Ancient History & Civilisation

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THE ENJOYMENT OF EMPIRE

Since we now rule that race of people among whom civilization did not just arise, but from which it is believed to have spread to all other peoples, we have an obligation to pass on its benefits to them, just as we once received it from their hands. For I am not ashamed to say, all the more so given my life and achievements are proof enough of my energy and seriousness, that whatever I have accomplished I owe to the learning and culture which have been passed down to us in the classics and philosophy of Greece.

(Cicero, Letter to his Brother Quintus 1.1.27)

The Last Generation of the Free Republic

The Romans who lived between the dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar inhabited what was, in some ways, a new world. Italy was now a peninsula full of Roman citizens, a privileged and prosperous land surrounded by subject provinces. The imperial reach of the Roman people was expanding faster than ever before. Their city was transformed year after year, marble monuments like the Theatre of Pompey rising above the ancient tufa temples. The chief beneficiaries of imperial expansion were the Roman aristocracy.1They were richer than ever before, and with their wealth they created a life of luxury for themselves.

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Fig 11. The theatre of Pompey

Roman aristocrats returned to Athens soon after Sulla’s sack, in search of education and high culture. A shipwreck, found a century ago by sponge divers off the island of Antikythera at the southern point of Greece, revealed a cargo of extraordinary statues and other treasure en route for Italy. Excavations of the luxurious villas constructed in the last century BC show the probable destinations of such cargoes. Ancestral mansions in the city had been rebuilt on ever more lavish scales since the sixth century, but from the later second century Roman aristocrats had begun to expand their property portfolios. Cicero was far from the richest of senators, but even he owned eight villas. The Roman elite acquired summer retreats in hill towns like Tivoli and Tusculum, and coastal villas within easy reach of the city. The movement to invest the profits of empire in viticulture and other intensive agriculture had led them to acquire great farms in Umbria and Tuscany. By the last century some at least, like Settefinestre, were also pleasant residences. Most gorgeous of all were the sea-front palazzos along the Bay of Naples.2 The richest villa owners created retreats perched over the sea, equipped with elegant quarters for leisure, dining rooms for summer and winter use, private baths and fishponds, libraries and gardens adorned with artworks imported from the Greek world. Among the bronzes and marbles there were human treasures too, scholars and craftsmen. Some had come to Rome in chains, others had been attracted by the gifts bestowed on architects and artists, teachers and on writers of all kinds, philosophers, poets, critics, and historians among them.3 Roman moralists remained anxious about luxury: but what counted as luxury was different now. Building a temporary theatre out of imported coloured marbles and then reusing them in your urban house was luxury. Cicero considered that he lived a life of moderation.

This generation was the same one that witnessed the collapse of their civil society. Many of those who owned the grandest villas would perish in civil wars; indeed some of these rich houses changed hands rapidly when their owners were proscribed. But this same elite—through a mixture of patronage and its own creative activity—presided over the formative period of Roman intellectual culture. And for once we can observe it in vivid detail, partly because of the splendid residences and monuments they built, but also thanks to the survival of the writings of Marcus Tullius Cicero and his contemporaries.

An Imperial Life

Cicero was born in 106 BC into a wealthy Roman family from the town of Arpinum in the Volscian hill country just over 100 kilometres (just over 60 miles) south-east of Rome.4 Arpinum had been ruled by Rome since the late fourth century and its inhabitants had been citizens long before the Social War, but this municipal background only made Cicero keener to fit in and conform. His politics were also much more traditional than blue-blooded radicals like Julius Caesar and the Gracchi brothers. Educated in Rome, he did his military service like any other young equestrian, travelled and studied in Greece, and began to take on legal cases. Roman orators did not charge fees for representing clients, but if successful they won gratitude that might be converted into future support. Besides, legal cases involving the aristocracy in this period were often politicized. Cicero’s first cases were chosen to align himself with critics of the dictatorship of Sulla. The tactic paid off and he was elected as a quaestor for 75 BC: this was a junior magistracy but one that made him a senator for life. Being the first in his family to win an office of this kind meant he was, like Marius before him, a novus homo, a new man. This was not uncommon. The Senate was always open to new blood, even when proscription and civil war had not created vacancies.5 But being a new man was a position he could exploit throughout his career, representing himself as an underdog when it suited. The quaestorship took him to Sicily for first-hand experience of Roman provincial rule. Many of his early cases involved charges of corruption on the part of governors. Some he defended, others—like Verres—he prosecuted.

Elected praetor in 66 BC, Cicero spoke persuasively in favour of transferring the command against Mithridates to Pompey. By 63 he was consul—a significant achievement—and he had to deal with Catiline’s attempted coup. Supported at the time in his decision to execute the alleged conspirators, this came back to haunt him, and he was briefly exiled in 58. The consulship was the high point of his influence. Roman politics in the 50s revolved around the alliance between Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus. Cicero was unwilling to support them, and tried (unsuccessfully) to break up their pact. For a while, he was even forced to leave Rome to serve as governor of Cilicia. During the civil war between Pompey and Caesar, he attempted to remain neutral; eventually he chose Pompey’s cause. Caesar’s forgiveness placed him under obligations that effectively drove him out of public life until after the latters murder on the Ides of March 44 BC. The bulk of his philosophical writing was carried out in the late 50s, when he had been frozen out of politics, and in the last year of Caesar’s dictatorship and the eight months that followed. Cicero was bitterly disappointed that the assassination of Caesar did not restore traditional Republican freedoms as he saw them. Fiercely opposed to Mark Antony, he tried to build up Octavian as a counterweight. But when the two formed an alliance, Cicero was proscribed and he was hunted down and killed in December 43 BC. His hands and head were displayed in the forum from the speaker’s platform, the Rostra, as a grim warning of the dangers of free speech.

Like all his generation, Cicero pursued his career in the shadow of empire. Empire and the Social War had made the propertied classes of Roman Italy into the elite of an imperial nation.6 Modern empires typically recruited their administrators from the educated middle classes. Participation in running the empire guaranteed them a better lifestyle, and more status than they could hope to enjoy at home. They approached the business of empire as clerks and bureaucrats, ruling by regulation and memorandum. Many became professional servants of empire, and some never returned home. Rome’s empire was different. Aristocrats played the leading role in running it, with the help of their family members, friends, and slaves. The conduct of governors, generals, and procurators was guided by principles of ethics and custom rather than by standing orders and protocol. And their eyes remained fixed on the network of friends and relatives back home; they did not ‘go native’.

Cicero conformed to this pattern perfectly. Roman governors might display justice and prudence, energy and competence, but there is little sense that any preferred their foreign postings to life back home. What they hoped to bring home were a good reputation (fama); the support and gratitude of Roman traders and prominent tax farmers or other aristocrats; maybe even some support from provincial cities or grandees; and of course money. Theft, menaces, and accepting bribes were illegal, but there were other legal if dubious ways of extracting money from provincials, such as money lending at ruinous rates of interest. Cicero evidently tried to imitate famous governors like Quintus Mucius Scaevola the Pontifex, proconsul of Asia in 94 BC and author of an exemplary edict laying down the principles of good government. But in the changed conditions of the 50s BC, this resolution brought Cicero only grief.

Cicero experienced the empire from many perspectives.7 As a junior magistrate with financial responsibility in Sicily, he was alternately admiring of and frustrated by the Greek cities of his province. Later in life he had to experience the necessary compromises of a governor, forced to balance the interests of justice with those of his powerful Roman friends back home. As an advocate, he had occasion to speak passionately on behalf of Roman colonists and allies against corruption, and also to urge jurors not to believe non-Roman testimony over the assurances of governors who were noble and Roman. If his orations Against Verres are savage condemnations of the abuse of power, his speeches in defence of the governors Flaccus and Fonteius pander to the grossest ethnic prejudices. Most of the issues that confronted him as a politician also seem (to us) to derive from empire. One set derived from the destabilizing effects of massive influxes of wealth, unevenly distributed between rival politicians and social classes, so fuelling the bribery and debt that lay behind Catiline’s coup and the power of Crassus, Pompey, and Caesar. Other political crises were a product of the Republic’s failure to maintain security in the Mediterranean.

Cicero did not see things quite this way. In his orations—both in the courts and in the Senate—he repeatedly focused on the personal deficiencies (or merits) of the individuals involved. The interests of the Roman people would be best served if men like Verres were punished as they deserved, and men like Pompey were given the power they needed to use their exceptional talent in the public interest. Cicero saw no necessary conflict between the interests of the Roman people and those of their subjects. One passage of his treatise On Duties claimed that before Sulla, Roman rule over her allies had been more like patrocinium (patronage or protection) than imperium (imperial rule):8 there was no reason why that change could not be reversed. An open letter to his brother Quintus, ostensibly offering advice on his governorship of Asia, admitted the tensions that might arise between subjects and tax farmers, but recommended simply that all parties be urged to behave well.9 The idea that some people were natural rulers and others naturally subjects was as old as Aristotle’s notorious justification of slavery. Besides, in On Duties, Cicero argued that the ethical course was always in fact the most expedient one. The problems of the Republican empire derived from moral deficiencies, not fundamental conflicts of interest or systemic failures. They demanded (no more than) a moral solution.

