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The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) [Paperback]

David M. Gwynn
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Aug 2012 Very Short Introductions
The rise and fall of the Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilization. From humble beginnings on the seven hills beside the Tiber, the city of Rome grew to dominate the ancient Mediterranean. Led by her senatorial aristocracy, Republican armies defeated Carthage and the successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great, and brought the surrounding peoples to east and west into the Roman sphere. Yet the triumph of the Republic was also its tragedy.

In this Very Short Introduction, David M. Gwynn provides a fascinating introduction to the history of the Roman Republic and its literary and material sources, bringing to life the culture and society of Republican Rome and its ongoing significance within our modern world.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (30 Aug 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199595119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199595112
  • Product Dimensions: 11.2 x 0.9 x 17.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 121,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

About the Author

Dr David Gwynn is Lecturer in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of several books including The Eusebians: The Polemic of Athanasius of Alexandria and the Construction of the "Arian Controversy" (OUP, 2007).


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Ancient Rome is one of the most famous and most reflected upon topics in all of history. In many respects modern historiography is to a large extent been influenced by the study of the classical period, and Rome in particular. Furthermore, Rome has influenced many artistic works; from Shakespeare's plays to the HBO miniseries to name just a couple that immediately spring to mind. There is no shortage of books and other resources on this topic. Even so, David Gwynn's very short introduction to the Roman Republic stands out. It is a very lucid, cogent, and interesting book that can serve as a great source of information on this topic for the modern readers. In particular, it focuses on the Republic, the part of Roman history that has been understood, both by the Romans themselves and the modern historians and interpreters, as the most noble and politically advanced period in the life of Rome.

This book, as the name suggests, covers the republican era of the Roman history: from the end of the Roman kingdom until the beginning of the Roman Empire. It is a period during which Rome has risen from a small state in the Apennine peninsula to the status of the World power that dominated the Mediterranean and much of the continental Europe as well. The book provides some very interesting new insights that I have not come across before. For me the most intriguing insights are the ones that make explicit the degree to which concepts of "dignitas" and "gloria" pervaded the thinking and decision-making of the Roman politicians and other leaders. The latter one in particular, according to Gwynn, was one of the major driving forces behind the Rome's militarized and expansionistic policies, and it had in the end lead to the fall of the Republic.

This is a very enjoyable and interesting book, and one that every true history buff would be well advised to consider. It is one of my favorite titles in the "Very Short Introduction" series. I highly recommend it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative 18 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback
Having eventually finished Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, the next significant period of history I wanted to look at was that of the rise of Rome. Some of this was covered in Virgil’s Aeneid, though I confess that I had a relative ignorance of anything to do with the Roman Republic. Or at least I thought I did.

As it turns out, much of what I thought related to the time of the Roman Empire was actually from the earlier period of the Republic. Gwynn starts off by asking where Rome’s origins lie. I would imagine anyone reading this review is educated enough to be familiar with the myth of Romulus and Remus. Yet where did they come from? Was there any settlement at Rome prior to the founding of the city? Gwynn puts forward a hypothesis that those who became known as Romans were originally Etruscans, from further north. Though he acknowledges that it’s a little more complicated than that, but there is not enough room in this small volume to discuss the issue thoroughly.

In trying to look at the history of early Rome it is not as simple as one might hope to distinguish between historiography and mythology. Gwynn attempts briefly to sketch out the formation of the Republic from the early wars of Rome, though he admits he draws from a paucity of primary sources. From here, he goes on to paint a portrait of “everyday life” is such a generality can be reasonably made. Particular attention is paid the qualities of dignitas and gloria and their importance in the Roman worldview. This was a most illuminating section, as it gives a key context which so much of the rest of the history is set in.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good little read 13 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback
Much better than some of the others in this series: a narrative history (broadly) with themes and social context interspersed. Writing style is just right, too - no long waffling sentences as you get with Paul Cartledge, and not too colloquial either (though it is perhaps conversational at times.) Would recommend, even if you think you have an 'outline' of the period, as his focus on the competition between patrician families was 'new' for me at least!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent balance and fact and analysis 25 Nov 2012
Format:Paperback
There has been a increasingly prevalent habit in history writing in recent years to over-analyse and under-inform, and this book, as with most of the Very Short Introduction series (despite their compact format), manages to refreshingly buck this trend. Interspersing an eloquently expressed outline of over 700 years of history with chapters of thematic analysis when relevant, Gwynn provides a concise and surprisingly detailed insight into the Roman republic that belies its length. An excellent addition to the series, that at least for me prompted further reading.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational and Insightful Introduction to the Roman Republic 24 April 2013
By Dr. Bojan Tunguz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ancient Rome is one of the most famous and most reflected upon topics in all of history. In many respects modern historiography is to a large extent been influenced by the study of the classical period, and Rome in particular. Furthermore, Rome has influenced many artistic works; from Shakespeare's plays to the HBO miniseries to name just a couple that immediately spring to mind. There is no shortage of books and other resources on this topic. Even so, David Gwynn's very short introduction to the Roman Republic stands out. It is a very lucid, cogent, and interesting book that can serve as a great source of information on this topic for the modern readers. In particular, it focuses on the Republic, the part of Roman history that has been understood, both by the Romans themselves and the modern historians and interpreters, as the most noble and politically advanced period in the life of Rome.

