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The Roman Near East: 31 BC-AD 337 (Carl Newell Jackson Lectures) [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   624
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.28" Width: 6.38" Height: 1.31"
Weight:   1.8 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 15, 1995
Publisher   Harvard University Press
ISBN  0674778863  
EAN  9780674778863  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...

From Augustus to Constantine, the Roman Empire in the Near East expanded step by step, southward to the Red Sea and eastward across the Euphrates to the Tigris. In a remarkable work of interpretive history, Fergus Millar shows us this world as it was forged into the Roman provinces of Syria, Judaea, Arabia, and Mesopotamia. His book conveys the magnificent sweep of history as well as the rich diversity of peoples, religions, and languages that intermingle in the Roman Near East. Against this complex backdrop, Millar explores questions of cultural and religious identity and ethnicity--as aspects of daily life in the classical world and as part of the larger issues they raise.

As Millar traces the advance of Roman control, he gives a lucid picture of Rome's policies and governance over its far-flung empire. He introduces us to major regions of the area and their contrasting communities, bringing out the different strands of culture, communal identity, language, and religious belief in each. "The Roman Near East" makes it possible to see rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, and eventually the origins of Islam against the matrix of societies in which they were formed. Millar's evidence permits us to assess whether the Near East is best seen as a regional variant of Graeco-Roman culture or as in some true sense oriental.

A masterful treatment of a complex period and world, distilling a vast amount of literary, documentary, artistic, and archaeological evidence--always reflecting new findings--this book is sure to become the standard source for anyone interested in the Roman Empire or the history of the Near East.

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More About Fergus Millar

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Fergus Millar is Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Oxford. He is the author of The Roman Republic in Political Thought (2002), The Crowd in Rome in the Late Republic (1998), and The Roman Near East 31BC AD 337 (1993)."

Fergus Millar has an academic affiliation as follows - Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford (Emeritus), Senior Assoc.

Fergus Millar has published or released items in the following series...
  1. History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The Best we can do with what we've got  Mar 28, 2006
In his prologue to The Roman Near East, Fergus Millar claims that a small stone altar found at Dura-Europos encapsulates the intricate social reality found in the Roman Near East. The altar reads, "To the Ancestral God, Zeus Betylos, of those by the Orontes, Aurelios Diphilianos, soldier of the legion IV Scythica Antoniniana, has offered (this) in fulfilment [sic] of a prayer" (1). The text of this altar is inscribed in the Greek language by a Roman soldier to a Near Eastern god. With this example, not only does Millar demonstrate the complexities of linguistic and religious identity in the area, but also he shows the Roman Legions' importance to the Near East.

Part one of The Roman Near East, entitled "Empire," is a chronological survey of Roman influence in the Near East. Millar primarily investigates Rome's military and political relationship with the Near East. This chronological survey begins with the Battle of Actium and ends with Constantine's formal recognition of the Christian Church. According to Millar, before AD 66 the Roman presence in the Near East was essentially a bridgehead against the Parthians. Rome's presence was minimally felt and the governments of the Near East were dependent kingdoms instead of being part of the provincial system. The Jewish War, however, drastically changed the political structure of the Near East. Millar writes, "It would be impossible to exaggerate the significance, from many different points of view, of the great revolt which broke out in Judaea in AD 66 and did not end until the suicide of the defenders of Masada in 74" (70). Not only did the war cause Rome to reevaluate its relationship with these dependent nations, but also the war occasioned Josephus's writings, the most important historical works of the first century. After the Jewish War, Rome's involvement in the Near East "came to resemble an integrated provincial and military system" (80). The emperors turned over administration to governors, and legions increasingly defended Roman interests from both outside threats and the local populations. According to Millar, by the end of Constantine's reign, the Near East was the "prime area where the long tradition of Roman imperialism was still active" (219).

In part two, "Regions and Communities," Millar writes, "A social and economic history of the Near East in the Roman period cannot be written ... nothing is clearer than the fact that in this area above all we cannot speak of constant or enduring patterns of social and economic life" (225). In spite of this caveat, Millar attempts to write what cannot be written. He divides the Near East into six regions (Northern Syria, the Phoenician coast, Eastern Syria, Judaea and Syria Palestine, Arabia, and Mesopotamia) and briefly sketches the cultural and social concerns that faced these regions during the period of Roman domination. Instead of writing an annalesque total history of these six regions, Millar follows his sources where they lead and leaves his reader with an impression of the cultural situation of these areas. Since the sources do not allow Millar to detail social structures or the daily lives of the people living in these areas, he explores the events that may not be representative, but nonetheless were possible.

