The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire

Everitt, Anthony. The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire. New York: Random House, 2012.

Book review: © reviewed by James Booker, May 7, 2016

51yo+90fScL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Anthony Everitt (born January 31, 1940) is a British academic and writer. Some of his most famous writings, other than the current one, is Cicero, Augustus, and Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome. He is a prolific writer and has an erudite understanding of his topics.

Rome has had a profound influence throughout history. Until recently, college students had to know the Latin language. Roman history was taught to millions of students. Roman law has influenced the West. Indeed, Rome casts a long shadow – even to this day. But modernity has begun the process of turning away from Rome’s cultural richness. Everitt is concerned that the West is “jettison” this wealth. Consequently, one of the “purposes” writing The Rise of Rome, “it is as a reminder of what we are losing.” [1]

The Rise of Rome is divided into three parts: legend, story, and history. Most scholars agree that there were two basic parts to Roman history: The Republic and the Roman Empire. Everitt’s book is about the Roman Republic, what made it great, what led to its down fall, and the beginning part of the Roman Empire. Rome’s beginning is somewhat shrouded in legend. How did Rome begin? Who were the real founders of Rome? By and large, Everitt leaves Roman historical legends to other historians. He does, however, briefly touch on them. Nonetheless, what we do know is that Rome was initially ruled by kings and the Etruscans had a heavy influence on them.

The story of the Roman people and their government (SPQR – Senate and the People of Rome) were structurally conservative; from its government to its religion. As the Senate and its people became more powerful they conquered Italy; then Carthage, and all of the Mediterranean. Ironically, the Roman Republic’s history was conserved and written due in large part to its fall. Men, such as Marcus Terentius Varro and Marcus Tullius Cicero, saw the end coming and wanted to preserve it for the future. Without these men and others, we would know little of the Roman Republic.

Everitt brings out major factors that led to the fall of the Republic. For example, the disappearance of the peasant farmer. They made up the back-bone and strength of the Roman army. As the Republic grew, so too did war in foreign lands. Men were stationed for years over seas. Many wealthy Senators began to buy up their property, thus, creating major problems in the near future. Masses of slaves were brought into Italy that replaced the average farmer. This eventually gave way to the professional army. Now, men were more loyal to their generals than they were to Rome. Another example is moral decay set in by the end of the Republic. Civil unrest (mobs and corruption) gave way to dictatorship.

Everitt writes in the narrative form. He does not take on too much historical interpretation – which would leave the average reader bored. His style is clear and fluid, except for the occasional British colloquialism. He thoroughly covers all the major wars, events, civil wars, constitutional issues, people and personalities. Everitt’s style leaves the reader a panoramic view of the Republic. 5-jpg

The book has a good index, table of contexts, a few color pictures, a few sketches, a bibliography, and end notes. Overall, Everitt’s book is well-written, well-researched, and enjoyable to read. I recommend this book for anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of this history.

One final note. It is difficult for many people today to image, before Rome became an empire, its Republic had to fall. Before Rome was ruled by a dictator, the Roman Republic had to be vitiated to the point of no return. In Republics, private and public virtue is prized and valued. This is not to say that people of virtue are perfect. The idea of perfection belongs to those whom do not understand man’s fallen nature. Understanding basic right and wrong is the hallmark of a strong society. Once right becomes wrong and wrong becomes right, that society is doomed. A virtuous society has many faults. A virtuous person has many faults. But a virtuous society does not see the imperfection; it sees human nature and deals with it. Thus, virtue is the strength that will keep the average citizen free. A society that has moved away from virtue sees imperfection and tries to perfect human nature. This has been the hallmark of the twentieth century. The Eugenics movement, Nazism, Communism — all have tried to perfect human nature and society. The end end result has been the lose of freedom, the lose of privacy, and the death of millions. Even now we see the United States on the same track. With the extreme doctrine of equality — it is trying to shape into a perfect society, a society made in  the image of a falls god. In the end, this will cause the lose of freedom, the lose of private property, the lose of privacy, and could led to imprisonment and more. Perfectionism is Procrustean. But virtue is something far different.

Many of America’s Founder’s knew Roman history. They knew the Latin language and what Roman culture had done for the world. They respected the Roman Republic above all. America was founded as a Republic. In fact, the United States Constitution, “guarantee [s] to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”[2]

US_Navy_031029-N-6236G-001_A_painting_of_President_John_Adams_(1735-1826),_2nd_president_of_the_United_States,_by_Asher_B._Durand_(1767-1845)-cropYet, many of the Founders feared the Republic would not last. They read were Rome’s Republic had fallen, and other Republics had fallen in the past as well. John Adams, in writing a letter to Mercy Warren, expressed that Republics fall because of human nature, “Such a Government is only to be supported by pure Religion or Austere Morals. Public Virtue cannot exist in a Nation without private, and public Virtue is the only Foundation of Republics.” [3] The issues and circumstances between the Roman Republic and the US Republic are not exact, but there are many characteristics – public and private virtue being one of them. I will take liberty at this point only to say we are witnessing the fall of the US Republic. It has taken years to arrive at this juncture, just like Rome. Nonetheless, we are witnessing its demise.

 

 

 

 

[1] Anthony Everitt, The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire (New York: Random House, 2012), xi.

[2] US Constitution, art. 4, sec. 4.

[3] John Adams, “Epilogue: Securing the Republic, John Adams to Mercy Warren, The Founders’ Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 18, Document 9” The University of Chicago, April 16, 1776, accessed May 7, 2016, http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch18s9.html.

 

Bibliography

Adams, John. “Epilogue: Securing the Republic, John Adams to Mercy Warren, the Founder’s Constitution.” The University of Chicago, April 16, 1776.     Accessed May 7, 2016. http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch18s9.html.

Everitt, Anthony. The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire. New York: Random House, 2012.

1 Comment

  1. Sharon Glass

    Yet…another excellent review..

    Reply

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