It is now the time of the year when Finnish classicists are writing reviews to Arctos, desperately trying to keep with the dead line.
One observation: There might be some correlation between inexperience of young scholars and the ruthlessness of their reviews. As soon as one has finished one’s own book and then knows by experience how much toil and tears have been shed to get the scribblings into the form of a book, one tends to become more merciful towards the productions of others.
Writing reviews is in fact one of the most difficult jobs to do. The reason for the trouble is not the books, on the contrary. For instance, One God. Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire, eds. Stephen Mitchell and Peter Van Nuffelen, 2010. I read the book already last summer but postponed writing the review (postponing is not wise) because there were other things to do. Now when the dead line approaches, I have read it again and again (and enjoyed it even more).
The difficulties here are the rules of the genre. Academic reviews are supposed to be written with a proper scholarly style. Emotions are restricted or hidden: one is not supposed to write enthusiastically. Therefore, when reading, for instance, Nicole Belayche’s analysis on acclamations in inscriptions, I am obstructed from making acclamations such as “Yes! So true!” The use of exclamation marks would also be tasteless.
The fascination of One God is the diversity of the religious phenomena in the Roman Empire, all transformations, various ideas of divinities, religious groups, suprises and speculations. All the easy generalizations are proficiently questioned (especially by John North), nothing is patent and self-evident. I could quote G’Kar, the embassador of the Narn regime in Babylon 5 who eloquently said, “No one there is exactly what he seems”, but this would hardly fit the academic style of reviews.
An academic review of One God is forthcoming in Arctos soon …

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