Historiography and Imagination

BookHistoriography and Imagination

Historiography and Imagination

Eight Essays on Roman Culture

Exeter Studies in History


May 1st, 1994





How did the Romans make sense of their own past? And how can we make sense of it, when the evidence for early Rome and the Republic is so inadequate? In this volume, Professor Wiseman focuses on some of the more unfamiliar aspects of the Roman experience, where the historian needs not just knowledge but imagination too. The first essay in the book, the 1993 Ronald Syme Lecture 'The Origins of Historiography', argues that dramatic performances at the public games were the medium through which the Romans in the 'pre-literary' period made sense of their own past. All Latin and Greek source material is translated.

Peter Wiseman is Emeritus Professor of Roman History at Exeter University and a Fellow of the British Academy. He came to Exeter in 1977, and was Head of Department from 1977 to 1990. Although he retired in 2001, he is still involved in graduate teaching at both MA and PhD levels. ‘I've been obsessed with the history and literature of Rome for nearly half a century’, he says. Among the results of that obsession have been books on Catullus (Catullan Questions 1969, Catullus and his World 1985), on Roman political history (New Men in the Roman Senate 1971, Flavius Josephus: Death of an Emperor 1991), on Roman historiography (Clio's Cosmetics: Three Studies in Greco-Roman Literature 1979, Historiography and Imagination: Eight Essays on Roman Culture 1994), and on Roman myth and legend (Remus: a Roman Myth 1995, Roman Drama and Roman History 1998). Reviews of T.P. Wiseman books include the following comments: 'quite simply brilliant' (Times Literary Supplement), 'enthralling' (London Review of Books), 'stylistic elegance and wit, dazzling erudition and imaginative flair' (Classical Review), 'exceptional analytical skill and creative imagination' (Bryn Mawr Classical Review).

... this is an extremely useful book ... The final essay is Professor Wiseman at his very best, integrating sensitive interpretation of literary texts with erudite material, to present a fascinating exposition of the ideological significance of elite residences in ancient Rome.

Times Literary Supplement

Wiseman regales us here with yet another volume of essays on linked themes and this collection shows him in vintage form. All his characteristic virtues are on display - stylistic elegance and wit, dazzling eruditic and imaginative flair ... This is a rich and rewarding volume.

Classical Review


Author Information

T. P. Wiseman is Emeritus Professor of Roman History at the University of Exeter and a Fellow of the British Academy. He came to Exeter in 1977, and was Head of Department from 1977 to 1990. His published books include Catullan Questions (1969), New Men in the Roman Senate (1971), Cinna the Poet (1974), Catullus and his World (1985), Roman Political Life (1985), and Remembering the Roman People (2009). And on the study of Roman historiography, and from there to the myth-history of early Rome: see Clio’s Cosmetics (1979), Historiography and Imagination (1994), Remus: A Roman Myth (1995), Roman Drama and Roman History (1998), The Myths of Rome (2004), which won the American Philological Association’s Goodwin Award of Merit, and Unwritten Rome (2008)

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
1. The Origins of Roman Historiography
2. Roman Legend and Oral Tradition
3. Monuments and the Roman Annalists
4. Lucretius, Catiline and the Survival of Prophecy
5. Satyrs in Rome?
6. The Necessary Lesson
7. Who Was Crassicius Pansa?
8. Conspicui postes tectaque digna deo
Figure i. Acroterion from Forum Bovarium temple
Figure ii. The Ficoroni Cista, 15
Figure iii. Roman didrachm showing Victoria
Figure iv. Antefix from temple of Castor
Figure v. Bronze mirror from Bolsena
Figure vi. Antefix from Satricum temple
Figure vii. The Palatine and its neighbourhood
Figure viii. The Augustan complex on the Palatine