- Series: Ancient Warfare and Civilization
- Hardcover: 408 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 4, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199739765
- ISBN-13: 978-0199739769
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Rome's Revolution: Death of the Republic and Birth of the Empire (Ancient Warfare and Civilization) 1st Edition
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"In Rome's Revolution, Richard Alston presents an excellent, concise survey of the key period of Roman history from the fall of the Republic to the rise of the Empire. He also reminds us that, however much politics and oratory influenced these years, it was violence that ultimately changed Rome." --Philip Freeman, author of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar
"A skillfully woven portrait of the establishment of the Roman principate, dyed in much blood." --Tom Holland, author of Rubicon and In the Shadow of the Sword
"With violence and bloodshed at its very heart, Rome's Revolution will take readers out of their historical comfort zone. Richard Alston sets out to elucidate the messy nature of Roman history and to reject the utility of the concepts of consensus, settlements, and so on that have dominated the study of ancient history for more than a generation." --Ray Laurence, author (with Alex Butterworth) of Pompeii: The Living City
"Relentlessly exposing the bloody ruins and mangled corpses beneath the shining surface of order and peace restored after the age of Rome's civil wars, Alston's compelling narrative of the violent transition from Republic to Empire helps us understand a lesson that matters to all ages-not least our own: that the benefits of empire (whatever its nature) come at a tremendous price-a price that is but insufficiently expressed by the much abused ideal that we, like the Romans, call liberty." --Kurt A. Raaflaub, editor of War and Peace in the Ancient World
"...[an] impressive, original, and illuminating work... Highly recommended." --CHOICE
"[A] vigorous, swift-paced account of events...[P]articularly strong at describing the military campaigns leading to crucial battles." -- History Today
"Alston carefully deconstructs the myths Romans held about their own origins and political values, breaking down the narratives about civilization and democracy to show the messy inner workings of an ancient system built on hierarchy and violence...a strikingly poignant examination of the dangers in self-aggrandizing myths of national glory, and the ways in which efforts to return to a non-existent past can push a state further from their supposed values." -- Briedy Heing, The Daily Beast
About the Author
Richard Alston is Professor of Roman History at Royal Holloway, University of London, and the author or editor of over a dozen books on ancient Rome.
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Top customer reviews
I found the narrative history easy to read and digest. Alston writes well and is able to condense people and events (such as Sulla or the Battle of Actium) quite concisely. The book definitely gives you the information you need to understand the story without drowning the reader. The book does, however, go into much greater detail on the Augustan period.
The book’s strength is its political analysis. Unlike many books, it introduces framework to understand the give and take in politics in Rome. This is not a complicated, theoretical structure but it does give some discipline to analysis.
The author defines what he means by a revolution—a marked shift in how Rome was governed and the relationship among institutions. He explains the importance of networks in Roman society. He argues that there was not an underlying revolutionary agenda; Augustus may have been a good leader, but he was not planning the whole thing from the start. Revolution was his reaction to a more than fifty years of broken institutions. I should point that Alston does not see Augustus as a hero and is quite descriptive of what the emperor did to take control and maintain control of the state.
The book also explains how Augustus turned his personal “dictatorship” into a permanent system. While other tyrants (for example, Sulla) had seized the state, they did not try to establish a new regime or system of government.
For me, the discussion of redistribution was quite interesting and not one that I had thought of. Imperial government led to a large transfer of wealth and land from the elite (against their will and often violently) to soldiers and veterans. This continued as Rome maintained a large and expensive army. Likewise political power was transferred from the elite to the emperor, often to benefit of the lower classes (“plebes”). The author definitely does not believe that this was driven by ideology or class conflict; it is not a modern revolution. It has more to do with the necessities of maintaining power through the new Augustus’ network.
The book is probably best for people who have some experience with Roman history. The material is not difficult to understand but it is useful to have some additional knowledge to fill in the gaps.
Much of the book was fascinating, but I got the impression that the author was writing to fellow historians (being very careful to justify any unorthodox takes on interpretation of data, nodding to other interpretations to show that he knew about them). I got the impression that the book was full of careful scholarship, but the "here's the big picture", "let's summarize that battle with a diagram", "taking a step back" parts were missing. If you're a Roman history buff who's looking for a thorough, careful take on one of the most legendary and romanticized periods of history, this book is for you. If you're a total newb (like me), it'll give you a general idea, but I suspect there may be clearer accounts out there.
This is a new book so I thought it deserved a positive review. The books tone (so far) reminds me a bit of Dan Carlin's podcast Wrath of the Khans. Carlin talks about how history has been kind to Genghis Khan and historians have lately pointed out all the benefits the world has about the Mongol invasion of Europe. Truth is the Mongol invasion was bloody and horrific — and you would have to ask the people who suffered if it 'was worth it'.
Well-written, not dry and quite frankly — just about the right size book. There are far too many authors that seem to feel the need to create a 700-800 page book about a subject. The equivalent of a 3 hour move. Just not interested.
Also, I loved that the author included at least a few maps and visuals. This might seem petty, but there's just something very pleasing about these little details, especially in a historical book.
If you're a fan of history or Rome in particular. I'd give this a shot.
One of the biggest pluses for me was Alston showing how strong a system the Republic was in many regards and how the shift to Empire was not a great or glorious thing despite how it went on to greatness in terms of conquest and rule. Too many times there is a heavy focus on the whole glamor of 'Antony and Cleopatra'*. Which is fascinating but their dramatic role obscures some equally interesting elements of this time and struggle.
A good strong addition to a period that makes some of the popular fictional forms of struggle to rule and triumph pale in compare.
*I'm still waiting for someone to wade in and take on the Cleopatras I to VI and their various Cleopatra sisters and all the tawdry bloody fascinating mayhem across the Egypt, Syria and the rest of that region)