This book, as the name suggests, covers the republican era of the Roman history: from the end of the Roman kingdom until the beginning of the Roman Empire. It is a period during which Rome has risen from a small state in the Apennine peninsula to the status of the World power that dominated the Mediterranean and much of the continental Europe as well. The book provides some very interesting new insights that I have not come across before. For me the most intriguing insights are the ones that make explicit the degree to which concepts of "dignitas" and "gloria" pervaded the thinking and decision-making of the Roman politicians and other leaders. The latter one in particular, according to Gwynn, was one of the major driving forces behind the Rome's militarized and expansionistic policies, and it had in the end lead to the fall of the Republic.

This is a very enjoyable and interesting book, and one that every true history buff would be well advised to consider. It is one of my favorite titles in the "Very Short Introduction" series. I highly recommend it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly focused short introduction to the Roman Republic 15 Nov 2012
By Michael Birman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Our fascination with Rome will never abate. Somehow a tiny village nestled amongst seven hills and adjacent to an ordinary river, whether through brilliant governance, military expertise, luck, fate or some combination of factors, managed to rule a large portion of the world for nearly 2000 years. The early years of Rome are mostly shrouded in myth but what we do know is that the young state was a monarchy and that it was primarily influenced by the neighboring Etruscan and colonial Greek civilizations. The Roman/Etruscan monarchy was eventually replaced by a republic in 510-509 BC. Its primary powers were invested in the state's elite families, beginning a policy that continued through the early centuries of the empire. The Roman Republic was vaulted into preeminence by strategic, ruthless warfare: first by absorbing the Etruscans, then defeating the Latins and the colonial Greeks. But it was the titanic struggle between Rome and Carthage - the two most powerful entities in the western Mediterranean - as epitomized by their three legendary wars, which resulted in Rome's mastery of the region. The Republic lasted for nearly two more centuries until Augustus was declared first citizen in 27 BC.

This Very Short Introduction to the Roman Republic is a superbly focused overview of some of the most important events in the ancient world. Author David Gwynn manages to highlight history in a memorable fashion by using prose that is crystalline in its clarity, and by organizing the book into perfectly chosen topical chapters. By unerringly choosing the most appropriate topics for discussion, he eliminates everything that isn't germane to his goal of explaining the rise of Rome with concision and accuracy. I cannot recall another book about Rome that managed to convey so much important information so quickly and with such impact. Because of the book's brevity, the reader is never far removed from previously encountered material. A mental image, similar to a large painting, is easy to hold in ones mind, making it possible for the reader to retain the big picture as the story of Rome unfolds. This side effect of brevity is one of the best features of the entire Very Short Introduction series. If you find the story of Rome as fascinating as I do, you will use this short introduction as a superb warm-up to famous works such as Ronald Syme's The Roman Revolution and Gibbon's magisterial The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: Volumes 1-3 of 6 (Everyman's Library).

Mike Birman
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Synopsis 22 Feb 2013
By Carl A. Greco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I always wanted to get a good basic sketch of the origins and life of the Roman Republic. David Gwynn provides a very nice short history with maps, images of items of importance in the Republics history, a chronology of events and suggestions for further reading for each chapter in the back of the book. Most importantly, the author describes the character of the Roman and the Republic's values that made that culture one of the world's most important and influential civilizations. Gloria and Dignitas!
5.0 out of 5 stars One of their best! 14 Sep 2013
By dom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
i simply love the VSI series from OUP and truly enjoyed the RR. It made me want to run out and read every book of first and second-hand literature/history book on the subject. Reading about the mythological birth of Rome and about Cincinnatus was really very interesting. If you'd like to read a blog post on the VSI series, a definite 4 out of 5 stars for the series, go to my blog: [...]
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 8 Aug 2014
By Pyramid - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Excellent product. Excellent service.
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