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Rome Reborn on Western Shores

Historical Imagination and the Creation of the American Republic
Eran Shalev

BUY Cloth · 328 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813928333 · $49.50 · Oct 2009
BUY Ebook · 328 pp. · ISBN 9780813928395 · $49.50 · Oct 2009

Rome Reborn on Western Shores examines the literature of the Revolutionary era to explore the ways in which American patriots employed the classics and to assess antiquity's importance to the early political culture of the United States. Where other writers have concentrated on political theory and ideology, Shalev demonstrates that classical discourse constituted a distinct mode of historical thought during the era, tracing the role of the classics from roughly 1760 to 1800 and beyond. His analysis shows how the classics provided a critical perspective on the management of the British Empire, a common fund of legitimizing images and organizing assumptions during the revolutionary conflict, a medium for political discourse in the process of state construction between 1776 and 1787, and a usable past once the Revolution was over. Rome Reborn examines the extent to which classical antiquity, especially Rome, molded understandings of history, politics, and time, even as the experience of the Revolution reshaped patriots' understanding of the classics. The book studies the historical sensibilities that enabled revolutionaries to imagine themselves continuing a historical process that originated with classical Greece and Rome. In particular, their attitudes toward, and understandings of, time provided revolutionaries with a distinct historical consciousness that connected the classical past to the revolutionary present and shaped their expectations about America's future.


With impressive detail and great clarity, Eran Shalev shows that the Roman example was far more than a means of posturing for American Revolutionaries. The ancient culture spoke to their core values. In addressing personal honor, social authority, and political community, this book makes a strong contribution to intellectual history.

Andrew Burstein, Louisiana State University

"Not only does this study bring a heightened sophistication to the old idea of Revolutionary America as the new Rome, but it presents as well an intriguing challenge to our conventional understanding of the way Americans conceived of history and time. And it does it all in clear and engaging prose."

Gordon Wood, Brown University

"Era Shalev's Rome Reborn on Western Shores is a sophisticated and compelling analysis of the legacy of 'classical republicanism' for the American Revolutionary generation and beyond. Because of the way Americans thought about time and history, the ancient world loomed much larger in their minds—indeed was present in their lived experience—than previous writers have recognized. Rome Reborn enables us to take a fresh look at the history American Revolutionaries were making and living. It is a most welcome addition to the literature."

Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia

In making a persuasive case for its provocative thesis, Shalev's work constitutes an original and significant contribution to the study of the Greek and Roman classics on the American founders. Even those who disagree with the book's thesis will find a treasure trove of solid research, trenchant observations, and lucid writing within its pages.

Carl J. Richard, University of Louisiana at Lafayette · American Historical Review

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