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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History of the Roman World
Scullard's History of the Roman World narrates Rome's assent to Mediterranean predominance, from Neolithic Italy (the title, is somewhat of a misnomer then) to the sack of Carthage. First published 1935 but then continuously revised until 1982 (fourth edition), the book is no doubt slightly out of date due to subsequent archeological discoveries, on for example the...
Published on 7 Mar. 2011 by Sean

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars dull, but worthwhile
This is an old history of Rome, originally written in the 1930s, which dates it in many ways. To be honest, it is not an exciting read - not at all. There are long sections of descriptions of encounters of various tribes and peoples (now utterly obscure) with the Roman war machine, listed like a catalogue. The prose is also lackluster and uneven, with academic jargon and...
Published on 13 Jun. 2011 by rob crawford


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History of the Roman World, 7 Mar. 2011
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Sean (Northumberland, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC (Paperback)
Scullard's History of the Roman World narrates Rome's assent to Mediterranean predominance, from Neolithic Italy (the title, is somewhat of a misnomer then) to the sack of Carthage. First published 1935 but then continuously revised until 1982 (fourth edition), the book is no doubt slightly out of date due to subsequent archeological discoveries, on for example the Palatine Hill. It still however should be treated as a first port-of-call on the subject as should its sequel, From the Gracchi to Nero: History of Rome from 133 B.C.to A.D.68.

Scullard is a gloriously old-fashioned classicist. Although fair on other cultures, and highly critical of Roman imperialism mid-2nd century in fact, the volume is replete with phrases concerning Rome's superior 'civilization' and 'system of government', phrases you simply do not find in modern history. Nonetheless, extensive notes and twelve appendixes concerning concurrent historical debates seem to preclude impartiality. Readers can either, freely ignore all of this dry academia and merely enjoy the narrative, or, leap off into the world of historiography, maybe even arriving at a different viewpoint from H.H Scullard's. It is an excellent system for history as shadowy as archaic Rome.

Parts I-III travel the whole course of Roman history, mythology and archeology, constitutionalism and imperial expansion. Part IV breaks the narrative structure with illuminating essays on 'Life and Culture', e.g. economics, art and religion. Additionally, we obtain a thorough chronology, bibliography and four maps (Greece and the Aegean, Spain and Africa, Central Italy and Italy). A word of caution on the mapping: for although these are perfectly adequate for non-military events, History of the Roman World is very battle-centric - far more that its sequel in fact. The reasons for this are obvious, as Rome was in continuous warfare throughout this period. Unfortunately no battle maps are included although they can be supplied with a decent military history atlas.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars dull, but worthwhile, 13 Jun. 2011
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rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC (Paperback)
This is an old history of Rome, originally written in the 1930s, which dates it in many ways. To be honest, it is not an exciting read - not at all. There are long sections of descriptions of encounters of various tribes and peoples (now utterly obscure) with the Roman war machine, listed like a catalogue. The prose is also lackluster and uneven, with academic jargon and sometimes turbid syntax, but for the most part clear.

That being said, there is no question that the subject matter is very very interesting. You start with a description of the political geography of the Italian peninsula, which was surprisingly useful, e.g. Rome lacked a good port and so developed as an agrarian rather than a trading people, having to defend itself against countless powerful neighbors.

Then, you get the mythical origins of Rome - Aeneas, Romulus, up through the kings who were overthrown in favor of the republic; they are treated clinically, rather than told as stories, with archaeological evidence, etc. The evolution of Roman government and law is essential reading, whereby rotating magistrates were elected, the Senate ruled fairly well, participation was widened to include the Plebs, and laws were written in the Twelve Tablets. What they achieved was far more stable and long-lasting than anything the Greeks did at that time.

The next great step is how Rome consolidates control over the entire Italian peninsula. Essentially, rather than simply conquering and trying to occupy and exploit - the traditional empire goals that reach natural limits in the generation after the charismatic conqueror-leader - the Romans sought to create allies. They did so by bringing prosperity (with roads and other infrastructure) and a comparatively lasting peace, enforced by a supposedly noble group (which I think is mythic propaganda). This established a strong base of loyalty that, when put to the test by invasion, largely held. It also provided a rationale for why the Roman Empire was able to expand and last: the co-opted elites into the system (offering jobs and status) and "civilized" them via immersion in Roman legal culture.

Things began to change once Rome grew beyond Italy. After the sack of Rome by a Celtic tribe, it encountered the Hellenistic Greeks (Pyrrhus and his Pyrrhic victories). But its greatest adversary was Carthage, which led to a monumental and existential war for nearly 50 years. You get the story of Hannibal, a general of genius who invaded Italy and nearly crushed Rome forever; his methods forced the Roman military to become more professional, essentially training troops to take more initiative than was possible in their phalanxes, whose rigidity resulted in the Cannae annihilation. As the only Mediterranean superpower, the conquest of Greece and Seleucid Syria was something of a game after Hannibal's defeat by Scipio, and the start of the Roman Empire under the republic. With the razing of Carthage, Rome has no adversary that could threaten its existence.

Rome at that time was, in a sense, the "new world": while highly organized rather than "barbaric" anarchic state, the Romans could in no way match the states of the east in terms of culture, i.e. art, literature, philosophy, mathematics, architecture. The Romans were doers, the ultimate pragmatists, hence their supreme excellence in organization, administration, and warfare and disinterest in the other arts; they did not even develop a coin currency until they needed to manage war debt while Hannibal was in Italy. In their parochialism, the strove to meet certain ideals, the mos maiorum of honor, piety, and duty to the state.

Scullard presents the traditional view of how Rome changed at that time, around 200BC. In a nutshell, with easy revenue from conquest and a size that made it impossible to treat subject peoples with the judiciousness that the Latin, Italians, and Etruscans received, the ROmans began to get lazy and decadent. Even their Italian allies began to feel treated as subjects. While to a degree this is certainly true, it fits too cleanly into a moralistic tale for my taste. That is Scullard's view however, and he presents it convincingly.

There is a final section tacked on on religion, literature, and socio-economic organization. It is by far the worst part of the book, but there are so many interesting nuggets that it is worth a skim, particularly on the transmogrification of the animistic spirits of early Rome into the personalities of the Greek gods, as Rome itself became civilized under the Hellenes.

I would recommend this book with these caveats. I am glad I read it, but it was a slog and definitely dated with a somewhat romantic take. It is for students and serious history enthusiasts. Unfortunately, I bought it because of the praise I read here. For the casual reader, there must be livier histories of this period.
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A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC
A History of the Roman World 753-146 BC by H.H. Scullard (Paperback - 14 Nov. 2002)
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