Book Review: The Language of Empire: Rome and the Idea of Empire from the Third Century BC to the Second Century AD


by John Richardson

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Pp. x, 220. Append, tables, notes, biblio., index. $99.00. ISBN:0521815010

The Language of Empire is a very sophisticated analysis of the evolution of Latin terminology relating to political power and command from the Hannibalic War (218-201 BC) through the Age of the "Good Emperors" (c. AD 96-180). 

This was the period in which Rome grew from a moderate oligarchic republic that dominated Italy to a monarchy that sprawled across major parts of three continents. This transition affected the Latin language in numerous ways. For example, the word "imperium" changed from meaning rather like ?command authority? exercised on behalf of the Roman people to "ruling power" held by a virtually absolute monarch, while "provincia" shifts from meaning an "area of responsibility" to a "territorial governate," and so on.  In the process of discussing this evolution, Prof. Richardson provides considerable insight into the transition of the Republic into the Empire, and the evolution of imperial institutions from republican practice.

A valuable read for the serious student of political science as well as of the rise of Rome to greatness.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

Buy it at



Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close