The Roman "philosophy of life" as mirrored in the literature of ten outstanding representative authors
Though Rome conquered much of the world and established an empire that lasted more than a millennium, its citizens sometimes expressed a sense of inferiority to the intellectual accomplishments of ancient Greece. The notion that Roman philosophers, thinkers, and writers were just pale imitations of Greek originals has persisted to this day. Even the great Roman poet Horace wrote, "Captive Greece took its Roman captor captive,/ Invading uncouth Latium with its arts."
Michael K. Kellogg puts this notion to rest in this lively, very readable overview of Roman literature. The author uncovers many examples of Roman wisdom, showing that the Roman contribution to intellectual history is considerable and need not take second place to ancient Greek literature.
Kellogg offers fresh and engaging portraits of poets (Lucretius, Virgil, Horace, Ovid); dramatists (Plautus, Terence, Seneca); biographers (Plutarch, Suetonius); historians (Livy, Tacitus); and philosophers (Cicero, Marcus Aurelius), against the background of Roman history.
The contemporary reader will come away from this excellent survey with the realization that even today our culture still bears the lasting imprint of ancient Rome.
“Michael Kellogg’s abundantly informative new book fills in a great gap in most educated people’s historical and cultural knowledge—ancient Rome. For the past 150 years, the intellectual passion for classical Greek civilization led to a marginalization of the vast contributions of Rome, which not only served as the filter for Greek wisdom to later generations but also transformed and expanded it to create what we now call Western civilization. Kellogg introduces us to the immortals of Roman culture—Virgil, Cicero, Lucretius, Seneca, Horace, Plutarch, and others. The Roman Search for Wisdom is a superb introduction to ‘the grandeur that was Rome.’”
—DANA GIOIA, poet and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts
"The Roman Search for Wisdom offers the general reader an ambitious survey of the richness of Roman thought. Ranging from the slapstick comedies of Plautus to the acerbic irony of Tacitus’s political history to the intensely introspective reflections of Marcus Aurelius, Kellogg mines the greatest works of Roman literature, philosophy, and history to draw lessons about the deep and enduring challenges of human existence. This book will engage readers at a very personal level about the ends of their own lives.”
—RICHARD SALLER, professor of Roman history, Stanford University
“Kellogg’s book offers a marvelously clear and accessible account of the intellectual life of ancient Rome. He guides the reader to a deep appreciation of the many ways our own ideas are indebted to what was thought and written two thousand years ago.”
—JOHN LACHS, Centennial Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University