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One and Only Physician

James Romm: Galen, 21 November 2013

The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire 
by Susan Mattern.
Oxford, 334 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 19 960545 3
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... How fortunate you would have been, as a Roman patient of the second century AD, to be attended by Galen, the greatest Greek physician of the age. Galen would have paid housecalls, several times a day if needed, and brought you food. He would have questioned you with earnest concern about the onset and progress of your symptoms. He would have supplied medicines mixed from as many as 64 ingredients ...

Hot Flanks and Her Sisters

James Romm: Amazons, 21 October 2015

The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World 
by Adrienne Mayor.
Princeton, 512 pp., £19.95, October 2014, 978 0 691 14720 8
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... We wield​ bows and arrows, throw javelins and ride horses; we know nothing of woman-ly tasks,’ the Amazons said of themselves, according to Herodotus. He had learned the legends of the women warriors on a trip to the southern outskirts of their territory – the region the Greeks called Scythia, the vast steppe lands to the north and east of the Black Sea ...

Among the Barbarians

James Romm: The Other, 15 December 2011

Rethinking the Other in Antiquity 
by Erich Gruen.
Princeton, 415 pp., £27.95, January 2011, 978 0 691 14852 6
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... Custom is king of all things,’ Herodotus proclaimed, arguing that if customs were like goods in a marketplace, set out alongside other such goods, each people would choose its own above all others. An experiment conducted by the Persian king Darius proved the point for Herodotus. Greeks, who buried their dead, had been confronted with Callatian Indians, who ate theirs: both groups were equally disgusted ...

Be Spartans!

James Romm: Thucydides, 21 January 2016

Thucydides on Politics: Back to the Present 
by Geoffrey Hawthorn.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £21.99, March 2014, 978 1 107 61200 6
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... Thucydides​ may well have been the first Western author to address himself to posterity. His forerunners – Homer and Herodotus, principally – show no awareness of a readership extending beyond their own time. But Thucydides called his work ‘a possession for eternity’, and spoke of the chaos of civil war as something ‘that is and always will be, as long as human nature remains the same ...

The First Career Politician

James Romm: Demosthenes, 20 June 2013

Demosthenes of Athens and the Fall of Classical Greece 
by Ian Worthington.
Oxford, 382 pp., £22.50, January 2012, 978 0 19 993195 8
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... At first glance, Demosthenes, the leading politician of ancient Athens in the era of its decline, would seem an ideal subject for a biography. Dozens of his speeches survive, a huge corpus composed both of policy addresses delivered in the Athenian assembly and apologias written for defendants in the courts. Several of these, including the once celebrated but now little read ‘On the Crown’, deal directly with Demosthenes’ own political career, while surviving speeches by other, rival politicians – one recently recovered from a palimpsest thanks to digital imaging techniques – analyse his career from an opponent’s perspective ...

Who was in Tomb II?

James Romm: Macedon, 6 October 2011

Heracles to Alexander the Great: Treasures from the Royal Capital of Macedon, a Hellenic Kingdom in the Age of Democracy 
by Angeliki Kottaridi et al.
Ashmolean, 264 pp., £25, April 2011, 978 1 85444 254 3
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A Companion to Ancient Macedonia 
edited by Joseph Roisman and Ian Worthington.
Wiley-Blackwell, 668 pp., £110, November 2010, 978 1 4051 7936 2
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Brill’s Companion to Ancient Macedon: Studies in the Archaeology and History of Macedon, 650 BC–300 AD 
edited by Robin Lane Fox.
Brill, 642 pp., €184, June 2011, 978 90 04 20650 2
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... Almost 35 years ago, the Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos opened a large, unplundered chamber tomb in the northern Greek village of Vergina, and a great controversy began. The tomb housed the cremated remains of a man aged between 35 and 55 and of a younger woman, a pair Andronikos soon identified as the Macedonian king Philip II – father of Alexander the Great, builder of the army and the European empire that gave his son the means to conquer the world – and one of his seven wives ...

Fratricide, Matricide and the Philosopher

Shadi Bartsch: Seneca, 17 June 2015

Dying Every Day: Seneca at the Court of Nero 
by James Romm.
Knopf, 290 pp., £18.45, March 2014, 978 0 307 59687 1
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Seneca: A Life 
by Emily Wilson.
Allen Lane, 253 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 1 84614 637 4
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... to Lucilius, he warns his correspondent to stay out of politics altogether. The new biographies by James Romm and Emily Wilson explore the tensions generated by Seneca’s life and legacy without resorting to the reductive choice between saint and hypocrite, Stoic idealist or stony practitioner of realpolitik. ...

What would Plato have done?

Christopher Krebs: Plutarch’s Lives, 28 June 2017

The Age of Caesar: Five Roman Lives 
by Plutarch, translated by Pamela Mensch.
Norton, 393 pp., £28, March 2017, 978 0 393 29282 4
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... and the ever helpful ‘On Praising Oneself Inoffensively’: ‘an uneven collection’, as James Romm writes in his engaging preface to The Age of Caesar, which has nonetheless provided ‘a model for modern moral essayists, including Montaigne and Emerson’. Plutarch’s Lives exerted an even greater influence. They can be imagined as a ...

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