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5.0 out of 5 stars Educational and Insightful Introduction to the Roman Republic, 24 April 2013
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (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
By 
S. Meadows (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (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.

In examining the rise and characteristics of the Republic, Gwynn also points the reader to the seeds of the Republic’s demise and its ultimate transformation into the Roman Empire. This includes the warlike mentality that was driven by the gloria concept, with a whole chapter on the wars with Carthage.

As far as meeting the brief of ‘a very short introduction’, Gwynn has done an excellent job. There are many more aspects that could be explored and unpacked, but the book certainly left this reader with a better understanding of an overview of one of the most influential periods in European history.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good little read, 13 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (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
This review is from: The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (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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