SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard (2015).  I guess I will never tire of reading books about ancient Rome.  This is a good one.  It starts at the very beginning, examining the mythical founding stories of Romulus and Remus and the early dynasty of kings of Rome, and then marches up to the year 212 A.D. when emperor Caracalla made every free male inhabitant of the empire a Roman citizen.  Beard doesn’t focus much on the big names of Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Caesar Augustus, but Cicero gets quite of bit of ink.  Very readable, but I did get slightly irritated when Beard would interject little comments about how barbaric or how sexist some particular ancient practice seems by today’s standards.  I didn’t really need her to prove her up-to-date sensibilities to me.

The Fires of Vesuvius (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob

The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, by Mary Beard (Belknap Press 2008). Having been to Pompeii three times, I needed to read only one good review of this book before running out and buying it. It’s a good book, with lots of pictures and illustrations, but I was still just a teeny bit disappointed. For one, the author debunks, or at least casts doubt on, some of the interesting stories that I have been told by extremely sincere-seeming tour guides. For another, I was surprised to learn just how little we actually know about day-to-day life in Pompeii. Many of our suppositions about Pompeiian life before the city was obliterated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius are based on very slender archaeological evidence, such as where a particular signet ring or line of graffiti happened to be found. Nevertheless, Beard does a nice job of telling and showing what we have found in Pompeii and what we can reasonably guess about ancient Roman life based on the ruins. Interesting stuff, if you’re into this sort of thing.