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The Rise of the Roman Empire

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  2,720 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Polybius, himself a Greek and an active contemporary participant in political relations with Rome, wrote the forty books of his Universal History primarily to chronicle and account for the Roman conquest of Greece between 200 and 167 B.C. He saw that Mediterranean history, under Rome's influence, was becoming an organic whole, so he starts his work in 264 B.C. with the beg ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published February 28th 1980 by Penguin Group (USA) (first published -170)
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I think reading this book by Polybius (c. 200-118 B.C.) is simply fascinating, informative and rewarding since, I think, we can learn and better understand the Roman Empire from the Greek statesman and historian's views as supported by written and oral sources.

I think, posting a review for this book needs time and ideas for my Goodreads friends, therefore, its scope will include a few topics worth mentioning and elucidating (this implies more details for future inclusion):
1) How Hannibal crosse
Bill P.
Having a guilty pleasure that includes reading roman adventure novels of carnage and conquest, not to mention modern historians takes on the conflicts and events of the ancient world, I feel compelled to occassionally take on the guys that tend to be the source materials. These can seem pretty forbidding at the outset, but contemporary translations of Herodotus and Polybius made them both pretty easily digested. I really enjoyed David Anthony Durham's take on the Second Punic War (Prince of Cart ...more
Polybius was a Greek born into an aristocratic family of the Achaean League and was selected as one of the 1000 aristocratic hostages transported to Rome. He fell into the good graces of the house of the Scipios. He read the family archives and grew fond of Publius Cornelius Scipio and his son. Out of the forty or so Histories that he wrote only about five remained extant. The Roman Empire as an event fascinated Polybius and he sought to document its rise.

This work is written in a dry, factual
I have put this aside for now. Polybius's history is said to be important to our understanding of the formation of the Roman Empire. This I cannot dispute. But there is no art to description of events, and little analysis. It is basically one damn thing after another, which is principally, one damn battle after another, with no reflection on whether any of this is good. Turncoats and killing without sympathy or apparent need are denounced, but the general continous war and carnage are treated as ...more
Polybius blends the retelling of the events with his own philosophy about the nature and goals of historical study in addition to his ruminations about the future of Empire (which are pretty much spot on), which can make the text feel a bit uneven at times. That being said, the chapters concerning Hannibal and his campaign against Rome are probably some of the most epically rendered set pieces in written antiquity. And they really help to show how Rome, after vanquishing an enemy this determined ...more
Julian Meynell
I have been on a bit of a bender for reading ancient historians lately of the Roman Republic and so, Polybius is my latest reading in this area. I find reading ancient historians is perhaps the most effective way to both get some of the history and the mind set at the same time. Anyway it has worked and supplementing with Wikipedia where necessary, I finally feel like I have a basic understanding of the Roman Republic (I've known the Empire for a long time).

This work is selections from Polybius'
The cool thing about Polybius, is that he was a Greek. This book spans his interest in Rome's rise and homogenization of the Mediterranean world. Ranges from 264 thru 146 BCE.
A history that clings to Polybius's moral concerning Fortune, which is essentially a blueprint for how to appropriately handle yourself when you are blessed with good Fortune and almost more importantly, how to handle yourself when you aren't. And by "you" of course I mean mainly men with elite leadership aspirations, hehe.

I am not a gamer, but one great companion while reading this book is the Creative Assembly's war/strategy game Rome Total War, which concerns itself with the same time period
John Yancura
Rise of the Roman Empire is not really an easy read. Polybus takes himself and his subject matter very seriously and he refuses to let a ray of humor or irony into the work. But, when you think about it, the subject matter is pretty serious, especially considering that the author was born around 200 BC in Megalopolis, Arcadia, which at that time was an active member of the Achaean League (or what most of us call ancient Greece). During Polybus’ lifetime, the Romans rose to power over the Greeks ...more
Unfortunately, I am not versed in Greek, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of the translation. I will say that the English is clean, fluid, and does not read as broken attempts to render an inflected language into a non-inflected language.

As a historian Polybius is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. On the one hand, he's not as rumor-mongering as Herodotus, which, though it does eliminate the gossip-like tone that sometimes permeates the Father of History, it also causes the narrative to
Matt Kuhns
This one took forever. Not because it’s long; I read the far more lengthy Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in much less time. Whereas Gibbon’s prose still seems very contemporary after a couple of centuries, however, no translation can really quite bridge the ten-times-as-long gap between us and Polybius. As I find to be the case with many classic works, it was interesting, and if you settle into its rhythms you can make good progress, but it’s still very easy to set aside.

Having finished it
Robert Sheppard


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is an apt admonition to
Technically this is a book about the Roman Republic, not the Empire. The history of Roman antiquity can be divided into three phases: (1)the monarchy (753 B.C.- 509 B.C.), (2) the republic (509 B.C -27 B.C.) and (3) the Empire (27 B.C. -476 A.D. (West); -1453 A.D. (East)).This book focuses on how the Republic rose from provincial city-state to become the superpower of its day. Author Polybius (~200 B.C.- 118 B.C.) was an educated Macedonian political prisoner living in Rome from 168 B.C.
brian dean
This book was a sort of homework for me. I may end up teaching a history of Punic Wars class to some middle schools students this winter and this was one of the required texts -for me, if not for the students themselves.

I liked the book and found some of the digressions interesting but it isn't the sort I would normally read. consider that as you note the 3 stars I gave it.

