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Rome: A History in Seven Sackings

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  70 reviews
No city on earth has preserved its past as has Rome. Visitors stand on bridges that were crossed by Julius Caesar and Cicero, walk around temples visited by Roman emperors, and step into churches that have hardly changed since popes celebrated mass in them sixteen centuries ago.
These architectural survivals are all the more remarkable considering the violent disasters that
Hardcover, 418 pages
Published October 19th 2017 by Atlantic Books
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  451 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-btr
I’m so glad to have read this book, it was an amazing chronicle of all the historical centuries the city of Rome has gone through, in it you will find a little about Gauls, Murderous emperors, bloodthirsty barbarians, corrupt Popes, famous architects and artists , learn a little about the church schism and the birth of the Reformation, nazis and fascists . In summary you will get a piece of history served up in just small bites that won’t make you feel full but will satisfy you (yeah I used a fo ...more
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Constructed essentially as an anthology series of historical sackings, this is an ambitious attempt at writing the history of a city from its post-Roman origins without just a simple chronological narration. I think broadly speaking it works well and to Kneale's credit there is a lot of cross-referencing and comparative analysis of the different periods particularly in terms of demographics, economics, technology, food and architecture - all of which give a good sense of how we got to the presen ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Title pretty much says it all. It goes from the first sacking of Rome from the Gaulish invasion in 387 bce. Then the Goths in 410ce. The Spanish/Lutheran invasion, The French, The Nazis stand out in my mind. Describes the sackings and the state of the eternal city around the times of these successive invasions spanning nearly 2400 years.
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
Review to follow.
Athan Tolis
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Author Matthew Kneale serves as a truly enthusiastic guide through the history of his adopted home city, Rome. With three thousand years to take you through, he faces an important problem: he needs to “choose his battles;” he truly stands no hope of both telling the whole history and keeping your interest.

So he chooses to take you on a history of sieges (though “sackings” does sound more dramatic!)

Rome’s been besieged many more than seven times, but that’s OK, the idea is not to tell you about s
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mathew Kneale is primarily a novelist and he uses his narrative skills to great effect when recounting the story of Rome from the attack on the Capitoline hill by Brennus and his Gauls, famously forestalled by the alarm cries of sacred geese, right up to the Nazi takeover after the flight of Mussolini.

Kneale carefully sets the scene for each of his vignettes, picking out the salient details to paint a vivid picture of Roman life before each invasion. I was fascinated to discover, for instance,
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a delightful reading experience. The Eternal City as it is known has witnessed and withstood a lot in its glorious and not so glorious history.
The authors explores the history of major events through the history of major battles and what preceded those events. The precedents are not only military, but historical, cultural, and religious. This is what makes this book so informative. The approach to the narrative structure is also quite original. The author first mentions one of the proverbi
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
Meh. Seemed like an interesting concept, tracing the history of the city in the context of its occupations by invading forces. Sort of Michenerian in scope, ranging from 250 BCE to 1945, but, the execution was lacking. Kneale tries to convey what life was like in Rome at each of these eras (there are lots of lice), but it ultimately reads like a bunch of anecdotes he is able to glean from the scanty reports of the times, and a number of his 'facts' don't seem to gibe with other sources. For exam ...more
Apr 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Plenty here that's of interest and very readable, full of evident enthusiasm. But frustrating as it's one of the worst proofed books I've seen. Articles (definite and indefinite) appear utterly arbitrary, and better editing would have picked up its repetitiveness and some inconsistencies and contradictions (quite often people mostly did x and then mostly did y, which is the opposite). Awkward expression throughout makes it hard to believe this was written by an award-winning novelist.
Mar 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italy, nonfiction
This was a great quick read that gave a whirlwind look at the history of Rome from antiquity to the present day. I loved the set-up; each chapter had a standard formula with who was doing the sack, the state of the city at the time, and then the sack itself and how it changed Rome.

I personally think this would be an excellent book to pick up if you're going to Rome and want a little more background on some of the city. Kneale does an excellent job at telling you when some of the greatest monume
Feb 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not find the Gauls and Visigoths, et al as interesting as I expected. Less detail would have improved the book for me. But of course, if I had known that ahead of time, I would not have chosen the book. What I did find very interesting are the sections of the book covering relatively more recent history, the corrupt popes and Mussolini. I knew a bit about the popes and especially remember when the Catholic Church struck many saints from existence in the 1960's, reporting that not only were ...more
Did not finish.

Just couldn't get up the enthusiasm beyond about chapter 2.
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, overdrive, dnf
I didn’t care for the structure of the book. It attempts too much.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book offers a great shorthand history of Rome. Written in an anecdotal and narrative style it is not dry. And if you like architecture, this will not disappoint.
May 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A book I read like it was a novel. An interesting group of articles about the different sacks of Rome that is a history book and a telling of the city history.
Very interesting and fascinating.
Many thanks to Simon&Schuster and Edelweiss for this ARC
Scott Martin
This work attempts to condense of the history of Rome into seven main sections, usually tied to when some foreign power or entity "sacks" the city, from the Gauls during the Republic to the Allies and Nazis fighting over the Eternal City in the latter stages of World War II. From the seven main "sackings", Kneale not only discusses the actual conquests, but offers context for what life in the city was like, the geo-political, economic and social conditions. It is a mix of academic history and in ...more
Steve Majerus-Collins
Dec 16, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Honestly, I expected Rome: A History in Seven Sackings to be a much better book. It's a good book. It's got lots of interesting stuff within its covers. It's reasonable well-written.
The problem, for me, is that I didn't learn a whole lot. I'm no Rome scholar, but nearly everything seemed like a refresher on stuff I'd already stuffed into my head. The only one of the seven sackings I didn't know much about came in the mid-1800s when Mazzini and Garibaldi were on the scene, a time and place that's
Kiril Valchev
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Враговете никога не бяха успели да превземат Анкх-Морпорк. Е, в известен смисъл успяваха, при това твърде често. Градът посрещаше волните варварски нашественици, но озадачените нападатели някак си винаги откриваха след няколко дена, че вече не притежават собствените си коне, а след няколко месеца бяха просто още едно малцинство със свои собствени драсканици по стените и магазини за хранителни стоки."
"Ерик", Тери Пратчет

С "Rome: A History In Seven Sackings" Матю Нийл (автор на прекрасната "Англ
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
A very enjoyable read, beyond Ancient Rome I have had little to no interest in the history of the Eternal City. This book has however piqued my interest especially in the history of Rome up to and around the Renaissance, it brings to life many memorable events and characters and one can imagine the treachery and danger of being a Roman across all centuries.

Easily readable and relatable, not a hard book or a chore to get through. What slowed me down was my unfamiliarity with Roman and to a degre
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's not very often that I read a review of a book and then realize that it's in my pile of books to read - but this happened here. For a change, I slightly disagree with the published review. I thought this was quite a good way to write about a city with so much history, but I do wonder if there were others the author could have used.
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book as a Christmas present, but it sat on my shelf for a few months before I plucked up the courage to read it. I was almost afraid of what I would find. Given my deep interest in, and veneration of, classical civilisation, I didn’t want to hear about the destruction of the eternal city by some greasy Gauls, lousy Ostrogoths, or pillaging Spaniards. I preferred to ignore this sad decline and wanted to revel in Rome’s classical grandeur. I winced at the thought of ancient marble ...more
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
An exceptional history of Rome told in 7 chapters dealing with crises in the history of the city from a sack by Gauls. In 387BCE. via the barbarian attacks which led to the fall of the Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries CE to Mussolini and the German occupation in 1944. These last weren't really sackings as happened in earlier centuries although Mussolini comes in for criticism in the way he tried to modernise and in so doing destroyed some of the older parts. I was particularly interested in t ...more
Ben Jammin'
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Each chapter is split into three parts for each sacking: context, daily life, the sacking itself. My main bone to pick is that the context parts are mostly international politics and often largely irrelevant to the sacking itself. This book promises Rome and sackings; a third of this book then fails at delivering its promise.

That said, I loved the details about daily life in Rome in each period. From the hill made of pot-shards (Roman equivalent of disposable Tupperware) to the development of f
Phil Livingstone
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
The trouble with a history of Rome is how much detail to put in it. Take a story that spans more than two millennia and that task simply grows.

I really like the premise of this book - focus on the biggest upheavals of the city and frame them against roman life at each time point.

What you get is a glimpse into how roman people have lived and strived through the ages. My favourite glimpses of the city were the ancient hints in the first chapter and the later contrasts of the 19th and 20th centurie
Vince  Quackenbush
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. a history of Rome through seven sackings, it looks at Rome's reinvention after each crisis. When the Gauls sacked Rome in the BCE, Rome changed to dominate Italy, a finally Gaul and set itself on World domination. When she was sacked by the Goths in the CE 400s, the Western Empire disappeared and the Papacy arose. In the 1100s CE the Papacy reached its high point and then The Holy Roman Empire gained ascendency. In the 1500s CE, the Papacy confronted the Reformation and was ...more
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
As a novice in Roman history, I found this book to be a great initiation into this genre. Right from the 400s BC to the 20th century world wars, the book chronicles the seven major sackings that Rome and its inhabitants have faced. Curated with banal to highly important pieces of information, the book makes for an interesting read.

Towards the end of the book you would have successfully placed the Roman governmental structures over the years, especially the transition from a merit based Emperor
Fred Svoboda
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Nice book. The idea of tracing Rome's history via seven sackings--from Gauls (twice) to Nazis, 387 BC to 1944 AD--is an interesting one, and I appreciated it. What comes through most clearly are the extent to which the Roman elites served their own interests over time, and the extent to which ordinary Romans managed to survive through pragmatic chicanery, and sometimes surprisingly altruistic actions. Kneale lives in and obviously loves Rome. The weakness for me is simply that I don't have the d ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it
Random thoughts while reading this:

- The Goths weren't as barbaric as I thought they were.
- Those Popes were up to no good, were they?
- History's trajectory of violence seems exponential.

No random thought though, this: Sackings 1-6 made fox 3-star reading, at best. But the chapter that took up one third of the book's pages, that last sacking by the Nazis, and the events prior, which included a primer on Il Duce, was definitely 5 stars. 5 stars for the invaluable history lesson learned from it, a
Michael G. Zink
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book written by an author who brought his obvious affection for Rome and his novelist touch to this fine work of non-fiction. I had already known the outlines of the history around these seven moments in Rome’s past, yet the author brought the city and its inhabitants to life in these seven separate reincarnations. As the title suggests, these are not happy stories since they tell the tales of sackings, but throughout the book the Romans shine through as a unique and resilient ...more
Bryan Kent
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent, readable account of one the great cities of the world told through the lens of these pivotal, violent moments. Loved the tripartite structure of each chapter; the first sets the table, who is approaching Rome? Why are they here? Who is standing in Rome's defense? Second; what is Rome like in this era? What is the food like (loved this touch)? How many people live there and what are their lives like? What would a roman from the past think about this Rome? Third, the violence itself. Le ...more
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Matthew Kneale was born in London in 1960, read Modern History at Oxford University and on graduating in 1982, spent a year teaching English in Japan, where he began writing short stories.

Kneale is the son of writers Nigel Kneale and Judith Kerr, and the grandson of essayist and theatre critic Alfred Kerr.