What if the Fall of the Roman Empire had never happened?

Reading time: 1'49"

What if the Fall of the Roman Empire had never happened?

That’s the tantalizing premise for this novel by Robert Silverberg modestly titled “Roma Eterna”, which manages to be both historical and futuristic at the same time.

The story begins in 1203 A.U.C. (Latin: ab urbe condita – from the founding of the city), which roughly equates to AD 450, Jesus being somewhat of an unknown celebrity in this fictitious universe.

Each chapter describes a time in the lives of various characters across different eras of the Roman Empire, far from history as we know it and rather depicting how it could have been had the Empire continued to thrive.

What if the Fall of the Roman Empire had never happened?

 

A portrait gallery of emperors, some good and some less so, megalomaniacs and efficient leaders...

From civil wars to internal conflicts with Byzantium, from a Venice with no hint of a republic to the aborted attempts to invade Mexico, from the slow arrival of progress, from the printing press to the automobile, to unlikely alliances, modern history in its entirety is redefined, rewritten, and repainted in the colors of Rome.

This Forum here, this crowded array of temples and law courts and statues and colonnades and triumphal arches, was the heart and core and nerve center of the whole splendid Empire. For twelve hundred years, from the time of Julius Caesar to the present time of Maximilianus, the monarchs of Roma had filled these streets with a stunning conglomeration of glistening marble monuments to the national grandeur (...) The totality was altogether overwhelming, and, to Antipater just at this moment, depressing in the very fact of its own splendor. It all seemed like a giant memorial display for the dying realm.

Roma Eterna – p. 156

The novel continues up to the year 2723 A.U.C., which would be around AD 1970 in our world.

It is a playful and passionate read that we are happy to recommend to you if you feel the need to rethink your opinions and ideas of things.

A foretaste of the novel is available here.

Translation: Michael Wright

Painting at the top: “The Romans in their Decadence” by Thomas Couture (1847)

Selection published on 17/04/2020
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