Item description for The Roman Empire: Second Edition by Colin Wells...
Overview Offers a history of the Roman Empire from 44 B.C. to A.D. 235.
Publishers Description This sweeping history of the Roman Empire from 44 B.C. to A.D. 235 has three purposes: to describe what was happening in the central administration and in the entourage of the emperor; to indicate how life went on in Italy and the provinces, in the towns, in the countryside, and in the army camps; and to show how these two different worlds impinged on each other. Colin Wells's vivid account is now available in an up-to-date second edition.
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Studio: Harvard University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.26" Width: 5.52" Height: 1.05" Weight: 1 lbs.
Release Date Aug 11, 1995
Publisher Harvard University Press
ISBN 0674777700 ISBN13 9780674777705
Availability 0 units.
More About Colin Wells
Colin Wells has studied with eminent Byzantinist Speros Vryonis Jr. at UCLA and holds an M.A. from Oxford University in Greats (Greek and Latin language and literature). He has written numerous articles on world history and culture for over a decade. He lives in upstate New York.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Roman Empire: Second Edition?
The Reality of Empire Feb 6, 2005
Wells offers a general survey of the Roman Empire from the rise of Augusts to the reign of Caracalla. The book is novel in adopting an alternating view between center-periphery relations. One chapter will adhere to the traditional political and military events of the Roman court. The successive chapter, however, will attempt to provide a broader view of Roman society by highlighting the social and economic affairs of the provinces during the same time frame.
One of the major encompassing themes of the survey is inclusion and exclusion in Roman society. Wells makes it clear that imperial Romans had little concept of ethnicity or nationality that we moderns do, which facilitated the incorporation of the provincials into the greater empire. The provincial elites, for their part, usually assimilated into imperial society as Roman law favored the propertied classes.
The small oligarchy that had ruled Rome in Republican times soon faded away, to be replaced with "new men" from both Italy and the provinces. Aside from the split between the Greek East and Latin West, the major division in the new order was not a cultural but an economic one. The dividing line was between rich and poor. Even that had a certain fluidity as people moved up and down the scale. Wells hints that the real success of the empire lay in the universal allegiance of the upper classes to maintain order and make profit.
Wells is not a Marxist and does not approach the subject from any antiquated or narrow-minded orthodoxy. He breaks ranks with many heretofore cherished assumptions. On the matter of Gibbons painting the rise of Christianity as the decline of the empire, Wells scoffs. To Wells, the "decline" of later Roman society was merely a transition to a new cultural reality (Christianity) with its own particular list of triumphs and failures.
There are some problems with this book. The first is that is was written by a British academic for a particularly British audience. Much of the cultural references and idiosyncratic humor is lost on this Yankee, and might be to other readers outside the UK. Another problem lies in its focus. Only the early empire is studied in detail. The later half of the Western empire is largely devoid of analysis, and thus Wells' treatise feels incomplete.
The Roman Empire is still worth reading. There are those who say the world is building for itself on a global scale what the Roman Empire accomplished in part: a society where tribal and cultural distinctions pale before a new universal economic reality. Modern day barbarians crash airplanes into buildings to protest the coming imperial order. Somehow the study of the Roman Empire never seemed more relevant.
A Great Book For A General Overview Oct 25, 2004
Beginning from the military take over of Rome by Julius Caesar, through Octavian and Trajan to the eventual end of centralized government in the 3rd and 4th centuries, this book neatly organizes the material chronologically while not losing the reader in a hodge-podge of names, places, and events. Dr. Colin Wells does a fantastic job of explaining the culture of the Roman Empire both in Italy and throughout the many provinces (most notably Africa, Egypt, Asia Minor, Germania and Britannia).
A overtly general book on the period, this historical work is great for the reader that is unfamiliar with the time period and simply wants a thorough discussion on the Roman Empire that touches on all the major topics while not getting too bogged down in the nitty gritty details. Points of contention among researches are raised with Dr. Wells providing his opinion on the matters while still acknowledging the dissenting view.
Finally, the book does a really good job of capturing the feel of Rome during this time. The more enjoyable parts of the book are when he explains the cultural aspects of the Roman Empire: what life was like as a plebian, the Bay of Naples as a senatorial resort for the very rich or life as a legionnaire on the banks of the Rhine or the Danube. While he does cater to a more British audience (this book was written while Dr. Wells was teaching as an adjunct professor at Cambridge) I highly recommend it as a great "starter" book for those interested in learning about the Roman Empire.
Excellent Further Reading Feb 4, 2003
This is a great book on the early empire. Wells covers the time from the fall of the republic concentrating on the reign of Augustus to about the time of Commodus. He does a very good job of explaining the time of Trajan and Hadrian and how the empire was consolidated and at peace for an extended period of time. There is a good balance of the life of the Emperors, everyday life in Rome and the provinces, the army, and the senate. The best thing about this book is the 41 page further reading section. This has been my main source to reference for books on ancient Rome. It is not just an annotated bibliography; Wells has topical sections like Roman coinage, imperial cult, treason, financial administration, town planning, Jewish sources, etc. and in each section lists recommended books. There are also ten pages of maps, plates, and a useful timeline. An excellent book to get you started on reading about the early Roman Empire.
Good overview of the empire and excellent bibliography May 14, 2002
Prof Wells does good work in giving a panoramic view of the empire from Augustus' reign and on. This does a fine job as a refresher on the Roman Empire since Wells has incorporated the most contemporary of discoveries in his latest edition. As always it never hurts to have background knowlege of the Roman Republic before reading this, but it's not essential.
What is especially great about Well's "Roman Empire" is the narrative bibliography. These are unfortunately rare today in most histories. Well's bibliography alone will point readers interested in Rome in the right direction for further reading or study.
Clearly written, well researched and well done.
Roman Survey Mar 13, 2002
This is an adequate one volume history on the Roman Empire. I've certainly seen some surveys of this period that are better, but Colin Wells does the job. The book covers the period from 44 B.C. to 235 A.D., or roughly from the beginnings of the second triumvirate to right before the 50 years of anarchy before Diocletian. Wells takes an interesting path with his book; he alternates between standard political history and social developments. You can read about everything from Elagabalus to Arezzo pottery. Most surveys I've read stick exclusively to politics. This format allows Wells to talk about areas that interest him. He states in the forward that his concern is archeology and that he has worked in Carthage unearthing buildings and walls.
Most books agree that the death of Julius Caesar and the civil wars between Octavian and Antony usher in the Imperial phase of Roman history. Wells is correct to start with these events. The book doesn't go far enough, however. Stopping at 235 A.D. leaves out an enormous amount of significant events. Leaving out Diocletian and the Tetrarchy alone is a huge mistake, as is the absence of Constantine and Christianity. Still, the book is a great refresher on Roman history. There really isn't much new here in the way of interpretation, although I did appreciate his introduction. Wells manages to do in a few pages what many fail to do: explain in a concise way the intricacies of Roman names and Roman political offices. Very helpful.
This is a good book, although a serious survey of Roman history would be better served with a more comprehensive textbook. Be sure and locate a book that at least covers Rome up to 476 A.D., if not later.