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A Critical History of Early Rome

A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War

Forsythe Gary
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    A Critical History of Early Rome
    Book Description:

    During the period from Rome's Stone Age beginnings on the Tiber River to its conquest of the Italian peninsula in 264 B.C., the Romans in large measure developed the social, political, and military structure that would be the foundation of their spectacular imperial success. In this comprehensive and clearly written account, Gary Forsythe draws extensively from historical, archaeological, linguistic, epigraphic, religious, and legal evidence as he traces Rome's early development within a multicultural environment of Latins, Sabines, Etruscans, Greeks, and Phoenicians. His study charts the development of the classical republican institutions that would eventually enable Rome to create its vast empire, and provides fascinating discussions of topics including Roman prehistory, religion, and language. In addition to its value as an authoritative synthesis of current research,A Critical History of Early Romeoffers a revisionist interpretation of Rome's early history through its innovative use of ancient sources. The history of this period is notoriously difficult to uncover because there are no extant written records, and because the later historiography that affords the only narrative accounts of Rome's early days is shaped by the issues, conflicts, and ways of thinking of its own time. This book provides a groundbreaking examination of those surviving ancient sources in light of their underlying biases, thereby reconstructing early Roman history upon a more solid evidentiary foundation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94029-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. 1-6)

    This book narrates the early history of Rome, one of the most successful imperial powers of world history. Although the story told here ends with the subjugation of Italy and thus does not treat the great wars of overseas conquest, during Rome’s advancement from a small town on the Tiber River to the ruling power of the Italian peninsula the Romans in large measure developed the social, political, and military institutions that formed the foundations of their later imperial greatness.

    Throughout human history there have been many nations or peoples who have greatly extended their power or territory by conquest,...

  8. Chapter 1 Italy in Prehistory
    (pp. 7-27)

    The past two hundred years of human history have witnessed continuous and rapid technological change and progress on an unparalleled scale. Yet despite the highly advanced nature of present-day technology, geographical and climatic factors still exercise a profound influence upon the regional economies and cultures of human populations worldwide. The presence or absence of mountains, desert, rich farmland, water, forests, petroleum, coal, and other mineral resources continue to shape modern societies and nations in many fundamental ways. It therefore should come as no surprise that an inverse relationship has long existed between human technology and geographical determinism: the less control...

  9. Chapter 2 Archaic Italy c. 800–500 B.C.
    (pp. 28-58)

    Cultural and technological advancement in Italy from the Neolithic Age onwards was largely bound up with influences received directly or indirectly from central Europe, the Balkan peninsula, and the Near East. This pattern continued during the period covered in the present chapter, but with far more important consequences. Phoenician and Greek permanent settlement and commercial activity throughout the western Mediterranean brought about major economic, social, and political changes on a hitherto unparalleled scale that led to the rise of true civilization in Italy. Ancient historians continue to debate the nature of the ancient Mediterranean economy during Greek and Roman times,...

  10. Chapter 3 The Ancient Sources for Early Roman History
    (pp. 59-77)

    The history of Rome’s regal period and early republic is highly problematic due to the fact that ancient accounts were written during the second and first centuries B.C., long after the events that they described.¹ Consequently, modern historians often disagree substantially in their interpretations and reconstructions, depending upon their presuppositions concerning the reliability of the ancient sources and the criteria by which ancient traditions should be considered accurate. Thus a serious study of early Roman history cannot be undertaken without a clear understanding and continual examination of the nature and veracity of the ancient sources that purport to record the...

  11. Chapter 4 Rome During the Regal Period
    (pp. 78-124)

    Our two primary sources of information for Rome during the regal period are the ancient literary tradition and archaeological data, both of which are highly problematic for different reasons. As the surviving fragments from Fabius Pictor’s historical account show, the traditions surrounding Rome’s early kings were already well established at the time of the Hannibalic War, but this relatively early date for the existence of these traditions by no means guarantees their reliability. Comparison of Livy’s first book with the other nine books of his first decade clearly reveals that the Romans of later times knew far less about the...

