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SOCIAL STUDIES DIARY

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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Plebeians versus Patricians

Livy, the most complete ancient source, wrote his history of Rome centuries after the city of Rome was established. His records from the ninth century to the fourth century BCE were unreliable and corrupted. Consequently, he simply invented a narrative to fill in the gaps. As a part of this narrative he produced a " Read More 
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Roman Project

My work is now centered The destruction of Rome in 390 BCE. This is fascinating work in that it is a study in arrogance, humiliation, stupidity, class conflict, and the tenents of good leadership. The problem, of course, is that it difficult to separate myth from reality or fiction from truth. The gist of the  Read More 
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Time Out for Extended Reaearch

I have not written for some time related to my manuscript related to civism during the era of the Roman Republic. The reason is that I have been reading and taking extensive notes on an almost shocking work authored by Richard E. Mitchell. Mitchell has written a revision on early Roman history that is  Read More 
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Chapter Ten Magna Graecia

Finally after several months I have completed my draft on Magna Graecia. This chapter while long and descriptive reveals that Rome was greatly influenced by the Greeks who were well-established in living near or in their backyard, so to speak. The main contribution of the Greeks was to provide the Romans with the inclination  Read More 
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The Lost Civilizations of the Etruscans

Today I completed Chapter Nine that focuses on Etruscan influences on the urbanization of Rome. This is the first chapter in Part III of my manuscript. The Etruscans were a very mysterious, but advanced people who tended to reflect elements of a Maritine international culture that they carried to surrounding tribes including the Latins.  Read More 
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King and Tribes

Late this after noon we (Barbara and I) finished editing Chapter Eight. Early, about two seeks ago I finished Chapter Seven on the Roman Kings. Chapter Eight is especially important as it described the transformation from kinship, or tribal, relationships, to citizenship relationships. All of these chapter contain a Discussion section at the end  Read More 
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Roman Republic Civism - Update

This week I completed my draft of Chapter Seven entitled: Kings of the Sacred City. This chapter tells the story of the six mythological kings of Rome from Romulus through Lucius Tarquinius - Superbus. This Kings were mainly the invention of the ancient sources in attempting to explain the reasons why the aristocrats revolted  Read More 
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Roman Civism

I just complete chapters three and chapter four of my new project entitled: Roman Republic Civism: Cultivating Citizenship 700 BCE -300 BCE. Chapter Three focuses on ancient Roman Religion and Chaper Four focuses on Roman Virtue. My current research and drafting is focused on Roman education. The entire project is structured around eighteen chapters. Roman  Read More 
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