I dug this old chestnut out a few weeks ago. I started it decades ago and then set it aside. But after making my way through bios on Caesar, Augustus and Livia while hitting some other Roman-oriented books such as “The Punic Wars,” Petronius’s “The Satyricon,” etc. I thought I’d actually read the whole thing. I’ve also been very curious on how the Roman republic collapsed. (Let’s just say for the moment, we could learn some lessons there.)
I have to say that after reading more in-depth histories, the more general histories like this are somewhat unfulfilling. I was very aware of what was skated over in the segments covering areas I now have more knowledge on. Yet, Grant can’t be blamed because it would be impossible to write an in-depth history on Rome, a stretch of around 1,000 years, and pack it into 500 pages (including notes).
So that has to be acknowledged as the nature of the beast and the frame of reference reoriented.
Using that as a basis, the book is more than adequate. Yes, it breezes through some periods that probably deserve more scrutiny but it makes up for it in addressing areas which often get short shrift or highly-biased treatment these days such as Christianity in the Roman empire.
I look up at the massive, multivolume “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” by Gibbons on my bookshelf and wonder whether I really do want to get in-depth…
Here’s a short list of some corrections that could be attended to in a future reissue (though it might never be reissued as Grant has spun of numerous sections as their own books, with more depth).
Page 6 — Inland is misspelled (inalnd)
Page 61 — “which it still wanted” rather than “which is still wanted”
Page 151 — Clunky construction: “Thus Cornelia, the daughter of Scipio Africanus, in addition to managing her own estates but presided over a sort of intellectual salon.” “But” could probably be removed and replaced with a comma (or not).
Page 253 — The sentence beginning with “Nevertheless, there was obvious speculation…” is a mess, the comma and capitalized S in “Since” being part of the problem. Something is missing.
Page 345 — over burdened should be one word.
Page 462 — Clovis/Clovius
Page 502 — Morava should be in square brackets and its left parenthesis removed to properly complete the parenthetical.
Page 504 — I believe it should be “secret police” rather than “secret policy”