Book Review: Aspects of Roman History 31 BC-AD 117


by Richard Alston

London & New York: Routledge, 2013. Pp. xxiv, 456. Maps, tables, diagr., notes, biblio., index. $44.95 paper. ISBN: 0415611210

The Evolving Nature of the Augustan Principate

Prof. Alston (London) takes some interesting looks at the early Empire , the period of the “Augustan Principate .    Following an introductory chapter on the collapse of the Roman Republic, in this revised and expanded version of his original 1998 work, Alston examines the events of the approximately 150 years that followed in two ways. 

He uses nine chapters to give us a chronological look at the reigns of the first thirteen emperors , from Augustus through Trajan, some linked in pairs . The coverage for each emperor varies depending upon the events during his reign, but usually Alston discusses the political, “constitutional”, and succession problems, military operations, crises, and so forth. 

The re follow seven chapters in which Alston provides an overview across the entire period of developments in society, the economy, government policy and organization, the armed forces, the family, religion, and the progress of “Romanization ”, which ultimately turned subject peoples into Romans with remarkable success. 

Alston is often critical of our literary sources, and frequently offers surprising conclusions or commentary on the received images of some of the emperors, such as Caligula or Domitian.  A volume in the Routledge series “Aspects of Classical Civilisation,” this is an essential book for any serious student of the Roman Empire, this will also prove interesting to armchair historians.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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