WHY ROME AND NOT A DIFFERENT ITALIAN CITY? Mary Jane gave me SPQR, Mary Beard’s new history of Rome, for Christmas. Mary Beard raises a question I had not seen addressed directly and had not thought about. In 500 BC, Rome was one of a number of small towns in Italy. By 300 BC, Rome had effective control of over half of Italy. How did that happen? Rome had a favorable location for trading. The Romans soldiers were well trained, and the city valued its military. But still…

Mary Beard places great weight on Rome’s policy of granting Roman citizenship to vast numbers of men in the towns it defeated. Those who became Roman citizens were then citizens of both Rome and their own home town. Rome imposed a requirement on all the towns it defeated to provide soldiers for the Roman armies. Beard estimates that by 300 BC, Rome had perhaps ten times as many troops available as Alexander the Great had in his eastern campaigns. She says that the single most important determinant of military victory in this period was how many men you could deploy.

In this interview with Richard Abowitz on the Smart Set/ Drexel University site, Mary Beard summarizes her argument, which she elaborates on in her book. (“Why did the Romans win? Ultimately, it is something to do with their consistent incorporation of their defeated enemies into the Roman project….”)

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