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5.0 out of 5 stars great read
This was a brilliant read. I used to love going to bed just to reenter this incredible world brought to life so vividly by this Dutch Academic! I am not remotely interested in whether some tiny facts like dimensions of stadium are wrong. WHo cares! The book capture my imagination and has made me want to know much more about Roman life. Loved it! Bought other copies for my...
Published 10 months ago by Jockytimberloch

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing book about a fascinating topic
Fik Meijer was a professor of ancient history at the University of Amsterdam 1992-2007. His book about chariot racing in the Roman Empire was published in Dutch in 2004. The English version (translated by Liz Waters) appeared in 2010.

The main text is divided into 11 chapters, which cover different topics and events. In the beginning of the book there is a...
Published on 28 Aug 2012 by Torben Retboll


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5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 29 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Chariot Racing in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
This was a brilliant read. I used to love going to bed just to reenter this incredible world brought to life so vividly by this Dutch Academic! I am not remotely interested in whether some tiny facts like dimensions of stadium are wrong. WHo cares! The book capture my imagination and has made me want to know much more about Roman life. Loved it! Bought other copies for my friends for Christmas.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing book about a fascinating topic, 28 Aug 2012
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Torben Retboll (Thailand) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Chariot Racing in the Roman Empire (Hardcover)
Fik Meijer was a professor of ancient history at the University of Amsterdam 1992-2007. His book about chariot racing in the Roman Empire was published in Dutch in 2004. The English version (translated by Liz Waters) appeared in 2010.

The main text is divided into 11 chapters, which cover different topics and events. In the beginning of the book there is a chronology. At the end there are notes, a bibliography, and an index. There is also a list of Roman racetracks and a glossary with technical terms.

In the beginning of the book there are two maps which show the Roman Empire and the city of Rome. In addition, there are 22 black-and-white illustrations placed throughout the book (19 photos and 3 drawings).

At first glance this book seems to be well-researched, well-written, and well-produced. If you take a closer look, you will find that this is not true at all. There are many flaws. For reasons of space I can only mention some of them here:

John D. Muccigrosso reviewed the book for the internet magazine Bryn Mawr Classical Review (2010.11.26). He has two general objections:

(1) Chapter 11 about the Ben Hur movie seems out of place; and (2) there is (almost) no connection between the illustrations and the main text.

Muccigrosso mentions three errors:

(1) The fourth century "AD" instead of BC (page 29); (2) "Circus Maxentius" instead of Circus of Maxentius (pp. 37, 47-48, map of Rome); and (3) Meijer refers to the Roman underclass as "Plebeians" (pp. 2, 107, 114).

Muccigrosso notes one unfortunate choice: Emperor "Heliogabalus" is better known as Elagabalus (pp. 47, 66, 125).

Philip Matyszak reviewed the book for the website UNRV Roman History (October 2010). He has three general objections:

(1) The general structure of the book is unfortunate; (2) Juvenal's famous complaint in Satire # 8 about the high earnings of the charioteers is not quoted; and (3) the author's personal opinions about the social relations of the Roman Empire are not always backed up the evidence.

These critical remarks are merely the beginning. To them I will add the following observations:

(1) Several dates in the chronology are wrong: "Galba, Otho, and Vitellius 69" instead of Galba 68-69; Otho and Vitellius 69; "Antoninus Pius 136-61" instead of 138-61; and "Tiberius II Constantine 578-83" instead of 578-82.

Sometimes the dates in the chronology and the text do not agree. The chronology says Commodus 180-192 (true); on page 122 we have 180-191 (false). The chronology says Zeno 474-491 (true); on page 138 the year 489 is defined as "the penultimate year of the reign of Emperor Zeno," implying Zeno's reign ended in the following year, 490 (false).

For Heliogabalus, better known as Elagabalus, the text gives two different dates: page 47 says 218-222 (true), while page 125 says 218-223 (false).

(2) The map of the Roman Empire shows Cyrene on the coast of North Africa, but Cyrene is inland, about 20 km from the coast.

(3) Describing the Nika revolt of 532 the author says: "Not even the Hagia Sophia ... built there by Emperor Constantine was spared" (page 9). The first church - dedicated in 360 during the reign of Constantius II - was destroyed after riots in 404. The second church - dedicated in 415 during the reign of Theodosius II - was the one that was destroyed in 532; it has nothing to do with Constantine.

(4) On page 51 Constantine is mentioned again: "As his center of government he chose the city he had founded himself, Constantinople..." The city on the Bosporos was founded by Greek pioneers ca. 600 BC. They called it Byzantium. In AD 324 Constantine announced that he was going to move the capital from Rome to Byzantium. Six years later (AD 330) the new capital was dedicated, and the name was changed to Constantinople. Oddly enough, the first name (Byzantium) is mentioned on the very same page (and on page 5).

(5) On page 44 Meijer mentions an Egyptian obelisk: "In 1587 ... Pope Sixtus V transferred the obelisk to the Piazza del Popolo..." This obelisk was raised in 1589.

(6) On page 89 we are told the charioteer Pompeius Muclosus won 3,599 victories; on page 148 Muclosus is mentioned again, only this time the figure is 3,559. Which one is correct? The answer is the lower figure. The source, which Meijer does not provide, is ILS 5287 (section 19).

(7) On page 142 Meijer mentions the fourth crusade and the sack of Constantinople in 1204: "Only the four big bronze horses crowning the starting stalls were spared." The famous horses are cast in copper, not bronze.

[See Charles Freeman, The Horses Of St Marks: A Story of Triumph in Byzantium, Paris and Venice, pp. 175, 184-185, 262-264.]

(8) Several captions are incomplete, because they do not tell us where the item shown was discovered and where it is now (if it was moved to a museum): pp. 59, 80, 87, 100, 113, 123, 124, and 126.

[I have posted some pictures on the website. Please see the customer images.]

(9) Meijer claims the circus of Leptis Magna measures 450 x 70 m (pp. 49, 161). He has confused the exterior and the interior dimensions. The outside dimensions are 450 x 100 m, while the inside dimensions are 420 x 70 m.

(10) Chapter 11 about the Ben Hur movie is not only out of place (as explained above); it is also flawed: while attempting to evaluate the historical accuracy of the famous scene with the chariot race, Meijer mentions two or three mistakes, but fails to notice three additional mistakes.

While this book is an easy read, it is not a good read, because there are so many flaws. My expectations were high. Unfortunately, they were not fulfilled; therefore my conclusion has to be: "Chariot Racing in the Roman Empire" is a disappointing book about a fascinating topic.
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Chariot Racing in the Roman Empire by Fik Meijer (Hardcover - 1 Sep 2010)
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