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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-25 11:05
Secret Women's Business
The Thesmophoriazusae (Or The Women's Festival) - Aristophanes

I actually quite like Aristophanes, not because he is a brilliant playwright, though since eleven of his works have survived 2500 years I really do not think that I am in a position to comment on his ability. Obviously there is a reason, and probably a good reason, not only why his plays have managed to survive, but that his plays managed to survive a somewhat puritan Dark Ages where pretty much anything that wasn't Christian was discarded. Okay, that is probably a bit too general since the Catholic Church didn't really begin banning books until after the Catholic Reformation (and despite my respect for my former Church History Lecturer, I still somewhat disagree with his assessment of the Catholic Reformation).

Aristophanes' comedies stand out in two ways: first of all they give as an insight into the common people of Athens of the 4th century, and also gives us an understanding, and some very good examples, of the vernacular language. It is the difference between reading a book written in proper English and a book that relies heavily upon a region's slang (such as Australia: for instance, the word <i>sook</i> and <i>prima-donna</i> mean the same thing, but in Australia we use the former, where as the latter is probably a more polite and correct usage). The second thing about Aristophanes' plays is that they are incredibly imaginative, and in some cases quite fantastic. Moreso, the plays are actually pretty funny and remains so despite the 2500 year gap and the language complications. Okay, a lot of the humour (such as the puns) are lost, however the Barrett translation of his works is still very good (and he even manages to use a rhyme scheme in places, noting that English is probably the only language, at least what I know of, that uses rhyme as a poetical form).

The Thesmophoriazusae is one of those interesting, and imaginative, plays that also gives us a bit of an insight into Classical Athens. Remember that the tragedies are written in a stylised language, and people do not, and have not, transacted like that. People in Elizabethan England did not talk to each other using blank verse and Shakespearian language. While the vernacular was no doubt a lot different to what it is now, they still used it. The only time such high form language would have been used would have been in diplomacy, and even then I can't imagine Queen Elizabeth and the King of France speaking to each other (or even writing to each other) in blank verse.

The play is set around a festival known as the Thesmophoria, which was a woman's only festival that lasted three days at a place known as the Pynx. Having read this play I have now learnt that the Pynx was the location of the assembly (I always thought it was the Areopagous, but that was the high court). Type Pynx into Google Images to get an idea of what it looked like, and I have also managed to locate it on the Google Maps image of Athens. It is located to the west of the Acropolis just to the southwest of the intersection of Dimitriou Aiginitou and Apostolou Pavlou. From what I can remember of Athens, there is a promenade that runs along the south side of the Acropolis, and then another path to the west heads uphill, past the Areopogaus, and then curves around to the north of the Acropolis (with a gate that leads to the Agora). Anyway, you do not take that path, but actually continue along the promenade to the west, and it will then curve to the north, but you should be able to find it (and if you don't ask somebody, they do tend to be quite helpful in Greece). Okay, that is enough of me showing off how well I know Athens after spending only a week there, so now onto the play.

 

Pynx and Acropolis

 

The play is about Euripides and how he learns that the women of Athens are upset about his portrayal of them, so he decides to sneak into the Thesmophoria in an attempt to convince the women that he was not all that bad. However, his plan involved a young Athenian who had yet grown a beard (all Athenian men had beards, some quite long at that) to disguise himself as a woman and sneak into the festival. However, this young Athenian didn't want anything to do with it so he gets his brother-in-law, the foul mouthed Mnesilochus, to do it instead. Obviously getting Mnesilochus to act like a woman was never going to work, and sure enough he ends up getting found out and tied to a stake to be executed. However Euripides comes in and convinces them (through a fine sounding argument) to release him.

 

 

This play is clearly about women and their role in Athenian society. It is not incredibly deep, but it is clear that the women, despite their lower status in the society, did have some freedom, and also the right to religious celebration (as is clear with the Thesmophoria). These women though are compared to two women from antiquity, namely the model wife that is Penelope, and Euripides' presentation of Helen. Sections of the play actually recite Euripides' Helen, and while I will not go into details of that play here, I will simply mention that the purpose behind Helen was to redeem her in the eyes of the Athenians. Euripides borrowed from a legend that had the Helen of Troy as nothing more than a mischievous phantom, and that the real Helen had been kidnapped by the king of Egypt and that was were she spent the war. In Euripides' mind, Helen was innocent of the charges laid against her.

