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The Roman Republic

Author: Isaac Asimov

Interesting double clicks:

  • Alexander the Great
  • Hannibal of Carthage
  • Scipio Africanus

The fall of the Bronze Age is often attributed to an invasion by some foreign people, usually called Sea Peoples. Asimov makes a comment about these people, but describes them in a way I have not heard before.

The tribes flooding down from the north had iron weapons; hard, sharp swords that could hack their way right through the softer, bronze shields of the civilized armies. Some of the civilizations were destroyed, others badly weakened and shaken.

pg. 3

One thing to keep in mind here is that Asimov published this book in 1966. A lot has developed since then in the way of archaeology in the area.

That being said, Ramesses III provides an account (considered dubious today) of Sea peoples taking over the existing states of Hatti, Tarhuntassa, and others north of Egypt. They gathered forces on the coast of Syria and continued pushing south. While Ramesses claims they were a completely foreign people, it is now known that they had already been established in the northern regions for some time. Mieroop, pg. 207

After further inspection of the cities in the Near East during this time, it is now suspected that there was not a sweeping invasion by some army. While some cities collapsed, others remained and while the strata system seems to have fallen apart, the cities themselves were unscathed.

A modern theory postulates that after the fall of Hattussa and Hatti as a whole, the socio-political system simply began to unravel. It was already unstable, relying heavily on the heavy exploitation of lower class workers outside of cities. A domino effect occurred and a power vacuum was created that allowed the more established tribes of the north to move in.

As for this introduction of Iron, I have heard nothing of it being the cause of the fall of the Bronze Age civilizations, but it was introduced after the fact... how, I'm not sure. I haven't gotten to that time period yet.

On page 37 Asimov mentions the Roman sacking of Veii where the city was destroyed and the territory annexed.

What happens to the people living there in a situation like this? Specifically the lowest class that is just working farms and working to support the upper class? Assuming the pattern follows, these should be a people heavily indebted to their urban counter parts. There also has historically been a large work shortage, so it's very possible the Romans would have tried to take the working class back to Rome with them. Would they do this politically or by force?

Page 82

First Punic wars end with Hamilcar as general of the Carthaginians. Rome makes Sardinia and Corsica provinces and exploits them heavily.

Page 89

~230 BC Carthaginian General Hamilcar expands west in order to strengthen Carthage while Rome is dealing with Illyria... At this time he founds a city on the east coast of modern day Spain and calls it Barcino, later to be known as Barcelona! Very cool

For some, war against Philip [of Macedonia] seemed almost a holy crusade on behalf of the Greek cause.

pg. 115

In the early centuries of the Roman Republic, Greece considered itself a far more sophisticated society and struggled to view the Romans as anything other than a large tribe of barbarians (especially given the nature of Romes self proclaimed origins full of thievery and rape). It seems interesting that the relations had smoothed out enough by the end of the third century that the Romans openly respected (and some even romanticized) the Greeks. They learned their language and philosophy, and the Greeks were even teaching the Roman children.

An example of this can be seen when Marcellus ordered the sparing of Archimedes during the sack of Syracuse at the tail end of the Second Punic War. This seems very symbolic to me, seeing as how Magna Graecia had been under constant stress during the annexation by the Romans. The Romans always knew how to get their surrounding peers converted to Roman sympathizers.

Mutual respect goes a long way.

Another testament to the Roman ability to earn loyalty from those around them can be seen when Pyrrhus of Epirus is marching north towards Rome. A respectable power himself, representing great states of the east, he still can't sway the Latin cities. (pg. 69)

Interesting to note here that at this time (around 280 b.c.) the Romans were allied with Carthage (who currently held Sicily) and due to this the Carthaginians came under attack by Pyrrhus.

They might be non-Greek barbarians, Pyrrhus thought, but they fought like Macedonians

pg. 68

Philip was planning for the future, slowly and carefully, and had one son executed out of suspicion that he was too genuinely pro Roman.

pg. 122

This had me dying. For context, Philip V is now ruling over Roman controlled Macedonia and attempting to strengthen her internally, preparing some sort of revolt. Hilarious way to paint his character.

pg. 152

Rome auctions off the right to collect taxes in the regions outside mainland Italy. The collectors need to return with the auctioned price, and anything over is profit.