Introduction to the first edition

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


The historical period covered by the Roman Republic is a long one, comprising almost five hundred years of varied political, military, and cultural change. The central aspect of the Republic was Rome's rise from a small city, virtually indistinguishable from others in central Italy, to a metropolis, the capital of an extensive Mediterranean empire. These centuries produced the classic republican political system, marked by its culture of spectacle and performance. They also witnessed the ultimate disintegration of this system under the relentless pressure of internal dissention and the boundless ambitions of its leading politicians. It was the Roman Republic that created the characteristic Greco-Roman culture, the result of a melding of Greek influences and native Italian and Roman traditions, which would be spread by the Romans throughout theMediterranean world. This culture of fusion, a hallmark of the republican ethos, can be traced in literature, art, architecture, law, rhetoric, philosophy, and everyday life. Latin literature in all genres of prose and verse also emerged during the time of Rome's imperial expansion. Above all, the vast changes between the early fifth century and the mid first century b.c. are reflected in the growth and adornment of the city of Rome itself. By the time of Augustus (the first emperor), the city numbered over a million inhabitants, a population that would not be matched until London reached such a size in the late eighteenth century. The image of Rome's republican politics and growing empire captured the imagination of later ages, from Plutarch and Tacitus to Shakespeare, the thinkers of the European Enlightenment, and the American Founding Fathers. Readers who are new to the study of Roman history may be more familiar with the history of Rome under the emperors, but it is the Roman Republic that modern American and European political culture has the greatest affinity with and that is arguably more relevant to the political problems and challenges of our own times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to
Subtitle of host publicationThe Roman Republic, Second Edition
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781139424783
ISBN (Print)9781107032248
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


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