by Robin Waterfield
New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Pp. xxiv, 288.
Illus., maps., appned., notes, biblio., index. $27.95. ISBN: 0199916896
Why Were Romans Such Successful Conquerors?
Independent Classicist Waterfield takes a fresh look at Polybius’s question about how the Romans could in 53 years bring “almost the entire world . . . under a single empire.” The author of such works as Xenophon’s Retreat, The Greek Myths, and Why Socrates Died, he gives us a lively chronological account integrating military, diplomatic, and political events from roughly 220 BC through the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC that finally ended Greek independence. This account builds on Polybius’s answer to his own question, while adding greater depth by fitting these events into the broader framework of contemporary Roman interests (would “foreign policy” be too modern a term?).
As he does so, Warfield also brings into his narrative the effects of Rome’s internal politics, financial management, military organization and reorganization, cultural changes, and offer quick looks at many individuals who helped shape the rise of the Republic or who tried to oppose it. He sees Roman interest in Greece and the wider Balkan region evolving from a desire to suppress piracy and support stability through several stages that culminated in what amounts to hegemony.
In keeping with recent scholarly trends Waterfield reminds us that the machinations and ambitions of the many Greeks states and rulers played a role in influencing Roman policy, a matter in the past often glossed over to portray them as mere victims of Rome’s lust for conquest.
A volume in the Oxford series “Ancient Warfare and Civilization,” Taken at the Flood will prove a good read for anyone interested in Roman history, and although written for the general reader, will prove useful even for the veteran student of the subject.
Taken at the Flood is also available as an e-Book from several distributors