In this week’s episode I talk to University of Massachusetts’ professor of ancient history Carlin Barton about her book Roman Honor: The Fire in the Bones. I discovered her book after I finished our massive series on the origins and decline of traditional honor in the West and I wished I had it as a source during my research. It’s one of the best books I’ve read, and every time I re-read it, I’ve gotten new insights. Professor Barton and I have a 90-minute conversation about honor and the role it played in the lives of the Romans.
- What honor meant for the ancient Romans (and how it’s completely different from our modern concept of honor)
- Why actions and exerting the “will” on the world was an important part of Roman honor
- The difference between a “male” and a “man” to ancient Romans and how a male gained the status of a man
- The role male expandability played in the Roman concept of manliness
- How the Romans handled defeat
- How Romans found wearing a psychological “mask” liberating
- Why honor declined and philosophies like Stoicism took their place in Ancient Rome
- What lessons us moderns can take from the Roman concept of honor
- And much more!
Like I said, Roman Honor is a fantastic book and highly recommend picking up a copy. It’s not an easy read, but a worthwhile one. The footnotes are just as and sometimes even more interesting than the main text. It’s crazy expensive because of its limited run, but I’ve gotten my money’s worth from it and then some.
Despite the length of my conversation with Dr. Barton, I had to cut out half the questions I wanted to ask! Hope to have her back on again to talk more about honor, and another area of her expertise — Roman gladiators.
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Last updated: October 1, 2015