We might make two kinds of objection to this. First, there is a striking lack of analysis of structural problems. Was it not obvious that contracting out the collection of state revenues would lead to short-termism and abuse? Was it not clear that raising very large armies without any provision for their ultimate demobilization would cause problems? The answer to both questions must be yes, if only because these problems were not long after conceived and solved in exactly these terms. Under the Principate the duty of raising tribute was largely devolved to local authorities: they were perhaps no less rapacious, but did have a long-term interest in the stability of their own regions. From Augustus, soldiers were recruited for fixed terms, were discharged individually rather than by detachment, and a military treasury was established to fund their demobilization. It is impossible to know whether Cicero could not see these problems, or simply would not.

Second, Cicero’s concern for the subjects of empire falls a long way short of an imperial vocation for another reason. It seems clear that Romans of Cicero’s day had very little concept of empire in a modern sense.10 One corollary was that subjects and foreigners were treated in much the same way. Both groups, for example, might send embassies, both might be subject to commands, neither had a recognized stake in the Roman state, or a claim to be consulted by it. Romans ruled well because they owed it to their nature to do so, not in respect of the rights of others. The term imperium was not used in a territorial sense until Augustus’ reign: until then it meant command and the power to do so.

Cicero is not our only witness to Republican imperialism, even if he is our best one. If we compare him to other writers of the period it is possible to see how conventional his views were. Sallust, writing history in the 40s, also saw the rise of Rome as accompanied by a collapse in morality, and attributed both war in the periphery and conflict in the centre to the moral deficiencies of Rome’s rulers.11 Livy, writing a little later, seems to have told a similar story. Cicero perfectly expresses the ideological stance of the Roman elite, one that was determined not to see a clash between their own desires and the interests of the state, or between Roman interests and global justice. This did not mean they could not entertain the idea that Roman rule was brigandage on a large scale. Sallust fictionalized a wonderful letter sent by Mithridates to the Parthian emperor, condemning Roman imperialism.

Do you not know that the Romans have turned their arms in this direction only after Ocean put a limit to their western advance? From the beginning of time they have possessed nothing they have not stolen, their home, their wives, their lands, their empire. Once a group of wanderers without kin or homeland, their city has been founded as a plague for the entire world. No law, human or divine, can prevent them attacking allies and friends, neighbouring peoples and distant races alike, poor and rich without distinction. Everything that is not subject to their command they treat as enemies, and kings most of all.12

The deft inversion of Rome’s own myths of origin—Romulus’ asylum, the Sabine women, and the Trojan settlement of Italy—and verbal allusions to Varro and others, reveal this as a pastiche aimed at Roman readers. It seems they enjoyed these travesties of empire, since Tacitus and imperial satirists also produced anti-Romes of this kind. Yet a belief in the essential justness of Roman rule was essential to maintain the divine mandate. What emerge from all these texts are the first signs of a universalizing ideology. The idea that Rome was patron of the entire world is one example, the comparisons with Alexander and the use of geographical imagery to sum up the empire are another.13 For Cicero and his peers this universalism was not simply a matter of politics. It also formed part of an impulse to shape not just a Roman, but also a universalizing, view of classical culture.

Greek Intellectual Life in Rome

Cicero’s generation did not create either Latin literature or the idea of a distinctive Roman educational canon, but they fixed both in what would become their classical forms. Like most peoples of the ancient Mediterranean, Romans had lived for centuries in a world where culture meant Greek culture. The first works written in Latin were intended for performance—the plays of Plautus, the hymn of Livius, the speeches of Cato.14 From the beginning of the second century BC, a few historical and antiquarian works were produced in Latin: Cato led here as well. Yet many Roman authors continued to write in Greek, and philosophy and rhetoric, geography, medicine, and science were accessible only to Greek readers. We have little idea how many Romans were even interested in any of these subjects apart from philosophy before the middle of the second century BC. The creation of a comprehensive and self-sufficient Latin literary culture began in the 60s BC.15

