Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

Okay, we all know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; what about judging it by its index? This thought is prompted by the especially detailed index of the new Cambridge Companion to the Roman Economy, edited by Walter Scheidel, a copy of which has just been delivered (the cover, incidentally, has a perfectly decent picture of a sculptural relief showing a ship arriving at Ostia – of course, we could think about the impression that such an image, rather than alternatives, is intended to create – and is a very nice red colour). I’m not going to have a chance to read the thing properly until some time next year, and as I have a short contribution therein to a discussion on Roman trade (because choosing any single one of the different contributors to write a single chapter on this controversial topic would have been problematic, I guess – or Walter wanted to stay on all our Christmas card lists) I’m not going to be asked to review it properly; I can therefore indulge in a few snap judgements without any serious consequences, or at least explore the results of making snap judgements on the basis of the index. (more…)

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Poor Us and Me

Almost there: on Wednesday at 10.30 on BBC4 (or this evening, if I tune into German Arte), I can find out what I have to say about poverty in the ancient world, in an animated history of world poverty, Poor Us, appearing as part of the worldwide ‘Why Poverty?’ season. On the basis of the programmes I’ve seen so far – especially a superbly balanced and thought-provoking documentary on the anti-poverty activism of Geldof and Bono, raising all sorts of questions about means and ends (how far do you get into bed with nasty African dictators and self-serving western politicians with hidden agendas in the hope of doing some good?), questions of priorities and the whole issue of whether this just recapitulates the history of western paternalism towards Africa – this should be absolutely excellent, and I have enormous faith in the director and his vision.

Still, it’s a little nerve-racking; even if the programme is excellent, what about me? (more…)

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Discussions of the relationship between London and the rest of the UK (as in John Harris’ Grauniad article this morning) always take me back to my doctoral research. A couple of years into the project – good grief, have twenty years passed since then? – it slowly dawned on me how far far my study of the impact of ancient Rome on the rest of Italy was clearly being shaped by the experience of growing up in a small town in the shadow of London, having most of the life sucked out of it by the metropolis. The thesis eventually offered a slightly more subtle and nuanced account of the different facets of the impact of Rome on its hinterland (or, as I would be inclined to put it today, the ways in which the Italian countryside was transformed by the same processes of economic and social change that were driving the expansion of Rome), not least because the prevailing theoretical discourse of wonderfully dynamic and progressive Producer Cities versus nasty parasitical Consumer Cities was so absurdly simplistic – but underlying it all was still my basic loathing of Surrey and my sense that this was pretty well all bound up with the looming presence of London. (more…)

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