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Horrible Histories

The Rotten Romans

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Follows life for folks in Roman Britain from Nero to Boudicca and includes a look at gory games, rotten recipes, and loads of frightening facts.

128 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1994

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About the author

Terry Deary

530 books690 followers
A former actor, theatre-director and drama teacher, Deary says he began writing when he was 29. Most famously, he is one of the authors of the Horrible Histories series of books popular among children for their disgusting details, gory information and humorous pictures and among adults for getting children interested in history. Books in the series have been widely translated into other languages and imitated.

A cartoon series has been made of the series of books and was shown on CiTV for a period in 2002.

The first series of a live-action comedy sketch show of the same name was shown on CBBC in 2009 and a second series is due.

Terry is also known widely throughout children and adult reading groups alike for his True Stories series (see below for series list).

He received an Honorary Doctorate of Education from the University of Sunderland in 2000. His numerous accolades also include the Blue Peter "Best Nonfiction Author of the Century" Award in the U.K.


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5 stars
1,242 (34%)
4 stars
1,334 (37%)
3 stars
813 (22%)
2 stars
130 (3%)
1 star
33 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 152 reviews
Profile Image for Kristin.
968 reviews94 followers
February 9, 2017
This was the first Horrible Histories book I picked up as a child and it really changed things for me and helped me to get to where I am today. I re-read this as I'm taking an A-level in archaeology and I am studying the Romans, obviously I will read lots of other books on the Romans aimed at adults, but I thought this was a nice place to start.
It intrigues me about how little information there actually is on the Romans or the celts, its more about human nature and how it's changed or not changed as the case may be.
Profile Image for Alina.
143 reviews72 followers
December 17, 2019
Rating: 4.5 stars

History is a pretty tricky subject to learn, not only because you have to memorise all those crucial events and the people who changed their course, but you also take for granted facts which seem more like opinions written down by the winners of a war or the chroniclers of an empire. I remember how my teachers used to say how great was the Roman Empire and how they civilised the so-called “barbarians”. And even though it’s true that the Romans built roads and a very vast empire, they were sometimes much brutal than the people they conquered.

Rotten Romans comprises of an introduction, the rotten Roman’s timeline that stretches from the founding of Rome in 753 BC (according to the legend of Romulus an Remus) to 1453 AD when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, a separate timeline of Ancient Britain from the formation of the British Isles to the Saxon invasion, surprising facts about the Roman army, the cut-throat Celts, Queen Boudicca, the most famous Roman emperors and their quirks, Roman childhood, games and bloody entertainment, foul food, Roman deities and so on.

Though “enjoyable” is not the right word for a book filled with gruesome information about the Romans and the ancient Brits, it was an engaging read because I learned many interesting facts about both of them. I’ve already known that the Romans borrowed the Greek myths and made them their own, but I was surprised to read that the gladiatorial fights weren’t their original idea either. No, they borrowed it from the Etruscans.

“These sacrifices changed into fights to the death between two men at the funeral. They became so popular that they were taken away from the funeral and put in a huge arena. The fighters became known as gladiators.” Rotten Romans, Loc 861

Though this book is aimed at children because it has quizzes, jokes, stories and nice illustrations, it’s still pretty gruesome; so I don’t think that it’s appropriate for sensitive kids. Even I felt sick when I read the chapter about the foul food Romans used to eat.

Those were my thoughts on Terry Deary’s Rotten Romans, an informative book for children and adults alike.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
683 reviews24 followers
February 14, 2014
Terry Deary is one of those authors that has a wicked sense of humour that can make history both hilarious and interesting. He has probably helped thousands, if not millions of kids actually enjoy history, myself included. The Horrible Histories series is a great starting point to get kids interested in history.

However, it is only a start. Rotten Romans is a book that perpetuates some of the oldest myths about ancient Rome, including the long-debunked vomitoriums. He calls the emperor Elagabalus, ‘Heliogabalus’ which is very confusing because I have never seen him called that anywhere. Ever. I don’t agree with how some of the emperors are portrayed, but that’s very subjective. And that’s also the beauty of history: different people will interpret historical figures differently.

The cartoons in Rotten Romans are even better than they are in Awful Egyptians. Martin Brown was in top form, especially in his cartoon of Caesar’s assassination in which the assassins (since there were so many in on the plot) are lined up and one shouts, “Oi! Wait your turn!” while Caesar is bleeding to death on the floor. The cartoons are probably my favourite part of the book.

I give this book 4/5 stars.
Profile Image for Ram M Srinivas.
67 reviews3 followers
January 28, 2023
A decent pastime with several unknown facts about Romans especially in the rottenest way. I enjoyed reading it in a kiddo way and was able to learn many surprising truths about the Romans.
Profile Image for Chloe Reads Books.
755 reviews302 followers
May 27, 2020
This wasn't my favourite of these books so far, sadly!! Again not rating them as I'm definitely not the intended audience!
Profile Image for Cherlynn | cherreading.
1,494 reviews760 followers
December 9, 2021

A fun read but it's more Roman culture than Roman history, and I was looking for the latter.

✨"History can be horrible. Horrible hard to learn. The trouble is it keeps on changing. In maths, two and two is usually four — and in science, water is always made up of hydrogen and oxygen. But in history, things aren't that simple. In history, a 'fact' is something not a fact at all. Really it's just someone's 'opinion'. And opinions can be different for different people."
Profile Image for Guguk.
1,312 reviews65 followers
November 8, 2016
Ternyata lebih fokus ke masa Romawi menjajah Inggris ^ ^
*yang tadinya ngarep sejarah Romawi utuh
*mau setebel apa bukunya, guk
(⁄ ⁄>⁄ ▽ ⁄<⁄ ⁄)

Dan di sini dipertemukan dengan tipe "perempuan-pujaan-hati" yang lebih keren ketimbang Helen atau Cleopatra... *poke Ever* yaitu Boudicca (✧ω✧)
Profile Image for Rachel.
66 reviews3 followers
October 29, 2007
If you're not a fan of reading history books intended for adults, then the Horrible Histories series is the perfect way to learn. It has a great sense of humor and keeps history entertaining. I discovered this series at the British Museum in London and have been addicted ever since!
Profile Image for Sara.
86 reviews
June 15, 2009
It took me ages to read this, I don't know why. I just thought that the things about the celts wre pretty boring, considering it was a book about Romans.
Profile Image for Jack.
115 reviews
October 17, 2016
A good information book about how clever the Romans were in war, how Julius Ceaser was assassinated and much much more!
Profile Image for Osama Siddique.
Author 6 books247 followers
October 6, 2020
This is quite an entertaining book. Laced with a general British ire for the conquering Romans and unlike the volume on the Greeks which extols their many achievements despite the irreverent tone of the series, this one means it when it says rotten. Admittedly there is much available historical material because of all the insane and sadistic emperors such as Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero etc., as well as the bloodthirsty Roman circuses, entertainments, arenas and colosseums with their gladiators fighting each other or wild animals unto death.

It explores also the impact of the Roman invasion and rule on Britain. A particularly interesting part deals with the Briton leaders and fighters who bore the brunt of the Roman invasions (lesser known to the general readers) - Boudicca, Caratacus, and others. Julius and Augustus Caesar figure prominently as do insights into Roman lifestyle, beliefs and superstitions, food, rituals, religion and mythology, warfare strategy and even children's games. Great fun and wonderful to get children interested in history.
Profile Image for Mayar El Mahdy.
1,546 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2020
I'm not exaggerating when I say this is exactly what I needed.

For those of you who aren't going through an existential crisis, this is still pretty cool.
Profile Image for Christopher.
67 reviews
August 9, 2020
Great book with lots of true details one doesn't usually find in history books or classes.
Profile Image for Avik Nandy.
4 reviews
September 11, 2014
Book Review - Avik

Author: Terry Deary
Title: Horrible Histories: Rotten Romans
Publication Date: 1999

The main idea of the books is to explanation how, the Romans lived, Ate, Fought, and what their culture and tradition is like. It also tells us what their timeline was. It also tells us the main emperors and kings! The book is technically all about Romans.

The purpose of this book is tell us who, what, when, where, the Romans were. It is technically the same thing as the outline because it manipulates the outline

Deary went to Monkwearmouth Grammar School and intensely disliked his school experience, particularly the style of teaching he received. He worked as a butcher's boy for much of his childhood, helping in the shop from the age of three. He joined the Electricity Board as a management trainee when he was 18 and later the Theatre Powys drama company in 1972 and as an actor toured Welsh village halls bringing theatre to children. He qualified as a teacher at the Sunderland's College of Education and taught drama. He began writing in 1976, turning full-time in 1994, with the publication of the Horrible Histories series. Terry Deary got his inspiration of the Horrible Histories series from his horrible history teachers


The author has obviously achieved an overall goal, I mean selling 25 million copies of his series is certainly and very big thing. The evidence is given if you know about him, I went on Wikipedia and read that he had sold 25 million copies of his series, so the evidence is there. The original ideas would be the fact that he got his ideas for his series and this book from his childhood, his childhood history teachers. The book is definitely useful to me, I have learned a lot from, and also I’m a non-fiction fan. It relates to my school studies in humanities.

What is your overall response to the book?
I think the Rotten Romans book is pretty good,the book in my opinion, is the best, because it is just more entertaining than the rest of the books and the series, plus I learned more from this book than the other books in the series. But another reason I think this book is good is that it has more sense than other books, some books I don’t understand, some books are just too complicated, if someone like at my level at reading wants a good book I think that this is the right book for them!

Profile Image for sabisteb aka callisto.
2,342 reviews1 follower
March 9, 2011
History can be horrible. Horribly hard to learn. The trouble is it keeps on changing.
Die "Horrible Histories" sind eine erfolgreiche englische Buchreihe illustrierter, lustiger Geschichtsbücher. Konzipiert ist sie für englische Schulkinder, um ihnen (die) Geschichte schmackhaft zu machen. Die Reihe wurde mittlerweile in 31 Sprachen übersetzt und einige wenige Bände sind auch auf Deutsch erhältlich. Einige Bücher wurden sogar von der BBC als witzige Kinderdokumentation verfilmt, darunter auch dieser Band.
Die Autoren legen darauf Wert, dass die Kinder beginnen die Geschichte, wie sie in den Geschichts-und Schulbüchern steht, zu hinterfragen. Gewürzt wird diese Geschichte dann mit witzigen (was trugen römische Soldaten unter ihrem Kilt) oder ekligen Details (Herstellung von Garum).
Behandelt wird die Zeit von 753 v. Chr. bis 476 n. Chr. Wobei die römische Geschichte parallel zur englischen Geschichte betrachtet wird, wobei der Hauptaugenmerk auf der Zeit der Römer in England liegt. Es wird auf die damals dort lebenden Stämme eingegangen und Boadiceas Aufstand gegen die Römer. Bei der römischen Geschichte wie sie in alle Geschichtsbüchern steht wird auf die üblichen Kaiser eingegangen, besonders auf die Claudische Linie.
Man sollte wirklich gut Englisch können, um den teils doch recht flachen Witzen folgen zu können:
„You’ll kill me!“ Prometheus cried.
“Nah! You’re immortal. You’ll liver’ long time yet!
The guts were soaked in salt water and left to stew in the sun for a few days. Then the fish-gut sauce was poured over the food as a tasty tread. Oh my cod!
Für mich, die ich die römische Geschichte liebe und gut kenne, war das eine sehr, sehr grobe Zusammenfassung mit riesigen Lücken zwischen den Ereignissen. Unterhaltsamer grober Überblick über das Leben der Römer in Italien und England und das Leben der englischen Stämme unter den Römern, aber insgesamt einfach zu lückenhaft und teils ein wenig zusammenhanglos. Wirklich eklige Details gab es diesmal auch nicht, Nero, Claudius und Co kennt man wohl schon zu gut. Vielleicht ist das Thema auch einfach schon zu ausgelutscht.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,318 reviews18 followers
August 12, 2020
Okay let's talk about the Horrible Histories.

You may be aware of them as a TV show, which I highly, highly recommend, but you may not be aware that they are also books! Which I also recommend!

It's hard to talk about the Horrible Histories specifically. They're hysterical short nonfiction books consisting of maybe 120 pages tops? Aimed at children, they set out to tell you all about the really nasty side of history, which I am always down for. They're smart and funny with great illustrations, and I would never, ever have a problem recommending them to anyone, with two caveats.

The first is that they can be a little inaccurate. I really do mean a little inaccurate; it's mostly erring on the side of "we don't know which is really true but this makes a better story," and occasionally "research marches on." The second is that the author, Terry Deary, is kind of an asshole, particularly on the subject of libraries. I won't repeat his comments here. Suffice to say he's kind of a jerk.

But the books remain absolutely hysterical. A+ would read and love again.
1 review
April 2, 2012
This book is filled with a lot of roman history. It has tests and quizzes you can take after each section you read. It breaks history into different sections, roman child hood,games, and the rulers of Rome. I think this book is good for all ages but probably 6-7th grade. It tells the history of the Romans but in an interesting way. For example when they were talking about war, and the generals, they actually had real letters from one of the Roman generals. A character the book talks about it Caesar. He was a very pushy person who always wanted to be in control. He was always into taking risks, like when he crossed the Rubicon river. Another character the book talks about it Boudicca. She was very tall with a harsh voice. She had brown hair and was a very harsh leader . She always carried around a golden torch. This is why I would recommend this book.
Profile Image for Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore.
743 reviews164 followers
February 1, 2016
Some friends have pointed out that these books (not specifically this one) aren’t 100 per cent accurate in every instance but I still find them a fun and light way of presenting history to children. What I love about them (including this one) is that besides the broad picture of the periods they cover, they also go into little facts about daily life, school, games, food (with recipes)—and of course plenty of gore, which children certainly would enjoy. Plus using little “comic strips” and diary entries to put things across is pretty effective. In this one I found myself comparing details about Nero’s Rome to the descriptions in Quo Vadis which I’d finished recently (and there were points where I was also thinking of the Hunger Games as well). Also fun was finding the story of Prince Bladud and the sagacious pig which I first read in Pickwick.
Profile Image for PurplyCookie.
942 reviews202 followers
March 29, 2010
In "The Rotten Romans" readers can discover the full story, including: after dinner fights to the death; Julius Caesar's fatal footwear faux pas; and, Emperor Heliogabalas and his cobweb collection.

It's a really good book if you're learning about ancient Rome, for it makes jokes ("Dad's mad, Blad") and gives interesting information you don't find anywhere else (Did you know the Celts admired their hair so much that they didn't wear helmets in battle?). It tells stories and has made-up diaries of a warrior which are quite interesting and fun to read.

Book Details:

Title The Rotten Romans (Horrible Histories)
Author Terry Deary
Reviewed By Purplycookie
Profile Image for Mark Speed.
Author 17 books75 followers
June 11, 2014
I bought this book to see what the whole Horrible Histories series was about because I was writing Apocalypse Later: A guide to the end of the world by Nice Mr Death at the time.

The concept is pretty clever: make history amusing. A friend told me that his kids watch the TV show and, thanks to it, are able to recite the lineage of the Tudor monarchs (or something). I think this goes a bit deeper than teaching by rote, and it tries to give the reader an idea of what it was actually like living in the Roman era. I would have thought that would make a large proportion of children more attentive and keen to learn on their own.
Profile Image for Dane Cobain.
Author 21 books308 followers
February 17, 2014
The Rotten Romans has always been one of my favourite Horrible Histories books, on a par with the Vicious Vikings. Considering I was a keen reader and I grew up in the golden age of contemporary children's fiction (Terry Deary, R. L. Stine and J.K. Rowling just for starters), that's not a bad accolade!

As always, Deary's writing does a great job of teaching you the history of one of the world's most fascinating civilisations, and it's got great visuals, too. I imagine there's even an audio book, so your kids are sorted whether they learn by reading, listening or looking. It doesn't get better than that.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 152 reviews

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