Traditional theater in the Roman world depicted powerful emotions and political ideals that were often the norm in Roman society. Although modern historians have only a hazy perception of performances during both Republic and Empire, testimony to the greatness of the epoch's theater lies in the ruins that stretch across the expanse of the great "vanished empire."
William Slater's new volume Roman Theater and Society brings an important perspective to the much-maligned status of the Roman theater, which has only recently been reappraised and appreciated as uniquely Roman rather than criticized for not being Greek. From this point of embarkation, William Slater and the nine contributors discuss theater in Rome and the Greek east with a definition of performance incorporating not only stage performances but also dinnertime entertainment, sporting events, and political events. Contributors are T. D. Barnes, K. M. Coleman, J. C. Edmonson, E. R. Gebhard, J. R. Green, E. J. Jory, W. D. Lebek, and D. S. Potter.
Individual chapters combine literary evidence with archaeological, thereby engendering a deeper appreciation for the social and political roles of Roman theater. It becomes clear that these roles were of great influence in giving voice to the popular demands of the average Roman. In examining the roles of theater the contributors turn to the players and audience themselves for deeper understanding.
Roman Theater and Society will be of great interest to classicists, theater specialists, and anyone interested in the interplay among plays, theaters, and the people on stage and in the audience.
William J. Slater is Professor of Classics, McMaster University.