The issue was not access to Greek knowledge. There had been Greek cities in central Italy since the archaic age, and the influence of the imports, images, and ideas they brought was in some senses ubiquitous. The ancient cities of the Aegean were also easy to reach. Pictor travelled to Delphi and Cato must have had access to many Greek books when writing his account of Italian Origins. The first Latin epic poets were well aware not only of Homer, but also of the many later Greek critical and philosophical commentaries on his work. During Polybius’ long exile in Rome and his subsequent voluntary residence there, he had used the library of the kings of Macedon, brought back as plunder by Aemilius Paullus after the battle of Pydna. The fact that Paullus brought the library home suggests an interest in Greek scholarship as early as the early second century. Probably this interest was not new.16 By the middle of the second century some Greeks seem to have realized the Roman elite was especially interested in philosophy. Athens sent an embassy to the Senate in 155 comprising the heads of the Stoic, Epicurean, and Peripatetic philosophical schools. Paullus’ son, Scipio Aemilianus, was the patron of not only Polybius but also of the Stoic Panaetius of Rhodes. Both scholars spent time with him in Rome, and accompanied him on his travels. But the total number of Greek scholars actually resident in Rome remained few until the Mithridatic Wars. Perhaps the same was true of the number of Romans who were genuinely interested in what they had to offer.

Things began to change in the late second century. One sign of a new interest in things Greek is a new interest in the Bay of Naples, where the cities of Cumae and Naples were the closest Greek cities to Rome.17 Rome had created a cluster of colonies in Campania in the 190s. Anecdotes show some members of the Scipio family already had homes there in the early second century. Yet the first villas described as really spectacular date to the start of the last century BC: Marius’ Campanian retreat, built in the 90sBC, is one of the first certain examples. By the 60s and 50s the coastline was covered in those extraordinary pleasure complexes, images of which survive in Pompeian wall paintings and which have left flamboyant archaeological traces. The Emperor Augustus spent what were in effect vacations in the area, reserving for it Greek games, entertainments, and dress, in contrast to the rather sterner Roman traditionalism he displayed at home. Tiberius’ island retreat on Capri—perhaps because access was so difficult—attracted various stories of tyrannical cruelty and depravity. The Bay of Naples became imperial Rome’s Greek alter ego.

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Fig 12. One of the fresco wall paintings in the cubiculum (bedroom) from the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale

Young aristocrats were now regularly sent to be educated in the ancient cities of the Aegean world. Athens was the key destination but there were also many visitors to Rhodes, which had become a major centre for education in rhetoric and philosophy. Both cities already drew young men from other Greek states. Now young Romans began to join them. Cicero and his brother were both in Athens in 79 BC listening to the lectures of the great Academic philosopher Antiochus of Ascalon, a client of Lucullus. They were both in their mid-twenties. They then went on to visit Rhodes and Smyrna. Julius Caesar studied on Rhodes a few years later. Some of these visits seem timed to avoid difficult political situations at home, and some probably also served to remove wealthy young men from the temptations of the city. But they left a lasting impression. Cicero’s reminiscences of his youthful discovery of Greece evoke something of the Grand Tour of classical and Renaissance sites in Italy undertaken between the late seventeenth and the early nineteenth centuries by wealthy Europeans as a final stage in their cultural education.

Summers in Campania and educational trips to Greece cast Rome in a new light. Roman writers of Cicero’s age were acutely aware that when they entered a library almost all the books were in Greek. Most of the best libraries in Rome had once belonged to Hellenistic kings. Cicero and many others used the library set up by Lucullus in his retreat in the hill town of Tusculum.18 Greek scholars as well as Roman ones made use of his collections. Mudslides from the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 69 buried one elegant Herculaneum mansion, now known as the Villa of the Papyri after a great collection of philosophical works recovered there. The villa probably belonged to Calpurnius Piso, Caesar’s father-in-law, who was consul in 58 with Gabinius as a colleague. The long lines of its ornamental ponds flanked by bronzes, and its lavish marble architecture, were reproduced by J. Paul Getty in Malibu in the 1970s, and have now been recreated again with loving digital reconstruction.19 Its library of philosophical works was a relic of the long residence there of the Greek polymath Philodemus of Gadara, who wrote on aesthetics and literary criticism as well as Epicureanism.20

