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The Roman Revolution Paperback – 8 Aug 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; Rev Ed edition (8 Aug. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192803204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192803207
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 3 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

This is an absolute classic which is completely informed by Tacitus. It has very mordant take on the way that power works. (Fivebooks on The Browser)

About the Author

Sir Ronald Syme (1903-1989), one of the most distinguished Roman historians, was Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford University. In addition to numerous awards and honors, he collected honorary degrees in eleven countries on five continents.

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First Sentence
THE greatest of the Roman historians began his Annals with the accession to the Principate of Tiberius, stepson and son by adoption of Augustus, consort in his powers. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 10 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a sweepingly intelligent analysis of the end of the Roman Republic and the opportunism of Octavian/Augustus who was just a teenager when Caesar was assassinated. It's not by any means an easy read (partly because of Syme's indiosyncratic but weirdly fascinating writing style) or a quick one, but it's well worth the trouble. Probably not a good starting point for anyone new to this period but still an absolute classic.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By DAVID BRYSON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This great work of scholarly history was first published in June 1939. In his brief foreword Sir Ronald Syme speaks cryptically about its publication being a matter of some urgency. From that we have to infer that he saw it as having contemporary relevance. From a slow and careful reading I would add that we ought to be very careful and circumspect in how we draw parallels and apply lessons. I don't dispute for a moment that a thorough and precise examination of what was done over the turbulent transition from the later Roman republic to the principate gives deep insight into human motivations and political processes. However if one particular lesson comes over loud and clear to me it is how terminology can be distorted for political ends, deliberate or even unperceived. Those prone to assert that 'reading history' will in some inevitable way support some cherished preconception of their own will, if intelligent and attentive, gain a salutary insight into what history really consists of, and with that a perception of the pitfalls of dealing in glib generalisations and citing as convenient parallels things that are no parallels at all.
The first job of the historian is to clarify what really, or probably, happened and to interpret accurately or at least rationally what the sources for the period tell us. This is rarely a matter of simple fact in the sense that multiplication tables are simple fact. Syme's reasoning is bold and forthright, and while he has no claim to be taken as gospel he never seems to me perverse or unreasonable. I personally doubt that Antony was the straightforward and honest type portrayed by Syme - Syme himself can't get away from the part Antony played in the proscriptions.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. M. W. Thompson on 22 Feb. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a masterpiece. It was published in 1937; the 'sequel', The Augustan Aristocracy, wasn't published until 1986. The Roman Revolution covers the events and - more importantly - the shadowy groups behind these events from 60 BC - 14 AD. "[This] period witnessed a violent transference of power and of property; and the Principate of Augustus should be regarded as the consolidation of the revolutionary process".

"In all ages, whatever the form of government, be it monarchy, republic or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the facade". And this is no less true today for those who can see behind the carefully stage-managed, scripted media. The international banking cartel (which, ofcourse, owns and controls the media) was just as instrumental to the Roman revolution as it was before then and has been ever since; same modus operandi: as Albert Pike in Morals and Dogma states, "[by owning and controlling the money system] we have mastery over the masters of the world": nineteen years old Octavian was able to bribe his soldiers with a lifetime's income! "The marshalls, diplomats and financiers..[were]..the ministers and agents of power, the SAME MEN but in different garb". Plus ca change.

He uncovers then, in fascinating detail, the machinations of those at the nexus of power in Rome 2000 years ago. Internecine fighting had ravaged, with proscription and murder, this bloodline elite for decades until the iron-fisted military dictatorship (in everything but name - more properly the Pax of the future divus Augustus), eventually won out.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By James Miller TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Aug. 2001
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Covering perhaps the most important period in Roman history as the republic shattered under the excessive abuses of the military dynasts from Marius through to Julius Caesar, and Octavian took over and created the Principate or empire, the book is a must. Syme explores many issues of critical importance such as the date at which the empire can truly be said to have started, and the means employed by Octavian, later Augustus, of holding monarchic power whilst avoiding the fate of Caesar his predecessor. The book suffers slightly from antiquated writing style, but is still a must both for those interested in Roman history generally who can see embodyied in Augustus many of the qualities of the empire right through to the 4th century and to the scholar of Augustus.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Graham Henderson on 8 Dec. 2003
Format: Paperback
This is without doubt Syme's masterwork. The praise has been lavish. A.J.P. Taylor said it was a "work of brilliant scholarship which can be enjoyed by the expert and the layman alike". Sir Maurice Bowra said "his work is extraordinarily persuasive and interesting, it is the best book on Roman History that has appeared for many years." The Classical Review wrote that is the "one of the most important books on Roman history since Mommsen.
Need more reasons to read it? Well, I'll try. I'll start by saying that this is one of the top 25 books I have read - though I by no means agree with everything Syme believes.
What Ronald Syme has done is to lay bare the workings of the late Republic and early Empire. To do this required an effort of scholarship and synthesis on a gargantuan scale. And yet Syme manages to render the story in a lucid, straightforward, compelling manner. His arguments are often ineluctable. You find yourself drawn along, at times unwillingly, to conclusions you thought far-fetched.
The period under scrutiny is 60 BC to AD 14. Thus he covers the last generation of the Republic and the first two or three of the Empire. In a nutshell his hypothesis is that the Republic simply was not equipped to manage what had become an empire. He believes that Rome was inevitably drawn to the rule of one.
He writes of Caesar: "The rule of the nobiles, he [Caesar] could see, was an anachronism in a world-empire; and so was the power of the Roam plebs when all Italy enjoyed the franchise. Caesar in truth was more conservative and Roman that many have fancied; no Roman conceived of government save through an oligarchy."
Augustus, however, was a different matter. And it was Augustus, believes Syme, who wrought the revolution that forever changed the Roman way of life.
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