A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War

A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War

A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War

A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War

Synopsis

During the period from Rome's Stone Age beginnings on the Tiber River to its conquest of the Italian peninsula in 264 B.C., the Romans in large measure developed the social, political, and military structure that would be the foundation of their spectacular imperial success. In this comprehensive and clearly written account, Gary Forsythe draws extensively from historical, archaeological, linguistic, epigraphic, religious, and legal evidence as he traces Rome's early development within a multicultural environment of Latins, Sabines, Etruscans, Greeks, and Phoenicians. His study charts the development of the classical republican institutions that would eventually enable Rome to create its vast empire, and provides fascinating discussions of topics including Roman prehistory, religion, and language.

In addition to its value as an authoritative synthesis of current research, A Critical History of Early Rome offers a revisionist interpretation of Rome's early history through its innovative use of ancient sources. The history of this period is notoriously difficult to uncover because there are no extant written records, and because the later historiography that affords the only narrative accounts of Rome's early days is shaped by the issues, conflicts, and ways of thinking of its own time. This book provides a groundbreaking examination of those surviving ancient sources in light of their underlying biases, thereby reconstructing early Roman history upon a more solid evidentiary foundation.

Excerpt

This book narrates the early history of Rome, one of the most successful imperial powers of world history. Although the story told here ends with the subjugation of Italy and thus does not treat the great wars of overseas conquest, during Rome’s advancement from a small town on the Tiber River to the ruling power of the Italian peninsula the Romans in large measure developed the social, political, and military institutions that formed the foundations of their later imperial greatness.

Throughout human history there have been many nations or peoples who have greatly extended their power or territory by conquest, but only a small number of such states have been able to retain their conquests beyond three or four generations. Conquest requires little more than the successful application of military might, whereas the lasting success of an imperial power depends upon its ability to adapt military, political, social, economic, cultural, and religious institutions to accommodate change over time and to serve more than the narrow self-interest of a ruling oligarchy. Unlike many ancient Greek city-states, such as Athens and Sparta, which excluded foreigners and subjects from political participation, Rome from its beginning did not hesitate to incorporate conquered peoples into its social and political system. Allies and subjects who adopted Roman ways were eventually granted Roman citizenship and became fully participating members in Roman society.

Rome’s early development occurred in a multi-cultural environment, and its institutions and practices were significantly affected by such diversity. Since the site of Rome, situated twelve miles inland from the sea on the Tiber River that separated Latium from Etruria, commanded a convenient river crossing and lay on a land route from the Apennines to the sea, geography brought together three distinct peoples at the site of early Rome:

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