A stimulating history of “how the Roman transformation of Gaul laid the foundations of modern Europe.”
Omrani (Classics/Westminster School, England; Asia Overland: Tales of Travel on the Trans-Siberian & Silk Road, 2010, etc.) displays the facility of a poet, waxing eloquent on the beauty of sites where the Roman influence in Gaul forcefully asserted itself. This book is as much a travelogue as it is a wonderfully simplified lesson on Julius Caesar and his successors. The author effectively shows the full effects of the Roman occupation. The warlike, feuding Gauls had a culture of raiding, so they needed to expand further afield. They attacked Rome in 390 B.C.E., the only sack until Alaric arrived in 410 C.E. Caesar had no intention of expanding the Roman Empire; he was in search of military glory, amassing money and access to more manpower for his army. Initially, the Romans were not at all engaged in nation-building. Thousands of Gauls were killed or enslaved, the land devastated, and their culture obliterated—at least what we know of their culture since we only have Caesar’s reports to go on. With their lands divided, the Gallic peoples turned to defining themselves, taking the best of Rome as needed. As the author notes, while the foundations of the French state are to be found in Clovis, the origins of the French people lie before Caesar with the Gauls. Omrani takes us to Roman ruins in many French cities, most of which have public structures, statues, and inscriptions illustrating the Romanitas (Roman-ness) displayed by the Gallic elites to flaunt their wealth and status. After such a thrilling adventure, the author may leave readers wanting more. His electric excitement is consistently contagious as he glories in the unique history of France as she connects to her Roman past.
A book for all lovers of ancient history, with something to learn or love on nearly every page.