Saturday, July 15, 2017

Review of Goldsworthy, Pax Romana

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Adrian Goldsworthy, Pax Romana: War, Peace, and Conquest in the Roman World. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2016. Pp. ix, 513; 16 p. of plates. ISBN 9780300178821. $32.50. Reviewed by Michael J. Taylor, University of California, Berkeley (

As one would expect, ancient Judaism and the Jewish revolts against Rome receive attention in this book.
Many of the issues discussed are familiar case studies in Roman provincial administration: Cicero’s governorship in Cilicia, Pliny’s letters from Bithynia, Judea as presented in both the New Testament as well as Josephus, the Roman diaspora in the provinces, etc. Several provincial rebellions challenged the Roman peace, ranging from Arminius’ ambush at the Teutoburger Wald/Kalkriese, a unique case of a rebellion that led to a permanent loss of territorial control, to a slew of failed rebellions: Tacfarinas in North Africa, Boudicca in Britain, and the three great Jewish rebellions. Goldsworthy raises an important point: by the High Empire, schismatic rebellion had all but ceased. Even the Jews, the religiously inspired arch-rebels of the Roman world, who had previously carved their own kingdom out of the flailing Seleucid Empire, did not revolt again after the failure of the Bar Kochba rising. The end of schismatic revolt is all the more puzzling given that such actions would have been more than feasible during the chaotic Third Century Crisis. But all subsequent rebels posed as pretenders rather than schismatics (including Postumus in Gaul and Zenobia as regent for her son), aspiring to rule the whole empire rather than separate themselves permanently from it.

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