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A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  216 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Here is a whimsical and captivating collection of odd facts, strange beliefs, outlandish opinions, and other highly amusing trivia of the ancient Romans. We tend to think of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army, an exemplary legal system, and a precise and elegant language. A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities shows that the Romans were equally capab ...more
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published April 26th 2010)
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3.72  · 
Rating details
 ·  216 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Book Info: Genre: Non-fiction, historical anecdotes
Reading Level: Any who can read it can learn some fun facts about Rome
Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning fun and interesting facts about the Romans

My Thoughts: There are a number of quotes from the book in the synopsis, but I just have to add a few of my own that I found funny, such as:
Romans on Dealing with Children:
Pliny states, in “Natural History”, “Putting goat dung in their diapers soothes hyperactive children, especially gir
So Hakim
Jun 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, others
Cute book, sometimes outright hilarious, about things that happened in Ancient Rome. In this book the writer acted more as impresario: presenting historical quotes related to the topic at hand.

To be noted, this is a reference book, not prosaic run-down. Think of it like jar of candies: you take one, then move on, then another one... (And suddenly they're all gone. But I digress)

Some examples:

The elder Cato praised a young man when he saw him leaving a brothel, since he felt that this would mean
Rob Atkinson
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
A nice little miscellany of odd facts about the ancient Romans, delivered individually as citations or paraphrases from their contemporary authors, orators, satirists, moralists and historians. Many of these facts will be familiar to lay historians familiar with the basics of Roman political, military, and especially social history, but there are quite a few surprises even for those well-read in the subject. The quotations, anecdotes, etc. are organized by subject under appropriate chapter headi ...more
Brian Turner
Oct 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
A fun mix of quotes from Roman literature about Roman life - sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, always entertaining. :)
Jenny Brown
Dec 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Mildly entertaining, but I would hesitate to recommend it to someone who hasn't already read more serious books about Ancient Rome, because of its Ripley's Believe it or Not format which tends to trivialize the subject matter by focussing on extremes and oddities.

The first half had quite a few tidbits I'd never encountered, but as the book went on, it became more of a rehash of things that you'd know if you'd read recent popular books on the subject.
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This isn't a book where you're going to learn about the might of the Roman Empire. You're not going to learn about the political transition from the Roman Republic to Imperium Romanum. You won't learn about the Eastern / Western divide, or anything typically regarded as important to history.

You should absolutely read this book though, because instead of telling you the same factual statistics, with the same recounting of the grandeur, the culture, and the importance of Rome as every other book -
Krisley Freitas
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history
O livro é basicamente uma coletânea de anedotas e citações traduzidas de documentos históricos, não havendo textos introdutórios ou uma grande contextualização.

Além do prefácio, o autor (que é um professor de latim, não um historiador) só aparece no texto para complementar alguma informação ou contextualizar o leitor através de algumas palavras ou linhas, dizendo o tempo de governo de algum imperador, o local e data de alguma batalha etc.

A citações possibilitam uma visão mais ampla das crenças
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
A collection of rather trite anecdata about ancient Rome (though many are from Greek sources, as expected), gifted by a well-meaning relative. The chief problem here is that one gets the notion that this is meant as a coffee-table book for light reading: but without any source criticism (a limitation of the format that McKeown acknowledges in the introduction...but who reads those?) it ceases to be worthwhile history in any sense. Some of these 'facts' might make for entertaining reading, but Mc ...more
Renee Yancy
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a collection of little known Roman facts and oddities, with chapters with names such as: Women, Slaves, Decadence, Tempus Fugit, and Food & Drink. There's many more.

