In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Roman Imperialism

  • Introduction
  • Sourcebooks and Readers
  • Defining Imperialism
  • Evaluating Empire
  • Theorizing Empire
  • Applications of Theories
  • The Strategy of Empire and the Nature of the Frontier
  • War and the Political Elite
  • Consequences of Imperial Expansion on the Italian Countryside
  • International Administration, Law, and Imperial Citizenship
  • Roman Law and Roman Citizenship
  • Cultural Imperialism
  • Archaeology
  • Roman Discourses on Barbarism
  • Empire in Image and Representation
  • Religion and Empire

Classics Roman Imperialism
Craige Champion, Charles Goldberg
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 March 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 March 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0117


Scholars generally agree that the Roman Empire was one of world history’s most successful imperial states, in terms of its geographical extent, longevity, and posthumous influence. The Roman Empire has consequently become the quintessential empire for purposes of comparative study of interstate predominance. The foregoing statements will not arouse much controversy; indeed, they represent nearly a scholarly consensus. But they do beg two important questions: What is an empire and what is imperialism? The books in the section Sourcebooks and Readers provide excellent introductions to the subject of Roman imperialism per se, while those in the sections Defining Imperialism, Evaluating Empire, and Theorizing Empire collect together essential readings for answering these basic questions.

Sourcebooks and Readers

Gruen 1970 is still useful as a collection of excerpts from some of the most influential older writings on Roman imperialism, although the footnotes have been excised from the original essays, somewhat limiting their value. Champion 2004 provides seminal scholarly essays on Roman imperialism, with full annotation and accompanying translated primary sources, on imperial motivations; political, social, and economic consequences of empire; ideology and imperial governance; cultural assimilation; hybridization; resistance; and the frontier and imperial strategic defense. Erskine 2010 presents a useful overview of pertinent scholarly debates within the field, along with selected primary sources.

  • Champion, C. B., ed. 2004. Roman imperialism: Readings and sources. Interpreting Ancient History. Oxford and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Collection of influential essays on Roman imperialism, with complementary primary-source translations.

  • Erskine, A. 2010. Roman imperialism. Debates and Documents in Ancient History. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press.

    Provides a good introduction to the topic and discusses important scholarly debates. Includes primary-source translations.

  • Gruen, E. S., ed. 1970. Imperialism in the Roman Republic. European Problem Studies. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

    Collection of older, seminal essays on Roman imperialism.

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