Most helpful positive review
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Short,but broad and enjoyable introduction to the Roman Empire
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.