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Cæsar's Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History Hardcover – June 4, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0520251199 ISBN-10: 0520251199 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 386 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (June 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520251199
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520251199
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,450 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“As [Feeney’s] excellent book [underlines], the most lasting achievement of Caesar was. . . the calendar that is still used, throughout the west.”
(Mary Beard The Guardian 2008-12-20)

“As [Feeney’s] excellent book [underlines], the most lasting achievement of Caesar was. . . the calendar that is still used, throughout the west.”
(Mary Beard New York Review Of Books 2008-12-18)

From the Inside Flap

"Among the many great strengths of Feeney's Caesar's Calendar are the ease and elegance with which the author makes an enormous amount of specialized material accessible to a wide audience and engages strikingly with ancient and modern science and non-classical cultural studies as well as with current trends in classical scholarship."—Donald Mastronarde, author of Euripides: Medea

"Extraordinarily ambitious and brilliantly realized."—Ellen Oliensis, author of Horace and the Rhetoric of Authority

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By G. Passantino on December 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My specialty area is theology and church history (I teach graduate students at a Lutheran seminary) and I'm always looking for good academic resources to help relieve my (relative) ignorance outside my own field. Feeney's book does a superb job of helping readers like me realize that we often misunderstand history and voices from the past because we unthinkingly presuppose our own mental conventions inappropriately. For example, in this day of atomic clocks, micro-computers, and universal (or at least world-wide) calendar reckoning, we often fault ancient writers for their seemingly imprecise (we even label them inaccurate) date citations. Feeney explains how often our critique is flawed because of our presuppositions. He shows that ancient Romans (indeed,the whole world in that age) had no non-local, 12-month-equal-year calculations, but instead designated events by synchronicity to local seasons and corresponding events. Therefore, to chronologically link the battle of Thermopylae (300 Spartans against the huge Persian army of Xerxes) with the event of a Roman battle in which a small, underdog Roman force successfully repelled a much larger invading force, even though the events in "calendar time" were 100s of years apart, made more "historical" sense to the Romans than assigning some mathematically accurate year-measurement date to the Roman event. This is just one of the insights Feeney's research has given me that I will apply repeatedly in my studies. This book is academically documented and comprehensive but very readable for the motivated non-professional history enthusiast.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on September 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'll read almost anything about ancient Rome, and the catchy title of this book certainly caught my eye. The Roman calendars before Caesar's reform was extremely cumbersome. Note that I deliberately used the word "calendars" because Rome had more than one. There was a political calendar keyed to the consuls, a sacred calendar denoting religious festivals, and a seasonal calendar keyed to agricultural activities. Too make things more confusing, the political calendar and the seasonal calendar were seriously out of synch by Caesar's time. Bringing some order out this chaos was Caesar's greatest, and longest lasting, accomplishment--though far less mentioned than his military or political exploits. As mentioned above, what made the Romans reflect so on their calendarical system was their encounter with the Greeks, a people they greatly admired. So greatly did the Romans admire the Greeks that they wanted "in", so to speak, to the Greek system of myths and measuring time.
I won't go into details (read the book), but they eventually did this by way of the myth of the founding of the Latin people by Aeneas, a refugee from Troy. While various provinces and cities continued their use of local calendars, it eventually became the mark of a Roman citizen where ever he lived, to use the imperial calendar. The Roman calendar was adopted by the Catholic Church, although with the very useful adaptation of a seven day week (following Jewish practice), and eventually the use of numbers to designate the days of month.

One of the most interesting points made in this book (and very needful since we moderns are so imbued with the idea that calendars are fixed and objective) is that the Romans even had to deal with the basic question of when the year begins.
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This is a very erudite book. It is the printed and published accomplishment of 6 lectures given by Dr. Feeney, to be known as Volume 65 of the Sather Classical Lectures. It is supplied with copious endnotes, an extensive bibliography, and a detailed index on the topics of each of his six chapters.

Few moderns have realized that behind the calendar we use lies an older “event oriented” type of time reckoning. As Feeney realizes, each little city state had its own synchronisms. Thus, if you lived in one city but wanted to provide a date that synchronized with something that happened somewhere else but was relevant to your own city, it was a real challenge to offer that “global synchronism.” Few moderns even knew that “Only in 1627 did Domenicus Petavius, … expound the B.C./A.D. system as a basis for a universal time line for scholars and historians…” (p. 7). Even after Petavius, he continues, “…history continued to be written without the numerical grid until the eighteenth century.” (p. 7). For the Greco-Roman myth and history lying behind the title of his book, Dr. Feeney is firmly on home ground. He knows his stuff!!

And novices need not fear the Greek and Latin texts from which the author quotes; nor should scholars fear that he left them out! He provides original texts in Greek and Latin and lucid translations of them all. He even wants his reader to understand that the ancients did not use “B.C.” or “A.D.” in their early dates and, thus, where necessary, he puts these in quote marks to promote understanding and avoid confusion.

I do have a caveat. He is clearly not on home ground when dealing with the vast fields of archaeology, anthropology and ethnology where it comes to the calendar. For this he relies on secondary and tertiary sources.
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