Book three of Mommsen's history covers the 118 years from 264 to 146 BC, the period in which Rome became the undisputed master of the Mediterranean Basin. How did this happen, and why?
Carthage was instrumental in this transformation. With the defeat and expulsion of Pyrrhus in 275 BC, Rome had moved to consolidate its hold over the Italian peninsula, a position it had acquired in a century of almost continuous warfare with Italian tribes. But only 11 years later, in 264 BC, the political and commercial rivalry with Carthage over control of Sicily broke out into open war. At the end of two brutal wars with Carthage and three with Macedonia and the Greek Seleucid and Antigonid Kingdoms, the Mediterranean lay in the power of Rome. It was not a power the Roman state had consciously sought. In its fanatical zeal for security, Rome subdued one adversary after the other with unerring determination. In the end there was no one left to subdue.
But along with that power came wealth and social changes that were to tear the republic apart. Mommsen's brilliant explanation for how this process of decay sapped the moral fiber of the Roman people is perhaps his most outstanding contribution to our understanding of this era.
This is the third in a five-volume series. This volume was recorded entirely on location in Rome, Italy. Listeners may notice some differences in sound compared to our usual studio recordings.
Although Mommsen used the AUC system of Roman years, which begins as the Roman year 1 (754 BC), we have transposed these dates to those of the Christian era. All dates are BC except where otherwise indicated.
We do not recommend Mommsen for those without a firm grasp of Roman republican history. The work of Cyril Robinson would be a great place to start for the neophyte historian.
Translated from the original German by W. P. Dickson.
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