SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was an imposing city even by modern standards, a sprawling imperial metropolis of more than a million inhabitants, a "mixture of luxury and filth, liberty and exploitation, civic pride and murderous civil war" that served as the seat of power for an empire that spanned from Spain to Syria. Yet how did all this emerge from what was once an insignificant village...more
2) It's hardly biased-- I mean, any source about history has some bias, but SPQR is only biased in that Mary Beard is devoted to not just telling one side of the story. So from one perspective, you could say she goes out of her way to give a fair picture of Roman history-- one that includes women, children, non-Romans, and pretty much anyone else who is usually ignored by Roman histories. It's a book on Europe so it's about Europe (hardly a fault of the book), but I wouldn't say it's Eurocentric because she ties in connections to today and, occasionally, other civilizations. I think it's the fairest, best Roman history book you could find if you don't want a textbook and want a fair representation of history. (less)
Needless to say, when I picked up SPQR, my brain exploded…I mean, how often do you get an acronym with a Q in it?! Sure, there are some limitations with that, but also possibilities that don’t generally arise. To wit—here is what I thought this book might be about before I actually read the subtitle ...more
Starting with Romulus and Remus she gives exactly the background the general reader wants. She tells the purported story of their mother; their mother’s explanation for their ...more
Beard’s core thesis essentially centres around this ...more
Okay, I did. Because it is history written with common sense, a point of view and a healthy level of snark just to keep things interesting. I am not going to sprinkle quotes from SPQR throughout this review because spoilers, but just as an example of her common sense, read the account of Caligula's life and reign. Or Nero's. She isn't doing revisionist history --- ...more
Read by Phyllida Nash
Description: By 63 BCE the city of Rome was a sprawling, imperial metropolis of more than a million inhabitants. But how did this massive city—the seat of power for an empire that spanned from Spain to Syria—emerge from what was once an insignificant village in central Italy? In S.P.Q.R., Beard changes our historical perspective, exploring how the Romans themselves challenged the idea of imperial rule, how they responded to terrorism and ...more
One of those areas is history and where better to start than with the ancient Romans? This book came recommended by a friend so I dove right in.
One thing became clear ...more
- Mary Beard, SPQR
Senātus PopulusQue Rōmānus (SPQR)
I've been reading a bunch of classics the last couple years. I'm right in the middle of the ...more
SPQR: "The Senate and People of Rome"
Birthplace of so many impressive inventions we take for granted nowadays. We think we know so many things about this place, have heard half-truths or old theories by historians. Mary Beard sifted through all of that to search for the truth (or as close as we can get to it so many thousands of years later) and is here to tell us what really went down.
I must admit that it was interesting to hear of all the weird stuff my buddy-reader had heard ...more
I mean, obviously, those two twins suckled at the teats of a wolf. Obviously.
But seriously, there's a lot of interesting facts that make me wonder whether the original tales of a city founded on liberty and the forceful taking of nearby tribe's women might not have been a ...more
Ms. Beard repeats the same points about the historical sources that were explained to me in the mid 1970s. First, no new contemporary histories or written documents have appeared in over 1000 years. Second, ...more
Over the following years I managed to have a succession of teachers who succeeded in sucking all the excitement and interest about history right out of the room - i am sure they were very good teachers just not for me. So in the end I walked away with a ...more
The antithesis of Gibbon. A tad too dry for me. I like my history a bit more florid to hold my continuing interest, but I'm not certain how the Roman Empire would relate in a looser narrative.
Originally posted on A Frolic Through Fiction
So here’s a review from someone who has limited experience with nonfiction books, and zero experience with learning about Ancient Rome.
I adore learning about history – but I am by no means a “history buff”. I can’t remember names and dates for the life of me. I just remember the stories and find everything absolutely fascinating.
So I was going into this book with a fairly average interest/knowledge rate. I knew vaguely of names and the fact the Roman ...more
The book is so much more than a blood-and-sandles account of battles, patricide and betrayal. It covers the status of women. How the poor lived. How did Rome feed itself, where did it get its marble, where did the money come from, the people to populate the armies. How, ...more
"I no longer think as I once naively did, that we have much to learn directly from the Romans.... But I am more and more ...more
While I enjoyed it well enough, I felt there was just enough disorganization within it to leave me slightly annoyed with Beard's process.
Simply said, this book is a fascinating and unique way to learn about Ancient Rome. I’ve never read anything quite like this examination of Ancient Rome and that is the main reason I enjoyed it so much.
Mary Beard distinguishes her Senatus Populusque Romanus (The Senate and People of Rome). She’s interested in Rome’s success not the typical “decline and fall.” Now, that’s not to say that she sugar coats Rome’s history by no means is that the case. However she takes an in ...more
I have always been fascinated as to how one small town in central Italy came to dominate the whole Mediterranean for centuries. This book provides one attempt at an answer - insofar as there can be one.
It is easy to read - one minute giving a broad overview, then illustrating it with a detail from the life of a real person. The text is augmented by diagrams, photos and maps to aid understanding and reinforce certain ...more
Winifred Mary Beard (born 1 January 1955) is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge and is a fellow of Newnham College. She is the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement, and author of the blog "A Don's Life", which appears on The Times as a regular column. Her frequent media appearances and sometimes controversial public statements have led to her being described as ...more