A very readable history of early Rome from the founding of the city down to the first Gallic invasion in 390 BC. This volume contains the first five books of Livy’s history of Rome in a very readable translation by Aubrey de Sélincourt. Many of the tales Livy recounts, especially the ones from the regal period, are of questionable historical reliability. His account of the republican period from 509 BC on is probably more historical, although even here there are some fantastic elements mixed in. Nevertheless, they make for great reading. Some of the more stirring tales include:
The story of Romulus and Remus raised by a she-wolf
The kidnapping of the Sabine women to provide wives for the men of the city
The expulsion of the kings and establishment of the republic (sparked by the rape of a nobleman’s wife, Lucretia)
The attack of Lars Porsena and Horatius at the bridge
The Battle of Lake Regillus and the appointment of the first dictator
The secession of the plebs and the creation of the tribunes of the plebs
The 15-day dictatorship of Cincinnatus
The decemvirs or Board of Ten and the writing of the Laws of the Ten Tables
Appius Claudius’s reign of terror
Verginius kills his own daughter to keep her from being enslaved by Appius Claudius
The conspiracy of Maelius
The capture of Fidenae using a “sap” (a deep, narrow trench leading to the besieged city)
The sack of Veii
The triumph of Camillus
The Gallic invasion
These are just some of the key moments from the highlight reel. The story of Rome’s early history is most important for politics. You can’t understand the period of the American founding without reading Livy, because he provides much of the template for the founders – the critique of kingship and tyranny; the establishment of a new form of government called a republic in which power is distributed, shared, and frequently rotated; the citizen soldier who fights to defend his country; the concept of political liberty; the importance of the rule of law; and the dangers of demagoguery and democracy. These are all huge themes in Livy that resonate even today. But even if you don’t care about political theory, Livy is a great moralist as well. He uses history to instruct, using the bad examples as warnings and the noble examples as models to be imitated. Some of the key speeches are also wonderfully written and convey tremendous ethos and pathos. This is great literature because it is enjoyable to read and you get that great feeling from knowing that you are reading one of the classics.
As one of the most prolific scholars today (his list of publications is ginormous), Porter is eminently qualified to write a book such as this. The title “Inking the Deal” may give the wrong impression, as if the book were focused primarily on the narrow issue of getting a contract with a publisher. But the book is much broader and covers a wide range of issues related to academic writing and publishing. It covers monographs, multi-author books, and journal articles. It contains practical information and advice on things like writing a proposal, preparing an index, the importance of following each publisher’s unique style guide, copyediting, and so on. But it also contains a good deal of exhortation and encouragement to the aspiring academic author. He gives you the sense that it is totally doable, if you just work at it. He encourages scholars to adopt “a mind-set of always writing for publication” (p. 55), “a publishing lifestyle” (p. 151). Highly recommended for those who are beginning their scholarly career or who aspire to be scholars.
Marcus Aurelius was the last of five good Roman emperors (the previous four being Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius). He reigned from AD 161 to 180, and so he would have been a contemporary of Irenaeus. He is shown at the end of his life as an old man campaigning against the German barbarians at the beginning of the movie Gladiator (one of my favorite movies). Unfortunately, he did persecute Christians. In his Meditations (11.3), he has one brief disparaging remark about Christians, whose willingness to accept martyrdom was, in his view, “prompted by mere contumacy,” rather than being an act of true courage. But setting aside his criticism of Christianity and the pantheistic error of his Stoic philosophy, the Meditations are worth reading. Marcus Aurelius has some good reflections on the brevity of life, the vanity of seeking applause and fame, and the importance of following your own convictions and conscience.
Here are a few tidbits to give you a taste:
“Or does the bubble reputation distract you? Keep before your eyes the swift onset of oblivion, and the abysses of eternity before us and behind; mark how hollow are the echoes of applause, how fickle and undiscerning the judgements of professed admirers, and how puny the arena of human fame” (4.3).
“The man whose heart is palpitating for fame after death does not reflect that out of all those who remember him every one will himself soon be dead also, and in course of time the next generation after that, until in the end, after flaring and sinking by turns, the final spark of memory is quenched” (4.19).
“Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to keep myself good; just as a gold piece, or an emerald, or a purple robe insists perpetually, ‘Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to remain an emerald and keep my colour true’” (7.15).
“Take it that you have died today, and your life’s story is ended; and henceforward regard what further time may be given you as an uncovenanted surplus” (7.56).
“Within its own domain, there is nobody who can frustrate the mind. Fire, sword, oppression, calumny, and all else are powerless to touch it” (8.41).
This is an inspiring book for those (like me!) who have a Ph.D. but do not have a faculty appointment at an institution of higher learning. You don’t need a faculty appointment to be a scholar. You really don’t even need a degree (although doctoral training itself is valuable). If you have a passion about a subject, and you are motivated enough, you can still do great scholarship and even get it published. Gross interviewed a number of independent scholars who either lost their faculty appointment, or left academia, or who never wanted to be a professor but just wanted to study their chosen field. This book is for any scholar who, for whatever reason, just doesn’t seem to fit well in the established institutional structures. These stories are all very inspiring and encouraging. He also gives advice on how independent scholars can get access to libraries, how they can get published, and how they can connect with other independent scholars. The only drawback of the book is that it was written in the 1970s, long before the Internet, and so much of the specific advice and lists of organizations and addresses is outdated. But don’t read it for that. Read it to get inspired to be a scholar for the sheer love of knowledge. Sometimes I worry that the whole tenure system itself can work against true scholarship, because assistant and associate professors who do not yet have tenure are tempted to self-censer and publish on safe topics rather than pursue truth wherever it may lead.
New Life Burbank,the congregation of which Misty and I and our covenant children are members, and where I currently serve as a ruling elder, is looking for a new pastor. The church is located in Burbank, California, and is part of the Pacific Presbytery of the PCA. We are a racially-mixed congregation of approximately 80 adult communicant members who are predominantly Asian-American, within the age range of 25-45. We are looking for a mature man who can model for us what it means to walk with Christ. We are looking for a servant who loves the sheep and wants to shepherd them with a Christlike spirit of love and humility. Our church is committed to Christ-centered, diligent, and meaningful exposition of the Scriptures in which the imperatives flow out of the indicatives. Prospective applicants may find more information here: www.newlifeburbank.org/pastorsearch
My static Upper Registersite with papers and MP3s has been down since Wednesday. Hackers had inserted malicious code, so my webhosting company suspended my account. But I deleted the bad files and thankfully it's back up again.