Anyone who'd like to know more about the Romans would enjoy this book.
Jacqueline Patterson
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting facts for history buffs. The author's humor brings the pages to life.
Noah Goats
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities has some pretty serious flaws. This book is simply a collection of scraps of information, most of them cut and pasted out of the ancient source material, and then presented to the reader with no context. I think if you came to this book with no background in Roman history you would be confused or misled by much of what you read in it. I wish the book's author had spend a little more time providing context or background on the sources. He should say things like "Juv ...more
Unless someone is a serious Romanphile (or whatever the correct word would be), it's hard to imagine reading this book for more than a few minutes at a time. Tidbits and trivia, grouped by topic, from various historical sources, the material is interesting, but it would be like sitting down and reading The Guinness Book of World Records. It's what I call a "stop and start" book, the kind I like to have loaded on my phone so I can read a few entries while on queue or in a waiting room without get ...more
Sep 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
A short book of snippets from Roman documents and inscriptions, giving hints of how Romans thought and how they lived, chosen mostly for entertainment value. Material is sorted into chapters according to its topic: "Family Life," "Women," "The Army," "Religion and Superstition," and so on. Most entires are quite short. This book might be used as bathroom reading.

Much of the interest in this collection is in observing how often the Romans seem just like us, and equally often, how vastly and often
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Alicia Carr Mitsch tagged me and asked me whether I had read this or not. I've read bits and pieces of it. The work is fascinating! Little bits and squiggles of Roman life all thrown into this work. It's almost like a bathroom book. I think very highly of it and if you are one of those who went to DisneyWorld and drank the Kool Aid about how it's a small world after all, you should read this book. The Romans were a very different kind of people.
Chris Schaeffer
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Poetry is maybe all about knowing a lot of dumb trivia and understanding as little of it as possible. Maybe that's why I go crazy about books like this, a frenzied miscellany of hastily organized facts and anecdotes and indices. I love that sort of thing, and this is really a pretty top-shelf example of the 'genre.'
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: ancient-rome
Not too impressed with this. Most of the stuff you have either heard before or is used without giving a source.
The source for the chapter on the Caesars is mostly the gossip Suetonius. Everyone even slightly interested in ancient Rome has read his book on the twelve Caesars already.
I expected much more from this. I was disappointed.
Sep 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Bitesize chunks of history. The author imparts various facts relating to a variety of subjects, all no more than a line or two. This was a book that was easy to dip in and out of and was interesting in its own little way.
Nicole Yovanoff
Apr 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Very interesting with many first accounts of ancient Roman life. There was a great deal of different information, however there needed to be more author involvement in perspective when it came to questionable perspectives on politicizes events.
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
It's not really a "sit and read this" book, it's more of a "every once in a while pick it up and annoy your husband with the new things you learn" lol. Still, it's got pretty interesting stuff in it and it's a fun way to sort of learn for the most part.
Vikas Datta
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant evocation of the entire spectrum of the life and society of ancient Romans in their own words..
Apr 24, 2016 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: history
Many of the individual facts were interesting, but an entire book of them was mind-numbing. Without an overall narrative, there wasn't much to keep me turning the pages.
Laura Thalassa
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the nerd in me's guilty pleasure.

P.S. The Roman's were batsh*t crazy. I blame all those lead pipes.
Michael Laflamme
Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

A well rounded work of investigation into many facets of Roman life and history as commented upon by the Romans themselves. Interesting and wide-ranging.
Gareth Evans
Feb 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Fascinating ... A great book for dipping into
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Nifty! A cool little book containing a wide-ranging miscellany of Roman stuff! Highly recommended for casual reading!
Jul 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Far more interesting and consciously semi-tongue-in-cheek than this kind of book usually is. Lots to be learnt here!
Sep 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Passages from various sources grouped together by topic. No narrative. Eclectic, but not enough
material overall. Still though; interesting.
Mark Christenson
rated it really liked it
Jan 07, 2018
Gary Smith
rated it really liked it
Oct 02, 2014
Christina Herrera
rated it it was amazing
Dec 17, 2017
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“The laws are like spiders’ webs: just as spiders’ webs catch the weaker creatures but let the stronger ones through, so the humble and poor are restricted by the laws, but the rich and powerful are not bound by them (Valerius Maximus Memorable Deeds and Sayings 7.2 ext. 14).” 5 likes
“occidit miseros crambe repetita magistros Rehashed cabbage is the death of wretched teachers. Juvenal Satires 7.154, criticizing the repetitive dullness of the highly conservative and unimaginative school curriculum” 2 likes
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