Anthony A. Barrett, Elaine Fantham, John C. Yardley (ed.), The Emperor Nero: A Guide to the Ancient Sources. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2016. Pp. xxvii, 300. ISBN 9780691156514. $35.00 (pb).Nero has many intersections with first-century Judaism and Christianity, not least the use of the Nero Redivivus myth in the Book of Revelation. Chapter 4 of the book under review draws on the work of Josephus.
Reviewed by Lauren Ginsberg, University of Cincinnati (Lauren.Ginsberg@uc.edu)
This sourcebook is a superb addition to current interest in Nero, not least because its authors form an all-star team for any study of Neronian Rome. Their goal is simple: “to illuminate incidents of Nero’s life and rule that are either historically significant or just inherently interesting” (p. vii). They also aim throughout to help readers get a sense for how radically sources can differ and how the tradition came to be; thus, where possible, they include at least two sources on each event/topic. Unusual are the heavy footnotes that occur throughout, but these are a treasure trove of further information (selected highlights below). The book includes a preface and introduction followed by ten thematic chapters. Each chapter includes an introduction (ranging from a paragraph to five pages) and excerpts from Tacitus, Suetonius, and Dio. This is important to note at the start: while the volume’s subtitle might suggest a wider variety of sources, the book is really a guide to the historiography of Nero; other literary texts serve more as complements than objects of inquiry, often left unannotated or relegated to the end of a chapter.1 For example, the only excerpts from Seneca (Clem. 1.1-5) appear at the end of Chapter 2 without much help guidance for interpreting this complex work of political philosophy; so too excerpts from the Octavia do not orient readers to its status as a play and its difficulties. Documentary and material sources, however, are more successfully integrated throughout.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Review of Barrett, Fantham, and Yardley (eds.). The Emperor Nero
BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: