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Mary Beard


Subtitle: A History of Ancient Rome - Liveright Publishing, W. W. Norton, New York, 2015, 606 pgs., index, illustrations, maps, further reading, timeline, paperback


Reviewer comment -
A terrific new book on a much written about subject. But the author has great style, and her approach is different, new, and delightful - much recommended. Actually, it is more a History of what people thought then and think now about Rome. I have been collecting and reading books on ancient Rome for 70 years and almost passed this one up. But I am glad I did not. No wonder it was a 'best seller' book. But it is not the usual full narrative of Roman history. Dr. Beard seeks to describe ancient Rome with focus on what the Romans thought about themselves and their society at the time as well as what later historians have thought. She makes extensive use of personal letters, tomb inscriptions, other archeological sources, contemporary historians, poets, play authors and every sort of written text available. But she uses selected events rather than a comprehensive, complete narration of everything that took place. She mentions some of the more important wars and battles for their larger significance without describing them in detail. And her time frame is the period from Julius Caesar to the reign of Caracalla - that is about 44 BC to 212 AD, with only enough of events and personalities back to 753 BC to demonstrate what the Romans thought about their foundation and earlier history. One paradox is clear. She devotes much description to the personal lives of the emperors, consuls, and many other political leaders, by citations from ancient historians and other accounts. Yet she maintains that these individuals actually did not much influence the course of Roman history, as it proceeded along a basic path no matter who was in charge. She chose this time period because she believes that the Roman revolution that brought Julius Caesar to a dictatorship followed by its completion by Octavian - Augustus Caesar created a fundamentally different Roman society that that of the earlier Republican Rome. And then the edict of Caracalla that made all the inhabitants of the Roman Empire into citizens created another fundamental change in Roman society.


Prologue: The History of Rome


Chapter 1 - Cicero's Finest Hour


Chapter 2 - In the Beginning


Chapter 3 - The Kings of Rome


Chapter 4 - Rome's Great Leap Forward


Chapter 5 - A Wider World


Chapter 6 - New Politics


Chapter 7 - From Empire to Emperors


Chapter 8 - The Home Frontg


Chapter 9 - The Transformatons of Augustus


Chapter 10 - Fourteen Emperors


Chapter 11 - The Haves and have-Nots


Chapter 12 - Rome Ouside Rome


Epilogue: The First Roman Millennium


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