Literature and Culture in the Roman Empire, 96-235: Cross-cultural Interactions

Editors: Alice König, Rebecca Langlands and James Uden

This volume, published by CUP in April 2020, builds on the work of two international conferences held in Boston in June 2015 and in Exeter in June 2016, under the aegis of the on-going Literary Interactions under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian research project.

The volume explores the dynamics of cross-cultural interaction between Greek, Latin, Jewish and early Christian literary traditions which flourished alongside each other in the Roman Empire from the time of Nerva to the demise of the Severans (96-235 AD). It follows on from our first publication, Roman literature under Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian: literary interactions, AD 96-138 (ed. A. König and C. Whitton), which was published by CUP in 2018.

At the heart of the first volume was the project of teasing out and exploring less obvious relations between Latin texts, and moving beyond an overly literary approach to intertextuality. While offering new readings of many ‘canonical’ literary works, it advocated a broadening out of the kinds of texts that we might treat as amenable to literary study (including, for example, orally circulating anecdotes, edicts, imperial letters and the writings of jurists), and also a broadening out of the kinds of literary interactions that we can explore between them (from, e.g., salutation, citation, echo and reworking to omission, occlusion, triangulation and interdiscursivity). In this second volume we push outwards to explore cross-pollinations between texts that were written in different languages and literary traditions. We explore models – both ancient and modern – for conceptualizing connections between different literary cultures, and we consider too the complex interrelationships between literary activity and wider cultural practices (such as religious observance, architectural criticism, marvel-mania, and military training). While other recent works have examined particular currents of cross-cultural interaction (e.g. Romance Between Greece and the East, ed. T. Whitmarsh & S. Thompson, Cambridge, 2014), our volume has a tighter focus on a specific time period – the cosmopolitan Imperial era stretching from the late first to the early third centuries – but a broader selection of texts covered, ranging from Christian letters, to Babylonian horoscopes, to Greek military treatises, to Roman satire.

Contributors are drawn from the fields of Classics, Ancient History, Early Christianity and Judaic studies. The volume aims explicitly to bridge disciplinary divides, and will combine detailed close readings of particular texts with methodological reflections on the disciplinary and theoretical challenges of reading resonances, dialogue and gaps in connectivity between texts from different cultural traditions. Our goal is a richer and more panoramic vision of the dynamics of literary production and consumption across the Empire in this period, and we hope the book will become a touchstone for scholars of the pre-modern world seeking guidance on the analysis of cross-cultural interaction.

Reviews: ‘this is an innovative and challenging offering that far expands the horizons (intellectual, geographical, cultural, etc.) of an already vast and dynamic area of scholarship. It should now be standard reading for students and scholars of imperial literature – Greek, Latin, and beyond!’ (D. Hanigan, BMCR)

‘This volume embraces a broad range of material, and individual chapters will certainly be of interest to specialists, but the greatest strength of this volume is the carefully signalled cross-referencing between the essays themselves. Virtually every essay connects with at least one other in the collection in meaningful ways that reward reading extensively, whether through shared authors, cultural discourse or methodological framework… By bringing together scholars working in the different literary and cultural traditions of the second century, the volume illuminates the interconnectedness of the communities in the Roman empire. These communities did not exist in isolation from one another, but instead cross-pollinated in striking ways; taking a cue from antiquity, the volume likewise demonstrates the scholarly potential inherent in crossing disciplinary lines, which will engender fruitful new debates and lines of inquiry.’ (S. DiGiulio, The Classical Review)

‘A triumph of interactive scholarship spanning widely divergent geographical, historical, and linguistic cultures , this  volume brings  together intellectual communities  traditionally  siloed in the contemporary academy.’ (A.M. Keith, Choice Issue, 2021, vol. 58.6)

See also Latomus: Revue d’Etudes Latines 80.2 (2021), 486-90.

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