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The Beginnings of Rome (The Routledge History of the Ancient World) Paperback – 14 Sep 1995

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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1st Edition edition (14 Sept. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415015960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415015967
  • Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 3.4 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 266,907 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'Cornell's is the most authoritative study of early Roman history to have been written by a single author since Beloch's Romanische Geschichte of 1926. The Beginnings of Rome is an authoritative, important, and timely book from which we are all benefiting, and from which much subsequent study of early Rome will start.' - The Classical Review

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me start by stating that T. J. Cornell is without a doubt one of the best early Roman historians I have had as a resource. I bought this book for the first year of my course. Introduction to Roman History for Ancient History.

The wonderful thing about this book is how comprehensive it is. Cornell does not just take the Latin historical accounts and assess them, as so many do on this subject. He takes Greek, Lost (as in the scraps), Documents, and Archives and so on. This is until we get to one of his most important sources, Archaeological. Cornell blends physical scientific evidence with records and that is why I feel this book is such a great piece of work. You are getting a strong blend and mix that needs to happen more regularly with Ancient History. Archaeology and History must merge and this is what you get.

Cornell's writing style I will add is very precise, and clear. He does not waffle (unlike myself) and you get a huge amount of information well laid out and organised so you can find what is required with great ease.

If you are studying Roman History or Archaeology, if you are interested in either or you study Classics (Roman). Please consider this book, it has helped me immensely and I have used it (reference wise) in essays that have come back with grades, part of which I thank Cornell's incredible research for.

