67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2012
This is a good book, and a worthwhile acquisition especially if you are -- like me -- a semi-retired amateur/dilettante historian. Having said that, I suppose professionals will enjoy the book too, because it gives a good overview. Readers will certainly fly through it quickly, as it is written without the turgid prose that characterizes academic works. It's also nice to get a good breezy work that treats the rise of Rome, given the myriad of books on the fall of Rome.
What makes the book good? Everitt writes for a wide audience, and provides a fine overview of the factors, viewed through the lens of episodes involving key figures, which contributed to the rise of what was essentially a large tribe in the centre of the Italian "peninsula" becoming the hegemon of the immediate region and then later the Mediterranean basin and beyond. Via entertaining and informative narrative portraits, Everitt treats many, but of course not all, aspects of the figures who made Rome. He's strong on the military and institutional aspects and solid on the political, social and ideological (and rhetorical) battles. So what issues do I have with the book? Not too many, other than the superficiality of it: the book, perhaps inevitably, feels rushed. There's a tremendous amount of history covered in it (700+ years), so there are going to be gaps. It's a reliable highlight package.
I've given the book 4 stars. Maybe I've been too harsh, though I just don't feel the book merits 5 stars, for the reason stated above. However, Everitt has collected a lot of interesting material (probably in the course of writing his other books) about Rome and Roman ways, he's and he's a good storyteller. One last point: in the middle of the book, to one's surprise, there is a really good, if short, selection of colour plates! (I've got the hardcover edition but still, it's not often one gets colour plates.) There's also several decent maps, at the beginning, and a good Time Line at the back of the book ... which makes up for a skimpy select bibliography. But to repeat, this is a breezy work of popular history, easy to read and uncontroversial (maybe that's for the best; I've just read Adrienne Mayor's gushing book on Mithradates, so it was a relief to get a plain, old straightforward work of history in the form of Everitt's book).
71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
So much of our rule of law comes from Rome, the 3 branches of government, the literary heritage, cultural, and architectural history. This book does an admirable job in presenting those facts and how that empire came into being. The contents begin with Troy and describes in detail the leaders, armies, battles, the land, the people and the setbacks on the road to empire...the sacking of Rome, Hannibal.
All is written in a readable style. It becomes at points, almost conversational. There are asides making comparisons to more modern day English history, such as the capturing of the Enigma machine, a "serendipitous capture...so chance came to the Republic's rescue"...this is written by an English professor.
There are a few maps and a section of photos, a time line, extensive notes and an index. At many points in the narrative, page numbers are given to refer back to remind a reader about a military general, for instance. It's a good tool.
Since the rise of Rome does not occur without war and battles, many of the pages follow the battles to build that empire; but many interesting incidents are included. A reader cannot help but be impressed by what a military society Rome was. At points, the author asks, how do we know this? And then he explains.
The history of the community, political and social life is touched upon. This is a book that gives the stories, myths, legends, histories and archeological evidence in an interesting and amazingly concise manner, summing up the rise of Rome in 403 readable pages.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2013
Although I am fascinated by this period in history, I have failed, time and again, to get through any comprehensive history of Rome from its founding through the end of the Republic. This book, however, gripped me throughout. It is scholarly, but it was written for the general reader, and the narration flows. A book like this makes me want to know more as the author necessarily had to speed through many parts to cover 700 years of history in only 402 pages. I will certainly read Everitt's biographies of Cicero, Augustus and Hadrian, where, chronologically, the story will start up again.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2012
This book contains a wealth of interesting tidbits of history. The author weaves together a number of factors that influence the development of the Roman Empire. However, it is very difficult at times to follow the meaning and impact of each factor. It will take more than one reading to develop and understanding of what the author is trying to convey. This book is probably written for someone who has some previous knowledge of about the subject. Still, I enjoy reading about history and enjoy the enthusiasm the author projects in his writing. I feel it is a scholarly written book that serious readers will find worthwhile reading.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2012
While popular history about Ancient Rome too frequently focuses on the Imperial period, Anthony Everitt reminds us that for every fall from power, there must have been an ascent. Everitt is hobbled by the lack of historical sources dealing with the establishment of Rome and with the early days of the Republic, so the first third of the book relates the foundation myths. While these may seem irrelevant to a historical account, these myths do in fact help us better understand how the Romans viewed themselves. For instance, the legend of Horatius at the bridge in a seemingly hopeless defense of the city was used by later Romans as an exemplar for civic duty, even if that duty required great sacrifice.
