An interesting take on Roman history focused on the peoples that resisted its growth and eventually brought about its...




A history of Rome built around the empire’s battles against internal and external enemies.

Kershaw (Classics/Oxford Univ.; The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato’s Ideal State, 2018, etc.) begins with the “founding of the city” in 753 B.C.E. and traces his theme through the fall of Rome in 476 C.E. Each chapter covers one of Rome’s major adversaries. The list of characters includes many of the best-known names in ancient history—Hannibal, Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Attila the Hun—along with others many readers will probably encounter for the first time. The author provides solid minibiographies of most of them, sometimes making a point of debunking popular wisdom—e.g., Hannibal and Cleopatra were not black. Kershaw also gives us a good look at a number of prominent Romans (Pompey, Julius Caesar, Constantine) and at the early history of other parts of the world, notably the Middle East. A recurring theme is the question of what the ancients meant by “barbarian,” a definition that shifted as Rome absorbed Greek culture and then as the empire expanded to take in much of Western Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The Romans tended to draw highly stereotyped portraits of barbarian characters; their descriptions of the Goths and Huns make their enemies seem little better than animals. An exception was when one of them defeated a Roman general deemed to lack the proper Roman virtues; in this case, the “barbarian” is portrayed as an example of what his adversary should have been. Kershaw draws liberally on the original sources, including Plutarch, Livy, Tacitus, and other historians, with occasional references to modern research. Given the enormous swath of history the book covers, it almost inevitably lacks a certain cohesiveness as the narrative moves from one threatened frontier to another, often skipping several generations. Readers will find themselves referring frequently to the maps. Though this isn’t the first Roman history one should read, it adds a fascinating dimension for anyone with a broad knowledge of the subject.

An interesting take on Roman history focused on the peoples that resisted its growth and eventually brought about its destruction.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-310-2

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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