Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium” as Want to Read:
A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium (A History of Private Life #1)

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  786 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
First of the widely celebrated & sumptuously illustrated series, this book reveals in intimate detail what life was like in the ancient world. Behind the vast panorama of the pagan Roman empire, the reader discovers the intimate daily lives of citizens & slaves--from concepts of manhood & sexuality to marriage & the family, the roles of women, chastity & ...more
Hardcover, 670 pages
Published March 20th 1987 by Belknap Press/Harvard University Press (Cambridge/London) (first published 1985)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A History of Private Life, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about A History of Private Life

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
I've read this magnificent classic in bits and bites over many years. Now, thanks to Goodreads, I'm starting to synthesize all these fragments of random reading and really get down to studying regions and time periods. High time to sit down again with this dear, wise book friend.
Aug 22, 2007 Cat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the product of the methodology created by the annales school of historians in france. Founded in the late 20's, the Annales school pioneered the use of the methods and teachings from other schools of social science in the service of history. This approach spurned a focus on wars and politics in favor of a focus on "everyday life" i.e. the life of non-presidents and generals.

The general editors of this book (Durby and Aries) were pioneers of the approach, along with it's most famous
Mustafa Şahin
Oct 24, 2016 Mustafa Şahin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
İnsanlık tarihine olabilecek en güzel bakışlardan birisi. Tamamen eldeki bulgulara yönelik nesnel bir çalışma. Yavaş yavaş okunup referans olunarak başucunda bulundurulacak bir eser.

İki bin yıl önce insanlar nasıl yaşıyordu, ne giyiyorlardı, evin içindeki ve sokaktaki yaşayış nasıldı, siyaset ve din nelere gebeydi vb. birçok konuda insanın ufkunu genişleten beş ciltlik araştırmalar bütününün ilk cildi. Gerisini de okumam lazım muhakkak.
Heather Campbell
May 27, 2011 Heather Campbell rated it really liked it
Shelves: scholarly
I'm finished with this book. It took a while. These guys are amazing I have to say. Eventhough I see flaws in Foucault's paradigm, his protoges do him justice. I yearn for more written about women's lived experience but they don't speculate to appease me. They keep to their sources. At times history can look like a vast conspiracy amongst landowning light colored males and this series isn't going to be any different--new cultural historians don't have the "well, people did the best they knew how ...more
I like reading about this time, and about ancient Rome and Greece, but the further I got in the book, the more it read like sawdust. Lots of information, of course, but the writers could not draw me in. I was also disinterested in some of the topics. They could have been more gossipy like Suetonius and more animated like Simon Schama. Too bad. I hope the other books in this series are better written.
This is a worthwhile study of the (broadly construed) topic of 'private life'. Why the seemingly obvious recapitulation of the title? Because different people mean different things by 'private life', including the authors of the five separate studies of which this volume is comprised; this means that some subjects covered in one chapter (sexual practices, e.g., or the role of the state) are not included in other chapters.

In this sense this is less a coherent book than it is a compendium of five
Tej Swatch
Feb 29, 2016 Tej Swatch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a strange review, as I haven't finished it, but this isn't a book that one reads beginning to end. The book is a survey of how people lived their private lives in a given time period. I find this infinitely more interesting than the typical Big General fought that Big Battle, or this Big Politician did this Big Thing history, because it gets at how people actually lived. It makes history of the ordinary life, which is far more relevant and intriguing than the history of an extraordinary ...more
Parts were absolutely fascinating, other parts bored me, not because of bad writing or poor scholarship (quite the opposite) but just because there's only so much interest I have in the physical architecture of the Roman Domus. Reading this was certainly a commitment, but I definitely learned a lot about the private live of the Ancient Romans and the early Franks, so that makes it worth it.
Noelle M
Aug 30, 2011 Noelle M rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fabulous book of lengthy essays about "organic" social structure in the ancient western world before the collapse of late Iron Age Roman society. This work contributed greatly to my conception of the world in which the New Testament took place. Five stars plus five more as far as I am concerned!
Jul 28, 2007 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Part one of a five part history, written in the fashion of the Annales school. Old-timey Rome. For the most part the focus stays on everyday life as it was lived, not the exceptional events that often dominate historical narratives.

This particular installment contains one of my favorite stories about sodomy between newlyweds.
Not the best I've read in these series. Feels more like a collection of essays (which it indeed is) and some chapters read as archeological reports, that do not make a pleasant read for the layman. Lacking in cohesion, but still has very interesting points.
Mar 29, 2014 Inna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant (and brilliantly written) overview of private life in Rome and then in Byzantium and in early medieval Europe. I learned a lot.
Nov 12, 2009 Kelly marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This is a to-read. Damn new GR tool that doesn't let me change shelves on the crappy old IE at work.
Uno dei miei primi acquisti di libri autonomi e "consapevoli", che ancora ricordo nei dettagli: era il 2001, ricordo il piano superiore della libreria di via Oberdan (recentemente chiusa in modo definitivo, allora era nel suo periodo d'oro, punto di riferimento per tutti i lettori perugini), l'angolo all'estrema sinistra dedicato al settore "storia", e il fascino di questa bellissima opera in 5 volumi (oltre a questo, il primo, ci sono Dal feudalesimo al Rinascimento, Dal Rinascimento all'Illumi ...more
Jan 25, 2017 E7boehm rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-new-library
Excellent history of Rome Classical - Christian Byzantium. A history based on life of people and not leading figures in history. Wonderful book except for the Roman Architecture chapter.
Simon Hollway
May 19, 2015 Simon Hollway rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 2016
Mmmmmm...not so convinced about this Annales school of wotsit...the first book of Marc Bloch's Feudal Society had similar flaws. Much of this history is fussy, timid, non-committal and 'jaunty', in that it lurches about then with a grand histrionic swoosh, it drills down into a micro-focus on the most unexpected and undeserving subjects. Such spurts are usually contingent upon source material...all in all, a rather incontinent study. A gradual, unwanted discharge of factual, historical driblets ...more
Erik Graff
Jul 09, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: classical history fans
Recommended to Erik by: Tom Miley
Shelves: history
This, the first volume of what I believe has become a series of five, is a cultural history of ancient Rome by means of an assemblage of essays on various topics by an international cast of authorities. To put together such a collection in a coherent manner is no mean feat as the far inferior subsequent volume on mediaeval life demonstrates. Here, however, the editors pull it off.

