Book Review: The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Nero


by Shadi Bartsch, Kirk Freudenburg, and Cedric Littlewood, editors

Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2017. Pp. xx, 404. Illus., stemma, map, chron., plans, append., notes, biblio., index. $39.99 paper. ISBN: 1107669235

Nero and his World

The primary purpose of this collection is to give the reader a concise summation of various aspects of life, culture, and society during the reign of Nero (A.D. 54-68). We naturally get several papers on various aspects of Nero’s personality, his role as an “artist”, his relations with the Senate, his women, and, perhaps most interesting, his governance. But there follow various essays on the literature of his times, Nero’s relationship with Seneca, and the physical city, including the question of the great fire. Several essays explore the changing image of Nero in both popular perception and historical scholarship, even cinema, useful reminders of how our understanding of events can change.

Many of the papers deal with matters of value for those interested broader issues of in Roman government and political and military events. So, for example, we get a view of Boudicca’s Rebellion rooted firmly in the evidence, and an interesting overview of the first Romano-Jewish War.

Overall, The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Nero reminds us that even under a more or less inept, capricious, and by some accounts maniacal ruler, the bureaucracy and the armed forces still functioned with efficiency, art and literature flourished, and the Empire was largely peaceful and prosperous.

The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Nero is a valuable read for both the serious student of ancient history and the armchair historian


Note: The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Nero is also available in hardcover and several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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