The Commerce of War: Exchange and Social Order in Latin Epic

The Commerce of War: Exchange and Social Order in Latin Epic

by Neil Coffee
     
 

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Latin epics such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Lucan’s Civil War, and Statius’s Thebaid addressed Roman aristocrats whose dealings in gifts, favors, and payments defined their conceptions of social order. In The Commerce of War, Neil Coffee argues that these exchanges play a central yet overlooked role in epic depictions of Roman

Overview

Latin epics such as Virgil’s Aeneid, Lucan’s Civil War, and Statius’s Thebaid addressed Roman aristocrats whose dealings in gifts, favors, and payments defined their conceptions of social order. In The Commerce of War, Neil Coffee argues that these exchanges play a central yet overlooked role in epic depictions of Roman society.

            Tracing the collapse of an aristocratic worldview across all three poems, Coffee highlights the distinction they draw between reciprocal gift giving among elites and the more problematic behaviors of buying and selling. In the Aeneid, customary gift and favor exchanges are undermined by characters who view human interaction as short-term and commodity-driven. The Civil War takes the next logical step, illuminating how Romans cope once commercial greed has supplanted traditional values. Concluding with the Thebaid, which focuses on the problems of excessive consumption rather than exchange, Coffee closes his powerful case that these poems constitute far-reaching critiques of Roman society during its transition from republic to empire.

Editorial Reviews

Bryn Mawr Classical Review
This successful study of the thematics of economic exchange offers valuable insight on an important and hitherto understudied aspect of Roman epic. . . . Coffee's readings offer persuasive new interpretations, resolve interpretive deadlocks, and illuminate aspects of epic narrative that other analytical models have not successfully addressed.

— Neil W. Bernstein

Choice

"Coffee's compelling book contributes much to contemporary debate on Roamn epic, particularly the Aeneid."

Bryn Mawr Classical Review - Neil W. Bernstein

"This successful study of the thematics of economic exchange offers valuable insight on an important and hitherto understudied aspect of Roman epic. . . . Coffee's readings offer persuasive new interpretations, resolve interpretive deadlocks, and illuminate aspects of epic narrative that other analytical models have not successfully addressed."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226111872
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
04/30/2009
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Neil Coffee is assistant professor of classics at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.

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