An exploration of the “Roman Peace,” which held “sway over much of Western Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa for centuries.”
The world has entered what some call the Pax Americana. Everyone knows that this phrase refers to ancient Rome, but it’s meant ironically because empires are now assumed to be despotic. Before World War II, empires enjoyed good press, and ancient Romans shared many Americans’ conviction that anyone with good sense wanted to be like them. In this thick but entirely compelling account, acclaimed British historian Goldsworthy (Augustus: First Emperor of Rome, 2014, etc.), who has written extensively about the Roman Empire, explains how it enforced genuine and long-lasting, if not idyllic, peace. From its founding in the eighth century B.C.E., the Italian town expanded by beating up on its neighbors, but Rome was unusual not because of its pugnacity but because of its success. Unwarlike societies in Iron Age Europe quickly vanished. “The Roman Republic celebrated military achievement as the greatest service of the state,” writes the author, “and mobilized extremely large resources…to wage war virtually every year.” After 150 B.C.E., having crushed Carthage and Macedonia, it ruled the western Mediterranean and began moving east. Expansion continued despite brutal civil wars that ended when Augustus became emperor in 27 B.C.E., the traditional beginning of Pax Romana, which lasted more than two centuries. The empire continued to expand, but wars tended to be at the frontier. As long as taxes arrived, provincial elites were allowed to govern according to local customs, and most of the empire was peaceful most of the time. Goldsworthy rightly reminds readers that external forces destroyed Rome. Unlike recent empires (British, French, Soviet), its colonies never rose up to demand freedom. They wanted to remain Roman.
An engrossing account of how the Roman Empire grew and operated.