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John Lydus and the Roman Past: Antiquarianism and Politics in the Age of Justinian [Kindle Edition]

Michael Maas
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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  • Print ISBN-10: 0415060214
  • Print ISBN-13: 978-0415060219
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Book Description

John Lydus and the Roman Past offers a new interpretation of the emergence of Byzantine society as viewed through the eyes of John Lydus, a sixth-century scholar and civil servant. Maas show that control of classical inheritance was politically contested in the reign of Justinian. He demonstrates how the past could be used to convey legitimacy and social definition at a time of profound change.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Michael Maas is Assistant Professor of History at Rice University.

Product Details

  • File Size: 676 KB
  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0415060214
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 4 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: Routledge (August 17, 2005)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000P0JNOY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,454,154 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, insightful monograph August 27, 2006
This book is a scholarly treatment of the works of John the Lydian, a mid-level bureaucrat in the court of the Roman Emperor Justinian, AD 527 through 565. John is known from three extant works: De Magistratibus (On the Magistracies), De Mensibus (On the Months), and De Ostentis (On Signs). All of these works are considered 'antiquarian' in that they all dealt with Roman traditions from the distant past.

I picked out this book specifically because I had read an article by Charles Pazdernik which dealt with John the Lydian and found him to be a fascinating historical figure. Michael Maas does an excellent job explaining the scope and subject matter of each of John's works, and examines the motives behind why he wrote what he did. As someone who worked within the magistracy of the Praetorian Prefecture, John believed that the Empire--which was falling into ruin--could only be restored by the reinvigoration of the ancient magistracies, particularly his own prefecture. He lauds Phocas who was Prefect for several months (and a crypto-pagan) while excoriating the notorious John of Cappadocia.

Maas speculates about John's own religious outlook and also about the religious make up of the bureacracy in Constantinople in the mid-6th century. Interestingly, in his examination of "On the Months", he delves into the subject of how much the pagan past (festivals in particular) survived into the Christian era and were stripped of their pagan significance. He points out how John's work "On the Magistracies" contains much forced and false chronology, inserted specifically to make his claims for the antiquity of the office of the Praetorian Prefecture seem reasonable.
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