A recent TikTok trend highlighted that the Roman Empire crosses people’s minds more often than you might think. If you’re looking to learn about a new angle of Roman life, Churchill Fellow Jerry Toner’s new book “Risk in The Roman World” might be a good place to start.
Jerry Toner is the Director of Studies in Classics at Churchill College, an Affiliated Lecturer at the Classics Faculty of the University of Cambridge, and author of several books about Roman life. The concept of risk has appeared repeatedly in his work and this book examines the topic in greater depth.
Risk in the Roman World examines how the Romans understood and tried to deal with the ever-present risks they faced. Risk is everywhere in the modern world, and the Roman world was the same. However, its solutions were very different.
It shows that the Romans inhabited a world full of danger and employed a variety of ways to help to affect future outcomes. Religious expertise in the form of dream interpretation and oracles also developed new ways of dealing with the future and the implicit biases of these sources can reveal much about ancient attitudes to risk.
The book explores the range of cultural attitudes and traditional practices that served to help control risk, particularly among the non-elite population. It also examines the developing and increasingly sophisticated areas of expertise such as the law, logistics and maritime loans, which served to limit uncertainty in a systematic manner.
“Certainly a day never goes past when I don’t think about the Roman empire,” says Jerry, “and I’m always amazed at how well they coped with the wide range of risks they faced. Their resilience in the face of high mortality, plague, poverty and shipwrecks was truly impressive.”
The book is available from Cambridge University Press and other book stores.