Vitruvius’ manual On Architecture confirms what the Vesuvian villas suggest, that the Roman rich deliberately incorporated in their residences spaces designed to evoke Greek culture and these were often designated by Greek names: the oecus was a Greek dining room, the peristylum a Greek garden, the bibliotheke the regular term for library. Many of these rooms and terms did not correspond very closely to what archaeology shows actually existed in contemporary eastern Mediterranean cities such as Athens and Ephesus. Romans were not trying to recreate a contemporary Greek world in Italy. Cicero’s retreat in Tusculum included two areas he called gymnasia, adapting the terms from a characteristic Greek institution dedicated to exercise and the education of elite males. One he named the Lyceum after Aristotle’s school, the other the Academy after Plato’s. A series of letters survives in which he asks his friend Atticus to try and obtain suitable Greek statuary to decorate these spaces.21 No doubt his villa near Puteoli had many Greek spaces too. But there was also the sternly Roman domus on the Palatine, and probably the Tusculan villa had more Roman spaces for other aspects of his life. He and his peers were not trying to become Greek so much as to incorporate a carefully selected portion of Greek culture into their own lives.22

Cicero’s correspondence mentions many other Greek writers who lived for decades in Italy as guests of the Roman aristocracy. They came not only from great eastern centres like Athens and Rhodes and Alexandria, but also from Greek cities in Bithynia and Asia and even Syria. From wherever, in fact, Roman generals had passed by. A few taught, but many were resident scholars, creating for their Roman patrons an air of culture, in the same way as did the laid-out gardens with their covered walks for philosophical discussion among bronzes images of gods, mythological figures, philosophers, and kings. Greeks in Rome accommodated themselves to this selective appropriation of their culture. The prefaces of a number of Greek works composed in this period praise the generosity of their Roman friends. The historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus presented himself as an admirer of the Romans: he regarded the similarities between some Roman and Greek institutions and between the Latin and Greek languages as a sign that Romans were Greek in origin. Gabinius brought Timagenes of Alexandria to Rome as a captive in 55 BC. Freed and honoured he became for a while the house guest of Augustus himself, but had a reputation as a ferocious critic of Rome. He was reported to have said that the only thing to regret about the many fires suffered by the city was that damaged buildings were always replaced on an even more lavish scale. Eventually he moved on to the home of Asinius Pollio, creator of one of the first public libraries in the capital. Other kidnapped Greeks seem to have adapted more easily. Tyrannio of Amisos, brought back as a captive by Lucullus, was freed and patronized by Pompey. He became a friend and intellectual mentor of Cicero, Caesar, and Atticus and taught grammar and criticism in Rome. Greeks as well as Romans came to study with him, as they did with the medic Asclepiades of Prusias. Poetry was transformed as well as prose. Parthenius of Nicaea, captured in 73 BC during a war against Mithridates, was fêted in Rome and inspired a new generation of Latin poets including Cornelius Gallus and Catullus. Latin poetics would remain preoccupied with love poetry and mythological themes throughout the reign of Augustus and beyond. Then there were the visitors, some at least celebrity academics on lecture tours. Poseidonius of Apamea and Artemidorus of Ephesus visited Rome and some of the western provinces giving lectures and gathering material for their histories and geographies. The cumulative influence on Roman culture was enormous.

Greek scholars always needed patrons. During the third and second centuries they found them in the royal courts of Alexandria, Pergamum, and Syracuse, but in the first century they came to Rome. A key part was played by the generation of Romans born in the last years of the second century BC. They were the first to make the Bay of Naples their playground—half Las Vegas and half the Left Bank of the Seine—and the first to have travelled in their youth in the Aegean world to study in the ancient cities of Greece. A few even lived there for long periods. Cicero’s friend Titus Pomponius lived in Athens for so long he acquired the nicknamed ‘Atticus’, and Verres fled Cicero’s prosecution to live in exile in Greek Marseilles. Tiberius would spend years on Rhodes during a period when he was out of favour at the court of Augustus. When campaigns in the east, or simply their own wealth, gave them the chance to bring Greek intellectuals to Rome, they grasped the opportunity, just as they filled their boats with Greek bronzes and hunted down copies of rare Greek books. They knew Greek philosophy well enough to identify themselves by school: Cicero the Academic, Caesar the Epicurean, Brutus the Stoic, and so on.23 They dropped Greek quotations and words into their private letters and conversations.24 But the clearest sign of their engagement with Greek culture is the determination of some of that generation to create a matching intellectual culture in Latin.

