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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 18 June 2009
For a Roman Empire Novice like me, this book was just perfect. You'll get a short explanation of most terms and expressions, though some knowledge on ancient Rome is recommended. I have read a few books on the Roman Republic, so I had a slight advantage in keeping up with the pacing of the narrative. There's lots of information in such a short book, but Wells does a good job at keeping things clear and to the point.

An unexpected, but welcomed focus, was on aspects of the empire not related directly to the emperors or warfare. Things like agriculture, administration, romanization of foreign provinces, taxes, transportation,how messages and information is delivered, social and economical factors. A short overview of some of these aspect was expected, but such a good and deep focus on them was surprisingly good, again taking the books brevity into consideration. Don't worry, the Emperors and the wars get their due space and is presented objectively and vivid.

Wells gives much time to the different sources of this time and has dedicated a chapter to them, were he gives a good introduction to them and from what position they were writing their depictions of events and how this could lead to biased and subjective views, or why some eras are presented more detailed then others.

It contains a huge 'further reading' section and should prove more than helpful for those looking for more information on the Roman Empire.

The disappointing part of the book, is its horrendous printing. The text is OK for the most part, but the maps are completely useless. Be prepared to find your own maps, unless you're a expert on ancient geography, you'll probably have no idea where the different situations took place or have a clue from which directions the armies marched. This is always an important part of any history book, which I always use to get a clear picture of how wars played out.

In spite of the abysmal printing, this is a highly recommendable book for newcomers to the Roman Empire.
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It's now some twenty years since this book was published in its second edition, and even longer since the first edition was published in 1984. While some would say scholarship in Roman history has moved on since then, there is always, in my opinion, room for books that carry sound historical authorship and successfully engage a reader's interest. This is one of those books. It has graced my bookshelves for quite a few years now, and I find myself referring to it often. It was time to read it from cover to cover.

This is a really interesting, and well-written book; it's clear, as you read the book, that the author is particularly interested in the Roman army and its movements, and way of life. I'm guessing that this is the same writer who authored The German Policy of Augustus: an Examination of the Archaeological Evidence, which I used earlier this year as part of my research into Augustus' wars under Tiberius - a most interesting book.

This particular book is one of the series of the Fontana History of the Ancient World series - my second edition, published first in 1992, is a very accessible paperback version which fits in very well in the whole series from Fontana, which include other books on Rome, and on Ancient Greece.

This book is very readable and very well laid out - the chapters alternate between more or less chronological outlines of the rule of the various Emperors, and chapters on the social, cultural, economic and other historical aspects of the Empire at the requisite time in the book's timeline. This makes for a good way to consolidate knowledge as you go, and it also offers the opportunity to read alternate chapters if you want a stricly chronological, or strictly thematic read of the information. There is a comprehensive list of Further Reading, and primary references such as Suetonius, Dio and Tacitus are well-referenced. This is a very good book for any reader interested in learning more about the Roman Empire from the time of Augustus to Marcus Aurelius, and highly recommended.
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on 16 April 2015
Overall, a very informative book about the Roman empire, especially the earlier periods. Vast quantities of information are provided and the class and style of Colin Wells as scholar of the period shines through the work.

The only negative I could think of was the convolution of some of the sections of the text and the rather unattractive layout of the text, making reading slightly tiring. The text could also be grouped into more sections to enable quicker browsing for particular material. However, both of these are only minor problems.

This is a great work on Roman history and I thoroughly recommend it to enthusiast and student alike.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2009
This is a very readable book, quite suitable for someone like myself whose sole knowledge of Roman History comes from watching I Claudius thirty odd years ago. There are plenty of references for those who need to know more background, but they do not detract from the pace of the narrative.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2009
Very readable book which I am thoroughly enjoying. But get the 1984 hardback original second hand as this version is extremely poor quality - the maps are virtually impossible to read.
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on 18 December 2014
Great
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on 15 November 2014
good
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36 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2000
Just in case you want to start learning about Roman history I dont't think that this is the place to start. This however is simply due to the depth of information which manages to hit on a number of rarely touched subjects. Rome itself is a beautiful place and this book brings to life the ruins and the statues. This is due to the views on the lives of just about everyone from the farmers to the Emperor.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 21 March 2009
I am very pleased with this book and it is certainly a help with my studies.
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