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Development of Roman Political System

By bensez Dec 22, 2010 938 Words
Evaluation Of “Rome In The Late Republic“
There appears to be much controversy as to the reasons the Roman Republic ended. Mary Beard and Michael Crawford, both known authors for several works pertaining to ancient Rome, have teamed together and wrote Rome in the Late Republic. This book, fairly contemporary in its research, takes on the challenge of depicting reasons why the Roman Republic ended, and in explaining the reasons; they attempt to incorporate such issues as religion, political institutions, socio-economic attributes of the people, and outside influence into their argument. Beard and Crawford’s thesis lies in the portrayal of these issues in their relation to the fall of the Roman Republic and how their explanation differs from other authors and scholars’ interpretations. Beard and Crawford present their material in an easily readable, and quite short, manner. They have separated their arguments into that which the reader can comprehend and associate with outside information concerning the history of Rome. However, there is a problem, regarding the historical aspect, whereas Beard and Crawford do not give particular examples of historical events, or the like. It is not a problem if the reader has an understanding of the subject, but if someone were not to possess such knowledge, then they would be at a disadvantage, because of this lapse on the authors’ part. For instance, the statement, “As the political system came increasingly under the dominance of powerful individuals, so those individuals, tended also to monopolize links with divine,” does not provide an adequate perception to the certain individuals, which can be learned in other fashions to represent people like Julius Caesar, who served as Pontifex Maximus. Considering this lack of direct historical evidence, the book appears to be more based in a literary manner, with indirect historical evidence, as mentioned. In the literary sense, the authors give their supposition into why the Republic ended, in such statements like “The late Republic had witnessed the development of an elite culture drawing on both Greek and Roman traditions; this development was crucial to the functioning of the relatively complex structure of the Roman Empire” (24). It is made clear what the authors are presenting by their explanations and evidence. Throughout the book, Beard and Crawford divide their assertions into understandable chapters by separating, material like religion, political institutions, and socio-economic attributes of the people that provide a solid argument for why the Roman Republic ended. An example of the information provided concerning religion’s role in the ending of the Republic is, “religious means were used to gain political ends-therefore ‘true’ Roman religion had been perverted away from its proper use” (26). Later in another chapter, Beard and Crawford depict political institutions’ role in the ending of the Republic, with relation to contemporary intellectuals as, “It is difficult to comprehend political life at Rome in the late Republic. Not only are its structures and institutions alien to us; they were also in a state of disruption and change” (40). Finally, depicting the socio-economic argument, Beard and Crawford assert that “The pattern of the Roman conquest of Italy meant that in most essential respects there came to be substantial uniformity in social and economic structure throughout Italy” (79). These divisions that the authors present their argument and separate the material allow for a well formulated book. The final area that Beard and Crawford touch upon is challenging fellow scholars and modern historians. An example of their criticism is that “Ancient authors and modern historians treat the Senate (and to a lesser extent the equestrian order) as if it was, for all practical purposes, a hereditary body” (45). Following that statement the authors present their counter-argument. By mentioning other arguments, the authors give more legitimacy to their material. Another example of this is Some recent writing can leave the reader wondering why the assembly bothered to meet at all, seeing that the view of the elite was so bound to prevail. The elite had, in short, a vested interest in unity-which was, of course, not preserved in the political struggles of the late Republic. However, other historians gave the impression that it was exceedingly hard to become a magistrate or senator if you didn’t have a relative that was a senate, etc. (51).

In this example, the authors’ argument is clearly opposite from what other historians claim. Beard and Crawford’s disagreements with scholars and historians are made known throughout the book. The manner, in which they do so, is by presenting both sides, then proceeding to explain why theirs is superior. This method allows the reader to comprehend the material related to the subject and to understand why Beard and Crawford’s contentions are better. Beard and Crawford’s book is an excellent supplement to studies in Roman history, because it provides a sufficient interpretation into the end of the Roman Republic, outside of the textbook’s straightforward historical evidence. Rome in the Late Republic is more of a literary source and by doing so the authors present historical evidence and material indirectly, though if reading a Roman history textbook at the same time, the reader should have no difficulty understanding what Beard and Crawford are trying to argue, concerning the factors related to the ending of the Republic of Rome. In conclusion, Beard and Crawford do a good job of presenting their reasons for the ending of the Roman Republic, though more historical evidence would allow readers a better comprehension of the material. The book is helpful to those who want to learn more into the reasons why the Republic of Rome.

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