Just getting into this book and it’s taking longer than I would have liked. Typically I can burn through a book in a week, much less if I get time to read other than just before bed. When it’s a non-fiction book of substance, it may a month. It looks like we’re heading towards the month with this one, if we make it that far at all.
Typically, I give a book a hundred pages to catch my attention. If you can’t get me to stay interested after that, I don’t waste my time. Right now, I’m on page fifty, and Mr. O’Donnell has some work to do to keep me interested.
I like Roman history; I mentioned that previously in the Soldier of Rome blog. Typically, though, I enjoy military history. Books like An Army at Dawn by Rich Atkinson, or my favorite, Band of Brothers by Stephan Ambrose. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get that in this book. From what I’ve read about it though, it is a good book. So, since I just crossed into Part One and out of the introduction, I’m looking forward to it picking up. I may even try to give it a read when I’m not completely sleep addled before bed. That should help its chances.
I’m still trying to pick up the thread of O’Donnell’s narrative. He’s discussed life in the ancient world – short, difficult, and ugly for all but the very few elite – the movement of ideas across the Mediterranean and east to China, and a little about the city of Alexandria. It compared it to Paris, and Rome to Berlin or Washington D.C. Alexandria was the cultural and intellectual capital of the world in the middle of the first millennia.
What I found most interesting in the first portion of this book was that Rome, while being the founding capital of the Empire, had become a backwater town. There were still a dozen or so families vying for power in the Senate, but the Emperor was rarely in town. Most of the Emperors were in moving capitals along the borders as the Armies strove to hold off encroaching enemies or other generals vying for the ultimate authority.
Because of that, it is hard to nail down the final date of the Roman Empire. O’Donnell notes that historians have placed the downfall of Rome from 202 BCE with their victory in the second Punic War all the way to 1806 CE when Napoleon finally put an end to the old imperial traditions to start his own empire.
Looks like the rest of the book with concentrate three sections to describe what happened to the Roman Empire. Hopefully, it will be good.