 

 

This is why I find the play rather strange because Euripides is being accused of being anti-women, but it is quite clear from his writings that he is not. Of the plays that I have read, particularly the ones involving women, they are the tragic figures. Consider Medea, Hecabe, Helen, and Iphangenia. They were all innocent of any crimes, yet suffered simply because they were women. In fact, with regards to Medea, it is Jason that is considered to be the antagonist by tossing Medea out of his bed for a younger, more influential, woman.

 

However, the charges that Euripides (and in a way Aristophanes) is that the women of then modern Athens, were nothing like those women in Euripides' plays. In fact they came nowhere close to them in virtue. Remember, at this time Athens was in the middle of a very long and drawn out war, which means that a lot of the young men were off fighting leaving only the women, the children, and the elderly at home in Athens. It is suggested here, and it is the bait that Euripides uses to free Mnesilochus from the Thesmophoria, namely that while the cat is away then the mice are at play. Of course, you don't want anybody telling the husbands what their women were up to when they returned, and in a way this is a reflection of the Orestia, despite that play being written prior to the Peloponesian War.

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/348724269
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review 2015-09-27 05:24
A Game of Rome
The Annals of Imperial Rome - Tacitus,Michael Grant

As I was reading this for the second time I simply could not believe how brutal this piece of literature was, and what is more impressive is that it is based on real life events. It is authors like Tacitus that make me want to throw modern historical fiction into the fire place. In fact he is the one reason that I simply won't write historical fiction because he has set the standard so high that at this stage in my life I simply could not even think of equalling, let alone exceeding, his mastery of story telling. In fact, why don't historians write like Tacitus these days? Why do that have to be so academic and dry when you could write a rollicking good story without having to create historical fiction.

 

Actually, I have to say that this story is actually more brutal than A Game of Thrones. Consider this, you have Agrippina, who is almost a carbon copy of:

 

Cersai

 

 

 

Nero:

 

King Joffrey

 

 

Though I have to admit that Nero was nowhere near as psychotic as Joffrey was at his age. Hey, you could even consider Arminius to basically be this guy:

 

 

Khal Drogo

 

And if you like the fact that [author:George R R Martin] has yet to finish his epic then the same goes with Tacitus because this is how it ends:

 

Then, as his lingering death was very painful, he turned to Demetrius...

 

Okay, unlike Martin, Tacitus had originally completed his work (though this is disputed because some suggested that he died before he could finish it), but unfortunately we have lost a large chunk of the text. In fact the text that was handed down to us was in two chunks, with a large portion dealing with the emperor Calligula missing (as well as the last section which deals with Nero's removal from the throne and the beginning of the Jewish War). Okay, granted, you don't have a civil war involving multiple claimants to the throne, but you get that in the sequel, The Histories.

 

This is one of those books that I could probably read again, and again, and write heaps on, though I will try to restrain myself in this review and go into more detail in my blog. Anyway, I will touch on a couple of things here, namely what I call the bush wars (that is the wars on the fringe on the empire) and the political manoeuvrings in the capitol city.

 

The Emperors

The Annals, or at least what we have, deal with the history of Rome across three emperors. Tacitus begins at the end of Augustus' reign, namely because he felt that there was already quite a lot written about him that he didn't need to go over the same ground. Actually, even when he was writing, there was still a huge amount of respect towards Augustus and one of the main purposes of his book was to show how cretinous some of these later emperors were (though as I have mentioned we are missing the reign of Calligula).