  12. Chapter 5 Archaic Roman Religion
    (pp. 125-146)

    Given the important role religion played in early Roman affairs and in shaping Rome’s institutions, an overview of the subject may be considered essential for a full understanding of early Roman society and its cultural and political development.¹ Since we possess a substantial amount of ancient evidence about religious ideas and practices among other peoples of Italy, Rome’s religious history can also serve as a useful model in suggesting how Rome’s cultural development occurred within a larger Italian context. Unlike much of our other ancient evidence, it can even offer interesting glimpses into early modes of Roman thought, behavior, and...

  13. Chapter 6 The Beginning of the Roman Republic
    (pp. 147-200)

    According to the ancient literary tradition, Rome’s last king, Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud), was a cruel tyrant. He murdered Servius Tullius, usurped royal power, oppressed the senate, and worked the Roman people to exhaustion by making them labor on the sewer system of the Cloaca Maxima which drained the runoff from the hills into the Tiber. He even used underhanded means to quell opposition throughout Latium in order to make himself the leader of the Latin League. His downfall, however, resulted from the outrageous conduct of his wicked son Sextus. His rape of the virtuous Lucretia and her consequent...

  14. Chapter 7 Rome of the Twelve Tables
    (pp. 201-233)

    Perhaps the single most important and lasting innovation in the Roman state around the middle of the fifth century B.C. was the Law of the Twelve Tables, so-called because this first major codification of law was initially engraved on twelve bronze tablets and was displayed in public. Even though many of this early lawcode’s specific provisions eventually became obsolete, it nevertheless continued to be of significance, as it was the precondition for all the subsequent development of Roman law.¹ In Cicero’s youth, Roman schoolboys were still being required to memorize its provisions (Cic.De Legibus2.9 and 2.59), and eminent...

  15. Chapter 8 Evolution and Growth of the Roman State, 444–367 B.C.
    (pp. 234-267)

    Shortly after the codification of the Twelve Tables, the chief executive office of the Roman state was reorganized.¹ Beginning in 444 B.C. and extending down to 367 B.C., the eponymous officials of the Roman state fluctuated between two consuls and a board of military tribunes with consular power (also termed consular tribunes), who were at first three in number but were later increased to four and finally to six.² As already discussed in connection with the prohibition of intermarriage between patricians and plebeians (see above p. 226), the accounts of Livy (4.1–7) and Dionysius (11.53–61) are rather different...

  16. Chapter 9 Rome’s Rise to Dominance, 366–300 B.C.
    (pp. 268-323)

    The primary purpose behind the reorganization of 367 B.C. was to provide the Roman state with a new set of officials with differentiated functions to replace the board of six military tribunes with consular power.¹ An equally important secondary result of this legislation was the agreement within the Roman aristocracy to share these newly established offices between members of well-to-do plebeian and patrician families.² Not only was it agreed to share the two annual consular positions between a patrician and a plebeian, but the curule aedileship was filled in alternate years by two patricians or two plebeians (Livy 7.1.6). There...

  17. Chapter 10 Rome’s Conquest and Unification of Italy, 299–264 B.C.
    (pp. 324-368)

    The period of peace following the Second Samnite War was brief.¹ Since we are not informed of the exact terms of the settlement of 304 B.C., we have no way of knowing to what extent, if any, the terms of peace created resentment or set up potential areas of conflict and thereby contributed to the outbreak of war six years later in 298 B.C. Livy’s explanation of the cause (10.11.11–12.3) casts the blame squarely upon the Samnites, and looks all too suspiciously like his explanation for the beginning of the First Samnite War. When the Samnites approached the neighboring...

  18. APPENDIX: Early Roman Chronology
    (pp. 369-370)
    (pp. 371-390)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 391-400)