The Roman Triumph

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $6.98
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 68%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $6.98   
  • New (9) from $10.29   
  • Used (8) from $6.98   

Overview

Listen to a short interview with Mary Beard
Host: Chris Gondek | Producer: Heron & Crane

It followed every major military victory in ancient Rome: the successful general drove through the streets to the temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill; behind him streamed his raucous soldiers; in front were his most glamorous prisoners, as well as the booty he'd captured, from enemy ships and precious statues to plants and animals from the conquered territory. Occasionally there was so much on display that the show lasted two or three days.

A radical reexamination of this most extraordinary of ancient ceremonies, this book explores the magnificence of the Roman triumph--but also its darker side. What did it mean when the axle broke under Julius Caesar's chariot? Or when Pompey's elephants got stuck trying to squeeze through an arch? Or when exotic or pathetic prisoners stole the general's show? And what are the implications of the Roman triumph, as a celebration of imperialism and military might, for questions about military power and "victory" in our own day? The triumph, Mary Beard contends, prompted the Romans to question as well as celebrate military glory.

Her richly illustrated work is a testament to the profound importance of the triumph in Roman culture--and for monarchs, dynasts and generals ever since. But how can we re-create the ceremony as it was celebrated in Rome? How can we piece together its elusive traces in art and literature? Beard addresses these questions, opening a window on the intriguing process of sifting through and making sense of what constitutes "history."

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

New Republic

[This] book succeeds as a case study in ancient history, but also as an implicit invitation to reconsider representations of victory and loss in our own culture. Beard ranges among literary, historiographical, artistic, architectural, numismatic, epigraphical, and archaeological sources with impressive ease and fluency, showing that the preoccupation with triumph haunts all these different fields of Roman cultural life—from Ovid's cheeky claim that triumphal processions can be good for picking up girls, and his presentation of himself as the victim of Cupid's triumphal chariot, to the many triumphal arches that the triumphalist Romans erected, which Beard reads as attempts to construct a permanent memorial from an essentially fleeting parade...Beard brilliantly shows that most of this story about the typical Roman triumph is a scholarly or literary fabrication, supported by very slender evidence, or by none at all; or it is a reconstruction based on evidence from authors in widely different time periods, each of whom has his own axe to grind...The demolition work is the most obvious accomplishment of her book.
— Emily Wilson

Journal of Classics Teaching

Beard’s approach to the triumph is
“uncomfortably subversive”, as she labels a quip of Seneca at the start of her study...Beard shows us throughout her study that, as the old cliché aptly puts it, the triumph is still good to think with and also “good to think about.” Her book is as much about doing ancient history as reconstructing the history of an ancient ceremony, and perhaps more about writing and the writing of an account of The Roman Triumph than actually writing the account itself..I found this an eminently readable and hugely entertaining book in which Beard enthusiastically conveys her commitment to reviewing the evidence for the triumph.
— Robert Tatam

