SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are a lot of books on Rome that read like history. They talk about the well-known actors of the Roman stage and go about explaining the history of Rome. Mary Beard takes on the task of trying to put together a history of the first millennium of Rome in perspective and she does it in the most unorthodox way.

Instead of trudging through the usual players of the first Roman millennium, starting with Romulus, Numa, Tarquin and then jump a few hundred years into the interesting stories of Marius, Sulla and Ceaser, she constructs a story based on multiple sources of archaeological evidences gathered and more importantly, the quaestors, praetors, the slaves and the citizens (and non-citizens) of Rome.

Thus the book tries to take a perspective of things through the lenses of the ordinary people of Rome. Thus we get to read about the bar fights of the day, the toilet humor (who knows the philosophers will be so much useful there!), the laundry unions of Rome, the lives of the people of Rome which has scant evidence and as the author acknowledges in the epilogue, would've taken a lot of time to gather, analyze and infer from whatever evidence available.

For me, what was interesting was that the book dodges the salacious stories of the emperors and tries to focus more on the Roman history of people. However the written evidences only offer a glimpse of the people and so the author reconstructs the events through the evidences that are available. Starting from the letters of Cicero to Pliny and the (now preserved) museum of Pompeii, she constructs a story which is as interesting to read and learn about the emperors of the era.

A must read if you are a history lover.

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