Nero (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
Many readers of the History Book Club’s recent main selection will be stretched to finish this volume. Expecting to find sex and violence, they will instead encounter detailed analyses, repetition, and mild humor intended for specialists. One wonders what the lay reader is to make of a sentence that ends: “ when Helvidius thought the time was propitious, he first fought explicitly for senatorial independence and then, when disillusioned, chose a more outspoken and provocative way of fulfilling his senatorial duty than absention.” This book is intended for readers who know what Helvidius did without being told, because the author does not tell.
Miriam Griffin is a fellow of Somerville College at Oxford and has previously published a monograph on Seneca. She writes for such a small audience that even the dedication is something of an inside joke: “To JG, JBG, MCG, VTG Nero’s latest victims.” Nevertheless, for the specialist, Griffin has some very interesting ideas buried in her chapters—each of which stands much as a separate essay.
The thread which binds the whole together is a belief that the Roman nobility held to such strong conservative ideas about the superiority of amateurs over professionals that effective government would have been impossible if emperor after emperor had not fought for efficient bureaucracies staffed by freedmen and slaves, and for financial security through a great imperial household estate, by personal...
(The entire section is 1868 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
The Atlantic. CCLV, May, 1985, p. 105.
Best Sellers. XLV, April, 1985, p. 21.
Choice. XXII, July, 1985, p. 1679.
Library Journal. CX, April 1, 1985, p. 137.
Times Literary Supplement. May 10, 1985, p. 517.
Wilson Library Bulletin. LIX, June, 1985, p. 709.
(The entire section is 30 words.)