William V. Harris
In this highly individual book Mary Beard plays havoc with conventional ideas about the Roman triumph, while at the same time scrupulously presenting the evidence with which we can make up our own minds. It is the most important statement to date by a major historian of Roman culture.
Robert Harris
Occasionally one comes across a work of history which lights up a whole era as if by a lightning flash. Mary Beard's new book falls into this rare category. By focusing on the specific ritual of the triumph, she brilliantly illuminates the Roman world in all its aspects—military and political, social and literary, religious and geographical—and also reminds us how much of our own language and culture of success is drawn from this gaudy and often bloody spectacle.
The Guardian - Greg Woolf
From the first (uncertain) moment when Romans came to think of triumph as a bundle of victory rites that could be repeatedly improved upon, generals fought and lobbied for their moment in the limelight. Enemies, rivals and spectators could not resist being drawn into the show. Beard's Roman Triumph will exercise a similar fascination on its readers.
Current Archaeology - Neil Faulkner
Beautifully written, brilliantly insightful, this book is highly recommended to all those Romanists, professional and amateur, excavators and tourists, who want to get under the skin of the empire-builders of ancient Rome.
Literary Review - Allan Massie
[Beard] is immensely knowledgeable, and lays forth one of the paradoxes of history (and not only ancient history, one may add). This is that the more we know, the less certain we can be of anything...This is a fascinating book which offers another paradox. By showing how much that we thought we knew is uncertain, Mary Beard teaches us far more than any confident account of the triumphal ceremony ever could.
New York Review of Books - Garry Wills
Conjectures and conclusions grow from and around the triumphus like kudzu. It takes the mighty vorpal sword of Mary Beard to clear a path through this jabberwocky jungle, snicker-snack. She stands in the great tradition of myth-puncturing Latin classicists--scholars like Richard Bentley, Basil Gildersleeve. A. E. Housman. or Ronald Syme--when she points out that almost all the established views on the triumph are dubious or plain wrong...Her prose, for all its learning, is jaunty. Her book is, in short, a triumph.
Sunday Times - Tom Holland
A book that manages to be simultaneously both brilliantly subtle and splendidly swaggering. Throughout it, [Beard] subjects our sources for the Roman triumph to merciless dissection, exposing with a pathologist's scalpel how beneath all its outward sheen there lurked profound insecurities and ambivalences...[It] can be enjoyed by readers far beyond the purlieus of classics departments...A book that is, in every sense of that complex word, a triumph.
Irish Times - Helen Meany
At every turn Beard happily strips away misconceptions and hypotheses, emphasizing the fragility of the facts...It's hard to imagine a more perceptive and questioning study of a central cultural practice that lasted into the Christian era, and was constantly being subverted, extended, and absorbed into representations of empire and even of divinity.
Independent on Sunday - Christopher Hart
Thorough, minutely detailed and closely argued...[Beard's] account certainly brings us closer to the complex and fascinating reality than any Rome according to MGM or Paramount.
Times Literary Supplement - William Fitzgerald
This rich and provocative book offers such a full account of what it means to call ancient Rome "a triumphal culture."
BBC History Magazine - Peter Heather
[An] arresting and highly readable new book...A highly amusing as well as illuminating read...Overall, Beard is giving us a lesson in how to understand and study ritual. Its early students (not least Frazer, one of the founders of modern anthropology, in The Golden Bough), saw it as a strait-jacket, constraining behavior within tightly defined parameters. This book gives us the Roman triumph as a case study in the lessons of more recent anthropology. Parameters are broad: malleable enough for ritual to be used to attempt to justify behavior, and not just to dictate it...Instead of unchanging ritual, Beard gives us a world of invented precedent and "convenient amnesia," of substantial success but also manifold failure as individual Roman generals attempted to mold general practice to their own--usually political--purposes.
The Independent - Maria Wyke
In The Roman Triumph, many cherished assumptions are robustly interrogated or put to the sword...Beard takes us on a dizzying trip back and forth across triumphs and centuries (Pompey, Romulus, Nero, Augustus). Only after she has unpicked accounts of Pompey's triumph, and reflected on captives, spoils, rules and ritual, does she pause briefly to end at origins...Simultaneously a re-evaluation of the triumph, of Roman culture more broadly, and of the problems of scholarship on ancient societies, this is an ambitious project.
Scotland on Sunday - Marc Lambert
How much do we really know about Rome's supreme honor, and how much is myth and invention? Not much and quite a lot, it turns out. Beard's brilliant analysis locates the ritual in the shifting political, social and martial worlds of Rome. Illuminating moments abound.
Times Higher Education Supplement - Jonathan Powell
So you thought you knew about the Roman Triumph? Conventional wisdom states that triumphant generals in Rome painted their faces red. They rode in a chariot with a slave who whispered to them: "Remember that you are a man." For that one day, they impersonated the king of the gods, Jupiter Best and Greatest, wearing his costume, consisting of a purple toga and a tunic decorated with a palm-leaf pattern, a laurel wreath and other accessories...If you thought you knew some or all of these facts, Mary Beard's excellent book will prove you wrong...It makes healthily astringent (as well as fascinating) reading...The book can be heartily recommended.
Financial Times - Christian Tyler
This is no ordinary history. It is not a reconstruction but a deconstruction, a virtuoso display of how to interrogate one's sources. Not only that, it is written with sly subtlety, delightful humor and an agreeable absence of jargon.
London Review of Books - Denis Feeney
This book gives a bracing lesson in the use and abuse of evidence, as Beard teases apart the various bits and pieces that have gone to make up the conglomerate picture of the timeless essence of the triumph. In the process, she unpicks many of our basic assumptions about those quintessentially Roman characteristics we normally see embodied in it. The triumph and its reception here become fractals of Roman culture--and of the way Roman culture is studied...Illuminating perspectives [are] offered throughout the book...This learned and spirited book could have been no more than an exercise is debunking and dismantling. Beard enjoys debunking and dismantling, and does it with panache, but her unpicking of the evidence and her demolition of the consensus is not meant to create an epistemological no-man's-land; she wants to highlight the rewarding difficulty of the project of history, not its impossibility. There are things to be known about the past, and there are things to be known about how we come to know them. Beard stages her own show, demonstrating by practice, and in the process has given us a piece of scholarship that has lessons to teach anyone engaged in the study of the past.
New Republic - Emily Wilson
[This] book succeeds as a case study in ancient history, but also as an implicit invitation to reconsider representations of victory and loss in our own culture. Beard ranges among literary, historiographical, artistic, architectural, numismatic, epigraphical, and archaeological sources with impressive ease and fluency, showing that the preoccupation with triumph haunts all these different fields of Roman cultural life--from Ovid's cheeky claim that triumphal processions can be good for picking up girls, and his presentation of himself as the victim of Cupid's triumphal chariot, to the many triumphal arches that the triumphalist Romans erected, which Beard reads as attempts to construct a permanent memorial from an essentially fleeting parade...Beard brilliantly shows that most of this story about the typical Roman triumph is a scholarly or literary fabrication, supported by very slender evidence, or by none at all; or it is a reconstruction based on evidence from authors in widely different time periods, each of whom has his own axe to grind...The demolition work is the most obvious accomplishment of her book.
Journal of Classics Teaching - Robert Tatam
Beard’s approach to the triumph is
“uncomfortably subversive”, as she labels a quip of Seneca at the start of her study...Beard shows us throughout her study that, as the old cliché aptly puts it, the triumph is still good to think with and also “good to think about.” Her book is as much about doing ancient history as reconstructing the history of an ancient ceremony, and perhaps more about writing and the writing of an account of The Roman Triumph than actually writing the account itself..I found this an eminently readable and hugely entertaining book in which Beard enthusiastically conveys her commitment to reviewing the evidence for the triumph.
London Review of Books

