Book Review: Rome Victorious: The Irresistible Rise of the Roman Empire


by Dexter Hoyos

London & New York: I.B. Tauris / Bloomsbury, 2019. Pp. xvi, 256+. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $35.00. ISBN: 1780762747

Why did Rome Rise?

In this insightful work, Prof. Hoyos (Sydney), author or editor numerous works in ancient history, such as Truceless War: Carthage's Fight for Survival, 241 to 237 BC and A Companion to Roman Imperialism, asks “Why did Rome rise?” and makes an excellent case for the uniqueness of Roman imperialism.

A chronological treatment of Roman history from the early Republic through A.D. 212, when virtually all free men in the Empire were made Roman citizens, this is essentially a history of the extension of the city’s reach to encompass all Italy, then in phases expanding to ultimately reach from Mesopotamia to Britain. Hoyos examines the causes of Roman expansion, noting that the subject is usually tainted by the times in which scholars write, so that, for example, in the twentieth century we get a “totalitarian” or “fascist” Rome. He examines how the need to govern an expanding empire with the civic institutions of the Republic led to its collapse and the creation of a monarchy that initially at least immitted that Republic.

Hoyos makes several important points that help explain why the Romans managed to hold sway for so long; certainly longer than any later empire save China. Among these are the oft overlooked fact that the Empire was essentially a conglomeration of self-governing cities, all relatively lightly ruled over by most emperors. The second, and perhaps most important factor was the regular extension of Roman citizenship, gradually turning subjects into Romans; while at the start, men from Rome proper dominated the political and military offices of the state, by the Republic’s last century men from all Italy were becoming prominent. During the first century of the Empire men of provincial origins were serving as consuls, generals, and governors, and soon there were emperors from the Spains, Africa, and then from further afield, though oddly never one from Britain. This extension of citizenship gave provincials a route to power, one denied subjects in later empires, leading provincial elites or assimilated subjects to become the leaders of colonial resistance – the Washingtons, San Martins, Martis, Gandhis.

In his final chapter, Hoyos asks the question, “How Roman was the Roman Empire?”, and he makes a good case that the path to citizenship made Romanization desirable and widespread, at times with an admixture of local culture, as provincials adapted their political and religious institutions to those of the Romans.

A volume in the series “Library of Classical Studies”, Rome Victorious is an essential read for anyone with an interest in Roman history and Classical Antiquity in general, and for anyone with an interest in the rise and fall of empires.


Note: Rome Victorious is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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