Tag: Rome

Dec 15 2014

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

One of the nice things about not being in a book’s target audience is being able to stand back a bit more and see what the author is up to, what’s happening structurally within a book or series, to generally chew on it a bit more. The House of Hades reaches its main intended audience …

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Dec 02 2014

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Fun, funny at times, and even occasionally touching. Hits its mark perfectly for its intended audience, and isn’t bad at all for those of us a couple of decades past that. The Mark of Athena is much the same, and brings the overall story closer to completion. I am taking a break before going much …

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Nov 06 2014

Rome and the Mediterranean by Livy

The last fifteen books of Livy’s surviving history, covering Rome’s conquest of the Hellenistic world after the Punic Wars. Aside from a few interesting anecdotes and episodes, most of this history was tedious and unmemorable. The saga might have been livened up if Hannibal had come out of retirement, but with his defeat in the …

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Sep 27 2014

The War with Hannibal by Livy

Livy is too patriotic to be completely trusted as a historian, but even he cannot help but convey a grudging admiration for the towering figure of Hannibal. He has nothing good to say about Carthage in general, and he works in some malicious gossip about Hannibal that is probably nothing more than just that, but …

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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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May 10 2014

On the Good Life by Cicero

Cicero, they say, was a principled and virtuous man who used his oratorical gifts for the good of the state. In these essays, however, I see not so much virtue as the vanity, self-love, and indulgence of an aristocratic gentleman who is highly pleased with his own accomplishments and evidently believes that his achievements and …

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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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