Briana Patterson's Reviews > The Roman Way

The Roman Way by Edith Hamilton
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's review
May 01, 2008

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bookshelves: school-reading, history, non-fiction
Read in April, 2008

I read this book as part of a Western Civilization class. Overall, I found it a quick, intelligent read that shouldn't take too long to sift through. The arguments are clear, albeit a bit tedious at times, and there are plenty of excerpts to get an idea of the subject matter.

However, Hamilton makes broad, sweeping assumptions of the Roman based on the writings of only a handful of writers. After all, I'm sure if 2 people were chosen to represent our period of life as Americans and our daily lives, as she chooses with Plautus and Terence, we'd probably have several reservations on those chosen to represent us.

Yet, her arguments do not lose complete substance. She also analyzes the reactions and trends to those writings, and in that, I think there is greater value. A picture of the people is not as well seen in the piece of writing itself, but in how that writing is recieved. I'm sure we've all been to a movie, where we walked out and wondered what on earth it was that the movie-makers were thinking. (The 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies might be a good example - but I digress.)

In Chapters IV-VI we gain a better picture of Cicero than we do of the Roman people. She goes through the trends of writing with a few other authors, and playwrights.

The best achievement in this work, had to have been her picture of the Roman woman, the Roman slave, and the Games. These pictures she seems to broaden her focus. I found her reasoning easy to follow

I still feel that when Edith Hamilton limited herself to a mere analysis of Roman literature, she may have given herself a case of tunnel vision. There is so much more to a society beyond the written word, after all.


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