Saturday, October 8, 2016

What Life Was Like When Rome Ruled the World: The Roman Empire, 100 BC - AD 200


Rating: 4 Stars

I love books like this, that get to the heart of daily life in a particular time and/or place. I feel like sometimes these books are judged too harshly. Some say they lack detail or research. To those people I would suggest then finding a book on something more specific to the topic they are interested in. Books such as these are meant to give a broad picture of their overall topic, and provide little morsels that might then interest someone into seeking out other books more specific to certain aspects discussed therein. Books like this are also good reminders when you need or want a quick refresher. They often times help me remember things I already know.

As stated above, this book looks at the basics of every-day life as a Roman citizen. There were even things I learned as I was reading that were new to me and not just reminders. One such new tidbit came in this quote: "Finally, the two came to blows, and Romulus prevailed, consecrating Rome with his brother's blood" (page 8). How did I miss this part in school, that Romulus killed Remus? In the fog and cobwebs that surround my knowledge of Ancient Rome and its mythological creation, I was under the impression that the story went that they founded Rome together. Good to know.

As I am fond of doing, I picked out another quote that seems to me bests encapsulates this ancient civilization: "More concerned with the here and now than the hereafter, they took the world by storm and left it a different place - and in doing so, made sure that their deeds would never be forgotten" (page 11). How true indeed. Even in 2016, the lives of the Romans still seem to hypnotize us. I personally am so eager to see Pompeii some day, to walk the ancient streets and see the ruins, to see this place frozen in time when Vesuvius covered the land with ash and debris. Speaking of Pompeii and Vesuvius, I loved the photos from the preserved villas in Herculaneum and Pompeii (page 49). I only wish the captions would have specified which villas were from which city. That bothered me a bit. But for the most part, the captions were pretty informative and there were tons of photos throughout.

The following quote (page 27) attributed to Caesar about Brutus struck me rather ironically. Caesar was very observant. If only he had been moreso to the Ides of March: "I do not know what this young man wants, but everything that he wants, he wants very badly."

My only major issue with the book, and this will not be major for most people because most people do not know who I am talking about, is the lack of any mention of Boudicca. There is a section related to Roman Britain, so you would think the fierce Iceni queen who defeated the Romans twice before dying herself warranted at least a blurb. But alas, there is none. Surely, information about the various rebellions of the native British peoples would have impacted the daily lives of those Roman citizens living in Roman Britain, no?

Really, this is a decent introduction for those new to learning about Ancient Rome. It is also a nice refresher for those who have some background in the subject, but would likely be pointless for those who already have a large library of knowledge on Ancient Rome, physical or otherwise. 

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