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CHAPTER ONE. Constructing a Narrative

Cynthia Damon

Subject Roman History » Roman Empire

Key-Topics narrative

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631226444.2006.00006.x


A narrative, you notice, not the narrative. The object of inquiry in this opening chapter is the literary material available to a historian desiring to produce a narrative history of the Roman Empire between the assassination of Julius Caesar (44 bce ) and the death of Constantine (337 ce ), the sort of thing you'll find, in fact, in Part II, “The Narrative,” where the demonstrative pronoun indicates “the narrative used in this book,” not “the one and only narrative.” A glance at that section will make it immediately clear that literary material is only one of many components currently used in constructing a narrative, but it is an appropriate place to begin, largely because it comes closest to supplying the organizational structure essential to any narrative, namely, a chronologically-arranged account of historically significant events. Such an account will almost certainly not be an adequate history of a period (hence Parts III, IV, and V), but it is generally a useful beginning. We will see below, however, that this linear structure sometimes fails even as a beginning, that there are periods when equally significant events are occurring in two or more areas simultaneously. The narrative that our literary sources support most readily is the sort that the ancient authors were themselves trying to produce, namely, a narrative of power. Historically significant events were, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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