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The Rise of Rome: From the Iron Age to the Punic Wars

by Kathryn Lomas

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1004270,777 (3.6)4
By the third century BC, the once-modest settlement of Rome had conquered most of Italy and was poised to build an empire throughout the Mediterranean basin. What transformed a humble city into the preeminent power of the region? In The Rise of Rome, the historian and archaeologist Kathryn Lomas reconstructs the diplomatic ploys, political stratagems, and cultural exchanges whereby Rome established itself as a dominant player in a region already brimming with competitors. The Latin world, she argues, was not so much subjugated by Rome as unified by it. This new type of society that emerged from Rome’s conquest and unification of Italy would serve as a political model for centuries to come. Archaic Italy was home to a vast range of ethnic communities, each with its own language and customs. Some such as the Etruscans, and later the Samnites, were major rivals of Rome. From the late Iron Age onward, these groups interacted in increasingly dynamic ways within Italy and beyond, expanding trade and influencing religion, dress, architecture, weaponry, and government throughout the region. Rome manipulated preexisting social and political structures in the conquered territories with great care, extending strategic invitations to citizenship and thereby allowing a degree of local independence while also fostering a sense of imperial belonging. In the story of Rome’s rise, Lomas identifies nascent political structures that unified the empire’s diverse populations, and finds the beginnings of Italian peoplehood.… (more)
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Billed as a modern synthesis of what we know about archaic Rome, and how it rose to predominance out of a melange of competing polities and tribes, Lomas seems to be mostly responding to a faction of Italian archaeologists who have not yet been translated into English, but who believe that we can take the Roman creation myths about themselves more literally than have recently been done. Lomas is politely, but firmly, disagreeing with that position, and proceeds to spend the rest of the book interrogating those creation myths by means of what current archaeology tells us, and by the deployment of Occam's Razor.

In short, I had a good time with this study, as Lomas does a good job of keeping things in perspective, while moving her narrative along briskly. As to why Rome arrived at the predominance it did, a lot of it boils down to a willingness to be inclusive, and coming up with political institutions capable of responding effectively to crisis; be they external or self-induced. Highly recommended. ( )
  Shrike58 | Feb 17, 2024 |
Starting with archaeology, this history attempts to meld the physical record with the Roman legendary and written information about the first five centuries of the city state. Starting with the pottery and building remains, we move to a very critical assessment of the evidence provided by the received version presented by Livy. There is much to be questioned and sometimes the physical evidence is quite at variance with the standard texts. A good read, which does provide more questions than answers in the quest for a reliable account of Rome's rise from city state to italian power. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Feb 27, 2019 |
This book is an excellent, scholarly overview of the early history of Rome suitable for anyone who has an introductory knowledge of ancient Rome. Lomas uses archaeological findings to critique the ancient literary traditions about Rome’s origins. A particular strength of this book is the way she locates the development of Rome within the wider context of Iron Age Italy: Rome is seen as a typical Italian city-state of its time. Using these methods, she forms a reconstruction of early Roman history, society, economy and culture. Despite the often fanciful nature of sources for early Rome such as Livy, Lomas still manages to construct a coherent narrative of development that situates early Rome in its context, explores and explains its development and setbacks, and sets the scene for the Punic Wars and Rome’s Mediterranean expansion. The colour plates, many illustrations and maps are also very useful.
  Iacobus | Sep 6, 2018 |
Takes in the period beginning roughly with the Ninth Century and ending with 264BC, the outbreak of the first Punic War. (The next book in the series will commence with the Punic Wars.) Despite the subtitle From the Iron Age..., there is some early reference to late Bronze Age culture.

A great deal of the book is based upon archaeological findings, especially the earlier chapters, where there is little written history; and even in the later chapters there is substantial cross-checking of literary sources (such as the sometimes inaccurate Livy) with archaeological evidence.

Generous amounts of Tables and line-drawn Figures along with gorgeous full-color Plates. ( )
  CurrerBell | Jun 10, 2018 |
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By the third century BC, the once-modest settlement of Rome had conquered most of Italy and was poised to build an empire throughout the Mediterranean basin. What transformed a humble city into the preeminent power of the region? In The Rise of Rome, the historian and archaeologist Kathryn Lomas reconstructs the diplomatic ploys, political stratagems, and cultural exchanges whereby Rome established itself as a dominant player in a region already brimming with competitors. The Latin world, she argues, was not so much subjugated by Rome as unified by it. This new type of society that emerged from Rome’s conquest and unification of Italy would serve as a political model for centuries to come. Archaic Italy was home to a vast range of ethnic communities, each with its own language and customs. Some such as the Etruscans, and later the Samnites, were major rivals of Rome. From the late Iron Age onward, these groups interacted in increasingly dynamic ways within Italy and beyond, expanding trade and influencing religion, dress, architecture, weaponry, and government throughout the region. Rome manipulated preexisting social and political structures in the conquered territories with great care, extending strategic invitations to citizenship and thereby allowing a degree of local independence while also fostering a sense of imperial belonging. In the story of Rome’s rise, Lomas identifies nascent political structures that unified the empire’s diverse populations, and finds the beginnings of Italian peoplehood.

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