The Triumph of Empire takes readers into the political heart of imperial Rome and recounts the extraordinary challenges overcome by a flourishing empire. Michael Kulikowski’s history begins with the reign of Hadrian, who visited the farthest reaches of his domain and created stable frontiers, and spans to the decades after Constantine the Great, who overhauled the government, introduced a new state religion, and founded a second Rome.
Factionalism and intrigue sapped the empire from within, even at its apex. Roman politics could resemble a blood sport: rivals resorted to assassination; emperors rose and fell with bewildering speed, their reigns measured in weeks, not years; and imperial succession was never entirely assured. Canny emperors—including Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, and Diocletian—constantly cultivated the aristocracy’s favor to maintain a grip on power. Despite such volatility, the Roman Empire protected its borders, defeating successive attacks from Goths and Germans, Persians and Parthians. Yet external threats persisted and the imperial government sagged under its own administrative weight. Religion, too, was in flux with the rise of Christianity and other forms of monotheism. In the fourth century CE, Constantine and his heirs reformed imperial institutions by separating civilian and military hierarchies, restructuring the government of both provinces and cities, and ensuring the prominence of Christianity.
The Triumph of Empire is a fresh, authoritative narrative of Rome at its height and of its evolution—from being the central power of the Mediterranean world to becoming one of several great Eurasian civilizations.
A genuinely bracing and innovative history of Rome.
This was an era of great change, and Kulikowski is an excellent and insightful guide.
A breezy and animated, yet authoritative look at this remarkable time… Sure to be of interest to anybody with a taste in character-driven history.
[A] sweeping history.
This is a wonderfully broad sweep of Roman history. It tells the fascinating story of imperial rule from the enigmatic Hadrian through the dozens of warlords and usurpers who fought for the throne in the third century AD, to the Christian emperors of the fourth—after the biggest religious and cultural revolution the world has ever seen.
A lively, accessible, up-to-date account of the ancient world during the critical period of Rome’s domination of her powerful and diverse empire.
Kulikowski provides an energizing depiction of the Roman Empire at its height. His light prose style masks a deep engagement with the period and the problems posed to the Empire from within and beyond its borders.
Kulikowski’s great triumph is to present, in an engaging and lively manner, a new historical narrative with a clear, distinctive line of interpretation for the crucial and complex era of transformation from the world of the high empire to late antiquity.
An impressive book with an incisive, fresh exposition of how Rome’s rulers triumphantly remade their empire in response to relentless pressures over two and a half centuries. A page-turner set on a vast physical canvas stretching from Scotland to Ethiopia and China.
A fascinating account showing just what it was like to be a Roman emperor—the endless court politics, the shock of outside events, the need to bring in reforms, and, above all, the constant struggle to stay alive and keep your place on the throne.
Kulikowski’s lucid narrative deftly navigates one of the most tangled periods of Roman imperial history. Triumphing over treacherous source material, he shows Rome’s third century nightmare as part of a sequence of events that convulsed the whole of Eurasia. The Triumph of Empire is a dramatic and a revealing history of cataclysm and recovery.
- 400 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
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