In this second section, Millar attempts to explain the cultural identity of the Near East's inhabitants, answering questions about their relationship to the Greeks, to the Romans, and to each other. He believes that "the step-by-step advance of the Roman army" was instrumental in the development of the Near East's social history (489). Rome's intrusion into the area disrupted all the former hierarchies of power and forced the Near East's inhabitants to reevaluate their understanding of these foreigners and their relationships with each other. Untangling these relationships is a formidable task, however, especially since it is often unclear from the sources with what particular group an individual identified. Millar asserts was much fluidity existed between groups of people during this period, with individuals from all backgrounds opting to use Greek, Latin, or Semitic depending on the occasion. Millar emphasizes, however, that the Jews proved to be the exception to this rule. They formed a distinct community that was founded first on the Temple and then on their books, allowing them to resist the Roman homogenization of the various Near Eastern cultures.

This work will remain the standard handbook to the political, social, and cultural situation of the Roman Near East for two reasons. First, The Roman Near East is a helpful guide to the available sources because of Millar's impressive command of epigraphic evidence. While much of his chronology relies on the contemporary historical writings, he uses inscriptions to flesh out his survey, and his thesis regarding the relationships between the various groups in the Near East and the influence of the Roman military relies heavily on these inscriptions. Second, The Roman Near East helps fill an infuriating gap in the scholarship on the first century and beyond. As Millar freely admits, speculation is a necessity during this period, but he argues his thesis persuasively and attempts to remain faithful to the available sources.
Imperialistic Perspective  May 10, 2005
Mr. Millar's book is quite old fashioned. Its method and perspective are right out of the Victorian age. This historian obviously is unable to take the perspective of the many diverse inhabitants of the ancient Near East. For instance, his results on 'identity' are based mainly on inscriptions. That is a problem because Greek and Latin inscriptions by no means represent the views of the main bulk of Near Eastern populations; rather, they tend to be written by the minority of faithful servants to the Roman rule, i.e. those people who profited from the imperial system. Mr. Millar admits that he had great problems with the subject because it was new to him. He would have had much less problems if he had learned to take the perspective of members of other cultures. It is somewhat funny that at times of academic cultural studies where perspective changes are literally exercised, and much help is available, such a single minded book is possible.
The ROMAN NEAR EAST: Synopsis of a Treasure  Jun 24, 2001
Millar describes the subject of his book as a threefold analysis, covering geography, chronology and linguistics. One of the major themes of the book is the treatment of data that lends insight into the mutual relations of the Roman government, the settled population and the peoples of the steppe-skenitai (tent-dwellers), nomads, Arabs (Saraceni).

Roman military occupation did not correspond to any definite geographical boundaries due to the vast desert steppes that define the Limes Arabicus. Millar states that one of the primary factors fueling scholarly inquiry into this particular period from the mid-first century BC to the mid-fourth century AD is that, from the point of view of Roman imperial history, the step-by-step advancement of Roman direct control demonstrates that, in the Near East at least, Roman imperialism and expansionism was very much alive contrary to the opposing opinions of some.

It also deals with the period that saw the rise of the "epigraphic habit" (inscriptions and record keeping) as expressed in the Near East, for it reveals a lot about political and communal structures at this time. He deals with politics and ethnicity, i.e. what political formations were present in this precarious desert frontier and how did people identify themselves? Millar defines the "Near East," according to the subject matter of his book, as the region of the Roman Empire where Greek (not Latin) co-existed with the family of Semitic languages.

How far was the settled Roman frontier open to nomadic groups? How far did the inhabitants of a settled region share customs and culture (especially religious beliefs) with the Arab tribes of the marginal zone? These are the questions one is confronted with when studying the subject of the eastern frontier, and Millar treats it thoroughly and comprehensively.

This book is valuable to serious historical investigators in search of scholarly research pertaining to this precarious region. Other important books to consider are: Roman Arabia by G.W. Bowersock, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews by Victor Tcherikover, and Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East by Benjamin Isaacs.

For the full-time history student only  Oct 25, 2000
This book is a thorough analysis of the cultural, social, economic and military history of the Roman Near East from Actium to the victory of Constantine. This includes Cappadocia, Syria, Palestine (Judea), Arabia, and Mesopotamia. Egypt and Anatolia are not covered. The first part is a chronological history of the region. The second part is a survey of every region. The main point of the study is to analyze whether there was a sense of community among the Semitic, Aramaic-speaking peoples of the Near East, shared with Semitic peoples outside the Empire, or whether they felt purely Roman and/or Greek.

This is all very interesting stuff, and probably the state of the art of Roman history in the Near East. Unfortunately, the author is always questioning theories and making tentative assumptions, comparing half-erased archaelogical inscriptions with coins found in the middle of nowhere. This is a very rigorous scientific process (particularly since we know so little about this period), probably very useful for the professional scholar, but boring for the casual reader like me. This is not helped by the use of long chapters where different topics are discussed in succession without clear transitions. I was so bored I did not finish the book.


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