The Etruscans

Next up — mostly because they’re the quickest way to get some material out there, three retro reviews.

This one is from July 15, 2010.

Retro Review: The Etruscans, Michael Grant, 1980, 1997.Etruscans

In his brief introduction to the 1997 edition of this book, Grant noted that nothing truly major had changed in our understanding of the Etruscans between then and the book’s original 1980 appearance. Taking a quick and very layman look at the Wikipedia and other sources on the Internet, that still seems to be true – with the exception of genetic studies that seem to support Herodotus’ contention of an Asia Minor origin for the Etruscans.

However, the whole question of Etruscan origins seems to annoy professional Etruscanologists. Etruscans became Etruscans in Italy regardless of where the people migrated from they argue. Besides, Grant points out the linguistic, logistical, and cultural evidence arguing against accepting Herodotus’ claim of a migration from Lydia forced by famine.

The problem with studying the Etruscans is we have to rely on Roman and Greek sources. Besides badmouthing their morals – particularly the freedom women were allowed, fat Etruscan men, and creating stories of them as perpetual enemies of Rome, they also distorted our view of Etruscan politics and culture. There never was, argues Grant, an Etruscan League in any sense but a group that held periodic religious festivals. Instead, Grant organizes his book around the idea of Etruscan city states. These city states had satellite cities and sometimes warred with each other. They differed in their economic basis – though the wealth of most Etruscan cities was based on iron, copper, and tin which drew trade with Greek cities and the Carthaginians. Their burial customs varied as did the output of their artisans. Continue reading “The Etruscans”

Readings in the Classical Historians

A retro review from January 4, 2009 since I’m resting up today.

Reviews: Readings in the Classical Historians, ed. Michael Grant, 1993.Readings in the Classical Historians

In this collection of ancient historians writing in Greek and Latin, Grant selects all the historians anyone who casually exposed to Ancient Greek or Roman history would be likely to have heard of: Livy, Thucydides, Plutarch, Polybius, Herodotus, Caesar, Xenophon, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Josephus (translations of his Greek writing). To those he adds a more obscure roster: Hecataeus, Hellanicus, Nepos, Diodorus Siculus, Sallust, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Velleius Paterculus, Appian, Arrian, Dio Cassius, Eusebius, and Ammianus Marcellinus. Luke of the Gospels is also thrown in for his historical material.

There are three main purposes behind this collection.

First, Grant simply wants you to read these historians who are so important as primary source on the classical world, see where some of the famous anecodotes so often repeated in cable documentaries actually come from, get a sense of the character of their writing. Second, Grant gives some basic information about each historian – when they lived, the works they wrote and which ones survived to our time, the extant of their personal involvement in what they write about, the merits and defects of their histories, and a bit on their political and literary influences on the modern world. Finally, by arranging the book in chronological order of the historians’ lives, and not by language or order of their subjects, Grant develops an argument about how the art of history developed in the classical world and which writers were regarded as particularly admirable.

Besides his own translation work (primarily on Tacitus and Suetonius), Grant has selected many other translators and all are fully credited if the reader wants to follow up and get their entire translation of a work.

Grant’s introduction and timeline puts the selections in a rough context for events in the ancient world. The book is extensively footnoted, and Grant often gives, in the titles to individual selections, the date of the event described.

As to the span of time covered here, we have the migration of the Etruscans from Lydia and the founding of Thebes to the death of Emperor Valens at the Battle of Adrianople.

 

The Rome page.

The Annals of Rome

Yes, I occasionally read Roman history, and I occasionally review it as a rank amateur.

Here’s a retro review from December 4, 2008.

Annals of RomeReview: The Annals of Rome, Tacitus, translated by Michael Grant, 1984.

Anyone who has even casually read about Roman imperial history will have encountered Tacitus. He is, according to translator and noted classicist Michael Grant, virtually the only Latin historian we have for the early days of the Roman Empire. This work, generally considered Tacitus’ greatest, covers the period from shortly before Augustus’ death to AD 69, about three years before Nero’s death. Unfortunately, we don’t have the entire work. (The Annals only survived into the Middle Ages through two manuscripts, one for each half of the work.) The section on Caligula is totally missing, and we only have parts of Tiberius’ and Claudius’ reigns. Continue reading “The Annals of Rome”