The World of Rome

The World of Rome

The World of Rome

The World of Rome

Excerpt

This book is intended to give a picture of the world of the Romans during the three hundred and fifty years when, at the height of their unparalleled power, they made their greatest impact on the world, and received most from it in exchange. After a sketch of the historical background I shall try to single out the achievements and activities in the Roman empire which look to me, for good or ill, most fundamental to our understanding of its place in history.

Imperial Rome has seemed, to the people of many later centuries, a peculiarly enthralling and moving theme, and that is what it remains--unique, terrible, and rich in allurements and astonishments. I shall be happy if in this book I can transmit even a small charge of its versatile, potent magnetism. The material that has come down to us, though in many respects fragmentary, is nevertheless massive; and, from the sometimes bewilderingly contradictory variety that it offers, no two writers will ever make the same personal selection. My own account of this Roman Experience, perhaps because I have spent seven years in near and middle eastern countries, dwells more than most upon its inextricable, creative fusion of elements originating not only from Italy and the mainland of Greece but from farther Mediterranean coasts as well.

Political, social and economic conditions will first be briefly surveyed, and then something will be said of the more intimate thoughts, feelings and achievements both of the majority among the great populations of the empire and of their minority: that is to say, attention will first be directed to the religious hopes and beliefs which preoccupied millions, and then to the intellectual and artistic creations of a few small, talented groups and individuals.

The story runs from 133 BC to AD 217. The selection of any startingdate cannot help being somewhat artificial; but the year chosen here witnessed the first notable protests by Romans against parochial narrowness, and strainings after a new sort of state capable of ruling . . .

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