starlady: ((say it isn't so))
The August theme over in [community profile] readingthepast is Roman Britain, for which I read four historical novels (well, okay, Asterix in Britain is a comic book, but close enough)--completely serendipitously, in reverse historical order. I'm going to talk about them in non-widdershins chronology, though.

Asterix in Britain )

The Crow Goddess )

Dark North )

The Silver Branch )

I am one of those people who is quite capable of feeling regret for not having experienced various historical formations at their height, and all these books definitely pushed my "O to see Rome in its prime" buttons, despite the fact that it's still true, even now, as Emperor Hadrian says in The Crow Goddess, that everyone comes to Rome eventually, and that a good portion of Roman Rome still remains in the Eternal City. Obviously the Romans weren't any sort of angels on earth, but it's indisputable, to my mind, that the Empire in general and the Pax Romana in particular brought a greater prosperity and physical well-being to more people on earth than had been seen in history up to that point, and in some ways even since. (NB: I'm not sure on the stats w/r/t Qin China, but that was only for, what, 20 years in the 220s BCE?) And, you know, I do wonder in some ways whether we'd be better off even today if the Empire hadn't fallen (especially w/r/t the aforementioned differences between ancient and modern politico-cultural subjectivity). It's hard to see that we'd be worse, though I could do without the gladiatorial games and various other festivals of human cruelty that the Romans were down with. Plus, you know, slavery, though Bradshaw in particular is good at illustrating the ways in which ancient slavery was very, very different from slavery as we think of it in America (the Peculiar Institution was very peculiar historically, suffice it to say).

Q: All these books take it for granted that Latin was the imperial lingua franca. I've heard multiple times that it was actually Koine Greek. Was it both, as in Latin in the West and Greek in the East? Or was it actually just Greek?


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