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The Rise of the Roman Empire (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Polybius , Ian Scott-Kilvert , F. W. Walbank
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 28, 1980 0140443622 978-0140443622 1St Edition
The Greek statesman Polybius (c.200 - 118 BC) wrote his account of the relentless growth of the Roman Empire in order to help his fellow countrymen understand how their world came to be dominated by Rome. Opening with the Punic War in 264 BC, he vividly records the critical stages of Roman expansion: its campaigns throughout the Mediterranean, the temporary setbacks inflicted by Hannibal and the final destruction of Carthage. An active participant of the politics of his time as well as a friend of many prominent Roman citizens, Polybius drew on many eyewitness accounts in writing this cornerstone work of history.

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Greek (translation)

About the Author

Polybius lived from 200-118 BC and was a Greek statesman and historian. F.W. Walbank has published numerous works on ancient Greece. Ian Scott-Kilvert has also translated Plutarch's works for Penguin Classics.

Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1St Edition edition (February 28, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443622
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
100 of 108 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Useful but Fragmentary History September 8, 2000
Polybius, a Greek hostage held in Rome from 168 BC to 150 BC, set himself the task of explaining the rise of the Roman Empire. Deliberately written for Roman audiences, Polybius intends to describe the 53 year rise to hegemony from 220-167 BC. However Polybius includes considerable background material on the First Punic War and he later decided to extend his history to include the Third Punic War. Unfortunately, much of the original work is missing and Penguin has decided to edit out even more, which leaves a hollow remnant.
The real value of this book lies in Polybius' description of the Second Punic War with Hannibal. There are excellent battle descriptions of the Trebbia, Lake Trasimene, Cannae, the Metaurus and Zama. Remember, Polybius was writing only 60-70 years after these events and had access to many documents that are now lost. Polybius was also able to visit some of the battlefields when they had not changed significantly since Hannibal's time. There is also a good section on Roman military methods, which was enlightening.
However this book is disappointing in a number of areas. In terms of the original work, Polybius tends to digress on topics of interest to himself (but not to modern readers), such as criticizing other contemporary historians. He also has a strong pedantic streak and strives more to impart "lessons" than facts. He continually hammers home his theory that one cannot be a good historian unless one has walked the ground and gained personal military and political experiences. This certainly helps, but there are plenty of generals and politicians that make poor authors.
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For what it is -- quite excellent April 24, 2003
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Many other reviewers on this site lament all that has been cut from this translation. The decision, of course, was not entirely up to Penguin. A great portion of Polybius' work has been lost to the ravages of history. Other surviving portions are quite repetitive. As someone with an interest in the history but not a consuming scholarly passion, I found the selections well-chosen and fascinating; the translation readable. What more can you ask?
F.W. Walbank's long-winded introduction told me much more than I ever needed to know about this second-tier historian. What makes Polybius valuable is that he actually played a part in some of the events he described and seems to have prized first-hand sources, interviewing people involved and consulting contemporary documents, especially in the Roman Senate. As a Greek who had spent time in Rome, he wrote the history primarily for his fellow Greeks, to explain how a nothing civilization (Rome) on the edge of the Hellenistic World rose to power so quickly.
The account of Rome's Wars with Carthage is very even-handed and compelling. In other passages, his Greek prejudices often show through. Especially when he is talking about rival historians like Timaeus. He devotes a whole chapter, in fact, to insulting Timaeus. The chapter shows you something of Polybius' character that he would stop his history of the world to engage in academic fisticuffs.
This book functions well as an explanation of Rome to a non-Roman. I learned a great deal about the character of Rome and the Romans as well as all the Hellenistic kingdoms. At 541 pages, no one can accuse this of being a reader's digest version.
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48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
It is unfortunate that, despite the fact that some of Polybius's Histories have been lost over time, Penguin made the decision to cut out even more from the text that has luckily survived down to us through the ages. To make matters worse, the introduction doesn't really state clearly what exactly has been cut.
Next time I want to read one of the classics, I'll go immediately to Loeb. It's worth the extra cash. Anyone want my Penguin copy?
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Morsel From the Meal October 10, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Penguin Classics, though an excellent publisher, has made a habit of abridging many major works and not always to their benifit---this is one. Though the abridgments are done to make the classics more "accessable" to the ordinary reader, they at the same time dispense with much crucial information. In the case of this edition they have disposed of large chunks of the narrative leading to a sense of discontinuity from book to book, most importantly the battle of Cynoscephalae and the taking and destruction of Carthage. Other than these few deficiencys a fine introduction to one of the greatest masters of socio-political analysis from the ancient world.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lamenting What Could Have Been June 2, 2008
By Philip
I am not going to review Polybius, the historian, because this is not the appropriate place to do so. But, suffice it to say that Polybius is one of the more reliable ancient historians extant. For the period Polybius covers in his history, particularly for the period for which he was a contemporary, he is considered the most authoritative source, other than inscriptions or archeological evidence.

