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Becoming Roman: The Origins of Provincial Civilization in Gaul Paperback – 27 Jul 2000

4.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (27 July 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521789826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521789820
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 669,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

' … a bold and far-reaching study, and a particularly valuable addition to the corpus of literature on the Western Roman provinces.' The Times Literary Supplement

' … a stimulating and impressive achievement.' The Cambridge Archaeological Journal

'[Greg Woolf] has … produced a study that any serious student of the ancient world must read, and that is without question the best book on the western provinces written this decade.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

'… rich and versatile … The book combines an enormous amount of detailed research with a decade of profound reflection.' The Classical Review

'… many scholars will find it a useful source of reference … original and scholarly … it belongs on the reading list of the many undergraduate course-units to which it will be pertinent … invaluable introduction written for an intelligent audience with little prior knowledge … university library copies stand to become well thumbed by an audience spanning all levels. … a thought-provoking book that has much to teach authors on Roman Britain.' Journal of Roman Studies

Book Description

This is a study of the process conventionally termed Romanization through an analysis of the experience of Roman rule over the Gallic provinces in the period 200 BC–AD 300. It examines how and why Gallo-Roman civilisation emerged from the confrontation between the cultures of Gaul and the classical civilisation.


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At some point in the late 290s AD, an orator from the town of Autun in present day Burgundy made a speech before an imperial governor, perhaps the Perfect of the province of Lugdunensis I. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Paperback
There is a traditional and inaccurate view that following the conquest of Gaul in the middle of the first century bc, the entire country became Romanised pretty much instantly, indistinguishable from Rome itself and inhabited by Italian Romans living in villas.
Over the last decade or two this view has been shaken by more thorough and objective analysis of archeology, abnd this book is an excellent introduction to current thinking in this field. it is well referenced and clearly explained, and examines different strands of evidence - trade patterns, the rise of cities, the impact of a standing Rhine army on the development of a surplus-based, trading economy in the interior of Gaul, changing fashions as evidenced by epigraphy - to draw a picture of gradual Romanisation and the development of regional identities within Gaul in the late classical period that is at once more detailed and more believable than the simplistic models previously used. Highly recommended.
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An extraordinary work, not so much for the rich and detailed analysis, but for the relentless and growing sense of both arrogance and presumption on the part of Rome, the 'we're conquering you to civilise you as is our divine destiny'. As a Brit I cannot help but reflect upon our own Imperial past, where a similar presumption arose, likewise the wave of America Superior ("For God's sake, everyone knows you all want to be Americans" was the phrase most memorably uttered by a colleague.)

The shift from allegiance to a tribe, with a degree of self-determination by the individual and by the community to one of will and power, imposed from above, brought with it an emphasis on self-aggrandizement within a recognised and authorised hierarchy. This both promoted and sustained the hierarchy, and served the elite's purpose, by whom and for whom the hierarchy was constructed, viz: the transition from the seizure of wealth by conquest to seizure of wealth by tribute (taxation).

Sound familiar?

It is poignant to the point of being almost painful to read of 'humanitas', the grounds the Roman elite used to persuade themselves of their manifest destiny and right to conquer, as we witness current and recent wars to secure critical resources, justified to the public as 'humanitarian' intervention. Even interventions that truly seem to be 'civic minded' are driven by a sense of 'noblesse oblige', the obligation the superior and powerful have to intervene on behalf of the inferior.

That it all began, or was manifested so strongly, in an Empire two thousand years ago shows how powerful (sic) the appeal is of a system based on, well, power. Was there a 'cost' to this civilisation? How do you measure the impact of loss of free will?
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This is one of the best books I have read in which archaeological investigation informs historical analysis. I have given the review the title I have because Becoming Roman steers a far more nuanced course through issues surrounding imperialism than does so much recent writing on Roman Britain and Empire more generally. Much of the latter is imbued with modern postcolonial angst of a kind that makes it anachronistic or unbalanced in judgment about Roman motives and the realities of rule. Woolf writes convincingly about Roman beliefs that suggest genuine, even if from our perspective misplaced, conviction that empire was part of Rome's destiny. These beliefs are have to be 'read' and accommodated alongside motives that were more straightforwardly exploitative. Also, Woolf acknowledges that much of his focus is on élites – a common complaint made by writers whose attention is as much on the modern world as the ancient - but this is not at the expense of attention to non-élites where the evidence allows.

The fundamental position adopted - that Roman and Gallic identities were in opposition in the period of convulsive conquest but that this was followed by a period in which it is more helpful to think about rich and poor, military and civilian rather than Roman and Gallic - is argued for in quite complex but always illuminating detail.

There may well be other analyses of the history of Gaul that would rival this book. I simply do not have the relevant knowledge of what is available. However, having read quite a bit of the current mainstream academic literature about Roman Britain, I would say that this text is far more helpful in terms of its conceptual understanding. The situation of the provinces may have been very different but the kind of questions raised are readily transferable.

Excellent.
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Format: Paperback
Thought-provoking. Woolf takes you through how Gauls became Romans and what that actually meant in terms of cultural transitions. It would be nice to see him do something similar on Britain.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9f49e1d4) out of 5 stars 4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f5465c4) out of 5 stars Great content, could be better written 25 Nov. 2013
By Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I enjoyed the content of this book I found that the editing could have been better. I found myself rereading a lot of sentences not because the thought being expressed was difficult but because they were just worded awkwardly. Some points are made ponderously. Other times I thought, that's an interesting point, and wished for more, but the author decided to move on without elaborating. The choice of topics covered in the book was great (religion, economics, architecture, city creation, what it meant to 'become Roman' and the blending of two cultures) just wish it had been better written. I often use the bibliography to find other similar books to read but this book is 10-15 years old so will probably look elsewhere.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f46e7d4) out of 5 stars Rare (English) Work on Roman Gaul; Would Recommend 4 May 2013
By Jerome S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a rare product because it is frustratingly difficult to find English sources on Roman Gaul. Here, we finally get a book that is not ridiculously priced and where the Romanization of Gaul, the civilization of Gaul under Rome and even how it was like to be a Roman in Roman Gaul are explained. If anybody knows any other such decent sources on Roman Gaul (in English) please do tell.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f46e798) out of 5 stars How Southern Gaul became Roman 2 Nov. 2012
By Charles I. Jarowski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent, detailed description of how ancient tribes of Southern Gaul adopted Roman ways and culture and ultimately become Roman. Caesar formed some of his divisions from these newly Romanized people. He was thus able to conquer all of Gaul.
HASH(0xa02d35dc) out of 5 stars Well written 9 April 2015
By D. MCDONALD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written. Used it for a class
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