A History of Private Life, Volume I: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium

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Overview

First of the widely celebrated and sumptuously illustrated series, this book reveals in intimate detail what life was really like in the ancient world. Behind the vast panorama of the pagan Roman empire, the reader discovers the intimate daily lives of citizens and slaves—from concepts of manhood and sexuality to marriage and the family, the roles of women, chastity and contraception, techniques of childbirth, homosexuality, religion, the meaning of virtue, and the separation of private and public spaces.

The emergence of Christianity in the West and the triumph of Christian morality with its emphasis on abstinence, celibacy, and austerity is startlingly contrasted with the profane and undisciplined private life of the Byzantine Empire. Using illuminating motifs, the authors weave a rich, colorful fabric ornamented with the results of new research and the broad interpretations that only masters of the subject can provide.

The final volume in the award-winning series charts the remarkable inner history of our times from the tumult of World War I to the present day, when personal identity was released from its moorings in gender, family, social class, religion, politics, and nationality. "A fascinating glimpse into the distant and exotic past."--Los Angeles Times. 230 halftones, 2 tables.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review

The new emphasis on the history of everybody has now been consecrated in [this] ambitious five-volume series...Copious illustrative materials—paintings, drawings, caricatures, and photographs, all cannily chosen and wittily captioned to display domestic life...Magnificent.
— Roger Shattuck

Washington Post Book World
Together these five compact volumes cover much of the history of the classical world, and do so with both ease and authority.
The Atlantic

This first volume is one of the most arresting, original, and rewarding historical surveys to be published in many years, and its value is enhanced by the hundreds of illustrations, which present almost every conceivable detail of private life as it was lived in the centuries.
— Bernard Knox

Washington Post

Private life has always been a matter of public conjecture. This admirable book brings it intelligently into the web of social history and is a model for historians and readers alike. Beautifully produced, it adds apt and rare illustrations to a text by experts who presuppose human curiosity, but no undue knowledge. Its range and level of argument will intrigue anyone who has wondered about past attitudes to such matters as sex and the family, households, social inferiors, dress and even undress.
— Robin Lane Fox

Wall Street Journal

The five essays collected here...treat readers to a vast array of anecdotes and conjectures about the private life of our forebears.
— Roger Kimball

Times Higher Education Supplement

This is a long, demanding and very rewarding book. If the remaining four volumes are of this quality, the series will indeed, as the editors claim, be "a milestone in historical research."
— Jane F. Gardner

London Review of Books

A book which makes the reader think, teasing and encouraging with spicy details, long views, a capacity for the unexpected insight. Now for something completely different.
— Jasper Griffin

Christian Science Monitor
A stimulating--indeed a provocative--and beautiful book on a difficult subject...It's a treasure.
New York Times Book Review - Roger Shattuck
The new emphasis on the history of everybody has now been consecrated in [this] ambitious five-volume series...Copious illustrative materials--paintings, drawings, caricatures, and photographs, all cannily chosen and wittily captioned to display domestic life...Magnificent.
The Atlantic - Bernard Knox
This first volume is one of the most arresting, original, and rewarding historical surveys to be published in many years, and its value is enhanced by the hundreds of illustrations, which present almost every conceivable detail of private life as it was lived in the centuries.
Washington Post - Robin Lane Fox
Private life has always been a matter of public conjecture. This admirable book brings it intelligently into the web of social history and is a model for historians and readers alike. Beautifully produced, it adds apt and rare illustrations to a text by experts who presuppose human curiosity, but no undue knowledge. Its range and level of argument will intrigue anyone who has wondered about past attitudes to such matters as sex and the family, households, social inferiors, dress and even undress.
Wall Street Journal - Roger Kimball
The five essays collected here...treat readers to a vast array of anecdotes and conjectures about the private life of our forebears.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Jane F. Gardner
This is a long, demanding and very rewarding book. If the remaining four volumes are of this quality, the series will indeed, as the editors claim, be "a milestone in historical research."
London Review of Books - Jasper Griffin
A book which makes the reader think, teasing and encouraging with spicy details, long views, a capacity for the unexpected insight. Now for something completely different.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
People of the Middle Ages were suspicious of solitude. Feudal dwellings were promiscuously crowded, monastery layouts reflected a fear of isolation. Yet, the idea of privacy, linked to an inner life, stubbornly took root. Intimacy found expression in peasant hearths, in orchards where lovers embraced, in noble households with their areas for retreat, in towers and fortresses that gave ordinary people a refuge from the havoc of war. The private sphere spilled out into the neighborhood. Moving from the anonymous 11th century to the stirrings of Renaissance individualism, this second volume of essays in a projected five-volume opus is a marvelous re-creation of history as it was actually lived, an archeological excavation of daily life few historians have attempted. Hundreds of apt illustrations complement discussions of bedroom design, table manners, discovery of the body, customs. The growing importance of the individual is traced through fables, romances, poems and a new realism in painting. The contributors are French scholars; Duby is a professor at the College de France. History Book Club alternate. (March)
Library Journal
These volumes, edited by Philippe Aries and Georges Duby, are aimed at both the scholar and layperson who wonder how people lived and behaved from ancient times to the present: "their thoughts, their feelings, their bodies, their attitudes, their habits and habitations, their codes, their marks, and their signs." The focus is on western European life, primarily French. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Spanning the period from the 11th century to the Renaissance and focusing on France and Tuscan Italy, this continues the projected five-volume history of private life from the Roman world to the present. ``Private'' is here defined as what medieval people considered intimate, familial, domestic. The five chapters, three of them written all or in part by distinguished French scholar Duby, display an astounding knowledge and use of sources and offer rich detail about everything from affection and sex to domestic arrangements and latrines. The many illustrations strongly support the text. Essential for both research and general collections.Bennett D. Hill, St. Anselm's Abbey, Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674399747
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1992
  • Series: History of Private Life Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 704
  • Product dimensions: 7.06 (w) x 8.06 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Georges Duby, a member of the Académie Française, is Professor of Medieval History at the Collège de France.

Paul Veyne is Professor at the Collège de France.

Arthur Goldhammer received the French-American Translation Prize in 1990 for his translation of A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
by Georges Duby

Introduction
by Paul Veyne

1. Roman Empire
by Paul Veyne

Introduction

From Mother's Womb to Last Will and Testament

Marriage

Slavery

The Household and Its Freed Slaves

Where Public Life Was Private

"Work" and Leisure

Patrimony

Public Opinion and Utopia

Pleasures and Excesses

Tranquilizers

2. Late Antiquity
by Peter Brown

Introduction

The "Wellborn" Few

Person and Group in Judaism and Early Christianity

Church and Leadership

The Challenge of the Desert

East and West: The New Marital Morality

3. Private Life and Domestic Architecture in Roman Africa
by Yvon Thébert

The Roman Home: Foreword by Paul Veyne

Some Theoretical Considerations

The Domestic Architecture of the Ruling Class

"Private" and "Public" Spaces: The Components of the Domus

How the Domus Worked

Conclusion

4. The Early Middle Ages in the West
by Michel Rouche

Introduction by Paul Veyne

Historical Introduction

Private Life Conquers State and Society

Body and Heart

Violence and Death

Sacred and Secret

Conclusion

5. Byzantium in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries
by Evelyne Patlagean

The Byzantine Empire

Private Space

Self and Others

The Inner Life

Private Belief

Conclusion

Notes

Bibliography

Acknowledgments

Index

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