Ancient Rome remains firmly anchored in the public imagination. Few in the Western world are totally ignorant of her existence and achievements. In history and politics the rise of the Roman Empire continues to be cited as an example of greatness, and its fall as a measure of catastrophe. More popularly, Rome is a rich source of material for the entertainment industry in the shape of innumerable plays, films, novels and, most recently, computers games. Rome is not forgotten, but she is remembered very obscurely. Most would be hard put to give dates for Caesar, Cleopatra and Constantine the Great, or explain their place in Roman history. Dramas offer little help. HBO/BBCs Rome (2005) was a commendable attempt to explain the rise of Caesar and Octavian, and the latters destruction of Mark Antony; and, even more ambitiously, the BBCs Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire (2006) tackled the complexities of the long period from the Gracchi to Honorius (second century BC fifth century AD). Both, however, left many loose ends and created confusions. For Worse was Ridley Scotts Gladiator (2000) which, in addition to a myriad particular inaccuracies, minor and major, grotesquely misrepresented the course of Roman history by suggesting that the killing of the tyrannical emperor Commodus in AD 192 led to the restoration of the old Republic.
Nothing could from the truth: by then the Republic had been dead for centuries, and soon after Commodus came the even more autocratic seven emperors and the open display of military monarchy. A detailed and solidly source-based timeline, such as this presented by Timothy Venning. In many fields of history the division of narrative by distinct periods is frowned upon: emphasis is on continuity (PLUTARCH, 2010). However, in the case of Roman history periodization is well established, as much as anything because it was devised by the Romans themselves. The great Latin historian Tactitus opens his Annals with a deft summary of the evolution of the Roman state, beginning with the words.
As his words suggest, Rome periodization of Roman history was based on forms of government, basically: immediately after Romes foundation (traditionally, in 753 BC), rule by kings (the regal period); next (traditionally, in 753 BC) rule by a republic (aristocratic, not democratic, but nonetheless obedient to regularly elected officials: magistrates); and finally (from 27 BC) rule by emperors (Principes). Modern historians follow suit, and subdivide both Republic and imperial history into early, middle and late periods, thus referring to the early Republic, the High Republic and Late Republic, and to the Early, High and Late Empire. The distinction between Republic and Empire can be little confusing to newcomers, because Romes empire was for the most part a Republic creation.
However, it works well enough, and is here to say. A further compilation is that there is lively debate as to the specific dates of some of these periods: when did the Early Republic end, or the Late Empire begin? This article combines the legal period with the Early Republic, which takes down to 265 BC, by which time Rome was supreme in peninsular Italy, having defeated Pyrrhus of Epirus, and ready to face Phoenician (Punicus) Carthage in Sicily, Spain and North Africa. His High Republic runs from 264 to 146 BC. This was when Rome, in a series of Punic and Macedonian wars, destroyed Carthage and Macedon, and so became undisputed mistress of the Western Mediterranean, while beginning to interfere decisively in the affairs of Greece, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. He dates the Late Republic from 145 to 30 BC, the period in which Rome effectively took control of the eastern Mediterranean, but which saw Republican replaced by autocratic rule, and which ended with the suicides of Antony and Cleopatra. The Early Empire runs from 30 BC to 68 AD, when the first, Julio-Claudian, dynasty of emperors came to an end with the fall of Nero. High empire lasts from 69 until 235, and the destruction of the Severan dynasty.
The chronology of the Early Republican and Regal periods has particular problems. There are clear signs that even the earliest Roman historians had difficulty in dealing with them because of lack of evidence. Available records were, for various reasons, deficient and unreliable. Web know that the original bronze plaques promulgating the first Roman law code, the Twelve Tables, were destroyed in the Gallick sack of 390 BC; and it is likely that history was manipulated to promote personal and family interests (GIBBON, 1998). Some regularization of the consular lists may have resulted from reforms of 367/66 BC, but current thinking is that these lists are unreliable down to c. 300. Different attempts by ancient scholars to rectify faults and fill in gaps, and bring further confusion. Gap-filling had be done from myths and tendentious aristocratic family legends. One result of this was the complex and often conflicting accounts of the foundation of Rome which also betrayed patriotic ignorance and denial of early Etruscan influence and domination.
GIBBON, E., LENTIN, A., & NORMAN, B. (1998). The history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire: 28 selected chapters Edited and annotated, with an introduction by Anthony Lentin and Brian Norman. Hertfordshire, Wordsworth Editions Ltd.
Plutarch, Tatum, J., Pelling, C. B. R., & Scott-Kilvert, I. (2010). The rise of Rome. London, Penguin Classics.
Polybius, Scott-Kilvert, I., & Walbank, F. W. (1979). The rise of the Roman Empire. Harmondsworth, Penguin. https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=22804E4C-5768-44AB-87CE-A6F3A84357D4.
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