EMPIRE WITHOUT END by Lidia Storoni Mazzolani


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Empire without end have I given them,"" declared Jupiter, setting the stage for a historical problem that has perplexed mankind ever since--how and why did ancient Rome decline? To this end Mazzolani examines the writings of three eminent Roman historians, Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus, whose lives spanned the last century of the Roman Republic and the first of the Empire. From a thorough and well-documented reading of Sallust, the author demonstrates how the historian develops the theme of concordia (harmony) as a means of healing the social and political inequities at the time of Julius Caesar. Similarly, the writings of Livy decades later are used to exemplify his concern for failing Roman virtus (virtue) as personal liberty declined under the rule of Augustus. And lastly, selections from Tacitus' historical reflections serve to illustrate the growing abuse of political potestas (power) as absolute tyranny became established during the reigns of post-Augustan emperors. Answering the traditional criticism of Sallust, Mazzolani astutely observes that consistency of historical viewpoint should not be expected in times of revolutionary chaos. The three historians, moreover, are seen to evince a common concern for preserving moral stability in the face of changing historical conditions as Rome became more imperial, less republican. That concern leads ultimately, according to Mazzolani, to a kind of ""inner knowledge"" shared through the process of writing history; nowhere, however, does she fully elucidate this point. A lengthy foreword by Mario Pei finds alarming similarities between the fate of Rome and the present course of American civilization. Once past such commonplaces, the book offers concise and worthwhile reading to anyone interested in what three thoughtful Romans had to say about the collapse of their own culture.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 1976
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich