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Roma by Steven Saylor
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Aug 19, 11

bookshelves: 2011
Read from July 23 to 25, 2011

"Roma" by Steven Say­lor is a packed his­tor­i­cal fic­tion book which attempts to tell 1,000 years of his­tory in 600 pages. The book suc­ceeds superbly in some parts, but not so much in others.

It is dif­fi­cult to write a syn­op­sis for "Roma" since the book spans one thou­sands years. Start­ing with the early Roman set­tlers, the salt traders, the book intro­duces the reader to fasci­nus, the winged phal­lus which becomes a fam­ily heir­loom and each chap­ter afterwards.

The book fol­lows through on the build­ing of Roma, how the city became a cen­ter of power and con­flict while the Roman Repub­lic is being created.

Accord­ing to Steven Say­lor, his book "Roma" is mainly inspired by Roman his­to­rian Livy. Coin­ci­den­tally Livy also inspired Shake­speare though I would not mis­take Shakespeare's works for any­thing close to his­tory, too bad many other authors do.

The book tells of the ori­gins of Roma by mix­ing leg­ends with actual events focus­ing on Roma's two most famous fam­i­lies, Poti­tii and Pinarii. The book touches on many famous sto­ries and events, Her­cules, Romu­lus and Remus, the rape of the Sabine women, rape of Lucre­tia, the abduc­tion of Verginia and the fes­ti­val of Luper­calia which I always wanted to know more about. While it seems that the book might be gloss­ing over some of the big events that defined ancient Rome, I felt that it did a mar­velous job attempt­ing to describe the day-to-day lives of the Romans.

The story fol­lows an arti­fact, a winged phal­lus (fasci­nus), which is handed down from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion until its sig­nif­i­cance is lost and it sim­ply becomes an ancient heir­loom passed down. How­ever, an arti­fact isn't a char­ac­ter and while I found the book very inter­est­ing and enter­tain­ing, I felt as if it lacked focus. The books spans a thou­sand years and mul­ti­ple gen­er­a­tions so char­ac­ter devel­op­ment is lack­ing - but the story is gorgeous.

Roma" was the "go to" book when­ever I found myself with­out a book at the moment, how­ever about one quar­ter in to the book I just made the plunge and read it straight through. I believe that read­ing this book in sec­tions, ver­sus just trudg­ing through it as the way to go. The sto­ries, while not too com­plex are not sim­ple either and dur­ing fast read­ing one might miss the sig­nifi­cance of an event.

The book is sup­ple­mented by a very help­ful pic­ture of the fam­ily tree which the chap­ters talk about as well as fan­tas­tic maps show­ing Rome at that time as well. I rec­om­mend the book for any­one who wants an intro­duc­tion to his­tory of Rome and Italy, keep­ing in mind of course that the his­tory and leg­ends are mixed.

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