Other, more focused histories, seem to concentrate on Hannibal, Rome, Spain and Carthage and one thing that struck me was ho
Polybius' attempt at an objective universal history is very interesting and informative. It highlights Rome's Punic Wars, giving excellent accounts of the first around Sicily, and the second with Hannibal in Italy, Spain, and Africa. The third, I suppose, wasn't much of a war, but Polybius, near the end, wants the reader to conclude that the wanton destruction of Carthage is a direct result of the influx of riches from Macedon, and the rarity of an upstandingly moral person like Scipio Aemilianu ...more
Dominique Dec
Polybius tends to go off on rants about how other historians aren't as good as he is for any number of reasons. This type of writing takes away from his actual history. Also, since history is only written by the winners, we don't get to see much of the Carthaginians, Syrian, or Macedonian sides of the story (along with more of the barbaric tribes north of Italy), what is written has to be dissected to make sure the information is accurate.
I do believe that Polybius is my favorite ancient author. His prose, style, honesty, presentation, and undeniable expertise on and access to the people and places he writes about is awe inspiring.

His contemporary accounts of the rise of Rome as a Mediterranean power and the backstory of the Punic Wars is about one of the most pivotal few centuries in the history of the world and is indispensable for a student of the ancient world.

This edition has a few flaws - not making omissions from the survi
Steve Dotson
The author was raised as a non-Roman citizen, and affords the author some much needed objectivity in the canon of works written on the Roman Empire - just as it was gaining its imperial legs.
The only difficulty in the text for me was not knowing every name mentioned. The information stems from Approximately 100-200 years before Gaius Julius Caeser. Hell(-inists), one doesn't even hear mention of his name. Kinda nice for once, relative to my array of readings on imperial Rome.
Hellenistic Greece
Spencer Ogden
Wonderful description of the Second Punic War and the events leading up to it. Due to large amounts being lost to history, the second half is more disjointed and less enjoyable to read. Military highlights are: The naval battles of the First Punic War for Sicily; Hannibal's march over the Alps; The Battle of Cannae; Hannibal's March to Rome and the fall of Capua; The Battle of Zuma. Outside of the military history, Book 6 on the structure of the Roman government and Military is excellent, as are ...more
Kevin Bell
I generally avoid abridgements, but I was reading this mostly for its account of Hannibal and Scipio. So it worked out since they kept all of the Hannibalic war portions. Polybius is an interesting writer. I'm not a student of the classics, I won't lie, but I found his thoughts to be remarkably modern in substance. His presentation of Scipio is much better reasoned than Livy's. It didn't hurt that he interviewed Laelius at length about Scipio's character and his campaigns.
Excellent book for any
May 05, 2007 Steve rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Roman history fans
Shelves: history
Although Polybius is one of the greater historians of Rome and his work an excellent and detailed read on Roman history from the First Carthiginian War to the Third and therefore on Rome's rise (with some digressions on the Roman constitution and the writing of history), I have taken off a star because Penguin has, for some inexplicable reason, abridged a work that is already severely abridged (ie: only parts of it survive). Furthermore, Penguin does not tell you what it has removed.
Rui Valente
The book title is misleading, as Polybius himself died long before the Roman Empire ever started.
This book is about the Roman Republic, with particular emphasis on the late third and early second centuries BC.
I find the author's translation very readable, and even though I read it some time ago, I am always fond to return to reading the sections on the first and the beggining of the second punic wars.
Aaron Crofut
Rating this based on the first six books; I don't recommend fighting through the fragments. A good student should be able to come up with dozens of interesting topics to discuss based on those first six books if he is thinking while reading. Polybius would be far more interesting if he stopped trying to justify his work.
Now I loved the book by I hate this edition. It's not like they didn't have all the books (which of course they didn't) but even the content that came down to us through the ages they abridged, and it made it hard to follow the story line. However the language of the translation was very nice. It was a fast and enjoyable read.
John Cain
His descriptions of battles are far less confusing than those of Livy. On the other hand, Livy gives details and descriptions of people that are far more interesting than Polybius. I understand that much is edited out of this book, How that affets my comparision between the two authors I have no idea.
An abridged version - some of what was left out is puzzling, as was some of what was left in. Too little of the battles, and too much of Polybius's grinding his axe against other historians - simply not interesting to the average modern (or ancient, probably) reader.
This book sucks, and it rocks. It sucks rocks. It's really good if you like boats, if you want to turn all the people in your poems into boats, or attics, or generals with names that begin with H. Hamilcar Behrle, Hamilcar Berrigan, Hamilcar Bouton......
A good read. He's a clear writer with a good and precocious philosophy on the role of the historian. I didn't read the whole thing, but Book VI is a must read. It's a great analysis on the evolution of monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy.
Basically just covers the three Punic Wars between the Roman Republic and Carthage. A so-so read. The writing of historical events from most of the ancient writers usually does not do a very good job of keeping me interested.
Paul Marshall
Nice translation.

The place to go for primary source material on the Roman conquet of Greece and the Carthaginian conflicts. We roll all the way to 146 B.C. when the salt and rocks are sown in the soil of Carthage.
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Polybius (ca. 200–118 BC), Greek Πολύβιος) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his book called The Histories covering in detail the period of 220–146 BC. He is also renowned for his ideas of political balance in government, which were later used in Montesquieu's The Spirit of the Laws and in the drafting of the United States Constitution.
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“If history is deprived of the Truth, we are left with nothing but an idle, unprofitable tale.” 14 likes
“From this I conclude that the best education for the situations of actual life consists of the experience we acquire from the study of serious history. For it is history alone which without causing us harm enables us to judge what is the best course in any situation or circumstance.” 5 likes
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