 

 

If there is one thing that we can say about the emperors and that is where power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Okay, Claudius wasn't necessarily corrupt in the same way that Tiberius and Nero where, but that was because he was actually a very simply person. I don't want to say idiot because Claudius actually had some physical disability – Nero was the idiot, particularly since he considered himself a great musician and anybody who said otherwise would have their life-span cut considerably short. In fact there is one part where Tacitus mentions that Nero was competing in a competition and the judges wanted to award him first prize before the competition even began (probably so they didn't have to put up with his singing) but Nero insisted that he be put on a level playing field with everybody else. Mind you, Nero's idea of a level playing field was 'you give me first prize or you die, but you have to listen to me first'. Okay, when he did finish he was rewarded with a standing ovation, but once again when you have a psychotic emperor on the throne that is basically the only thing that you can do after he finishes playing his lute.

 

 

I don't want to say too much about Claudius here because I will speak further on him below, except to mention that he was a rather simple person and easily swayed. In fact he wasn't the type of person to make up his own mind but rather to resort to those whom he trusted, which meant that it was always a game to get his ear and his respect. Mind you Claudius didn't claw his way onto the throne but rather was put there by those with vested interests in seeing him there.

 

 

As for Tiberius, the other emperor whom we have a substantial section preserved, what we see is a slow descent into madness. Remember that Tiberius was Augustus' anointed one, and while Augustus seemed to be pretty steady throughout his reign (despite the fact that he had his sister and mother arrested for sexual immorality – but then again Augustus was intent on promoting family values among the ruling class), Tiberius didn't remain as such. I suspect that Augustus had a much stronger willpower than many of the other emperors, though we should also remember that all of the writers that we do have seem to heap praise upon him.

 

 

Tiberius didn't remain that way though, though I have to admit much of what I am writing here is also coming out of Suetonius, or at least what I can remember. What I do know is that in the later years of his reign he ended up retreating from Rome to spend the rest of his life on an island indulging in sensual pleasures.

 

Political Games

I remember my Classical Studies lecturer telling us one that in Imperial Rome there was suddenly only so far you could climb the ladder before you hit the ceiling. Okay, he was talking about a later period (namely the period in which Tacitus was writing – in fact I remember another one of them mentioning how they should study Tacitus and I blew him off in favour of Plutarch – how wrong I was, but then again I was still young and relatively unread) but from what I have gathered from reading Tacitus the idea of climbing onto the Emperor's throne was not necessarily the top of the ladder. Well, it probably depended on the emperor, but it is clear that during this period even though the emperor may have had the final say, the emperor was not necessarily the ultimate power.

 

 

The reason I suggest this is because it is not so much gaining the throne, but rather gaining the ear of the emperor. The political manoeuvrings were more in a way of gaining the emperor's favour, and turning the emperor against your enemies. Further it was not just men involved in this manoeuvring but the women as well. In fact one of the most powerful people in this period was Agrippina (though she ended up getting murdered by Nero, namely because she had become so powerful that she was a threat – she had already dispatched one emperor to put Nero on the throne).

 

 

I mentioned how Tiberius retired to an island to engage in sensual pleasures, and this was namely so that he was out of the way so that the senate could orchestrate their plans. That did not necessarily mean that Tiberius was not in charge, he was just ruling through proxies since he had other interests to pursue. However, as they say, when the cats away then the mice would play, and the mice certainly did play a very bloodthirsty game.

 

 

As for Claudius, well, as I suggested, he was a simpleton. Sure, he was the emperor but in name only. The game during his reign was to gain his ear and his trust so that one could rule through him. In fact Claudius never made a decision but rather was swayed by the people he trusted, which is why his wives were so powerful. In fact Agrippina got to where she was by convincing Claudius to dispatch his current wife and to marry her (and after getting him to name her child Nero heir, proceeded to dispatch him – with a feather no less).

 

The Bush Wars

I want to finish off this review by talking about what I call the bush wars. The political manoeuvrings in Rome are punctuated by the wars on the fringes of the empire. When I say fringes I am really only talking about the North and the East (since the Atlantic Ocean was to the west and the Sahara desert to the south). Rome never got over the defeat of the legions in the Teutoberg Forest – meaning that they never conquered Germany. Sure, they managed to hold the frontier, but the Germans would regularly raid the outer provinces while Rome would regularly send troops into Germany to suppress the tribes.

