Pax Romana: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World

In This Review

Pax Romana: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World
By Adrian Goldsworthy
Yale University Press, 2016
528 pp.
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In the introduction to this engaging and consistently informative assessment of the methods the ancient Romans used to expand and control their empire, Goldsworthy insists that he is not trying to draw lessons that might be useful to contemporary powers. He is quite defensive on the Romans’ behalf, noting that the idea of empire went out of fashion only rather recently, and argues that the Romans deserve credit for managing to rule disparate lands for centuries, and most of the time without too much trouble. At the same time, he does not deny that the emperors’ motives were hardly altruistic or that their methods were often cruel and brutal. And at no point did the Romans ever doubt their right to dominate: the question was how others would accommodate themselves to Roman rule. But the Romans understood the value of alliances, and they treated the tribes that were prudent enough to surrender to the empire with relative grace; indeed, many of the conquered peoples adopted the conqueror’s ways.

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