This book gives a bracing lesson in the use and abuse of evidence, as Beard teases apart the various bits and pieces that have gone to make up the conglomerate picture of the timeless essence of the triumph. In the process, she unpicks many of our basic assumptions about those quintessentially Roman characteristics we normally see embodied in it. The triumph and its reception here become fractals of Roman culture—and of the way Roman culture is studied...Illuminating perspectives [are] offered throughout the book...This learned and spirited book could have been no more than an exercise is debunking and dismantling. Beard enjoys debunking and dismantling, and does it with panache, but her unpicking of the evidence and her demolition of the consensus is not meant to create an epistemological no-man's-land; she wants to highlight the rewarding difficulty of the project of history, not its impossibility. There are things to be known about the past, and there are things to be known about how we come to know them. Beard stages her own show, demonstrating by practice, and in the process has given us a piece of scholarship that has lessons to teach anyone engaged in the study of the past.
— Denis Feeney

The Guardian

From the first (uncertain) moment when Romans came to think of triumph as a bundle of victory rites that could be repeatedly improved upon, generals fought and lobbied for their moment in the limelight. Enemies, rivals and spectators could not resist being drawn into the show. Beard's Roman Triumph will exercise a similar fascination on its readers.
— Greg Woolf

Current Archaeology

Beautifully written, brilliantly insightful, this book is highly recommended to all those Romanists, professional and amateur, excavators and tourists, who want to get under the skin of the empire-builders of ancient Rome.
— Neil Faulkner

Literary Review

[Beard] is immensely knowledgeable, and lays forth one of the paradoxes of history (and not only ancient history, one may add). This is that the more we know, the less certain we can be of anything...This is a fascinating book which offers another paradox. By showing how much that we thought we knew is uncertain, Mary Beard teaches us far more than any confident account of the triumphal ceremony ever could.
— Allan Massie