 

 

To the East lay the empire of Parthia, another empire that they could never effectively conquer. Sure, during the 2nd century Trajan did manage to conquer Parthia, but he never managed to hold the region. In a way Rome had grown so big that it simply was not able to grow any further. This happens with many empires because the further away from the centre the more difficult it is to control. It is not just native populations revolting against the rule, but also corrupt governors and also difficulties with reinforcing the troops. In fact it can be quite dangerous to send too many troops to the front because by doing so creates opportunities for revolts to arise in other parts of the empire.

 

 

The one thing I love about reading about the wars in the East is the kingdom of Armenia. Since my family originally went to England from there in the 19th Century I have always had a soft spot for the country and it somehow thrills me to read about how this little (or I probably should say not so little because it was quite large during that period) has been around since the times of Alexander the Great. Back in those days Armenia played a very important role as a buffer state between Rome and Parthia.

 

Oh, I almost forgot, we also hear about Boadecea here – the Briton queen who raised an army and fought against the Roman occupation (and was ultimately defeat, namely because while fighting the Romans they weren't able to plant their crops and as such began to starve). Despite the fact that England has inherited a lot of its Roman heritage, there is still a statue of Boadecea standing prominently outside the houses of Parliament.

 

Queen Boadicea

 

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/920058598
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review 2015-08-26 13:51
The life of the party
Symposium - Plato,Robin A.H. Waterfield

You've really got to love the way Plato writes philosophy. Whereas everybody else simply writes what is in effect a work of non-fiction explaining some ideas, Plato seems to have the habit of inserting them into a story. Okay, he may not be the only philosopher that uses a story to convey his philosophical ideas, but he certainly stands out from his contemporaries, who simply wrote treatises. I've read a few of his works, and he always seems to structure it in a similar way, usually beginning with a conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with the ideas that he is trying to explore, but rather idle chit-chat.

 

 

The Symposium stands out from his over works because the discussion occurs during a party (nice one Plato). In fact as I was reading this I could almost imagine the exact same scenario happening today. A group, who had had a pretty heavy night of drinking the night before decide to take it a little easier tonight, order a pizza, grab a couple of six packs of beer, and sit in the lounge room for a quiet one while still nursing the remnants of a hangover. Instead of turning on the television they decide to have a conversation. However, as the night wears on there is a knock at the door, and upon opening it we find the guy that we all know with two bottles of Jack Daniels in his hands who invites himself into the discussion. However this guy is hardly the philosophical type, and his discussion simply turns into how wonderful he thinks this other guy happens to be. Then there is another knock at the door, and as it happens he has invited all his friends over, and that quiet night ends up turning into another free-for all. Come morning, one of the guys from the original group picks himself off the couch, and in the haze of a hangover sees that three of the original group are still up and are talking about something completely different. However he is way too hungover to join in so he makes his way home.

 

 

That's basically the plot of the Symposium.

 

However Plato simply isn't telling a story about the party, he is exploring the idea of love. In fact it is suggested that what he is actually doing is recounting the discussion that occurred during an actual Symposium years before (and from the last couple of paragraphs it appears that the person who was telling the story was Aristodemus – whoever he happens to be – but he is telling it to another guy named Apollodorus, who I suspect is then telling Plato). This book is really interesting on so many levels. Not only are we allowed to listen into a discussion between Greeks about the nature of love, we are also given a pretty detailed glimpse of what went on during a symposium (or at least one that initially wasn't supposed to be a drunken free for all, but then again I'm sure we have all experienced something similar in our lives). Not only is it a work of philosophy, it is a work that gives us a very clear picture of the Ancient Athenian culture.

 

Before I continue I must say one thing – Socrates is a freak. The book opens with Aristodemus meeting up with Socrates and then Socrates invites himself along to a party at Agathon's house. However when they arrive Socrates doesn't enter, he just stands outside staring into space. The ensuring conversation goes a little like this:

 

AGATHON: Hey, weren't you with Socrates?

