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A Critical History of Early Rome

From Prehistory to the First Punic War

Gary Forsythe

Publication Year: 2005

During the period from Rome's Stone Age beginnings on the Tiber River to its conquest of the Italian peninsula in 264 B.C., the Romans in large measure developed the social, political, and military structure that would be the foundation of their spectacular imperial success. In this comprehensive and clearly written account, Gary Forsythe draws extensively from historical, archaeological, linguistic, epigraphic, religious, and legal evidence as he traces Rome's early development within a multicultural environment of Latins, Sabines, Etruscans, Greeks, and Phoenicians. His study charts the development of the classical republican institutions that would eventually enable Rome to create its vast empire, and provides fascinating discussions of topics including Roman prehistory, religion, and language.

In addition to its value as an authoritative synthesis of current research, A Critical History of Early Rome offers a revisionist interpretation of Rome's early history through its innovative use of ancient sources. The history of this period is notoriously difficult to uncover because there are no extant written records, and because the later historiography that affords the only narrative accounts of Rome's early days is shaped by the issues, conflicts, and ways of thinking of its own time. This book provides a groundbreaking examination of those surviving ancient sources in light of their underlying biases, thereby reconstructing early Roman history upon a more solid evidentiary foundation.

Published by: University of California Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. v-viii

List of Tables and Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The many debts of gratitude incurred in the course of researching and writing this book are too numerous to be easily enumerated, but common decency requires that the author at least make an attempt to acknowledge the most obvious and important ones. ...


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pp. xiii-xiv


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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-6

This book narrates the early history of Rome, one of the most successful imperial powers of world history. Although the story told here ends with the subjugation of Italy and thus does not treat the great wars of overseas conquest, during Rome’s advancement from a small town on the Tiber River to the ruling power of the Italian peninsula ...

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1. Italy in Prehistory

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pp. 7-27

The past two hundred years of human history have witnessed continuous and rapid technological change and progress on an unparalleled scale. Yet despite the highly advanced nature of present-day technology, geographical and climatic factors still exercise a profound influence upon the regional economies and cultures of human populations worldwide. ...

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2. Archaic Italy c. 800–500 B.C.

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pp. 28-58

Cultural and technological advancement in Italy from the Neolithic Age onwards was largely bound up with influences received directly or indirectly from central Europe, the Balkan peninsula, and the Near East. This pattern continued during the period covered in the present chapter, but with far more important consequences. ...

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3. The Ancient Sources for Early Roman History

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pp. 59-77

The history of Rome’s regal period and early republic is highly problematic due to the fact that ancient accounts were written during the second and first centuries B.C., long after the events that they described.1 Consequently, modern historians often disagree substantially in their interpretations and reconstructions, ...

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4. Rome During the Regal Period

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pp. 78-124

Our two primary sources of information for Rome during the regal period are the ancient literary tradition and archaeological data, both of which are highly problematic for different reasons. As the surviving fragments from Fabius Pictor’s historical account show, the traditions surrounding Rome’s early kings were already well established ...

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5. Archaic Roman Religion

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pp. 125-146

Given the important role religion played in early Roman affairs and in shaping Rome’s institutions, an overview of the subject may be considered essential for a full understanding of early Roman society and its cultural and political development.1 Since we possess a substantial amount of ancient evidence about religious ideas and practices ...

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6. The Beginning of the Roman Republic

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pp. 147-200

According to the ancient literary tradition, Rome’s last king, Tarquinius Superbus (Tarquin the Proud), was a cruel tyrant. He murdered Servius Tullius, usurped royal power, oppressed the senate, and worked the Roman people to exhaustion by making them labor on the sewer system of the Cloaca Maxima ...

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7. Rome of the Twelve Tables

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pp. 201-233

Perhaps the single most important and lasting innovation in the Roman state around the middle of the fifth century B.C. was the Law of the Twelve Tables, so-called because this first major codification of law was initially engraved on twelve bronze tablets and was displayed in public. ...

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8. Evolution and Growth of the Roman State, 444–367 B.C.

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pp. 234-267

Shortly after the codification of the Twelve Tables, the chief executive office of the Roman state was reorganized.1 Beginning in 444 B.C. and extending down to 367 B.C., the eponymous officials of the Roman state fluctuated between two consuls and a board of military tribunes with consular power (also termed consular tribunes), ...

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9. Rome’s Rise to Dominance, 366–300 B.C.

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pp. 268-323

The primary purpose behind the reorganization of 367 B.C. was to provide the Roman state with a new set of officials with differentiated functions to replace the board of six military tribunes with consular power.1 An equally important secondary result of this legislation was the agreement within the Roman aristocracy ...

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10. Rome’s Conquest and Unification of Italy, 299–264 B.C.

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pp. 324-368

The period of peace following the Second Samnite War was brief.1 Since we are not informed of the exact terms of the settlement of 304 B.C., we have no way of knowing to what extent, if any, the terms of peace created resentment or set up potential areas of conflict and thereby contributed to the outbreak of war six years later ...

Appendix: Early Roman Chronology

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pp. 369-370

Works Cited

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pp. 371-390


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pp. 391-400

E-ISBN-13: 9780520940291
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520249912

Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2005