The Antonines

Roman Empire in Transition

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The Roman Empire was an achievement of startling proportions. In its size alone, it extended from the Atlantic to the Euphrates and from the Rhine to Danube all the way to the Sahara. In many ways, as the global question of emerging national iden

The Roman Empire was an achievement of startling proportions. In its size alone, it extended from the Atlantic to the Euphrates and from the Rhine to Danube all the way to the Sahara. In many ways, as the global question of emerging national identities persists, and attempts at multinational unity fail, Rome's vast empire becomes an extremely relevant historical lesson. In The Antonines, the eminent historian of classical history, Michael Grant, examines the vital role played by the Antonines in the development and expansion of the Roman Empire. He surveys that period's renowned contributions to the arts, discussing at length Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, perhaps one of the greatest literary products of the classical world. He suggests that the Antonines occasioned a major transition in Roman life politics, and that the period over which they presided witnessed extraordinary changes that heralded a new epoch to many. The Antonines, he argues, were singularly responsible for ushering the Roman Empire from the ancient world to the early Medieval.

Grant examines the political dynamics that brought about these changes, analyzing such issues as the role of "adoption" (the policy of choosing Emperors who were not direct descendants of the throne). He profiles the individuals who made up the Antonines: of Antoninus Pius, an altogether understudied figure, who curiously bequeathed his position to two men particularly unfit to rule his vast and efficacious regime; Marcus Aurelius, an avid militarist who could oddly find the time to write one of the best works of Roman literature known to date; Commodus and his abandonment of imperial ambitions in what is presently Germany and the implications it had on the decline of the Empire, as well as his emphasis on monotheism within the terms of Roman religion.

Grant's historical analysis provides a thorough and, above all, high-minded look at this often neglected yet critical period in the Roman Empire--a period that not only illuminates the processes of dramatic transformation, but presents a point of comparison to the current historical circumstance as well.

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