The Rise of Rome, review by Ted Anderson
Making of the World's Greatest Empire
Review by Ted Anderson
If you have been contemplating revisiting the history of Rome, it would be hard to find a better place to begin than with Anthony Everitt’s The Rise of Rome. To begin with, Everitt begins at the beginning, with the myths and legends belief in which is an important part of Roman history. Second, Everitt’s prose is eminently readable. He evidently feels that if something is worth saying it should be said in the text; he does not burden his pages with a plethora of footnotes but writes with the assurance earned through long familiarity with the intricacies of his subject.
Rather than breeding stodginess, this familiarity has led Everitt to reorient our perspective on the past by bringing Rome’s major enemies, Pyrrhus, Mithradates, Jugurtha, Hamilcar and his son, Hannibal, into focus so that by understanding them more humanly we comprehend what the Romans felt they were up against. Insights that might have slipped past invisible when the text was Livy, Polybius, or even Gibbon, grab our attention when we are forced to contemplate the aspirations and motivations of the individuals and peoples who lived history. Do not expect to meet Antony and Cleopatra. The rise of Rome began in the mythic year of 753 but ended in 62 with Pompey’s return to Rome after having subdued the East, but not Cleopatra who was then a mere 6 years old.
Global our age may be, but it is not notably interested in the past. Latin has been abandoned as a prerequisite for admission to college. The Latin mass is as rare as required chapel. Since diplomas are written in English, new graduates no longer have to ask their grandparents to translate Praeses et socii. The names as well as the functions of the most important institutions of our democracy are derived from the political survival strategy of checks and balances invented during the rise of the Roman Republic.
Is this legacy doomed to be forgotten, like Latin, by all but a few increasingly marginalized scholars?
The Rise of Rome, by Anthony Everitt, is available from NantucketBookPartners.org here.