Thus, the importance of Polybius cannot be overstated.

That is why this English Language edition is both so promising, and at the same time dissipointing.

F.W. Walbank is the pre-eminent English-speaking Historian of the past 60 years on Polybius and the Hellenistic era. His scholarly work "Historical Commentaries on Polybius" are a standard reference for any historian writing about this period.

As such, an accessible English translation of Polybius edited by Professor Walbank should be (and I emphasize the word "should") the standard text in every English speaking classroom teaching this material.

And, in fact it mostly is.

But, like many others reviewing this edition, I can only lament that material that has been left out of the volume. And, I also agree that for whatever reason, Professor Walbank did not do a particularly good job of explaning what was excised and why he made the editorial decisions he did.

The translation by Ian Scott-Kilvert is frist rate. And you have the added comfort of knowing that the great F.W. Walbank gave it his stamp of approval.

But, I wish there were a complete, modern Polybius English translation that included all of the fragmentary materials and the portions of Polybius' work that were left out of this edition. [The Loeb translation by Paton is over 80 years old].
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars my opion of the above book
author changes the general story line in mid stream that being said book is a good read he should stick to the subject
Published 4 months ago by stephen j staback
5.0 out of 5 stars book "rise of the roman empire"
searched everywhere for this book -this made a great Xmas present and arrived quickly and in excellent condition - a good price too
Published 9 months ago by barbara mcmahon
1.0 out of 5 stars Unacceptable - Poor Quality
It is simply unacceptable for this important historical work to be so poorly adapted for Kindle:

1. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Luke Liem
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
will be used in class this fall im taking a Roanoke college this fall i was able to by my boos on amazon and sale lots of money
Published 11 months ago by lynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Polybius was a leading politician and military officer in ancient Greece, who believed that historians should only write about events they are personally familiar with. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Chris
5.0 out of 5 stars Polybius Discriptive and Timely
The discription of "Hannibal's War" was vivid and detailed. My unanswered question will always be "was my ancient African ancestor with him as he crossed the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Walt
3.0 out of 5 stars RISE OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE
This book is more suited to individuals who are thoroughly exposed to History in general and Ancient History in particular. Read more
Published 19 months ago by John Grocholski
5.0 out of 5 stars Roman Empire
The earliest written histories belong to Egypt, but it's Italy's expanding Roman empire that usually sparks the most interest because of it's sheer size. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Summers
5.0 out of 5 stars Book in great shape
This book is in great shape. I definitely would buy from this company again. Just make sure you double check you buy the right book, I didn't:))
Published on October 18, 2011 by ERINRAE
3.0 out of 5 stars Fragmented, but a decent read
By and large, the reader reviews have hit upon the high (and low) points of this volume. There's a remarkably detailed and readable description of the Second Punic War - the most... Read more
Published on May 17, 2011 by Michael Bellomo
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