ARISTODEMUS: Yeah, he's just outside.

AGATHON: What's he doing out there, invite him in!

ARISTODEMUS: I suspect he's contemplating the nature of the universe.

AGATHON: There's plenty of time to do that, I'm going to bring him in.

ARISTODEMUS: Don't bother. You know what he's like. He'll come in once he's had his revelation.

AGATHON: What! He's still out there! This is getting ridiculous, I'm bringing him inside!

ARISTODEMUS: I wouldn't worry too much about him Agathon. You know how he exists in his own little world.

 

Come to think of it, he sound's like that cat that stands at the open door, but really has no intention of going inside, or even staying outside.

 

The cat at the pearly gates

 

 

However, as I have indicated (and as many of you probably already know) this book is more than a story about what happened at Agathon's party (though I am sure many of us have had the experience where somebody we know comes along and gives us a detailed account of the party they went to the other night – though it is no where near as good as actually being there) but an exposition of love. Each of the main characters gives a dissertation of their idea of love, and as is expected, Socrates' dissertation is left until last. However I am sort of wandering whether the conversation occurred how it has been reported, or whether Plato is altering the events to suit his own purpose (I can't remember the intricate details, or the philosophical discussion I had at any of the parties I went to – all I can remember is talking about George Bush). For instance, we have Pausanius talk about how there are two kinds of love – physical and celestial. In a way there is the base love that we humans experience, a love that is expressed in physical actions (such as sex). However there is also spiritual love, that which is expressed in spiritual actions (such as self-sacrifice).

 

 

I should pause here and state that my view of love unfortunately is tarnished by my Christian upbringing. I say that because the way I view love is that it exists entirely on the spiritual level. To me the love that Pausanius describes as physical love is actually little more than lust. However, Socrates does suggest that love is the desire to possess that which is beautiful, which does fall into the category that Pausanius describes. In my mind, love is not so much a feeling but rather expressed through actions such as self-sacrifice. Love is also unconditional – it doesn't play favourites, which means that it is impossible to love one person and no another (though due to our human nature, and our natural instinct to play favourites, unconditional love is a state that is very difficult to achieve).

 

 

Now I wish to say a few things about my view on desire and sex. In my mind sex has two purposes – a means to stimulate the pleasure centres of the brain (much like a drug) and to procreate. The reason that it stimulates the pleasure centres is because it is a mechanism to encourage us to procreate. However we won't know about its pleasurable aspects unless we actually engage in it, which is why many of us develop this desire for members of the opposite sex. These desires exist to encourage us to have sex so that we might perpetuate the species. Note that I don't speak about 'falling in love' simply because I do not believe that these biological desires have anything to do with love – once again Hollywood is lying to us.

 

 

Anyway, lets get on to Socrates: Socrates describes love as being the desire to possess that which is beautiful. In a way what he is suggesting is that if we possesses that which is beautiful then we are happy. In my mind Socrates is confusing love with happiness, but let us continue. He starts off by suggesting that this love begins on a physical level where we see a single person who we believe is beautiful and we desire to possess that person. This possession is fulfilled in the sexual act. However he suggests that to seek true beauty we simply cannot rest on one person, but we must begin to see the beauty in many people. As such our desire for that one person begins to diminish as we begin to see everybody else as being just as beautiful as this one person. However, he then takes the next step and suggests that we begin to move away from physical beauty to come to see the mental beauty (that is the intelligence) of individual people. As such we begin to lose interest in those whose beauty is not intellectual to focus on those who are. As such physical beauty begins to take a back seat. From there we move on to understand absolute beauty, namely that we can see beauty in everything without differentiation.

 

 

This absolute is quite interesting – Plato rejects relativism. In his mind there must be an absolute because the universe simply cannot exist without one. A relative world is a world that is chaotic and has no form, but by looking at the world he can see that there is an absolute form, but he realises that everybody sees these forms differently. Thus his quest is the search for the absolute, and to move beyond relativism and the world of the opinion to try to understand and grasp the absolute truth. This the the goal of this book, to reject the relativism of physical beauty and to seek out the absolute of the celestial beauty.