New York Review of Books

Conjectures and conclusions grow from and around the triumphus like kudzu. It takes the mighty vorpal sword of Mary Beard to clear a path through this jabberwocky jungle, snicker-snack. She stands in the great tradition of myth-puncturing Latin classicists—scholars like Richard Bentley, Basil Gildersleeve. A. E. Housman. or Ronald Syme—when she points out that almost all the established views on the triumph are dubious or plain wrong...Her prose, for all its learning, is jaunty. Her book is, in short, a triumph.
— Garry Wills

Sunday Times

A book that manages to be simultaneously both brilliantly subtle and splendidly swaggering. Throughout it, [Beard] subjects our sources for the Roman triumph to merciless dissection, exposing with a pathologist's scalpel how beneath all its outward sheen there lurked profound insecurities and ambivalences...[It] can be enjoyed by readers far beyond the purlieus of classics departments...A book that is, in every sense of that complex word, a triumph.
— Tom Holland

Irish Times

At every turn Beard happily strips away misconceptions and hypotheses, emphasizing the fragility of the facts...It's hard to imagine a more perceptive and questioning study of a central cultural practice that lasted into the Christian era, and was constantly being subverted, extended, and absorbed into representations of empire and even of divinity.
— Helen Meany

Independent on Sunday

Thorough, minutely detailed and closely argued...[Beard's] account certainly brings us closer to the complex and fascinating reality than any Rome according to MGM or Paramount.
— Christopher Hart

Times Literary Supplement

This rich and provocative book offers such a full account of what it means to call ancient Rome "a triumphal culture."
— William Fitzgerald

The Scotsman
Brilliant, original and challenging, this book is a triumph in itself.
BBC History Magazine

[An] arresting and highly readable new book...A highly amusing as well as illuminating read...Overall, Beard is giving us a lesson in how to understand and study ritual. Its early students (not least Frazer, one of the founders of modern anthropology, in The Golden Bough), saw it as a strait-jacket, constraining behavior within tightly defined parameters. This book gives us the Roman triumph as a case study in the lessons of more recent anthropology. Parameters are broad: malleable enough for ritual to be used to attempt to justify behavior, and not just to dictate it...Instead of unchanging ritual, Beard gives us a world of invented precedent and "convenient amnesia," of substantial success but also manifold failure as individual Roman generals attempted to mold general practice to their own—usually political—purposes.
— Peter Heather

The Independent

In The Roman Triumph, many cherished assumptions are robustly interrogated or put to the sword...Beard takes us on a dizzying trip back and forth across triumphs and centuries (Pompey, Romulus, Nero, Augustus). Only after she has unpicked accounts of Pompey's triumph, and reflected on captives, spoils, rules and ritual, does she pause briefly to end at origins...Simultaneously a re-evaluation of the triumph, of Roman culture more broadly, and of the problems of scholarship on ancient societies, this is an ambitious project.
— Maria Wyke

Scotland on Sunday

How much do we really know about Rome's supreme honor, and how much is myth and invention? Not much and quite a lot, it turns out. Beard's brilliant analysis locates the ritual in the shifting political, social and martial worlds of Rome. Illuminating moments abound.
— Marc Lambert

Times Higher Education Supplement

So you thought you knew about the Roman Triumph? Conventional wisdom states that triumphant generals in Rome painted their faces red. They rode in a chariot with a slave who whispered to them: "Remember that you are a man." For that one day, they impersonated the king of the gods, Jupiter Best and Greatest, wearing his costume, consisting of a purple toga and a tunic decorated with a palm-leaf pattern, a laurel wreath and other accessories...If you thought you knew some or all of these facts, Mary Beard's excellent book will prove you wrong...It makes healthily astringent (as well as fascinating) reading...The book can be heartily recommended.
— Jonathan Powell

Financial Times

This is no ordinary history. It is not a reconstruction but a deconstruction, a virtuoso display of how to interrogate one's sources. Not only that, it is written with sly subtlety, delightful humor and an agreeable absence of jargon.
Christian Tyler

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674032187
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/31/2009
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 806,913
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Beard has a Chair of Classics at Cambridge and is a Fellow of Newnham College. She is classics editor of The Times Literary Supplement and author of the blog “A Don’s Life”. She is also a winner of the 2008 Wolfson History Prize.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 1 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)