Rome: An Empire's Story

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OUP Oxford, May 17, 2012 - History - 384 pages
2 Reviews
The idea of empire was created in ancient Rome and even today the Roman empire offers a powerful image for thinking about imperialism. Traces of its monuments and literature can be found across Europe, the Near East, and North Africa - and sometimes even further afield. This is the story of 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. Chapters that tell the story of the unfolding of Rome's empire alternate with discussions based on the most recent evidence into the conditions that made the Roman imperial achievement possible and also so durable, covering topics as diverse as ecology, slavery, and the cult paid to gods and men. Rome was not the only ancient empire. Comparison with other imperial projects helps us see what it was that was so distinctive about ancient Rome. Ancient Rome has also often been an explicit model for other imperialisms. Rome, An Empire's Story shows quite how different Roman imperialism was from modern imitations. The story that emerges outlines the advantages of Rome had over its neighbours at different periods - some planned, some quite accidental - and the stages by which Rome's rulers successively had to change the way they ruled to cope with the problems of growth. As Greg Woolf demonstrates, nobody ever planned to create a state that would last more than a millennium and a half, yet the short term politics of alliances between successively wider groups created a structure of extraordinary stability. Rome's Empire 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 it, in the process generating an imagery and a myth of empire that is apparently indestructible.

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User Review  - daisyq - LibraryThing

This is an excellent overview of how Rome built and sustained an Empire. Woolf considers a range of factors in turn - such as geography, climate, culture/religion, the economy, and the institutions ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jcvogan1 - LibraryThing

I liked the book, but hesitate to like it too much as I can't get behind historians that only recommend recent work. Surely of all the things said about Rome, some of what was written more than 30 years ago is still worth reading. That Gibbon isn't even in the bibliography breaks my heart. Read full review


1 The Whole Story
2 Empires of the Mind
3 Rulers of Italy
4 Imperial Ecology
5 Mediterranean Hegemony
6 Slavery and Empire
7 Crisis
8 At Heavens Command?
13 War
14 Imperial Identities
15 Recovery and Collapse
16 A Christian Empire
17 Things Fall Apart
18 The Roman Past and the Roman Future

9 The Generals
10 The Enjoyment of Empire
11 Emperors
12 Resourcing Empire
Glossary of Technical Terms
Photographic Acknowledgements

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About the author (2012)

Greg Woolf is Professor of Ancient History at the University of St Andrews. He has held visiting appointments in France, Germany, Italy and Brazil and has lectured widely around the world. He has published research on a wide range of topics in ancient history and Roman archaeology including ancient literacy, European prehistory, the Roman economy and ancient patronage. He maintains an interest in the comparative historical sociology of ancient empires. More recently he has been working on ancient science, in particularly ethnography, and on Roman religion. He currently holds a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust for a project on the origins of religious pluralism.

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