- Published: October 30, 2021
- Updated: October 30, 2021
- University / College: University of York
- Language: English
- Downloads: 26
Coin Wells has worked for his book, laboriously, with a definite perspective in view. He has achieved three clear-cut objectives in his book. The King, his Ministers and the entourage is the first and the important part. That forms the central administration of the Kingdom. Secondly, what is the effect of administration on the towns and villages and in the army camps? Finally, the type of interaction between these two important segments is detailed. The list of maps and illustrations contribute to better understanding of the topics and objects of the book.
The summing up about the book is–The Roman Emperors, the army and the life in ancient Rome for three centuries from 44 B. C. to 235 A. D The contents: The book covers about 300 yeas history of the Roman Empire, elaborated in eleven chapters. Apart from an informative introduction, the topics dealt with are: The New Order, The Sources, The Wok of Augustus, Italy under Augustus: the Social and Intellectual Climate, The Consolidation of the Principate, The Army and the Provinces in the First Century AD,. Emperors Made Elsewhere than at Rome’: Galba to Trajan, The State of Italy from Petronius to Pliny, The Orderly Government of the Empire: Hadrian to Marcus Aurelius, ‘The Immeasurable Majesty of the Roman Peace’, An Age of Transition: Commodus to Maximinus the Thracian. In addition, information about Reigns of Roman Emperors, Augustus to Diocletian has been provided. Overall, it is the history of the Kings and the administration that cared for the people which brought peace and prosperity for a long period. Its output on all counts is without parallel, as for the history of the Region.
When one thinks about the Roman Empire, and the Roman history, the first picture that comes on the curtain of one’s mind is that of the immaculately attired soldier. Dr. Wells highlights the important role of the army in the empire build-up and the day to day administration. It was not the active part of the administration as such, but the presence of the Army and its possible intervention, if something seriously goes wrong, which will affect the essential dignity of the Empire. The Army came forward with its say and resolute actions.
Julius, the first Caesar was the first Roman emperor, and with the establishment of Christian rule in Western Europe, it comes to an end. Military innovations gave liberal license to the soldiers to act and they were given the award of captured lands. This was a strong incentive. The episodes of Roman history are of a complex nature. Colin Wells tackles them with the latent talents of a historian and a skilled writer. The year of the four emperors is the case in point. He also gives an authentic account of non-Roman rulers like Emperor Maximinus.
Dr. Wells tries to prove that the modern administration has drawn much from the legacy of the Roman Empire in areas like hydrology, road building and practical arts. The effect was so profound, that it has become part of the modern life of the people, without their being fully aware as to how actually they came into inherit it. The relationship between the Emperor and the loosely knit states is the unique feature of the Roman Empire and Dr. Wells has taken extra pains to explain the importance of this relationship.
The modern administrators have many things to learn and be wise to adopt the techniques with great benefits. He also gives his views why such a perfect system of centralized government came to an end. He traces the history from the military takeover of Rome by Julius Caesar, through Octavian and Trajan. The information provided is methodical, chronological and easy for a lay reader to comprehend. He explains the deep impact of culture of Roman Empire in Italy and many other provinces of Egypt, Asia Minor, Africa Minor, Britannia and Germania.
He takes potshots at the points of contention with other historians, acknowledges their view points, and at the same time expresses his opinions, providing the backup of his research. Dr. Wells is the monarch of all that he surveys about the Roman Empire in his book from the rise of Augusts to the rule of Caracalla. The peculiar type of involvement of the Roman society, which was both inclusive and exclusive, is properly explained. The nationality concept as we understand it today was not there. The incorporation of the provincials into the greater empire was rendered easy.
The provincial elites saw their common interest in assimilating into the imperial society. This was so, as Roman law favored the propertied class. The merits of the book: The book thinks deeply on matters of great importance related to ancient history of the Roman Empire. Dr. Wells has given the independent analysis of issues related to the Empire and conclusions. That he is able to provide information within the space of 384 pages shows his writing skills and ability to present analysis in a compact style. Wells is open-minded and does not do rigid, within-in-the-frame analysis of any issue.
He is not committed to any ideology. He is certainly not a Marxist, though his concern for the common people of the Roman Empire is noticeable. There are many books on the subject of Roman Empire and Wells does not agree with some of the viewpoints explained in them. He has independent views. When necessary, he doesn’t criticize mildly. He rebukes and scoffs. For example, Gibbons painting the rise of Christianity as the decline of the empire! Wells says that it is a new cultural reality, a historical transition. Christianity too had success stories and many failures.
Colin Wells is a man of literature-cum-historian. He writes well. You feel as if you are in Rome of the era, to which this book pertains. The explanation about the cultural aspects then prevailing, make a very good, informative and enjoyable reading. The perquisites the aristocratic society enjoyed-for example! The Bay of Naples as a senatorial resort, which only the very rich can enjoy and the legionnaire’s life on the banks of Danube and Rhine! Dr. Wells was an adjunct Professor at Cambridge, when he wrote the book.
He takes you to the right direction to kindle deep curiosity to study Roman Empire in more detail. De-merits of the book: Criticism is part of book writing and every author has to take the share of it. Wells is no exception. Colin Wells is a British academician. The British audience will feel at home to read and understand this book. Others will have problems as for cultural references. The focus of the book is on the early empire, where you can find detailed information. The later half is given less credit and analysis.
For a student and researcher on the lookout for in-depth details, this book may seem incomplete. The Roman Emperors, the army and the life in ancient Rome for three centuries from 44 B. C. to 235 A. D is, therefore, the appropriate thesis for this book. It provides a good backgrounder for the first-time reader /scholar of Roman History. Being a Professor, Dr. Wells knows the needs of the serious students of history. He throws light, how the process of consolidation of the Roman Empire went about, and the factors for peace that prevailed for such a long period.
The bonus for the readers is the 41 page supplement in the book which gives the main source for reference books on ancient Rome. Every important aspect related to that period such as imperial cult, treason, town planning, Jewish sources, Roman coinage and financial administration have been dealt with in detail and each section has the listing of recommended books. This is a special type of history book. He gives equal importance to describing the social developments. History and topics related to social development in the Roman Empire go forward like a train that speeds on two parallel tracks.
I recommend this book to a layman interested in cursory glance as for the ancient Roman History as well as to academicians and research scholars. The reason is, this is not just a political history. Dr. Well’s main concern is archeology. He has involved in the research work in Carthage unearthing buildings and walls. This is a handy reference book on the ancient Roman Empire as well. It is an excellent book, viewed from any angle-language, style, methodology and contents. A professional critic doesn’t spare the best of the authors, but this book is written by a Professor. He is bound to have the interest of the students foremost in his mind.
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