Pax Romana, by Adrian Goldsworthy

Yale University Press sent me a new book by Adrian Goldsworthy: Pax Roman: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World.

Release date September 13, 2016.
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-300-17882-1
eBook ISBN 978-0-300-22445-0.
512 pages.

As usual — by which I mean my generally very positive reactions to his books:

I was excited to see it and immediately read about 70 pages.

First impressions:

  • Goldsworthy hasn’t led a boring life.
  • He is a great story-teller. History is story, after all, and why not present it with suspense and character development?
  • He tackles contradictions like the one that Roman Peace should but doesn’t mean no more battles.

    [Traditional view] “Rebellions appear surprisingly rare, and nearly always occurred within a generation or two of conquest….Warfare continued but it was waged mainly on these frontiers…. For periods of a century or more, large swathes of the empire were entirely free of warfare.” [Goldsworthy] “[T]he truth is a good deal more complicated than this sweeping summary. Yet there can be no doubt … that its domination did mean that large parts of the empire experienced no major military activity, let alone open warfare for long periods of time.”

    Besides, this book isn’t strictly about Roman Peace during the Imperial era, but includes conquest during the early Republican days

  • Doesn’t seem to overdo comparisons with modern history (including current affairs), although Goldsworthy clearly states some of the differences. Our attitude towards imperialism is at odds with what it was a hundred or so years ago and from the ancient world.

    “A century or so ago most — though not all — people in the West had a vague sense that empires could be, and often were, good things. Nowadays the opposite is true…. The danger is that we have simply replaced one over-simplification with another. Dislike of empire tends to encourage skepticism over its achievements.”

I note that in one of my reviews I thought there were too few maps. That seems not to be a problem here. There are ample notes, glossary, chronology, bibliography in appendices. The bulk of the text, from preface to conclusion is 415 pages.

With luck I’ll have finished this before its September 13 release date and bring you more details, but even if I don’t, I’ve read enough to be impressed.


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