1. Describe how the geography of Italy affected Roman civilization. Compare this with the effects of geography on Greek civilization.
  2. What did Roman civilization obtain from the Greeks?
  3. Why was it so difficult to bring about major changes in the law in the old Roman monarchy?
  4. Tradition says that the overthrow of the Roman monarchy in the sixth century B.C.E. was a revolt against a foreign oppressor. What other and more important factors contributed to that overthrow? What were its results?
  5. What effects did the wars of the Early Republic have on Roman civilization?
  6. The plebeians had a number of grievances, and won a number of apparent victories. How significant were the changes that came from their struggles?
  7. Compare the religion of the Romans with that of the Greeks.
  8. How did Rome's victory in the Punic Wars contribute to fatal problems for Roman civilization?
  9. How did Cicero's political philosophy differ from that of the earlier Stoics?
  10. Why did Stoicism have a stronger appeal to Romans than Epicureanism?
  11. Show how the political troubles of the Principate were an outgrowth of the civil strife of the late Republic and of the nature of the Roman constitution.
  12. Discuss the flaws in the economy of the Principate.
  13. What were the major accomplishments of Julius Caesar?
  14. Describe the position of women of the upper class under the Principate.
  15. In what way was the "natural law" a concept superior to the "civil law"?
  16. "For all their achievements in engineering, the Romans accomplished little in science." Justify this assertion.
  17. How did the Roman attitude toward manual labor contribute to the decline of Roman culture?
  18. Explain the statement: "Roman history is the real beginning of Western history as we know it."
  1. Do you agree with the authors that the similarities between Roman civilization and our own are overstated? Why or why not?
  2. The art and architecture of a people usually reveal a great deal about their aspirations, ideals, and character. With this in mind, compare Roman art and architecture with any of the following: a) Egyptian; b) Aegean; c) Assyrian; d) Hellenic.
  3. "Even without political problems the Roman Empire would probably have been fated to extinction for economic reasons." Discuss the validity of this statement.
  4. Read the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and compare with Hellenistic Stoicism.
  5. Compare in as many ways as you can Ancient Rome and the United States. (You may wish to consult, among other works, Guglielmo Ferrero's Ancient Rome and Modern America.)
  6. Attempt to determine the extent of Etruscan influence upon Roman society and culture.
  7. Machiavelli (Discourses on Livy, I, 37) asserted that the Gracchan agrarian reforms and the dissension which they led to were a prime cause of the decline of the Roman Republic. Do you agree?
  8. In assessing the causes of Rome's decline, compare Toynbee's discussion (A Study of History, Vol. I, Part IV: "The Breakdown of Civilizations") with Rostovtzev, History of the Ancient World, Vol. II, Chap. XXV: "Causes of the Decline of Ancient Civilization."
  9. How was Roman civilization modified by contact with other peoples? Were these contacts beneficial or detrimental to Rome?
  10. Why were Roman achievements in the field of law so outstanding?
  11. How do you account for the fact that the Romans made little advancement in science despite the fact that the vast contribution of Hellenistic science was at their disposal?
  12. What do you think were the chief drawbacks of the civilization of ancient Rome?
  13. Examine in detail the various theories regarding the decline and fall of the Roman empire.
  14. In The Revolt of the Masses (Chap. 14), Jos‚ Ortega y Gasset identified Julius Caesar as one of the two "really clear heads" of the ancient world. Evaluate Ortega's judgment in the light of Roman history and of later European history.
  15. If appropriate to your locale, examine the influence of Roman architecture on contemporary Western buildings.


W.W. Norton
REVIEW: World Civilizations
Page created by Thomas Pearcy, Ph.D and Mary Dickson.
Direct questions or comments to Webmaster.
Last revised January 30, 1997
Copyright (c) 1997. W. W. Norton Publishing. All Rights Reserved