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Rome: A History in Seven Sackings

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  291 ratings  ·  38 reviews
"Kneale's account is a masterpiece of pacing and suspense. Characters from the city's history spring to life in his hands." —The Sunday Times (London)

Novelist and historian Matthew Kneale, a longtime resident of Rome, tells the story of the Eternal City—from the early Roman Republic through the Renaissance and the Reformation to Mussolini and the German occupation in World
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published May 15th 2018 by Simon Schuster (first published October 19th 2017)
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Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Did not finish.

Just couldn't get up the enthusiasm beyond about chapter 2.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Heather Mathie
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Ben Jammin'
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
Nov 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Vince  Quackenbush
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rajat Yadav
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
M. G. Zink
Oct 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gary Brecht
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
While this book may have been thoroughly researched, its focus and style may make it difficult for some to read; it certainly did to me. Kneale, a lover of the city of Rome, concentrates on the alternating phases of building and destruction that takes place during seven momentous sackings. Throughout the first half of the book a monotonous litany of popes, anti-popes and schisms began to put me to sleep. I confess; this is one of the few books I returned to the library without finishing 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.
Nathan Moran
Oct 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched and great way of introducing roman history to someone - like myself - who’s prior knowledge was minimal. The second part of each chapter really does set the scene of the city at that era. It’s almost as though you are living each page.

Should I travel to Rome, I would definitely be giving this a reread.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book reads like a novel. The author concentrated on seven sackings using the first part of each chapter to tell who was bringing the disaster. The second described how people in Rome lived including what they wore, ate and how bad they smelled. The last part was the actual sacking where you learn what happened to people as well as what was destroyed.
Mike G
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I live in Rome and have never found a book that brought the history more to life than this book. In addition to the history, each period include references to what the city looked like, what people ate and how they dressed.

A fantastic historical tale, told by a novelist.
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Illuminating tale of seven distinct periods in the city's history. Considers each "sacking" from the point of view first of the events that led up to the sacking, second of the condition of the city and its inhabitants at that time, and third the consequences of the event. Colorful and engaging.
Oct 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual format gave life and focus to this history of Rome from ancient times to present day. Rome has been sacked many times, and Kneale focuses on 7 sackings, from the 4th c. bCE to the Nazis. It’s a long book, and it took a while, but I found it interesting enough to stay with it.
Michael Samerdyke
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very interesting approach to Italian history, looking at key crises in the history of the city of Rome.

Kneale writes in an engaging style, and he clearly has a love for his subject. I would be most interested in reading other books of his about Italy.
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Another nicely researched and well written book of Rome as seen through its sequence of sackings.
Aug 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot about Rome listening to this book. Helped bridge the gap between Classical and modern times. The structure of the book worked for me.
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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.