Book Review: A Companion to Roman Imperialism


by Dexter Hoyos, editor

Leiden / New York: E. J. Brill, 2012. Pp. xx, 394. Map, notes, biblio., index. $203.00. ISBN: 9004235930

A guide to the history of Roman expansionism from the earliest times in the Sixth Century BC to the height of the Empire in the Second Century. 

In these two dozen essays Prof. Hoyos (Sydney) and the other contributors often address unusual issues.  Among the most important is the question of what is meant when we moderns use terms like “imperialism” to label events in antiquity, implicitly suggesting the importance of trying to see events from the contemporary perspective rather than our own.  The essays are grouped into three categories. 

The first examines Roman expansionism under the Republic, with an emphasis on event from the consolidation of Italy onwards, including the acquisition of Sicily and Sardinia, the first “provinces,” struggles with what would today be called “peer” rivals, notably Carthage, Macedon, and the Seleucids, relations with allies and client states, and the role of the “empire” in the collapse of the Republic.

In the second part, the essays look at Roman expansionism from about 30 BC through about AD 117, which brought the under the Empire to its greatest extent.  This includes the often overlooked expansion under Augustus, the acquisition of Britain, relations with the peoples north of the Rhine and Danube, relations with the Parthians in the East, and the final conquests under Trajan.

The final part deals with the gradual the Romanization of the provinces, turning the provincials into Romans, which, in turn led to the “provincialization” of the Empire, that is the integration of the provincials into the leadership elite, notably from the accession of Trajan, of Romano-Spanish origins.  There is also a valuable look at critiques of Roman expansionism in antiquity, the limits of power even for so powerful an entity as the Roman Empire, and some comment about “aspirants” to empire, the influence of the idea of the Roman world state on later entities.

A volume in the Brill series “The History of Warfare,” A Companion to Roman Imperialism is an essential work for students of Roman history which may also prove interesting to the armchair historian.

Note: A Companion to Roman Imperialism is also available as an e-book, ISBN 978-90-04-23646-2

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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