The Topography of Violence in the Greco-Roman World

Werner Riess and Garrett G. Fagan, editors
Examines how location confers cultural meaning on acts of violence, and renders them socially acceptable—or not


What soldiers do on the battlefield or boxers do in the ring would be treated as criminal acts if carried out in an everyday setting. Perpetrators of violence in the classical world knew this and chose their venues and targets with care: killing Julius Caesar at a meeting of the Senate was deliberate. That location asserted Senatorial superiority over a perceived tyrant, and so proclaimed the pure republican principles of the assassins.

The contributors to The Topography of Violence in the Greco-Roman World take on a task not yet addressed in classical scholarship: they examine how topography shaped the perception and interpretation of violence in Greek and Roman antiquity. After an introduction explaining the “spatial turn” in the theoretical study of violence, “paired” chapters review political assassination, the battlefield, violence against women and slaves, and violence at Greek and Roman dinner parties. No other book either adopts the spatial theoretical framework or pairs the examination of different classes of violence in classical antiquity in this way.

Both undergraduate and graduate students of classics, history, and political science will benefit from the collection, as will specialists in those disciplines. The papers are original and stimulating, and they are accessible to the educated general reader with some grounding in classical history.

“A must for libraries in all colleges that are delivering degrees in classics, classical civilization and ancient history. . . . Readily accessible to a wide-ranging audience from specialists to undergraduates and general nonspecialist readers.”
—Kate Gilliver, Cardiff University


Werner Riess is Chair of Ancient History at the University of Hamburg. Garrett G. Fagan is Professor of Ancient History at Pennsylvania State University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Fills a research gap with an overview of the most salient forms of physical violence, their function and mechanisms in classical Greek and Roman worlds...a thankfully welcome anthology."
    -- H-Soz-u-Kult 
  • "This book should be the standard introduction to violence in classical antiquity."
    --Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "This work is undoubtedly of value to anyone interested in the topic or in any of the Greek and Roman topics dealt with and we may hope will spur further such treatments into the topography of violence in the ancient world."
    --Classics for All
  • "We need more scholarly works like this volume that shift from the traditional analysis of sources to the means by which the events were generated, performed and interpreted in Ancient societies."
  • "This collection of essays seeks to explore some of the topographical and circumstantial aspects that helped define violence in
    antiquity, focusing on how Greeks and Romans charged violent acts with specific meanings on the basis of situation and space." - New Testament Abstracts

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 422pp.
  • 14 halftones, 3 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2016
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11982-0

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  • $94.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03844-2

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  • $39.95 U.S.

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  • violence, space, slaves, women, rape, gladiators, war, battlefield, assassination, brawls, violence in antiquity; topography and violence; location and violence; how space shapes the meaning of violent acts; Greek and Roman history; hybris; the Roman arena; ancient warfare; ancient dining and dinner parties; krypteia; violence in ancient cities