From Augustus to Constantine, the Roman Empire in the Near East expanded step by step, southward to the Red Sea and eastward across the Euphrates to the Tigris. In a remarkable work of interpretive history, Fergus Millar shows us this world as it was forged into the Roman provinces of Syria, Judaea, Arabia, and Mesopotamia. His book conveys the magnificent sweep of history as well as the rich diversity of peoples, religions, and languages that intermingle in the Roman Near East. Against this complex backdrop, Millar explores questions of cultural and religious identity and ethnicity—as aspects of daily life in the classical world and as part of the larger issues they raise.
As Millar traces the advance of Roman control, he gives a lucid picture of Rome’s policies and governance over its far-flung empire. He introduces us to major regions of the area and their contrasting communities, bringing out the different strands of culture, communal identity, language, and religious belief in each. The Roman Near East makes it possible to see rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, and eventually the origins of Islam against the matrix of societies in which they were formed. Millar’s evidence permits us to assess whether the Near East is best seen as a regional variant of Graeco-Roman culture or as in some true sense oriental.
A masterful treatment of a complex period and world, distilling a vast amount of literary, documentary, artistic, and archaeological evidence—always reflecting new findings—this book is sure to become the standard source for anyone interested in the Roman Empire or the history of the Near East.
A grand book on a grand topic… To do justice to such a topic, one needs not only a complete understanding of how the Roman Empire functioned, but also mastery of the extensive, complex, scattered, and difficult evidence for the local cultures… Very few ancient historians possess such mastery… This is a book that only Fergus Millar could have written. The breadth of expertise displayed, and the willingness to view the history of a major region of the Roman Empire from the perspective of the provinces rather than the imperial center, are hallmarks of Millar’s work, and are impossible to overpraise. There can be no question that The Roman Near East will be for a long time to come the standard work on the subject.
This learned, honest, and carefully constructed work studies the various regions of the [eastern] empire and their inhabitants. It asks who they actually were…and how far they had a local culture distinct from the Greco-Roman. The results are surprising… The book is full of original interpretations… [Readers] will be richly rewarded.
This work has been long awaited and will fill a very great need. It is an authoritative synoptic view of the entire Roman Near East, with reference to the most important recent discussions and discoveries.
[An] extraordinary book… Millar’s book provides above all the essential political, religious, and cultural framework for understanding how the three most enduring religious legacies of the ancient world for the modern world…developed in a context that was neither Eastern nor Western.
This pioneering volume follows a steady stream of other important contributions by the noted Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford, but its unique character and subject may make it his most durable and popular work. It transcends a mere political history of the region by exploring in depth the cultural and linguistic diversity of the population that inhabited the Near East…This is indisputably now the standard and essential guide for the Roman era in English for both scholars and students of the Near East.
Destined to become a classic.
- 624 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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