S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome

By Faktorovich, Anna | Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Fall 2015 | Go to article overview

S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome


Faktorovich, Anna, Pennsylvania Literary Journal


Mary Beard. S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome. New York: Liver ight Publishing Corporation, a division of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., November 2015. 512pp. 6.125X9.25". ISBN: 978-0-87140423-7. 100 illustrations; 16 color pages, 5 maps. Hardcover. $35.

I picked up this book from the exhibit because I saw the subtitle, "A History of Ancient Rome" and I assumed that it was a straightforward history of this time and place. A couple of years ago I considered writing a novel about Sappho, now that I think about it Sappho was Greek, but Greek-Roman history merges together in my mind. Either way, I could definitely use a history of Greece if I am ever going to touch that part of the world in my fiction or nonfiction. But, this turned out to be not that sort of a history. I might have imagined it would be like a textbook I read in high school or college that offers a single account of what everybody knows happened, with key terms and key characters and key wars. But, this isn't that kind of a book. Of course, it's a better book because it offers doubts about what really happened, and presents conflicting evidence that put in question the points that high school textbook report as undisputable. The premise of this book is to give an updated version of Ancient Roman history, taking into account recent discoveries of shipwrecks with telling treasures, uncovered new burial sites and secret documents, and various other little bits of information that turn the myths of "recorded" Roman history on its head. The book is written in a conversational style. The story starts with a chapter on the conflict between Cicero and Catiline, or between a tyrant and a terrorist rebel in 63 BCE. But then, the next chapter goes back to the "beginning" of Rome, when it was first established as a "tiny community" fighting with their neighbors for dominance (53). …

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