 

However, he does something really interesting – once Socrates finishes his speech in comes Alcibaides and brings the entire discussion back to reality. Not only does he interject into the discussion, he turns it completely on its head by telling everybody how wonderful he thinks Socrates is (he lusts after Socrates, but Socrates won't have a bar of it). Plato understands the real world, and this is what Alcibaides represents. While we may begin to ascend the ladder towards our grasp of absolute beauty, things will happen that will bring us crashing back down to reality. As I said, Socrates was a freak, which is why he was able to rebuff Alcibaides' advances.

 

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1371344385
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review 2015-07-05 05:18
A brief glimpse of the culture of Rome
An Introduction To Roman History, Literature, And Antiquities - Alexander Petrie

Unfortunately this is not one of those books that you can simply go down to your local bookshop and buy off the shelf because I suspect that it is very long out of print. From what I gather from the introduction (and that is not taking into account that the entire book is an introduction) is that it is a companion to a Latin Reader and from reading the book it is quite clear that this is the case. What I found interesting was the number of Latin words that are used in the book, not in that chunks of the book are written in Latin, but rather when Petrie is describing an aspect of Ancient Rome, he will give us the Latin word that corresponds with it . For example, he will refer to the night guards, and give us the Latin word vigiliae, or refer to the winter camp, and say hiberna. What is this does is also gives us glimpses on how words in our own language – such as vigilant and hibernate – have come about.

 

The book is also interspersed with black and white pictures of statues, coins, and other works of art which also assist us in understanding the nature of Roman culture. One particular picture was a photo of the Forum taken around the time the book was written, and it was fascinating see the Forum back in the early 20th Century. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a replication of that picture, however I have found this picture:

 

The Forum

 

 

Another fascinating thing that I have discovered about Ancient Rome is that we have a reasonably good idea as to what some of the major figures at the time looked like, thanks in part (actually not in part, but primarily because) of the life like statues that have been preserved. For instance, here is a statue of Julius Ceaser:

 

Julius Caeser

 

 

and here is a statue of Mark Antony:

Mark Antony

and just because I feel that I should include him, here is a statue of one of Rome's greatest orators, Marcus Cicero:

 

Marcus Cicero

 

 

Actually, there is a statue of Cicero standing outside the law courts in modern Rome, but that is beside the point.

 

While writing a book on the history of Rome can be quite a task, it is somewhat simpler to do than to also include in this short book an outline of Roman culture. The reason I say that is because we are dealing with a civilisation that was around for something like over a thousand years. To put it in perspective, the attitudes of Shakespearian England are substantially different to the attitudes of modern England, and in fact that attitudes towards marriage were different at the beginning of the 20th Century than they are now – for instance people did not live in defacto relationships in 1906, where as they are part an parcel of our society today. As such it is difficult at best (and impossible at worst) to be able to have a simple outline on the aspects of Roman society, and in the end you will only be able to capture a small part of the society, and even then there is the danger that we end up mixing two different eras due to the lack of information that we have (for instance, the Forum that we can walk around now is certainly not the Forum that Julius Ceaser and Marcus Cicero walked around – at the time the Colosseum did not exist). However, after reading this book I have now a much better understanding of the Roman political system as it existed at the later part of the Republican period, and this is something that I wish to discuss.

 

First of all Rome was not a democracy - far from it. Rather it was a Republic, which meant that it exists under the rule of law as opposed to the rule of a tyrant (though that changed with the ascension of Augustus Ceaser). Roman society was a very stratified society with four distinct classes of citizens, the patricians, the plebians, the resident foreigners, and the slaves. At the beginning only patricians could hold ruling titles, but after numerous struggles the plebians were able to attain such ranks, and then the resident foreigners were also given citizenship (not in the sense that they moved to Rome for a better life, but because the Romans invaded their territory, meaning that they had no choice but to live under their rule). Anyway, there are a number of parts that went to make up the Roman government, being the Senate, the Consuls, the Quaestors, the Praetors, the Tribunes, the Aediles, the Censor, and finally the Comitia.

