm one of those people who reads the ancients in translation and Roman history/historical fiction for pleasure, but I must confess "The Roman Way", though informative, was more of a duty than a pleasure to read. It does make an excellent introduction to the figures whose writings Hamilton employs to illustrate Roman mores -- Plautus and Terence, Cicero, Catullus, Horace, Livy, Virgil, and Juvenal. Excepting the last of these I'd read only excerpts of these writers, and now look forward to reading more of Cicero and Horace in particular.

This is not however your typical social history; if you really want to know how the Romans lived and how they thought, I wouldn't start here. It seemed to me to address broader themes increasingly towards the end, in the sections beginning with her account of Horace and Augustan Rome. This also was for me the most enjoyable portion of the book, which perhaps reflects my taste as much as it does Hamilton's writing...but the last third seemed to open up from a fairly dry exercise in literary criticism into a much more colorful and interesting discussion of life as it was actually lived in Imperial Rome. Of course the vaunted austerity of the Republic and the decadent excesses of Imperial Rome form a similar contrast, and that too likely plays a part.

That said, If you read exhaustively on the subject of ancient Rome, this classic (in print since its publication in the 1930s) should definitely make your reading list. ...more
4

Mar 13, 2016

For an introduction into the Roman world, this is a valuable book. I picked it up because I am getting ready to re-read Vergil and I wanted to have some setting, some context and I wasn't disappointed. She has chapters on the key players in the Roman culture. History is only the backdrop; the focus of her book is on the artists: Cicero, Horace, Vergil, Plautus, Catullus, Seneca, Livy, Tacitus, and even Marcus Aurelius. I became fascinated by reading about Cicero and want to follow-up and read For an introduction into the Roman world, this is a valuable book. I picked it up because I am getting ready to re-read Vergil and I wanted to have some setting, some context and I wasn't disappointed. She has chapters on the key players in the Roman culture. History is only the backdrop; the focus of her book is on the artists: Cicero, Horace, Vergil, Plautus, Catullus, Seneca, Livy, Tacitus, and even Marcus Aurelius. I became fascinated by reading about Cicero and want to follow-up and read more about him too.

The best part about the book--well, there were two: First, the chapter eponymously named "the Roman Way" was the best in summarizing the heart of the book because she describe the differences between Roman and Greek culture and clarified the essence of the Roman way of thinking; second, the brief epilogue. In the final pages, Hamilton describes how important the study of history is and how extremely relevant the study of Roman history really is, not simply for the scholar or the student--but also for anyone involved in perpetuating our own culture. She states that the reason that Roman fell after over 800 years of cultural impact was because of fractured self-interests of partisan politics and because of "a spirit and mind" that is not willing to be disciplined for the common good. That is, a lack of citizenship. This is extremely relevant.

I hope you read this very accessible book too. It isn't data heavy or pregnant with cumbersome details. I think it is like an adult education class--read it because you want to be introduced or re-introduced to...the Roman Way.

...more
3

Mar 28, 2008

I read this book as part of a Western Civilization class. Overall, I found it a quick, intelligent read that shouldn't take too long to sift through. The arguments are clear, albeit a bit tedious at times, and there are plenty of excerpts to get an idea of the subject matter.

However, Hamilton makes broad, sweeping assumptions of the Roman based on the writings of only a handful of writers. After all, I'm sure if 2 people were chosen to represent our period of life as Americans and our daily I read this book as part of a Western Civilization class. Overall, I found it a quick, intelligent read that shouldn't take too long to sift through. The arguments are clear, albeit a bit tedious at times, and there are plenty of excerpts to get an idea of the subject matter.

However, Hamilton makes broad, sweeping assumptions of the Roman based on the writings of only a handful of writers. After all, I'm sure if 2 people were chosen to represent our period of life as Americans and our daily lives, as she chooses with Plautus and Terence, we'd probably have several reservations on those chosen to represent us.

Yet, her arguments do not lose complete substance. She also analyzes the reactions and trends to those writings, and in that, I think there is greater value. A picture of the people is not as well seen in the piece of writing itself, but in how that writing is recieved. I'm sure we've all been to a movie, where we walked out and wondered what on earth it was that the movie-makers were thinking. (The 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies might be a good example - but I digress.)

In Chapters IV-VI we gain a better picture of Cicero than we do of the Roman people. She goes through the trends of writing with a few other authors, and playwrights.

The best achievement in this work, had to have been her picture of the Roman woman, the Roman slave, and the Games. These pictures she seems to broaden her focus. I found her reasoning easy to follow

I still feel that when Edith Hamilton limited herself to a mere analysis of Roman literature, she may have given herself a case of tunnel vision. There is so much more to a society beyond the written word, after all.