A valuable supplement to the usual political and high culture histories of Rome.
Kate Lansky
Sep 20, 2009 Kate Lansky is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This is a time period I'm pretty familiar with, but still - I'm learning quite a bit. There's a lot of information in here that, as a writer, makes you think about the whys and wherefores of day-to-day life in different cultures through history and throughout the world. There's a chapter by Brown in here too, who I love, so that's particularly awesome.
José Antonio
Feb 02, 2014 José Antonio rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cualquier persona interesada en Historia
Un trabajo excelente, que nos ofrece una mirada poco usual a la antigüedad, lejos de los grandes sucesos o los nombres sonoros. La lectura se hace amena y fácil gracias a la división por apartados específicos (que, en ocasiones, se relacionan entre sí) como el matrimonio, los esclavos, los libertos, las relaciones clientelares...
May 20, 2016 Alonzo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book tackles an interesting subject and is fun to read, but I can't recommend it. It's rife with mistakes ranging from typos to basic factual errors, and presents contentious viewpoints as though they were widely accepted and uncontroversial. A bit more rigor and objectivity would have been nice.
Mar 25, 2013 Jorge rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Extenso compendio que explica el contexto de los archi-estudiados sucesos históricos del Mundo Antiguo Greco-Latino, junto con un breve paseo por el Imperio Bizantino en su apogeo.

Es una gran obra para entender la cosmovisión de la élite de "los grandes sucesos" históricos que dominan el período. Mas la prosa es tediosa y con poca concordancia entre subcapítulos.
Francielli Camargo
Jan 02, 2014 Francielli Camargo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Livro lento com poucas partes interessantes para quem não tem um conhecimento prévio sobre esse período. Foram poucas as vezes que eu li sentindo que eu estava aprendendo algo a mais da história. Espero que os outros livros desta série consigam me prender e informar mais.
A surprisingly comprehensive collection of essays on private life in ancient Rome and late antiquity, from pagan times through the rise of Christianity. Highly recommended to those with an interest in private life during those periods.
Sep 20, 2007 Mandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Makes you feel like a bit of a peeping Tom looking in on the lives of those dirty Romans. I loved it. I want to read some more of these histories of private lives. Makes history come alive for me (and my salacious curiousity).
Amelia Voorsanger
Amazing insight into history and its similarities to today's life
Elizabeth Coleman
Interesting, but lacks citations and has strange translation issues.
Jan 18, 2016 Ana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uma visão muito diferente dos livros de história comuns. É bastante interessante entender alguns aspectos mais pessoais da organização social da época. Um livro para se ir lendo aos poucos.
Romualdo Alves
Sep 22, 2012 Romualdo Alves rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Permite a compreensão do modo de vida associado ao contexto histórico, político e social. Fantástico!
Jan 22, 2012 Cera marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
A History of Private Life: Vol. 1, From Pagan Rome to Byzantium GT2400 .H5713
Dec 25, 2012 C. marked it as sounds-interesting  ·  review of another edition
I should rather say "sounds fascinating" than "sounds interesting".
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Revelations of the Medieval World (A History of Private Life, #2)
  • Passions of the Renaissance (A History of Private Life, #3)
  • From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War (A History of Private Life, #4)
  • The Kindness of Strangers: The Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance
  • Caesars' Wives: The Women Who Shaped the History of Rome
  • The World of Late Antiquity 150-750
  • Memory and the Mediterranean
  • Women's Life in Greece and Rome: A Source Book in Translation
  • The Weaker Vessel
  • Chronicle of the Roman Republic: The Rulers of Ancient Rome from Romulus to Augustus
  • The Discovery of the Mind: In Greek Philosophy and Literature
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire
  • Medieval Cities: Their Origins and the Revival of Trade
  • The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine
  • Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens
  • Life in a Medieval City
  • Egypt, Greece and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean
  • Pompeii: The Living City
Paul Veyne is a French historian, and a specialist on Ancient Rome. A former student of the École normale supérieure and member of the École française de Rome, he is now honorary professor at the Collège de France.

Professeur honoraire au Collège de France, Paul Veyne est un des plus grands historiens français de l’Antiquité romaine. Ses nombreuses publications sur la sociologie romaine ou les myth
More about Paul Veyne...

Other Books in the Series

A History of Private Life (5 books)
  • Revelations of the Medieval World (A History of Private Life, #2)
  • Passions of the Renaissance (A History of Private Life, #3)
  • From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War (A History of Private Life, #4)
  • Riddles of Identity in Modern Times (A History of Private Life, #5)

Share This Book