 

 

Senate: this was the highest body in the Roman government, and while initially they acted as advisors to the king, and later to the Consuls, in time it became the chief legislative body. The interesting thing though is that they could not introduce legislation, they could only enact it, which meant that another arm of the government had to introduce the legislation. They would then debate it and in turn enact it. However, other arms could also enact legislation, which would lead to conflict. The senate was elected by the Comitia, but once elected to the Senate, you were elected for life.

 

Consul: there were two of these characters and they initially took over from the king. The reason that there were two was because the constitution did not allow power to be concentrated into the hands of one person (expect during emergencies, and then one could be appointed dictator). The Consuls in time simply became the commander in chief of the armies as other aspects of the government came about in an attempt to dilute the power. As the empire grew, the office of pro-consul was created so that foreign wars were able to continue under a single general without the need of returning to Rome to attempt to be elected for a second or third term. The term was for a year, and the most terms held by a single person was seven terms (they they were generally not concurrent) that being Marcius. Marcius died halfway through his seventh term.

 

 

Quaestor: these guys basically held the keys to the Roman treasury. It would be wrong to consider them with public servants in the sense that we understand them, but the closest that we could equate them to our time would the the members of the Federal Reserve. From what I gather the role of the Quaestor was to set economic policy, and also to facilitate the collection of the taxes (though they were substantially more important than a simple tax collector).

 

Praetor: these guys were the equivalent of our Supreme court judges. They pretty much held supreme judicial authority, however if one was convicted under a Praetor one had the right of appeal to the Comitia, which is sort of like appealing to the populace at large. We do not have a system like that in our society, though some times we wonder if the modern media does act like a defacto court.

 

Tribunes: We do not have an equivalent position in our society to the tribunes. Basically the tribunes represented the plebians, the common people, and held the power of veto if they believed that the legislation was not in the best interests of the people. We see this in action in the Shakespearian play Coriolanus, where the election of Coriolanus to the position of Consul is vetoed by the Tribunes, who then put forward a counter proposal of exiling him, which is then adopted. The office of tribune is one of the major reasons that the Roman Republic came to a constitutional crisis which resulted in its collapse and in turn the rise of the Imperium (and the emperor then took the role of the Tribune).

 

Aediles: From what I gather this role is pretty much a ceremonial role and was more connected with religious observance than anything else. Despite this, Rome was not really a religious nation. Rather it was more of a secular nation, though they did have their gods and their religious festivals. However, when you consider the persecutions of the Christians during the Empire you will discover that this is more of a secular and a state reaction rather than a religious reaction.

 

Censor: It is suggested that this was the highest office in the land, and is probably the equivalent of the chief public servant. However, he had no legislative power but rather ran the public service. He performed functions such as collecting census data (from which we get our word census) and also was pretty much in charge of the treasury. Sort of like all of the public servants rolled into one.

 

Comitia: Now this group is pretty much comprised of the citizens of Rome, and as such is very similar to the electorate of the modern day. In fact, the way the Comitia voted was similar to the way that we vote in our modern democracies, in that the Comitia were divided into groups, and the groups would vote as a whole. The Comitia would elect the various positions and would also act as the court of highest appeal.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/841950865
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review 2014-12-04 21:02
In Plain Sight by H.L. Stafford

Could something as simple as a genetic marker explain the myths and tales of ancient heroes? This is a question that Abbey O’Rourke must face as she uncovers the secrets of her family’s lineage and their telepathic abilities in H.L. Stafford’s new book, “In Plain Sight”.

 

Abbey, a young nurse in Chicago, finds herself at the center of a prophecy thousands of years old when she meets Michael in the middle of a snow storm. The two share a profound connection which sets her on a journey of recognizing her own amazing abilities, the incredible new world they open her up to and the dangers that come along with such power. Action-packed, suspenseful and romantic, “In Plain Sight” is the perfect winter read.  

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