Book Review: Rome and the Making of a World State, 150 BCE-20 CE


by Josiah Osgood

Cambridge & New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. Pp. x, 278. Illus., maps, tables, references, biblio., index. $28.99 paper. ISBN: 9781108413190

How the Republic Became the Empire

Prof. Osgood (Georgetown), a specialist in Suetonius, is also the author of Claudius Caesar and several other books as well as many articles on the late Republic and the early Empire. In this work, he examines how the traditional institutions of the Republic began to decay leading to internal turmoil, civil war, and the emergence of the Augustan empire.

In the aftermath of the Punic Wars, the Republic’s territory expanded with remarkable rapidity, within the space little more than a half century expanding from Italy to encompass much of the Mediterranean basin. The demands and pressures of ruling this world state strained the Republic’s institutions, political, social, economic, and military, which were hardly suited to ruling so vast a domain. The need to maintain large armies for years on distant posting, coupled with the importation of enormous numbers of slaves, impoverished the yeoman farmers on whom the republic’s armed forces were based, while the nobility accumulated enormous wealth. The result was nearly a century of political upheaval, social unrest, and civil war, that culminated in a Augustus’s “principate”, a monarchy thinly disguised behind a façade of republicanism, which restored stability.

Osgood looks at the final century of the Republic and the first decades of the Empire, taking into account the familiar political and military events and actions of the “Great Men” of the day. But he also discusses the cultural, economic, and social developments that unfolded during Rome’s rapid expansion from the principal city of Italy to the primary power of the Mediterranean world.

Rome and the Making of a World State is well written, and an easy read even for those unfamiliar with Roman history and institutions in this period.


Note: Rome and the Making of a World State is also available in hard cover and several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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