Thursday, July 20, 2006

Drunkus Maximus: The Power and Purpose of Alcohol in Ancient Rome.

Drunkus Maximus: The Power and Purpose of Alcohol in Ancient Rome. I found this article at the new issue of Modern Drunkard Magazine online. The author is someone writing under the name Rich English which I think is a pseudonym. While not perfect, and clearly glorifying drinking, I found the article a fun read and mostly accurate.

That mostly accurate part comes from my identification of several errors. For example, the author wrote, "While there is no doubt that some revolting shit took place in Rome and among Romans, it happened quite sporadically and was largely confined to a period of a hundred or so years, beginning right after the death of Caesar (44 B.C.) and lasting roughly until the ascension of Trajan (98 A.D.). During this short span of time lived the Emperors whose cruelty, indulgence and insanity became the stuff of legend and besmirched all things Roman for a thousand years - Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero."

Well, most historians including me do not include Claudius on the list of depraved emperors. He actually did a good job and looks like a saint compared to Nero, Tiberius, and Caligula. Hello, has the author never read or seen I, Claudius by Robert Graves? Also, there was a lot of "revolting shit" which occurred after the first dynasty of Roman Emperors ended. Some of which also makes Claudius look like an enlightened fellow...

How accurate is this article? The author claims, "The Author is indebted to the works of Edward Gibbon, Edith Hamilton, John T. Cullen, Cyril E. Robinson, Andrew Dalby, F.R. Crowell, Henry Thompson Rowell, Jerome Carcopino and Tom Holland." And reading the article, I believe it. Despite the tone, I recognize a lot of good information coupled with a "drunkard" spin.

Why am I covering this? There are two reasons. First, I think this article could be used as a good teaching tool. Have the students look at this article as well as some primary sources, and then have them present and/or write papers on alcohol in ancient Rome. What do they think is correct or in error in the article? This is a memorable lesson and one that will result in some real lifelong learning I think.

Second, this article is online at a popular site and will be read by millions. Any historian writing for a peer-reviewed publication which only appears in paper with no free Web version available online is going to have a few thousand readers. Hence, this article at Modern Drunkard will most likely be the main source that most people in the world use to get facts on this topic. Good or not, this article is and will become more important as time passes.

I will end with this fractured attempt at Latin from the article, "Bibamus moriendum est. Death is Inevitable; Let's Get Drunk."

1 comment:

RHEnglish said...

I'm pleased that you enjoyed my article. Apologies for any errors. As a full-time drinker, but only a part-time historian, I did my best. Oh, and just for the record, my name really is Rich English.