The Romans and Their World: A Short Introduction
Gibbs, Matt, The Historian
The Romans and Their World: A Short Introduction. By Brian Campbell. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011. Pp. xi, 288. $35.00.)
This new book encapsulates the history of the Roman world from the beginning of the monarchy in 754 or 753 BC, depending on whether one follows Livy or Varro, to AD 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus in the Western Empire (22). Divided into ten chapters, the narrative is primarily chronological, but this is not the whole story. The text also contains thematic essays on interesting and important aspects of Roman culture, society, and their study: for example, a brief treatment of the available evidence; mid-Republican politics; religious practices; the problems and solutions during the third century AD; and the Christian church and society. The book concludes with a comprehensive bibliography, including lists of ancient authors and sources, studies of historical evidence, and reference works. The text also contains well-produced plates and useful illustrations, including maps and battle plans.
To fit a history and aspects of Roman culture and society into less than three hundred pages is admirable, and Brian Campbell leaves us in no doubt of how challenging the feat was (xi). But even with this rejoinder, his book offers much. The narrative is eminently readable and proffers a move away from the rather "dry" traditional accounts typically associated with introductory volumes. Campbell's knowledge of the period is clearly reflected in the inclusion of--and the willingness to return to--the ancient evidence, the careful selection of which, when coupled with a critical yet attentive eye, provides a vivid and illuminating illustration of the Romans' world. …