As a side note, if one get's the time, look up Cornell and T. P. Wiseman's debate over the value of Livy. A very interesting debate. part of which is inside this book. Good if you are interested in the value of Latin Literature and Historiography, or just the early history of Rome. Wiseman's books are very good in addition, I may add.
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Format: Paperback
Not everyone agrees with the trust Cornell puts in the source material (for example, A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War by Gary Forsythe), although I think that his arguments have been steadily gaining support (particularly his assertion that, whatever their accuracy, the sources remain relevant because they show what educated Romans themselves believed). That said, the book is intelligent, thorough, well researched, and extremely readable. It holds your interest from start to finish.
I personally think that he's right on many points -- he's certainly created hypotheses that need answering, made a significant contribution to the field, and set a useful framework for future research. But don't take my word for it -- buy the book and make up your own mind! If you disagree with his ideas -- well Cornell's an academic and welcomes enlightened debate!
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Format: Paperback
for any student of Rome's earliest history. This book has everything you'll need.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x92b07600) out of 5 stars 14 reviews
35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x929c61e0) out of 5 stars First rate scholarly work 29 Jun. 2001
By Douglas Turnbull - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book that I think is primarily intended for a scholarly audience (experts in the field, professional historians and archaeologists, etc.) but is also very valuable to an interested amateur like myself.
Cornell goes through the early history of Rome and sets out what the evidence is and what we can reliably conclude from it. One of the best features of the book is his willingness, all too rare even among scholars, to recognize when the evidence is inconclusive and to admit that we have no way of knowing the answer to a particular question. He is also clear about the limitations of archaeological data, and recognizes the way it is often misused to support historical theses when, in fact, it is rather the histoprical ideas that allow for the interpretation of the archaeologucal data in the first place.
However, while Cornell is pretty good about presenting the narrative historical tradition, the book generally covers the history with fairly large brushstrokes and jumps from one large topic to another without trying to string together a coherent narrative. Because of this, this book is best used as a second reference on early Roman history. That is, it shouldn't be the first book you read on the topic. I think you'd be best served by first reading a good narrative history to provide the framework, and then read this work to fill in the details and show up any inaccuracies.
It is well written and suprisingly readable, not at all dry. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who has some knowledge of early Roman history but would like to learn more about the "state of the art" in that field.
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93967258) out of 5 stars We've caught up! 12 Mar. 2001
By M. Cotone - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Like Professor Cornell, I am a Romanist, and during the 1980s, I lived and worked in the old city. Doing so was a stimulus to read what was being written about archaic Rome by Italian and other scholars, and produced a sigh or two of discouragement: the ideas put forward in those works were not readily available to my students nor to non-academics who might have an interest in that period of Roman and Italian history. Professor Cornell has not only absorbed all those ideas, he has presented them and his own with clarity and insight, and has done so in a highly readable, occasionally piquant, style. If you're curious about the origin and early history of Rome, I can recommend no better introduction to and presentation of the best work being done, not to mention an insightful critique and development of much of it.
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92dfa8b8) out of 5 stars He is careful with the evidence. 3 April 2000
By John Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've read this book twice. The reason I love it, aside from the inherent interest of the subject, is that Professor Cornell is so careful with the evidence. He starts out by telling us exactly what the evidence IS, as well as what it is not. He then discusses the major theories in light of the evidence. When a theory is clearly the result of muddy thinking, unsupported by the facts, he says so. This rigor is wonderful and makes the book a joy to read.
There are 15 chapters. From the first, introductory, chapter ("The Evidence") to the last ("Rome in the Age of the Italian Wars"), the book is well written and illuminates an era of history that has been dark for too long.
For once, I agree with every word of the editorial reviews above. Buy this book and you will treasure it as I do.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x929c60d8) out of 5 stars A magisterial overview and a paragon of scholarship 12 Feb. 2010
By greg taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The other reviewers have touched on the qualities of this book. I think you can guess my feelings from my title. As far as that goes, I will only say that Cornell is a graceful and lucid writer and an exemplar of how to weigh and present evidence.
What I want to do is to tell you a little more about some of the themes of the book which the other reviewers only touch upon.
Cornell's book was published in 1995. He was the first writer (that I know of) to try to sum up the results of contemporary archeological work and to lay out how that changed our understanding of the history of early Rome.
Our traditional understanding of that history comes from literary sources; above all Livy, but other historians such as Polybius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Cicero, Plutarch and Fabius Pictor (whose writings we only know through summaries of his work in other writers). We also have the antiquarians such as Varro, the Fasti (the list of the consuls) and whatever other documents might exist. All present problems- not least that the purposes of historical writings at the time were far different from our times.
Against that traditional history, Cornell presents what we can glean from the archeological record.
He is extremely careful about this. He frequently asserts that the archeological record can only be understood on the basis of what we know from the traditional history. One of the pleasures, indeed one of the main values of the book for the non-historian (me! me! me!), is to read him weighing the evidence, arguing his point of view against other scholars and trying to understand the evidence in all its inherent ambiguity (polysemy?).
I want to emphasize that he is presenting some controversial ideas here. This book obviously challenged many of the orthodoxies of his field at the time. One of the other reviewers mentions Cornell's dismissing of the influence on the Etruscans on the Romans. It seems to still be a common interpretation of the evidence about the earliest period of Roman history that it culturally was heavily influenced by Etruscan culture and that the early kings were Etruscans.
Cornell is instead arguing for a Hellenistic "koine" (e.g., p. 163 or p. 167). He is suggesting that both the Romans and the Etruscans were influenced in that period by a dominant Greek culture that had begun to be felt in Italy at the time. This is probably the most controversial part of the book. I would love to read someone argue the other point of view. All I will say is that at times in this part of the book (Chapter 6 is central), Cornell's arguments seemed at his weakest. For example, on p. 169, Cornell asserts that "Formal dress, magisterial symbols, ceremonial trappings, ritual technicalities and architectural forms- these amount to little more than outward tokens". To which I can only say, "If you say so".
There is much else in the book that is utterly convincing. It is difficult to read Livy (or any one else on Roman history) for very long and not become discombobulated by the whole patrician/plebeian thing. Cornell sorts that out very lucidly. His basic argument is that the war of the orders was between two different elites. One was a traditional family based elite (the patricians), the other was formed by men of ambition and skill who sought leadership by channeling the dissatisfaction of the lower classes. Cornell argues that the Licinio-Sextian Laws were the turning point at which the two elites came to a working agreement and thereby created a new nobility which successfully ruled Rome for the next several hundred years (p. 340). I find this part of his argument conclusive.
Cornell is also somewhat controversial in his attitude toward traditional sources like Livy. Livy's is by far the most complete and detailed we have of this early phase of Roman history. I find Cornell's (generally positive) assessment of Livy's trustworthiness to be very convincing. But I should mention that Gary Forsythe, who has written another very well received history of this period of Roman history is much more skeptical of Livy (or so I understand, I have not read Forsythe yet). Cornell's book offers plenty of examples of places where he reads Livy with a skeptical eye (see, e.g., picked at random from my notes, p. 334).
In many ways, this is the perfect scholarly book. I don't care if you are an amateur historian or someone whose life has been devoted to early Rome (a noble fellow, you)this is a book you should know and read. You may not agree with Cornell but you will want to listen to, to discuss and to argue with him.
The one problem I have with the book is its age. Much of the archeological work that he references was unpublished at the time. It would be nice to have an updated bibliography. It would be nice to read how the work of the last 15 years has effected his opinions. Ergo, a new updated edition is needed.
Since I am a nervy guy, I wrote Prof. Cornell and asked about that possibility. He said that a new edition was being talked about but that he had to finish a current project on Roman historians. He also stated that he believes he would probably have to rewrite the whole thing.
So my suggestion is to read this version, write the publisher or Prof. Cornell if you would like to see an update and then read that when it comes out. That's what I plan to do.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x929cd5a0) out of 5 stars Don't walk run and buy this book! 21 Mar. 2006
By Badiani Aldo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I have ever read. And I do not mean just books about ancient Rome or history books. I have read it three times and just for the kick of it. I am neuroscientist and not a classical scholar but I love history and this is history writing at its best: scholarly, fair, witty, and elegantly written (sometimes donwright dazzling). Cornell lets the readers into his secret cabinet and shows them the raw materials the professional historian works with. Amazingly, this does not detract from the magic of the "story" but makes it all the more enthralling. Don't walk run and buy this book!
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