SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

This is a new history of the Roman Empire by historian and tv presenter, Mary Beard. I guess another history of the Roman Empire is perhaps not what the world needs, but this one I think deserves attention. Although written by an academic, it wears its scholarship fairly lightly; it’s not over burdened with footnotes or references. Starting from the cities’ legendary foundation by the orphans Romulus and Remus, suckled by the she-wolf, the symbol of the city itself, then the reputed rule by the Kings of Rome and on to the Republic, she examines the sparse archaeological evidence from this period to consider the likely true history of the city as distinct from the myths and half-truths the Romans believed from a period largely before written record. She looks at Roman society from the perspective of the ordinary people including women and slaves, groups often overlooked. A lot of the legendary stories of the Roman world are challenged-such as Cleopatra’s suicide by Asp and Hannibal forcing his way through the Alps from Spain. In contrast to the usual perception that the Empire was expanded and held together by military force we get a picture of collaboration and partnership particularly in Italy; the people there speaking their own languages and having loyalty to their region as well as to Rome. The state’s willingness to extend the rights of Roman citizenship even to overseas territories fostered loyalty to it.

This is an easy to read history grounded in the authors deep knowledge of her subject.


You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

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