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BOOK REVIEW: Pax: War and Peace in Rome's Golden Age

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The legacy of the Roman Empire lives on, writes Andrew Strobel.

I HAVE BEEN engaged in a most wonderful pursuit, only to be honoured and humbled by the chance to read, to be embroiled, by an astounding breadth and depth to bring a smile to this insatiable “Romanophile”. Newly, the most enhanced investigation into a much written about part of history I have yet ingested. (apologies Peter Frankopan, Mary Beard and so on).

Admitting that I have previously been seduced by both historical factual history and historical “imagination”, I am impressed beyond expectation by the depth of detail of the Ceasars, particularly so, the post republic, after the “Year of the four Ceasars”(ending in 69 BCE).

The subsequent inheritance of Vespasian, that of Ceasar, the decade of his Imperium, his impressive legacy, and judgement, his strategic delay in returning to Rome, arguably a shattered society much reduced by the civil wars.

Vespasian left Rome, according to Roman values, for the better. The succession of both the impressive and the incompetent following Ceasars, left much to be desired or determined, for the greater, then lesser part of the known world, not everything went to plan.

The audacity, the conceit, of those who sought the office, and the corruptive, accretive aristocracy that both supported, corrupted, and destroyed the ambitions and visions of successive Ceasars. An internecine vituperation that shaped the outcomes for both Mediterranean and near eastern provinces in terms of economy, security, and religion.

On one hand, republican-revivalists, seeking to reclaim the glory days of Rome, the city state that perfected the art of war to enhance their own culture and arts, the growth of their economy, their esteem, their prestige.

The Imperialists (that is, fascists), those too easily recognisable warlords to whom capitalist ventures were the proper underpinning of the personal employment and advancement of state power.

The builders, encompassing all Ceasars who sought to perpetuate a legacy, supported by the tribute of the far flung conquered, the Romanised, the civilised.

Prestige, a commodity that money and influence could buy, a “real politik”, both recognised and respected, that could be earned in a variety of ways.

Oratory, both learned and gifted, could be employed: hearts and minds turned to a common aspiration for prestige, for respect, for greatness.

Conquest, to overcome the barbarian frontier and return the spoils, only to use them for even greater Imperial avarice, and the due respect for their martial success.

Faith, to employ the otherwise ignorant, the desperate, the needful. To usurp the power of the collective, to turn the weight of opinion through belief, to be the interpretation of divine gnosis.

And in the wake of Constantine the GreatJustinian, perhaps the most potent legacy of the Roman succession, delivering all the way to the 21st Century, the primacy of Christianity, the definitive schism of the Orthodox and Catholic creeds, and the implacable hated of the Jews.

The Abrahamic family of faith is revealed as a family indeed. The sibling rivalry and internecine hatred are visceral to the faithful and empowering to the political. The needles in the haystack of faith are employed as weapons, the straw is but fodder for they in the pulpit, and the seeds are planted in past hatreds, denied, denigrated, and divided to make a meadow of weeds, where flowers are treated with disdain.

The Roman Imperial seat has succeeded through the Byzantine, the Hapsburgs, the British, to the USA. All the guardians of the faith and politics needed to project power and control.

Free world or free whirl, a chocolate wheel of possibilities, but a posse of deeply ingrained financial political forces that supersede the well intentioned faithful, demean the well-intentioned polity and enslave the majority to a usuary that binds the individual to the state.

Rome ain’t dead.

Pax: War and Peace in Rome's Golden Age is available from Hatchette Australia from $34.99 RRP (paperback).

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BOOK REVIEW: Pax: War and Peace in Rome's Golden Age

The legacy of the Roman Empire lives on, writes Andrew Strobel.  
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