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The Rise of the Roman Empire

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  3,419 Ratings  ·  64 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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Polybius' account of the rise of Rome, from city on seven hills to world power, has great vigour, reading book one which deals with the first punic war when Rome leapt out of Italy into conflict with Carthage for control over Scilly I had the sensation that the narrative was pursuing me like an elephant, bearing down on me as I fled before it. Although I remembered the injunction to either come home with my shield or on my shield, I cast it away the better to escape unencumbered, some Carthagini ...more
Sep 09, 2011 umberto rated it really liked it
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 (probably more details for future inclusion):
1) How Hannibal crossed th
Polybe, grec envoyé comme otage à Rome au deuxième siècle était devenu l'ami des puissants de la plus célèbre des cités Latine. Il entreprit de rédiger une histoire universelle des événements récents qui avaient vu l'essor inexorable de l'influence romaine sur les affaires du monde méditerranéenne. Les événements relatés vont des prémisses de la première guerre punique (laquelle fait défaut dans Tite-Live) jusqu'à la destruction finale de Carthage lors de la troisième guerre punique. Les théâtre ...more
Sep 24, 2009 Jeremy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics
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
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
Apr 19, 2015 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars.

I am not a historian, and have encountered almost all the content of this book in later works that probably just cribbed from Polybius. My rating reflects my enjoyment of the history, not it's importance.

The content itself is a roller coaster ride. It begins with books covering two wars between Rome and Carthage. The history is exciting and the writing captures it. Next are two books on The Social War occurring in Greece. Compared to the previous conflict, this is children squabbling o
Steve Gordon
May 26, 2012 Steve Gordon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is an absolute shame that most of this work did not make it down to the present day. And on that note I make my only criticism of this edition: the jacket and web material on this book state that it covers the Second Punic War and the later destruction of Carthage. The original work may have, but what is left to us is the history of the Second Punic War up to the battle of Cannae and nothing further. My favorite quote is on the use of religion as a means of control: "In Rome, nothing plays a ...more
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
May 25, 2016 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Polybius (200-118 B.C.) was a Greek historian and statesman, whose intent on writing this history was to show how Rome was able to achieve world domination in just 50 years. He believed that history was a way to learn from the past and avoid future mistakes. This work starts with the First Punic War in 264 B.C. and goes on from there to record the various critical stages of Roman expansion. This was my first reading of his history, and it compared wel
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
Mar 16, 2008 Calilibrarian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Robert Sheppard


"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is an apt admonition to
Mete Oguz
Nov 27, 2016 Mete Oguz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a sweeping account of the time period of about 260 - 150 BC or so, by the Greek/Roman historian Polybius - who lived during this time period and accompanied the great Roman general Scipio on many of his campaigns.

It had really interesting parts that were very enlightening and intriguing to read. It goes into a lot of detail but in my opinion the beauty of history frequently lies in those details that would be lost if we read a summary or commentary of the work.

He starts of with the
Julian Meynell
Jul 24, 2015 Julian Meynell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
Chris Wolfington
Polybius was a leading politician and military officer in ancient Greece, who believed that historians should only write about events they are personally familiar with. He was close to several people he writes about, and he himself becomes an historical figure towards the end of his work.

His work focuses on the period from 264-145 B.C., or, the period of the Punic Wars. He describes his book as a "universal history", meaning he gives the histories of all major powers at the time: Rome, Carthage,
John Yancura
Jan 05, 2011 John Yancura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 03, 2016 Jack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Polybius' histories extended over dozens of volumes, of which only a few remain fully intact. This is a shame. The man was an intelligent critic of history, military leadership and politics, drawing on a vast array of experience as a Greek leader, and later his relationships in the Roman empire, as well as personal fact-finding journeys, such as that during which he retraced Hannibal's invasion route. Interestingly, it is the fact that he was prevented from carrying out a normal life that likely ...more
Jimmy Lu
Jan 05, 2016 Jimmy Lu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately Polybius' work stopped quite early in the beginning. To us, his universal history stopped right after the battle of Cannae. I have come across the content here on the Romans before (in later works), but the two books on the social war in Greece were fresh and quite enjoyable. It was indeed telling of the times. The conflicts between the Greek monarchs and leagues, their wars and truces, their ambitions and intrigues were like child's play when compared to the struggle of life and d ...more
Feb 10, 2015 Roisin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a read. I don't tend to read many penguin translations. I find them quite dry and uninteresting. However, this one is different and is a must for those who are interested in colonial history, warfare or African history.

Polybius is a master storyteller and wrote about forty books of his histories and only a few have survived, some of which appear here. Our author not only talks about the rise of the Roman Empire, he talks about other countries which sounds random at times, because volum
Oct 29, 2009 Deprava rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2010 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Geoff Balme
Oct 11, 2015 Geoff Balme rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Polybius like many of his contemporaries wrote many volumes 30-40 volumes of work. Unlike many of his contemporaries 5 full books, and several fragments remain of his efforts.
Polybius's surviving works concentrate on the campaigns of Carthage against Rome, but also delve into the surrounding military and political scene in Greece and Asia Minor and Egypt. It is largely about warfare of course, and not much about the details of "regular" life that make Herodotus's earlier works so fascinating.
Jul 27, 2016 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone curious about the creation of empire or about historiography
Recommended to Richard by: curiosity
I wish I had had this book lo those many years ago when I studied Latin. It resolved questions I have had since I first heard of the Punic wars, of Hannibal, of the creation of the Roman Empire, etc, etc.

Polybius also commented on historiography, explaining what he was trying to do, i.e., bring all of the threads of Roman history together to create a kind of world history which showed the interrelationship of the wars of Rome-Carthage, (Philip) Macedonia-Greece, and Antiochus III-Ptolemy IV for
May 10, 2012 Raja rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: antiquity
OK, so why did I spend my time reading this book?

To learn more about the Mediterranean - the cultures, religions, civilizations, empires, outlooks, beliefs and ways of life that existed on its shores through time.

Did I get what I wanted from reading it?

Yes! The author himself provides a huge window into his world. His assumptions, judgments, opinions and reflections convey the outlook, values and beliefs of at least one segment of a society that flourished back then.

He markets his book as requ
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
Dec 18, 2015 Leonardo marked it as to-keep-ref  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-rome
En primer lugar, el modelo de Roma imperial de Polibio cimentó más sólidamente el proceso republicano de mediación de los poderes sociales, llevándolo hasta el final en una síntesis de diversas formas de gobierno. Polibio concibió a la forma perfecta de poder como estructurada por una constitución mixta que combine poder monárquico, poder aristocrático y poder democrático.

Imperio Pág.125

Para Polibio el Imperio Romano representó el pináculo del desarrollo político porque asoció las tres “buenas”
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
Jun 04, 2010 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Thomas Ray
May 19, 2014 Thomas Ray marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
According to Simon Hornblower, in his review published Sat. May 17, 2014 in the Wall Street Journal, Robin Waterfield's 1998 translation of Herodotus' Histories is the best: his second choice is De Selincourt; third Pamela Mensch's 2014 translation; fourth Tom Holland's 2014 translation, not as true to the original; a distant fifth David Grene's 1987 translation, and sixth Enoch Powell's 1949 translation: the latter two use deliberately archaic language: "they are creaking and stilted and thus u ...more
Mar 11, 2011 Nathan rated it it was amazing
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
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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.” 17 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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