Roman Republics

Roman Republics

Roman Republics

Roman Republics

Synopsis

From the Renaissance to today, the idea that the Roman Republic lasted more than 450 years--persisting unbroken from the late sixth century to the mid-first century BC--has profoundly shaped how Roman history is understood, how the ultimate failure of Roman republicanism is explained, and how republicanism itself is defined. In Roman Republics, Harriet Flower argues for a completely new interpretation of republican chronology. Radically challenging the traditional picture of a single monolithic republic, she argues that there were multiple republics, each with its own clearly distinguishable strengths and weaknesses. While classicists have long recognized that the Roman Republic changed and evolved over time, Flower is the first to mount a serious argument against the idea of republican continuity that has been fundamental to modern historical study. By showing that the Romans created a series of republics, she reveals that there was much more change--and much less continuity--over the republican period than has previously been assumed. In clear and elegant prose, Roman Republics provides not only a reevaluation of one of the most important periods in western history but also a brief yet nuanced survey of Roman political life from archaic times to the end of the republican era.

Excerpt

Crisis n., point or time of deciding anything, the decisive moment
or turning point.
Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary (1973)

A vitally important or decisive stage in the progress of anything,
a turning-point, a state of affairs in which a decisive change for
better or worse is imminent, now applied esp. to times of difficulty,
insecurity and suspense in politics or commerce.
Compact Oxford English Dictionary, second edition (1991)

This book is dedicated to the memory of my father, Michael Gerald Dealtry, who planted the first seeds of the central idea that inspired its writing. Some years ago, when I was editing The Cambridge Companion to the Roman Republic (Cambridge, 2004), he questioned me about the use of the word “crisis” in the title of a chapter that described the period in Roman republican history between 133 and 49 bc (chap. 4). He felt that the term “crisis” was being misused, since a crisis was by definition an acute event of short duration with a measurable outcome. How could there be a crisis that went on for over eighty years? He advised me simply to use a different word in this chapter heading.

At first I was resistant to his suggestion, which I did not act upon, thinking that I simply needed to explain to him more clearly the traditional periodization and classification of the Late Republic, which has often been described as a crisis. Later the force of his argument came home to me, at a time when I was working in more detail on the time of Marius and Sulla (ca. 120-78 BC), a period that in modern discussions has often been overshadowed by subsequent events. Meanwhile, a decade of teaching undergraduate surveys of Roman history has made me acutely aware of the challenges of framing and summarizing the essentials of republican politics in terms that are accessible to beginners.

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