Best-selling author Adrian Goldsworthy turns his attention to the Pax Romana, the famous peace and prosperity brought by the Roman Empire at its height in the first and second centuries AD. Yet the Romans were conquerors, imperialists who took by force a vast empire stretching from the Euphrates to the Atlantic coast. Ruthless, Romans won peace not through coexistence but through dominance; millions died and were enslaved during the creation of their empire.
Pax Romana examines how the Romans came to control so much of the world and asks whether traditionally favorable images of the Roman peace are true. Goldsworthy vividly recounts the rebellions of the conquered, examining why they broke out, why most failed, and how they became exceedingly rare. He reveals that hostility was just one reaction to the arrival of Rome and that from the outset, conquered peoples collaborated, formed alliances, and joined invaders, causing resistance movements to fade away.
Peace is always a rare and precious thing and this makes the “Roman Peace” all the more remarkable, and I wanted to understand how it came about. I wanted also to understand what the Roman Empire meant to the people who lived in it. What was it like for the other peoples in the ancient world who found themselves living next to the Roman Empire, or were incorporated into it, whether by force or choice? It is simplistic to demonize empires—just as it once was to celebrate them uncritically—and there is a danger of turning conquered peoples into passive and virtuous victims of imperialist aggression. The truth is more complicated, and looking at Roman power from the viewpoint of Romans and outsiders provides many relevant insights to our own world.
But wasn’t "Pax Romana" the peace imposed by the victors, whose conceit was that they were bringing civilization to barbarians?
The Romans fought a lot of wars, and never granted other peoples equal status. Other kingdoms and states were either allies or real or potential enemies. Peace made Rome and its allies safe. Only once they were well on their way to establishing a large and permanent empire did the Romans begin to talk of a duty to bring peace, order, and the rule of law to a wider world. This was not achieved solely or even primarily by force. People wanted to be Roman. Peace became a reality, even if imperfect.
Praise for Caesar:
"This book makes and insightfully explains the leap from Caesar the soldier and general to Caesar the statesman and nation builder. It's better than any book I've ever read on him, and more incisive."—Wall Street Journal
"An authoritative and exciting portrait not only of Caesar but of the complex society in which he lived."—Steven Coates, New York Times Book Review