In relating the historical period of early Rome, Everitt does an excellent job of showing how the conflicting power centers in the haphazardly constructed Republican government made the decay of Roman power almost inevitable from the start. A modern reader looking for parallels to our own modern governance will surely find them.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
Anthony Everitt has written a decent book on Ancient Rome. My problem with him is that while he gives the traditional account of Roman history he then dismisses much of it as unreliable and offers his own explainations which he does not back up with classical scholarship so in short he is giving his mere unsubstantiated opinions a little bit too often for my tastes.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2014
How does a reviewer give a 4.5? I finally settled on a 4, expecting that the glowing reviews by others more knowledgeable than I will lead anyone even vaguely interested in this fascinating subject to read this book. It is both a fun and easy read, and a fount of knowledge about a fascinating society, the various governments by which it was ruled, the factors that led to its success, and to its ultimate failure. A failure occurring after many more years than our own country has been around. But a failure which offers many lessons for us.
A thoroughly enjoyable book. the only reservation which led to my taking .5 off the rating is that in the Kindle version I didn't find any maps (perhaps my fault) which made it difficult to understand much of the discussion of military encounters. But that information isn't really necessary to understand the big picture, and learn the important lessons..
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2014
Anthony Everitt has written a thoroughly engaging book detailing the Rise of Rome from the legendary Kings ( who were all very real to the Romans) to the Republic and its demise. He provides insights into Rome's resilient mixed constitution and the forces of imperial expansion, wealth and popular pressures that doomed it. He ends on an interesting note, however, pointing out that the History of Rome was written by the defeated Republicans; perhaps suggesting, as I have always felt, that the Caesars may have gotten an unfairly bad rap!!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2015
This book has three parts--Legend, Story and History. The third is, well, history, but the first two relate the legends of Rome's foundation and the stories about the early city, such as the Etruscan rulers. Everitt does an excellent job of explaining these, including such tales as Aeneas and Dido and the Trojan origin or Rome, which are glossed over or mentioned in passing in most accounts of the city. The third part, History, is the usual Rome expanding beyond the ability of the Republic's structure to handle it, and so the empire; it's a solid and accessible history, but not as good as the first two sections.
The book is excellent on many of the main figures, particularly Hannibal and his family (Everitt seems a bit anti-Cathage), and figures such as Mithridates, Massinissa and Jugurtha, These figures are sometimes mentioned briefly in histories. He offers a good summary of many of the wars, without going much into military history. The book is helpful in understanding the Samnite wars (although not so good at describing why they were such formidable and persistent enemies). I found it particularly good on Pyrrhus, a figure I had always been curious about.
He is excellent at describing the very long and important struggle between the plebs and the aristocrats, for lack of a better word. His description of the origins and development of the Roman government is very good and easy to understand. This is one of the themes developed throughout the book, as is the capacity of Rome to form new armies after defeats, and Rome's inherent aggressiveness. There is little on some themes common in recent history, such as Rome's economy, agriculture, and social structure.
This is accessible and well-written history, one that does not get bogged down in the welter of detail. Its weakness seems to me to be very little on what living in the city was like, nothing much on the economy or trade, and in consequence it is not a fully comprehensive book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 2014
The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World's Greatest Empire is divided into three parts:
Part 1 - Legend, the story of the founding of Rome and the rule of the city-state under kings.
Part 2 - Story, the conquest of Italy and the growth of the Roman system of government.
Part 3 - History, the Roman Republic and its growth as a Mediterranean power.
This is not a comprehensive history, but an introduction to the history of Ancient Rome covering the eras from 753 B.C. (the purported founding of the village of Rome) to 100 B.C. (the first Civil War between aristocratic forces and plebeian forces) which was the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.
Actually, the author jumps forward, past the limits he first set for his book, and explains the second Civil War too, between Julius Caesar and his plebeian forces, and the Aristocratic forces, which lead to a partial democracy. We also get a peek at Octavius/Augustus and Mark Antony who fought the third Civil War, leading to a total autocracy.
The book often reads like an introductory textbook of 500+ pages. The author also spends much time analyzing the big personalities who shaped Roman society and its development: Sulla, Marius, Pompey.... There are many reference maps, along with some images, a timeline, and lots of Sources.
Despite the author saying otherwise, the book actually covers:
•Founding of Rome
•Laws of Rome
•Wars of unity in Italy
•Punic Wars 1, 2, 3
•North African conquering wars
•Mithradates Wars in Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean
•Sulla and Marius's civil war
•Slave revolt lead by Spartacus and put down by Crassus
•Pirate Wars ended by Pompey at his own expense
•Gaul Wars led by Julius Caesar, where he gained his great wealth
•Pompey vs. Caesar civil war, which Caesar won and which made him a minor dictator
•Octavian vs. Antony civil war, which began with the assassination of J. Caesar, and ended with Octavian becoming Augustus, a big dictator
Please read my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews.