Moral/Poli Trad of Rome Pb Paperback – 28 Jun 1984
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Professor Earl passed away in 1996. Before then he taught classics and wrote four books. In this one, he traces the development of the Roman concept of virtus from its earliest statements in writings from the second century B.C. through Ammianus Marcellinus in the fourth century, A.D. Along the way, he gives you great studies of the use of the concept of virtus and gloria in Pliny, Cicero, Plautus, Livy, Polybius, Sallust, Horace, Virgil and Tacitus. The final epilogue is a succinct intro into how these terms were critiqued and bent to the purposes of St. Augustine in The City of God. Again, Prof. Earl does all this in 125 pages which I feel to be something akin to academic wizardry.
In the first chapter, he outlines what he sees as the aristocratic concept of virtus. He defines this later as having consisted "in the winning of gloria by the commission of examplary[sic] deeds according to a proper standard of conduct in the service of the state" (p. 52).
In the second chapter, he shows how the "new men" of the late Republic adapted the concept to advance their position vis-a-vis the patricians. He then traces how the concepts of virtus and gloria evolved during the establishment of the Empire under Augustus and subsequent emperors.
Let me put it this way for you. I have been reading Livy, Cicero, Polybius and Tacitus of late. Reading the first two chapters of Prof. Earl's book was like opening up the curtains in a murky room and throwing open the windows. His clarity of expression is the light streaming in and his insight is the fresh air. Many things in what I have been reading became clearer. The epilogue on Augustine made me decide to stop using my copy of The City of God as a reference book (or as a marvelous book for pressing leaves for my daughters) and to actually try to read it. If you are a reader of the ancient historians or of Cicero and you want a good secondary source to read, I highly recommend that you spend an evening or two in the company of Prof. Earl. You will need something like a good Russian Imperial Stout to compliment his wisdom.