The Romans and their World: A Short Introduction


Caleb Curry
published on 26 June 2017
Rating: star star star star star
Audience: University
Difficulty: Medium

This book captures the scope and importance of Roman history accurately and briefly (compared to other comprehensive histories of Rome). Campbell uses a wide variety of images to supplement his writing in a smooth fashion, aiding the reader at the perfect moments. The material is dense enough to learn and think about it more in depth, but not too dense for the typical reader. Highly recommended to new and old students of Roman history.

The Romans and their World: A Short Introduction

The Romans and Their World: A Short Introduction captures the scope and importance of Roman history accurately and briefly. While 250 pages may not be brief to most readers, the scope of the book is to summarize over 1,000 years of history in an efficient manner while taking the time to highlight important events, people, and places - all of which the book does perfectly, and objectively, might I add. The intended audience of the book is 'University' level though I do believe that the book, from 'High school' to 'Professional' level, will be beneficial to any who read it. The book covers such a large amount of history that the reader cannot help but learn from it, whether it is a tiny detail or large event. I myself am very familiar with Roman history and I was still able to learn a decent amount about certain aspects of Roman history.

When it comes to the overall format, the book succeeds in creating a simple but effective format that allows the reader to be comfortable with reading the book, instead of feeling like an information dump, as many books turn into. The narrative Campbell provides is supplemented with plenty of maps and diagrams throughout the book, with two breaks being provided in the book consisting of ten pages each that show larger, higher quality images of artifacts and places discussed in the book. As someone who is primarily a visual learner, I feel the images and diagrams gave a great visual for what was happening at that moment in Roman history. 

Now, on to what exactly the book contains and how it does in summarizing the 1,000+ years of Roman history in one book. I would say it succeeds in its task of surveying Roman history in its entirety. Of course, one cannot expect the book to have every detail and story surrounding this broad of a topic, but when it comes to the basics and intermediates so to say of the history, Campbell does very well. Campbell takes his time with the more important events, examining them to entirety, making sure that the reader understands the importance and long-lasting effects a certain event had and how it shaped the history of the Romans. On the opposite side, he gives the less significant events fair trial, informing the reader with enough information to know what exactly the event was while staying away from unnecessary details.

As stated before, Campbell does a surprisingly well job of providing the reader with plenty of information on just about every era of Roman history. He equips the reader with the key figures of the specific time period, even if he does not go into detail about said person due to length constraints. He also draws from a wide variety of sources as he states several times throughout the book. He makes sure to let the reader know of conflicting accounts or opinions on a subject, not blinding the reader from the possible truth, also revealing how subjective history can get very fast, which is a subject that many authors seem to shy away from. After listing the separate accounts, Campbell makes sure to reveal to the reader the more widely accepted account or the conclusion that is drawn from the different sources. The author also reveals his limitations when it comes to sources, as several times he explains how limited the information on a subject in Roman history may be, keeping the reader in the loop and building trust with the author.

Overall, the book is an excellent read. Campbell provides a very objective approach to the broad subject of Roman history as well as effectively covering every period of Rome, from its humble beginnings to its breakdown. The book shows the reader different viewpoints of Roman history, even opposing sides, creating a narrative that many history books do not provide, in efforts to create the most unbiased survey of this history. Throughout all this information, the book maintains a reading level that the majority of readers with any historical reading experience will be able to understand. I would recommend this book to readers who are looking into Roman history but do not have a lot of experience in the subject, as Campbell equips the reader with enough information to pick up any book on Roman history and already have a decent amount of knowledge on that subject. However, I would not turn away experienced readers of Roman history, as I found myself learning bits and pieces of information as well as being refreshed on topics I had not read about in years. 

About the Reviewer

Caleb Curry
I am an aspiring historian and reenactor with a true passion for history. Since I was a small child Ancient History intrigued me, making me a constant and steady researcher of the ancients. I never back down from learning: I accept it with open arms.