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SOCIAL STUDIES DIARY

Criteria for Structuring Book Reviews

CRITERIA FOR SELECTION THE OF THE FIVE “BEST” BOOKS The criteria for the selection of the five “best” books for this article is based on the following three considerations:

• Content – Content is related to the substance and the quality of information contained in each book. The determination of quality is, in part, the author’ subjective judgment. This judgment, to a degree, is based upon years of reading, contemplating, and writing, as well as the author’s experience with a large number of sources, both ancient and modern. Authors who were judged to be experts in their respective specialties related to Roman history wrote the five books listed in this article. This expertise was demonstrated by their mastery of content and sources. An important factor related to content is the ability to write coherently so that the content presented is accessible to the reader.
• Interpretation – Interpretation is related to the application of logic and judgment to provide the reader with a reasonable explanation of how the various events have influenced historical trends. Most authors generally strive to understand the social, economic, and political forces that often produce attitudes and beliefs in almost any culture, and it is generally accepted that attitudes and beliefs motivate social behavior. Mainly, authors strive to explain relationships as they pertain to those leaders who help to shape historical consequences. In addition, authors provided their readers with data and important elements of information that provide the reader with insights into historical outcomes.
• Structure – Historical forms of writing require authors to participate in researching accumulating reliable sources of information in order to shape their data. Data and various forms of information are structured by the author to provide the reader with a logical presentation in narrative form. The major task of the author is related to organizing and ordering events in a logical manner to guide the reader in a topical or chronological exploration of the narrative. For this writer, history is a form of literary craftsmanship in which the written text of the author(s)’ case study is found in making sense of past events. It is a form of a continuing dialogue that always is open to reinterpretation. These future reinterpretations of Roman history, undoubtedly, will be based upon the discovery of new content, a reinterpretation of old and new source materials, and/or the restructuring of the content according to new and varied patterns.  Read More 
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The Five "Best" Books on Roman History (series)

THE FIVE “BEST” BOOKS ON ROMAN HISTORY (Series Introduction)


As any student of ancient history soon discovers, there are virtually thousands of books related to the study of Roman history. The earliest sources to survive the ravages of time (well over two thousand years) are almost non-existent and what has survived is incomplete. The surviving sources are the one hundred and forty two patriotic books (ancient books were in the form of scrolls and not bound books) and the books of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (early Greek historian), Dionysius’ surviving chapters and fragments of chapters also suggest a Livy influence. These two ancient authors also are supplemented by what remains of the writings (yearly lists) of the annalists. Many of the other early written works of Greek and Latin historians are lost, except some parts surviving in fragment form, or they survive only in later secondary references.

Over the twenty-one centuries since the collapse of the Roman Republic, thousands of works have attempted to reconstruct the early history of Rome, which is a troublesome task. Roman history, beginning with Livy (and to some extent) Dionysius, is clouded in myth, reckless invention, and some total fabrications. Dionysius is somewhat better than Livy, but he, too, is submissive to Greek mythology related to the trials of Hercules.

In addition to the above problems, it appears that every epoch from the Middle Ages on the evolution of western civilization is marked by some attempt to recreate their own interpretation of Roman history (from the perspective of their own times, and contemporary historical concerns). These attempts at the recreation of Roman history have continued into the scientific age of western scholarship. In recent years, much of the efforts of modern historians and related scholars have fortified their reinterpretations of Roman history from the perspective of new discoveries, many of which have been derived from modern archeological fieldwork associated with ancient Roman sites.

Archeology, while helping to clarify many issues and questions, also has produced many disagreements. This reality might cause some to be tempted to declare the futility of attempting to discover “truths” related to Roman history. In reality, the re-examination of Roman history by contemporary authors has provided a clearer picture of the evolution of Roman society, especially in recent years. Some scholars have been able to shed new light on the emergence of Latin and Roman culture, as it was derived from Greek and Etruscan influences.

Other scholars have been able to provide missing links of culture coming by way of sea-trade into Latium. Studies related to Roman expansion have been by fortified by a better understanding of Roman engineering and road construction. Intellectual and philosophical works have shed new light on the structures of Roman government and new interpretations in clarifying the actual social relationships between the “so-called” orders (patricians versus plebeians), including the role of religion in empowering the aristocracy. The end-result of intellectual endeavor, grounded in scientific fieldwork, has opened a new day of contemplation and understanding related to the formation of western civilization.  Read More 
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Rise of the Roman Republic: Reflections on Becoming Roman Summary

An audaciously daring narrative, this text presents an overview of the early history of Rome, focusing the reader's attention to those distinctive and often hidden cultural features that contributed to create a unique ancient Roman mindset and civic outlook. Using a historical format, Dr. Dynneson addresses these cultural forces which ultimately shaped the Romans into the ancient world's most powerful military city-state. Comprised of numerous values and beliefs, the Romans sought to develop their citizens as a cohesive whole. This approach enabled a mastering of both the practical and utilitarian tactics for solving problems, an expression of classical intellectualism. Identifying this sense of idealism paralleled with the Romans embodiment of sacrifice to overcome all obstacles, the author explores several features of becoming Roman. Within this text, each section is designed to pull together the general historical elements which helped to create a unique Roman citizenship. The final section of each chapter contains further analysis, including the author's narrative regarding the general sources used, and the second containing a review of one exceptional recommended reading. The later chapters of the book provide a special section entitled: "Recent Scholarship", which explores the work of recent scholars' "revisionists" perspectives related to the traditional ancient sources Read More 
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