New Classics for a New Empire

Cicero, in his introduction to the Tusculan Disputations, is quite explicit that his philosophical works formed part of a conscious project to supply a set of Latin classics in each of the major genres invented by Greeks.25

Those subjects which deal with the correct way to live—the theory and practice of knowledge—are all part of that body of wisdom that is called philosophy. This I have decided to explain in a work written in the Latin language. Philosophy, to be sure, may be learned from books in Greek, or indeed from Greek scholars themselves. I have always thought that our writers have always proved themselves better than the Greeks, either by finding things out for themselves, or by improving what they have borrowed from them. Obviously this applies only to those fields of study we have decided are worthy of our efforts.26

The Tusculan Disputations form a part of a mass of mainly philosophical writing Cicero produced under the dictatorship of Caesar, when he felt he could neither support nor oppose the man who had enslaved the Republic but spared his own life. Tusculum was the site of Cicero’s philosophically themed retreat; there he entertained younger senators who shared his political and cultural interests. Many of the works he produced are dramatized as dialogues, recalling Plato’s accounts of Socrates debating with his students, but also presenting the Roman elite at their ethical and cultured best. The Disputations is in fact dedicated to the same Brutus whose ethics would have such a bloody outcome. Cicero opens by praising the practical morality of the Romans, relative to that of the Greeks, and goes on to argue that although the Greeks may have preceded Romans in many fields, once Romans took up the same pursuits they invariably eclipsed them. Discussion of various genres of Roman poetry moves on to oratory. Cicero’s own work on oratory is presented as a key stage in the creation of a Roman intellectual universe. Now, he says, he will move on to philosophy.

The preface is tendentious in all sorts of ways, and Cicero’s history of Latin scholarship, like Horace’s history of Latin literature contained in a letter ostensibly written for Augustus, has sometimes been taken too seriously. But it is perfectly true that this generation seem to have seen themselves as filling in the gaps in Latin writing and Roman knowledge. Cicero was not the only Latin philosopher. Lucretius’ great Epicurean epic On the Nature of Things was nearly complete when he died in 55 BC. Cornelius Nepos and Atticus were engaged in historical research, trying to establish an absolute chronology for the Roman past, one that would allow key dates in Roman history to be coordinated with world (i.e.: Greek) history. Then there were Varro’s researches into religious antiquities, Roman institutions, the Latin language, and much else. Nigidius Figulus wrote on grammar, on the gods, and science. Nepos wrote biographies of famous Romans. Roman intellectuals seemed sometimes to figure themselves as counterparts of the greatfigures of classical Greek literature. Cicero presented himself as the new Demosthenes, and thought of writing a Roman version of the Geography of Eratosthenes.

All this activity is sometimes presented as sign of cultural insecurity, but it might just as well be understood as fantastic ambition. Rome had surpassed the Greeks in warfare, why not in literature too? But when Cicero and his collaborators are read carefully it is clear they were not trying to create an alternative, parallel, and self-sufficient intellectual universe. They advocated an eclectic bi-culturalism, a cultivated familiarity with both languages (utraque lingua ‘in either language’ became almost a catchphrase), and when they described the moral and cultural superiority they sought it was not a Romanitas modelled on Hellenism, but humanitas, a term that embraces the sense of civilization and common humanity. Roman culture, in other words, had a universalizing mission. Just as Roman houses had Greek and Roman rooms and Roman religion had space for domestic and foreign gods, so the values that the last generation of the Republic proclaimed were bigger than either national culture. That made Roman culture, at least in aspiration, a truly imperial civilization.

Further Reading

A fascinating impression of the curiosity and energy of the Roman elite is conveyed by Elizabeth Rawson’s Intellectual Life in the Late Roman Republic (London, 1985). Rawson also wrote what remains the best and most rounded biography of Cicero, Cicero: A Portrait (London, 1975). Many of the studies she produced while working on these two books are gathered in her collected papers, Roman Culture and Society (Oxford, 1991). Ingo Gildenhard’s Paideia Romana (Cambridge, 2007) offers a careful exploration of Cicero’s engagement with the Greeks.

The material setting of Roman Italy is brilliantly evoked in Tim Potter’s Roman Italy (London, 1987) and the special culture of the Bay of Naples in John D’Arms’s Romans on the Bay of Naples (Cambridge, Mass., 1970). The cultural history of Rome is now the subject of Andrew Wallace-Hadrill’s amazingly wide-ranging Roman Cultural Revolution (Cambridge, 2008). At its heart is an examination of how Romans constantly referred to Greek and Italian models as they grew into an imperial culture. Emma Dench’sRomulus’ Asylum (Oxford, 2005) explores some of the same terrain, showing the many different routes through which Roman identity was reformulated.

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Map 4. The Roman empire at its greatest extent in the second century AD

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