HISTORY OF ROME by Michael Grant


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The author of several popular histories of the ancient world, Michael Grant here narrates the history of Rome from the city's days as an Etruscan village to the Western empire's dissolution in the 5th century. Concentrating on the vicissitudes of political leadership and economic life, he shows Roman culture to have been deeply conservative and authoritarian by virtue of its rigid patriarchy and politicized religion. The resulting public order gave Rome a strong local base as a seat of power and helped nourish a tough political spirit, which flourished in the Republic, then passed into the Empire where eventually it died. The decisive turn in Roman history, for Grant, was not therefore the passage from Republic to Empire and one-man rule--this inevitably resulted from the Republic's political and economic weaknesses. Nor was the turning point a weakening of public morals or the rise of decadent emperors. Rather, the clue to Rome's decline lay in the Empire's expansion beyond its economic means of support, which forced the government to wrest funds from its citizens, thus alienating the rich and ruining the poor. The Empire finally became an armed camp threatened from without and seething with resentment inside. The once--vital political life could not survive in such circumstances: the institutional death of the Empire only reflected this internal political death. Though nicely written and broadly informed, Grant's narrative lacks the reach and enlivening detail, the fresh perceptions and sureness required to make another history of Rome thoroughly worth reading (as Hooper's is, below).

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1978
Publisher: Scribners