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Review: Ancient Rome: From Romulus to Justinian

Thomas R. Martin

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Ancient Rome: From Romulus to Justinian

The book “Ancient Rome: From Romulus to Justinian” by Thomas R. Martin is a comprehensive guide to the history of ancient Rome from its mythical foundation by Romulus to the reign of Justinian the Great.

In the beginning, the extremely “intriguing” cover catches the eye (in my opinion, a kitschy legionnaire against the background of the Colosseum), which – I must admit – gave rise to my fears as to whether the author will be able to reasonably present a period of over 1000 years of history. However, as it turned out, the author fulfilled his task one hundred percent and he cannot be accused of major errors.

The composition of the book is well thought out. As the author himself pointed out, this work aims to show, without going into greater detail, the history of the Roman state, from the founding of Rome to the attempt to rebuild the Roman Empire during the reign of Justinian. The creator, not without reason, also includes the VI century in the book. It was a period when talented Byzantine leaders regained a large part of the western lands (including Italy, part of Gaul and Spain) and reactivated the former empire. Ultimately, however, huge financial expenses and social unrest forced successive emperors to abandon the conquered lands. Byzantium, however, still considered itself a continuator of Roman tradition, values ​​and history.

The author in the book, of course, initially focuses on justifying the geographical advantage of Rome over other cities of the Peninsula. It shows us the legends handed down by ancient chroniclers that shaped the identity of the Romans in the times of the early empire. We find out what set the city of Romulus on the path of imperialism; we are led through successive wars with our neighbors and we learn what arguments prevailed in favor of the Roman legions.

The author also devotes a large part of the book to the social and cultural aspects of the Roman state. We get to know the mentality of the Romans and their ability to accept the achievements and values ​​of other nations, which in their opinion could bring them measurable benefits.

We learn the story of the fall of the hated monarchy, the crisis of the republic and the evolution of the principate to the dominate. The author does not delve into the details of the reigns of successive emperors, looking for more important historical events that had an impact on the fate of the state. A large part of the book is devoted to Christianity and its coexistence with Roman society. The author emphasizes the fact that the persecution and destabilization of the state in the 3rd century CE had a large impact on the success of confessing Christ when the poorest sought refuge from lawlessness.

It is worth noting that the book is rich in historical sources, bibliography, calendars, and the style in which the position was written is pleasant for the reader. Browsing through the pages, one does not feel tired and lost, and a layman will easily learn in brief the history of the empire, which once had nearly 1/4 of the world’s population within its borders. I can wholeheartedly recommend this item. Certainly, a historian or enthusiast cannot consider the book as a knowledge base, but he can certainly quickly recall the basic issues related to the Roman state and refer to sources.

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