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The Crisis of the Third Century has become a hot topic in Classical Studies over the past two decades. Pavel Oliva seems to have caught onto the importance of this pivotal era in Roman history during the early 1960s.
This book is very interesting for a number of reasons: it reviews the historiographic literature from ancient sources which are few, fragmentary and not entirely reliable; it reviews archaeological evidence available at the time of writing (c. 1962) and offers an analysis of economic and social forces at play in this era. Additionally, it covers events in Pannonia and neighboring provinces bordering the Danube from the wars of Marcus Aurelius to the Dominate established by Diocletian.
Oliva offers an interesting and possibly unique perspective in reviewing contemporary literature- he faults many late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century historians (Mommsen, Rostovtzeff, Alfoldi and a number of lesser known historians covering the territories of the Austrian Empire, Hungary and the former states of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia) with a bias towards viewing 2nd and 3rd Century events through a distinctly modernist lens while offering readings from Marx and specifically Engels from his Origins of the Family. Oliva's seeming ability to pick and choose form Classicists, Modernists and Marxians is an interesting Third Position in this own Cold War era, possibly reflecting the thaw that Czech Academics and intellgentia had in the run up to the Prague Spring.
Oliva's emphasis on archaeological finds and Marxist thought on production and class struggle are interesting as there does seem to be evidence of some kind of peasants' revolt in the wake of the Antonine Plague and a crisis of the mode of food production dominated by slave labor that is recorded at least as early as the Age of Hadrian.
Oliva's evidence or findings might have been made obsolete by more recent archaeological finds or theories, but his straddling a fine line between the then contemporary schools of thought as well as his dependence on physical evidence and focus on class struggle might make this book worth the read for a student of the Third Century Crisis.
PANNONIA AT THE END OF THE SECOND
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