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The Antonines: The Roman Empire in Transition Revised ed. Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415138147
ISBN-10: 0415138140
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The prolific Grant, from whom last issued Constantine the Great , here summarizes the careers of three mid-second century emperors and the surviving works of a dozen contemporary writers. Coming after the active reigns of Trajan and Hadrian, who brought the Roman Empire to its greatest territorial extent and left walls and columns testifying to the apogee of expansion, the Antonines--Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Commodus--projected a policy of stability. Militarily, this involved pulling back from the Euphrates frontier with the Parthians and fixing the Danube line against the German tribes. Socially, the conservative senatorial status quo continued, and Grant accords a similar lack of innovation in the arts (with the exception of sculpture) during the years of the three reigns, 138 to 192. Not uniformly bland, with its share of barbarian invasions and revolts of proconsuls, these years also harbored the earliest Christian apologists alongside defenders of Roman religion (including Marcus Aurelius himself, in his famous Meditations). Though not one of Grant's monumental works, this short study should still interest his legion of readers. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

The distinguished, prolific classical historian (Constantine the Great, p. 681, etc.) here critically examines the reigns of the Roman Empire's three Antonine emperors (a.d. 138192). Eighteenth-century historian Edward Gibbon considered the reigns of Antoninus Pius (a.d. 138161) and Marcus Aurelius (a.d. 161180) the period ``during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous.'' Grant looks carefully at this traditional view of the Antonine Pax Romana and points out that during Antoninus Pius's long rule there were disturbances in Greece, Britain, Dacia, Judaea, and Africa; he also criticizes Pius's administration as static, backward-looking, and uncreative, though competent enough. At his death, in a decision that presaged the disastrous power-sharing arrangements of the later empire, Antoninus Pius bequeathed a shared authority to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus (who died a natural death in a.d. 169). Aurelius, author of the Stoic classic Meditations, ruled successfully during a turbulent period; he had to stave off challenges to Roman rule in Britain and Gaul, fight wars against the Parthians and on the Danube frontier, and govern an empire riven by a grave pestilence. Weakened by ``incessant winter campaigning,'' he died on the Danube frontier in a.d. 180, leaving the empire in the hands of his son, the cruel megalomaniac Commodus (a.d. 180192), whose reign is noteworthy mainly for its absolutism and arbitrary violence. Grant reviews Antonine art, architecture, literature, and rhetoric, arguing that thematically (the rejection even by pagan writers of classical paganism) and in style and form (the works of Apuleius presage the modern novel) Antonine culture marks a transition from the ancient to the early medieval world. With characteristic lucidity, Grant shows that Rome during its vaunted ``golden age'' contained seeds of its future collapse and of the Europe to come. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Roman Empire in Transition
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Revised ed. edition (June 16, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415138140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415138147
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,830,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having read some of Michael Grant's other works I was somewhat dubious about this one. I find his biographies such as Julius Caesar and Nero to be short and superficial accounts worth little interest, while more general works such as The Collapse and Recovery of the Roman Empire and From Rome to Byzantium: The Fifth Century AD were just shameless reproductions of other scholars' works. Grant is a very prolific writer, but I much prefer his earlier works to his later ones since I hold quality higher than quantity. Nonetheless, there are few enough works exclusively on this period that I thought it worth taking a look. And I'm glad I did. This may be a very brief look at the Antonines, but it provides a good point for the beginner to build off of. It's certainly better than his companion piece on The Severans.

This book is divided about 50/50 between brief biographical sketches of the emperors and separate issues within the period. The biographical sketches are very nice since he tries not only to outline their reign but to see through the facts to the personality of each emperor. I've noticed earlier a definite tendency for Grant to adopt the simplistic opinions of the Roman rulers and that criticism still applies.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book about Rome's "Golden Age." It covers the period from Antoninus Pius to Commodus (138-192 A.D.). Antoninus Pius & Marcus Aurelius (as well as Trajan & Hadrian, who came shortly before) are among the greatest of the Roman emperors. Sadly, Commodus (Aurelius' son) was one of the worst leaders of all time. As a matter of fact, Commodus was SO bad that many Romans accused his mother of infidelity as they could not believe how such an egregious fellow could have possibly sprung from the loins of one so noble as Aurelius.
Grants' book gives a detailed look at this epoch, as well as a glimpse at the art & literature of the time. The book contains helpful illustrations & photographs of Roman architecture & coinages of the time.
This book gives a detailed picture of one of the most pivotal moments in Roman history. Some would say that Roman history went downhill from the reign of Commodus onward. While I think that this is a slight exaggeration, there is nonetheless evidence that this was (until Commodus) the closest that Rome ever came to achieving their utopian "Camelot." A great work by an astute scholar.
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Format: Hardcover
`The Antonines' is a necessary work on the second century A.D. by a respected Roman historian.
Part One of this work by Michael Grant gives a brief presentation of the salient imperial powers of the time, Antonius Pius (138-161), Marcus Aurelius (161-180), Lucius Verus (161-169) and Commodus (180-192) in a concise manner. However, it is as it reads - a nicely presented synopsis of Roman imperial history from 138 to 192 A.D.
Part One's opening chapter provides the reader with details of Antonius Pius' actions, a diagnostic on his character to explain those actions - leaning heavily on the potential explanations for the Pius appellation - Aurelius' conservatism, Veres ineffectiveness and Commodus dramatic impact on the empire to a degree not seen since Nero. Moving swiftly onto Marcus Aurelius, Grant summarizes his reign as coping "with appalling problems with a conscientiousness that raised him to the top class of rulers." Touching on Aurelius' time spent on the Rhine frontier, his famous Meditations, conflict with Avidius Cassius, his wife Faustina and his state of health, Grant portrays Marcus Aurelius as a ruler who engendered a great deal of respect, a respect that swiftly disappears with the biography of Commodus.
After a brief note on the eternal critcism of Aurelius for having his son succeed him, (there is an insistence by the author on the idea of hereditary dynastic succession in Imperial Rome which doesn't bear much proof particularly as two pages later he states that "the senate, though conscious that the selection of the `best man' had ceased to have any reality..." thus implying there was no concept) Grant sweeps into his biography of Commodus.
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Format: Hardcover
This book should have been called: 'The Antonine Era' or something like that. The biographical writings on Pius, Aurelius, Verus, and Commodus are so brief as to be not entirely useful. Grant then goes on to a brief overview of every single person to put pen to parchment during these years. Then we receive an equally brief summary of art and architecture. Followed by a pretty good closing chapter. Essentially, Grant tries to cover too much material in too few pages to do a good job with any of it. If you know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about this period of Roman history then you might enjoy this introduction. Where Birley can be said to have too much depth in his biography of Hadrian, Grant's work is definitely a case of 'not enough depth'. Don't buy this book if you want strong biographical material on these 4 Emperors.
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