In Rome, historian Greg Woolf expertly recounts how this mammoth empire was created, how it was sustained in crisis, and how it shaped the world of its rulers and subjects--a story spanning a millennium and a half of history. Read more...
In Rome, historian Greg Woolf expertly recounts how this mammoth empire was created, how it was sustained in crisis, and how it shaped the world of its rulers and subjects--a story spanning a millennium and a half of history. The personalities and events of Roman history have become part of the West's cultural lexicon, and Woolf provides brilliant retellings of each of these, from the war with Carthage to Octavian's victory over Cleopatra, from the height of territorial expansion under the emperors Trajan and Hadrian to the founding of Constantinople and the barbarian invasions which resulted in Rome's ultimate collapse. Throughout, Woolf carefully considers the conditions that made Rome's success possible and so durable, covering topics as diverse as ecology, slavery, and religion. Woolf also compares Rome to other ancient empires and to its many later imitators, bringing into vivid relief the Empire's most distinctive and enduring features.
As Woolf demonstrates, nobody ever planned to create a state that would last more than a millennium and a half, yet Rome was able, in the end, to survive barbarian migrations, economic collapse and even the conflicts between a series of world religions that had grown up within its borders, in the process generating an image and a myth of empire that is apparently indestructible. Based on new research and compellingly told, this sweeping account promises to eclipse all previously published histories of the empire.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-02-20
- Reviewer: Staff
In this passionately told exploration of the history of Rome, University of St. Andrews historian Woolf (editor, The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Roman World) peers closely at what enabled Rome to resist defeats and capitalize on victories, and how it evolved to face new needs and new threats. With dazzling detail, Woolf retells the long story from Rome’s birth in 753 B.C.E. to the republic, the empire, and the empire’s fall, not in the sixth century as is usually accepted, but in 711 when Muslims invaded Spain. As Woolf points out, complex forces were always at work. For example, in the final 100 years of the Republic, Roman literary and intellectual culture achieved its classic form amid bloody civil wars. The early Empire, by contrast, was at peace, with emperors focused on building projects and scaling back military expansion. The Roman Empire faded not only when outside forces invaded in the sixth and seventh centuries, but when internal strife tore it apart at the same time, borders shrank, and the empire collapsed back on itself. Woolf points out that western Christendom, Islam, and Byzantium were the empire’s heirs, each with its own imperial destiny. 31 b&w illus.; maps. Agent: Georgina Capel, Capel and Land (U.K.). (July)