What We Are Reading Today: Crossing the Pomerium by Michael Koortbojian

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Updated 23 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Crossing the Pomerium by Michael Koortbojian

The ancient Romans famously distinguished between civic life in Rome and military matters outside the city — a division marked by the pomerium, an abstract religious and legal boundary that was central to the myth of the city’s foundation. 

Michael Koortbojian explores how the Romans used social practices and public monuments to assert their capital’s distinction from its growing empire, to delimit the proper realms of religion and law from those of war and conquest, and to establish and disseminate so many fundamental Roman institutions across three centuries of imperial rule. Crossing the Pomerium probes such topics as the appearance in the city of Romans in armor, whether in representation or in life, the role of religious rites on the battlefield, and the military image of Constantine on the arch built in his name. 

The book reveals how, in these instances and others, the ancient ideology of crossing the pomerium reflects the efforts of Romans not only to live up to the ideals they had inherited, but also to reconceive their past and to validate contemporary practices during a time when Rome enjoyed growing dominance in the Mediterranean world.


What We Are Reading Today: Steadfast Democrats

Updated 27 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Steadfast Democrats

Authors: Ismail K. White and Chryl N. Laird 

Black Americans are by far the most unified racial group in American electoral politics, with 80 to 90 percent identifying as Democrats — a surprising figure given that nearly a third now also identify as ideologically conservative, up from less than 10 percent in the 1970s. Why has ideological change failed to push more black Americans into the Republican Party? Steadfast Democrats answers this question with a pathbreaking new theory that foregrounds the specificity of the black American experience and illuminates social pressure as the key element of black Americans’ unwavering support for the Democratic Party, says a review on the Princeton University Press website.

Ismail White and Chryl Laird argue that the roots of black political unity were established through the adversities of slavery and segregation, when black Americans forged uniquely strong social bonds for survival and resistance. 

White and Laird explain how these tight communities have continued to produce and enforce political norms—including Democratic Party identification in the post–Civil Rights era. The social experience of race for black Americans is thus fundamental to their political choices.