(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 21)

Histories of Rome have traditionally focused on the city's political, military, and institutional history. As the evolution of the city is traced from a village on the River Tiber to the capital of a great empire, historians have inevitably dealt with the transition from monarchy to republic to imperial autocracy and with the deeds of great Romans like Romulus, Scipio Africanus, the Gracchi brothers, Cicero, Julius Caesar, and a succession of emperors, both good and bad. The Romansputs this traditional history in a broader context by juxtaposing political and military events with social, cultural, and economic developments. The result is a full historical picture of the Romans and their world.

The Romans—intended as a companion to Ancient Greece: A Political, Social, and Cultural History(1999) by Sarah B. Pomeroy, Stanley M. Burstein, Walter Donlan, and Jennifer Tolbert Roberts—was written not for scholars but for general readers. Discussion of archaeological research and scholarship is integrated into broad, yet academically sound, overviews of the period. In sidebars scattered throughout the volume are excerpts from primary materials representing a variety of ancient sources, including histories, inscriptions, and so on. The result is a wide context for historical events.

The eleven chapters of The Romans are arranged chronologically, beginning with the prehistorical evidence and ending with the reign of the emperor Constantine. Each chapter includes a discussion of the types of evidence available. The early chapters rely most heavily on the archaeological record. For later chapters, written evidence is increasingly used. Accompanying the text are approximately ninety black-and-white illustrations and photographs. References to these images of Roman art, coins, archaeological site plans, tombstones, and buildings are, for the most part, integrated into the fiber of the narrative, so that text and image create a coherent picture of the Roman world. Each chapter concludes with a short bibliography of suggested readings. Occasionally these bibliographic citations are accompanied by useful descriptive citations.

Thirty-five black-and-white maps of Rome, Italy, and the Mediterranean region at various stages in the history of Rome and its Empire accompany the text. These handsome maps were designed specifically for this volume with technology developed at the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and are available in digital form free of charge at the center's Web site ( By consulting these maps, readers ofThe Romans are better able to follow the events described in this book. Individual maps are devoted to such events as Roman expansion into the Iberian peninsula during the Punic Wars, veteran settlements in Italy by Sulla, Julius Caesar, and Augustus in the first century b.c.e., and the military campaigns of Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, and other great generals. Such maps trace the social and political changes in the Roman world and put historical events in a broader context.

Several other features of use to the general reader are provided in the end matter of The Romans. In a time line divided into four columns, the authors outline significant events in the West, Rome and Italy, and the East, as well as important cultural landmarks. For example, the time line shows that writing appeared in Italy about the same time that the first Italian city-states were formed, in the eighth century b.c.e. Rome issued its first coinage about the time the city fought the war against King Pyrrhus of Epirus (c. 280 b.c.e.). Glassblowing technology developed in Italy about the time that Julius Caesar was writing his Commentaries about his campaigns in Gaul (58-51 b.c.e.). Mount Vesuvius erupted in southern Italy (79 c.e.) about the same time that a major fire devastated the city of Rome (80 c.e.)

The Romans also contains a glossary in which many Roman terms are defined. Often the general meaning of the word is accompanied by the literal meaning. For instance, the Latin word ambitiooriginally meant “going around” but came to mean “legal canvassing” of votes by Roman politicians. The term vigiles (watchmen) referred to the corps of fire patrols instituted by Augustus for the city of Rome. In a separate list the authors also provide basic information about the principal ancient authors and texts mentioned in the book.

In the first five chapters of The Romans, Gargola describes early Italy and the first centuries of Rome's...

(The entire section is 1887 words.)