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Full description for Sorrows of the Ancient Romans

  • This inquiry into the collective psychology of the ancient Romans speaks not about military conquest, sober law, and practical politics but about extremes of despair, desire and envy. Early in the work, Carlin Barton describes the Romans as seeming to be "surpassing strange, exercising the same fascination as a Siberian tiger or a Great White shark", but by the end of the book she has made us uncomfortably familiar with a society struggling at or beyond the limits of human endurance. To probe the tensions of the Roman world in the period from the first century BC through the first two centuries AD, Barton picks two images: the gladiator and the "monster". What was it that the Romans saw in the despised gladiator that so deeply affected them? What motivated men and women of the free and privileged classes to identify with and even assume the role of the gladiator both publicly and privately? After looking at these issues, Barton analyzes the Roman obsession with the dwarf and the giant, the hunchback and the "living skeleton", a fascination that reflected, among their social disturbances, a deeply troubled relationship between hierarchy and equality. While trained as a historian, Barton has welcomed the aid of psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, philosophers and literary theorists in the attempt to articulate the darkest riddles of the Roman psyche.