Book Review: Chronicle of the Roman Republic-The rulers of Ancient Rome from Romulus to Augustus

Chronicle of the Roman Republic is a beautiful book, replete with striking illustrations. Despite some defects, I think it’s a must read for anyone who wants an overview of Roman history from the city’s founding until the end of the Republic.
The text is largely a Who’s Who of notable Romans, starting with Romulus and the six kings who succeeded him, then the legendary figures of the early Republic, Lucius Junius Brutus, Horatius Cocles, Gaius Martius Coriolanus, Publius Valerius Poplicola, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus and Marcus Furius Camillus. Notables in the Middle Republic include Marcus Atilius Regulus, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Asina, Publius Appius Claudius Pulcher and Gaius Lutatius Catulus from the First Punic War and Gaius Flaminius, Publius Cornelius Scipio. Quintus Fabius Maximus and Claudius Marcellus from the Second Punic War, and of course Publius Cornelius Scipio’s more famous son Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus.
The Second Century B.C. includes people like Servius Sulpicius Galba, Marcus Porcius Cato the Elder, Lucius Aemilius Paullus, Scipio Aemilianus (Scipio Minor), Appius Claudius Pulcher and Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. Toward the end of that century we find Quintus Caecilius Metellus, his son, Metellus Pius, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus and Lucius Appuleius Saturninus.
The First Century B.C. is when the Roman Republic falls into chaos and civil war. Notable figures are Gaius Marius, Livius Drusus, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, Gnaeus Pompey, Quintus Sertorius, Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Sergius Catalina, Marcus Tullius Cicero, Publius Clodius Pulcher, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. The Republic ends with the rise of Augustus who ruled uncontested for over 40 years.
The book also contains a number of side bars on topics such as Early Enemies of Rome, The Twelve Tables, The Roman Toga, Parthia, gladiators, Roman entertainments, and the Port of Ostia.
The text has some minor inaccuracies that would probably be noticed only by readers who have studied ancient Rome intensively. For example, the author accepts the myth that the Romans salted the land around Carthage after they destroyed it in the Third Punic War. There are no ancient sources that document this, and it seems unlikely for two reasons, salt was a valuable commodity in those days, and fertile land was also a valuable commodity. It is doubtful that the pragmatic Romans would have wasted either one.
In his section on entertainment he says “Until the very end of the Republic, gladiatorial contests were staged only at private functions, often as part of the funerary rites of the deceased.” This is clearly not true, as this quote from Plutarch’s life of Gaius Gracchus indicates: “Moreover, it chanced that he had incurred the anger of his colleagues in office, and for the following reason. The people were going to enjoy an exhibition of gladiators in the forum, and most of the magistrates had constructed seats for the show round about, and were offering them for hire. Gaius ordered them to take down these seats, in order that the poor might be able to enjoy the spectacle from those places without paying hire. But since no one paid any attention to his command, he waited till the night before the spectacle, and then, taking all the workmen whom he had under his orders in public contracts, he pulled down the seats, and when day came he had the place all clear for the people.”
The author is hard on Julius Caesar, even quoting Suetonius as saying “He deserved assassination.” I for one rather wish Caesar hadn’t been assassinated, if only to know how he would have performed against the Parthians.

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