Tag: Romans

Sep 11 2014

Rome and Italy by Livy

Mostly this is a record of Rome’s interminable wars with the Samnites. War is hardly a trivial event, but Rome fought so many wars during this period that reading about one battle after another becomes wearying. The most interesting and unusual thing that happened during this period was that a Vestal Virgin violated her vow …

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Aug 19 2014

The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather

This is a highly revisionist book that challenges the accepted conclusions, chiefly those of Gibbon, on why the Roman Empire fell. It was not, the author argues, the result of unchecked barbarian invasions, or the assimilation of disloyal barbarians within the Empire, or over-taxation, or Christian unworldliness, or political corruption, or moral decadence. The author …

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Mar 03 2014

The Roman Revolution by Ronald Syme

This is an outstanding work of historical scholarship. I am by now quite familiar with the history of the late republic and the ensuing Augustan Principate, but Syme’s meticulous analysis goes beyond anything I could ever attempt. Syme sees the the overthrow of the republic and the path to monarchy as a necessary evil, an …

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Oct 16 2013

The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus

Tacitus is the greatest of the Roman historians. He is also the most prejudiced. Modern historians have called into question his portrayal of Tiberius as a cruel and depraved tyrant, and indeed Tacitus’ own narrative reveals him for the most part a capable ruler. Tacitus is always insinuating that while Tiberius said and did one …

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Sep 21 2013

The Early History of Rome by Livy

One thing is clear from this history: from the founding of the Republic, class warfare was endemic to Rome. Rome was perpetually at war with her neighbors, but was politically at war with herself for much of her history. It seems the aristocracy used war and external threats as a means to stall the popular …

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Dec 17 2009

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

Suetonius writes more like a gossip columnist than a historian. In this brief work we learn that Augustus was a compulsive gambler, Tiberius was a pervert, Nero was in love with his mother, Galba was a passive homosexual, and most of the emperors liked boys as well as women. From the introduction we learn that …

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Sep 21 2008

Daily Life in Ancient Rome by Florence Dupont

The author is obviously enamored of the ancient Romans, and I suspect that she projects her own preferences and prejudices onto them. But this is a fascinating book that takes a look at what kind of people the Romans were, apart from the endless wars of conquest and political intrigues that historians typically dwell. Dupont …

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Sep 06 2008

Caesar: Politician and Statesman by Matthias Gelzer

An excellent study of the crisis of the late Roman Republic, the Gallic and Civil Wars, and Julius Caesar’s personal genius. To put it as mildly as possible, Caesar was a man of remarkable ability, not the least of which was his extraordinary knack for never missing an opportunity, and he was born at the …

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Mar 16 2006

Wisdom of the Ages

The Roman Empire has won significance, and its rulers became famous and mighty, because numerous nobles and sages from various countries congregated there […] As settlers come from various countries and provinces, they bring with them various languages and customs, various instructive concepts and weapons, which decorate and glorify the royal court, but intimidate foreign …

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