By T.P. Wiseman
Subjects: Classical Studies and Ancient History
In Unwritten Rome, a new book by the author of Myths of Rome, T.P. Wiseman presents us with an imaginative and appealing picture of the early society of pre-literary Rome—as a free and uninhibited world in which the arts and popular entertainments flourished. This original angle allows the voice of the Roman people to be retrieved empathetically from contemporary artefacts and figured monuments, and from selected passages of later literature.
How do you understand a society that didn’t write down its own history? That is the problem with early Rome, from the Bronze Age down to the conquest of Italy around 300 BC. The texts we have to use were all written centuries later, and their view of early Rome is impossibly anachronistic. But some possibly authentic evidence may survive, if we can only tease it out – like the old story of a Roman king acting as a magician, or the traditional custom that may originate in the practice of ritual prostitution. This book consists of eighteen attempts to find such material and make sense of it.
Contents: 1. Unwritten Rome; 2. What Can Livy Tell Us?; 3. Fauns, Prophets and Ennius' Annales; 4. The God of the Lupercal; 5. Liber: Myth, Drama and Ideology in Republican Rome; 6. The Kalends of April; 7. Summoning Jupiter: Magic in the Roman Republic; 8 Origines ludorum; 9. The Games of Flora; 10. The Games of Hercules; 11. Praetextae, Togatae and Other Unhelpful Categories; 12. Octavia and the Phantom Genre; 13. Ovid and the Stage; 14. The Prehistory of Roman Historiography; 15. History, Poetry and Annales; 16. The House of Tarquin; 17. The Legend of Lucius Brutus; 18. Roman Republic, Year One; Bibliography; Index.
‘This is an important book, and that scholars dealing with early Rome will have to grapple with its basic arguments, even if they don’t agree with them.’ (Gary D. Farney, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.06.11)
‘W.’s great skill, fully on display here, is his ability to use both literary and material evidence to create, with enviable erudition and imagination, a plausible and engaging portrait. For the journey to unwritten Rome, this book is an inspiring and informative guide.’ (Michael Johnson, Classical Journal, October, 2009)
‘Unwritten Rome is a learned and beautifully written book.’ (Lee Fratantuono, The Historian, 73.3: 2010)
'on y retrouve toutes les qualities du savant anglais : une érudition très solide, une indiscutable rigueur dans le raisonnement, une remarquable claret dans la présentation, une grande prudence critique, le tout n’excluant cependant pas un appel à l’imagination'
'les lecteurs qui ont apprécié The Myths of Rome, sans nécessairement en partager toutes les idées, prendront certainement un vif plaisir à lire la présente Unwritten Rome.'
(L’Antiquité Classique, 79, 2010)
T.P. Wiseman is Emeritus Professor of Classics at Exeter University and a Fellow of the British Academy. His published books, all with University of Exeter Press except where indicated, include Clio’s Cosmetics: Three Studies in Greco-Roman Literature (1979, reprinted 2004 by Bristol Phoenix Press, UEP’s sister imprint); Death of an Emperor: Flavius Josephus (1991); Talking to Virgil: A Miscellany (1992); Historiography and Imagination: Eight essays on Roman culture (1994); Remus: A Roman myth (1995, CUP); Roman Drama and Roman History (1998); Myths of Rome (2004).