Roman Conquests: Italy – Ross Cowan

This book is the first in a series put out by Pen and Sword publishing about the expansion of the Roman state.  This book is the expansion from a tiny city-state in 753 BC or thereabouts to the final conquest of Italy below the Po Valley in the 250 BC time frame.

The book is not a long one, and the information is packed thick, even though there isn’t a lot of source material to work with – mainly Livy.  The author does a good job of putting out more realistic theses and pointing out possible spin by the Roman mythmakers without scoffing.  He has the habit of translating the cognomens of Romans – ‘nicknames’ that Romans used to distinguish men, and the separate lines of a large extended family.  For instance, the cognomen ‘Caesar’ means ‘fine head of hair’, which kind of embarrassed the balding Gaius Julius Caesar.  It gives a different feel to the narrative when Cornelius Cossus Arvina is set down as “Greasy Worm Cornelius”.  It sounds more like a Mafia Don than a regal, staid movie Roman.  It probably is a closer picture of reality in 350 BC, though.

To sum up the whole period, Rome grew and prospered because they were far more determined than rival states.  Often wars started out badly, but rather than quit, Rome kept on until victory finally came.  They learned and adapted better than anyone else around to changing conditions.  It served them well in this period, and even more so when Hannibal came a bit later.

For me, this hit the mark a little better than the Rise of Rome by Everitt.  I like the concentration of the book on a single subject instead of trying to hit everything in a 700 year period.  I hope the next books in the series do as well as this one.


One thought on “Roman Conquests: Italy – Ross Cowan

  1. Pingback: The Sword of Rome – Jeremiah McCall | Kilobooks

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