Ebookwormy1's Reviews > A Triumph For Flavius

A Triumph For Flavius by Caroline Dale Snedeker
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Apr 11, 2012

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bookshelves: history-creation-to-fall-of-rome, world-europe, fiction
Read in April, 2012 — I own a copy

Roman society for young students is a tricky assignment. I liked Snedeker's attempt, but it has some flaws that bothered me. I will cover the two examples that immediately come to mind after finishing the book.

1) From page 20, "Now the horse began to climb the Capitoline Hill. At the top was the most important temple of all Rome. The temple to Jupiter. The great altar stood in front of it. (paragraph) And here the Romans carried out their usual barbaric custom. At the temple top, in the presence of their god, they took the kings and leaders of Greece aside into a building and killed them as if they were cattle. (paragraph) Flavius was not at all upset. It was the custom. And to a Roman, customs were almost like religion. They could not be questioned. (paragraph) After this, the bulls were slaughtered or sacrificed and laid upon the altar fire."

Snedeker needs to decide whether or not she is going to editorialize. The usual course for good writing is not to tell the reader, but to show them your point. This is tricky with young children. I understand her desire to make it more clear, but in doing so, she is making several errors:

* The term 'barbaric' in the ancient world didn't refer to Romans (or Greeks). They were the 'civilized' nations who built cultures that achieved a standard of living beyond subsistence and allowed for specialization of professions that produced advancements in knowledge. To use this term about the Romans, as much as this practice is morally reprehensible, is historically inaccurate and muddies the context.
* Of course, Flavius was not upset. And, it was the custom, but it was not "almost like religion", it WAS religion!!! That is why it took place in the heart of Rome at a religious location. This was an act of worship.
* And finally, the bulls were not "slaughtered OR sacrificed", they were slaughtered AND sacrificed.

It is clear that Snedeker is uncomfortable with the ancient practice of human/ animal sacrifice. But in pointing it out in this way, she is applying the standards of our day and time onto the Romans. This is not good writing, and it undermines our ability to see clearly how different the Romans are and how they thought and acted differently than we do today. The fact is that individual lives were not VALUABLE in the ancient world like they are considered valuable by Western culture today, and the reason they are considered valuable by Western culture today is because CHRISTIANITY eclipsed the Roman empire years later.

2)From page 31, "The twelve laws has been given to Rome long ago and were as sacred as a Bible."
* At this time period, the Bible did not exist as we know it today. The Jewish Old Testament was almost complete during the time of the Republic. Jesus Christ had NOT YET BEEN BORN, and the New Testament was only in the mind of God Himself. What were the twelve laws? Presenting them, in all their confusion would be a better illustration than comparing them to the Bible.

In conclusion, this projection of terms and descriptions commonplace in our day undermines the setting of the work, and creates confusion. If our students cannot understand how DIFFERENT Rome was from how we think today, they will not be able to understand the flow of history. I do not deny this is a tricky balance, especially for younger students, but I was disappointed in this book and preferred that Snedeker simply avoid subjects that are too difficult to handle without contaminating the period. That being said, even with the disjointed presentation, I did think the book had some value, about 3 stars, though I wouldn't consider it worthy of purchasing.

And yet, what other literature is there for elementary students set in the Roman Republic? If you have any recommendations, I would like to know of them.
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