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3

Jan 29, 2018

A good look back into the roman way of life, as long as you can get past the syntax.
3

Mar 04, 2018

Picked the book up thinking it would be more about the history of Rome, instead it covered mainly the works of Roman authors. Still fairly interesting especially chapters 4-6
3

Sep 23, 2017

Though this is a decent look into Roman life as displayed in plays, Hamilton fails as a writer for me. Her writing style and argument lacks emphasis throughout, and this to me becomes simply a collection of snippets from plays which I'd be more interested in reading than I am in reading her attempts to analyze them.
4

Jul 17, 2017

The book provides an account of Rome, as written by her own people instead of based on what historians have uncovered. It discusses the differences between the Greek classicism and Roman romanticism, traces the influence of Roman theatre on Western theatre, and explains what the Roman characters were like.

I found the narration a bit difficult in some places, but overall it is a very enlightening introduction to Rome, her legacy, and how she shaped the Western civilisation.
3

Jul 03, 2018

An interesting approach to what it means to be a Roman: following its greatest authors & orators. It works for the most part, but due to its pre-WW2 authorship, there is a very old-fashioned...and very English...sensibility to the interpretation & analysis. Combined with the occasionally stodgy writing style, this ends up being as much an historical artifact as it is a work of history in its own right.
5

Aug 02, 2019

Edith Hamilton is brilliant, and her book is written well enough to express that. The book covers the social seeds Rome has sown, that have morphed into modern (GB in this book, but applies to Americans and the "West" in general. This is a book for an advanced Roman history hobbiest/student due to its lack of narrative history. One must know a great deal about the story and culture of Rome before everything she's saying is going to make sense. To make this an even more interesting read it was Edith Hamilton is brilliant, and her book is written well enough to express that. The book covers the social seeds Rome has sown, that have morphed into modern (GB in this book, but applies to Americans and the "West" in general. This is a book for an advanced Roman history hobbiest/student due to its lack of narrative history. One must know a great deal about the story and culture of Rome before everything she's saying is going to make sense. To make this an even more interesting read it was published in 1932. So it is an interesting lense to take when looking at rome.
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4

Jun 03, 2018

A survey of the Roman thought as it exists in the written record. The book spans the period from around 200 BC, dating to the earliest preserved Roman literary works, until the second century AD. Among the notable figures Hamilton examines are Cicero, Catullus, Horace, Virgil, and Seneca. Very often, Hamilton compares and contrasts the Greek and the Roman thought, concluding that much of modern view of life comes from the Romans.

An enjoyable, brief, and selective survey that somehow feels A survey of the Roman thought as it exists in the written record. The book spans the period from around 200 BC, dating to the earliest preserved Roman literary works, until the second century AD. Among the notable figures Hamilton examines are Cicero, Catullus, Horace, Virgil, and Seneca. Very often, Hamilton compares and contrasts the Greek and the Roman thought, concluding that much of modern view of life comes from the Romans.

An enjoyable, brief, and selective survey that somehow feels unique. The author's opinions show up very clearly and yet the books seems free from ideological shaping.

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3

Mar 17, 2017

I think I should start by saying I love Edith Hamilton; her Mythology, probably more than anything else, is responsible my lifelong love of the subject and she is on my short list of anyone from all of history that I would invite to my ultimate dinner party. However, this is not by any means a perfect book.

Hamilton writes so sublimely when she weaves in and out of text from sources and her own writing to tell a story. Her chapter on Sullust when she traces his love affair with his "Lesbia" I think I should start by saying I love Edith Hamilton; her Mythology, probably more than anything else, is responsible my lifelong love of the subject and she is on my short list of anyone from all of history that I would invite to my ultimate dinner party. However, this is not by any means a perfect book.

Hamilton writes so sublimely when she weaves in and out of text from sources and her own writing to tell a story. Her chapter on Sullust when she traces his love affair with his "Lesbia" through his poems is truly moving. However, when she doesn't ground her writing in source quotes she can get rather preachy. She has the points she wants to make and makes them with often a bit too much repetition. For a writer who has the ability to tell a tale with such economy it is surprising to see her get carried away like that.

As for the substance of her argument in the book there is, again, a lot to like. Her idea that Roman artistic personality is essentially romantic is fun when contrasted with how we normally think on the subject. However, she makes the same mistake that so many other people do when thinking about Rome: the idea that it essentially ended when Commodus followed Marcus Aurelius. But Rome sticks around for another almost 300 years (longer than the US has survived total). You just can't ignore that!

All in all it's a lovely book and a nice primer on who to read from the ancient sources. It's fun to think about these people not just for their historical importance but their artistic merit. Definitely worth a library hunt! ...more

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