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SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary…

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2015)

by Mary Beard

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
A really good survey of Ancient Roman History. I really like the author's writing style for this book. She not only delivers the history of the period, but she also explains why historians think certain things happened (or did not happen) the way we understand them. She provides the evidence and the logic behind interpreting that evidence. When studying the ancient time period, this explanation is really essential and I found it refreshing in a history book. Highly recommended to those who enjoy reading about Ancient Rome. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
Another disappointment unfortunately. I had been super excited for this book after hearing about it on the news. Greek and Roman mythology had always fascinated me and a friend had recommended I minor in Classics since I had some of the classes required. Every once in a while I've picked up Roman history books and I thought it was a good time to try another one.
Beard takes the reader through a history of Rome (but not its decline and fall). She looks at what we know (and what we don't), but ultimately I felt the book really failed to gel as a whole. The writing style really got on my nerves. It's haphazard that introduces ideas, themes, but we never get into anything in depth.
There seems to be a huge assumption the reader is very familiar with the history of Rome (while I took a few classes on it, it's been years since then). The book seems to be geared towards a small swath of readers: academics or those with a deeper knowledge of it vs. what they saw in 'Gladiator' or HBO's 'Rome'. It has somewhat amused me that other reviewers mention Colleen McCullough's 'Masters of Rome' series (which I've only read the first two or three books) and makes me wonder if I would have gotten more out of this had I finished that series (which is historical *fiction*).
Honestly, I can't recommend this one very much. Perhaps if this book had come out while I was still in college I might have gotten more out of it (and it wouldn't surprise me if it shows up on school syllabi either). I'd borrow this one from the library.
If you're not an expert or have forgotten a lot, I'd say a really good book to pick up and read would be 'A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities' which is what it says. It's a pretty readable text that isn't dry and academic. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
This 606 page book is the only book you need to read to understand the workings of the Roman Empire. To appreciate the level of detail the author provides I now quote from the book as follows: “Roman laundry work and textile processing (a combination conventionly known as “fulling”, which had as a staple ingredients: human urine.)” Pg. 454.

I highly recommend this book! ( )
1 vote octafoil40 | Jan 21, 2018 |
Great book, ( )
  annbury | Dec 28, 2017 |
This is book I wanted to read for a while, and finally got down to sit and read it. Beard is a Professor of Classics at Cambridge, and this novel is the culmination of 50 years of love and research into Roman culture.

What to expect

A review of the first millennium of Roman history. From the sketchy beginnings till the 3rd century, Beard covers many aspects of Rome’s development.

The book deals with how much we know, and more importantly don’t know, about the early beginnings. How much of Rome’s early history is actually dubious myths, and how much is reconstructed by historians for fragmentary evidence.

It covers the transformation from Republic to empire, as well as daily lives , so that we can glean from what it was like to be “Roman”.

What I liked

Trying to put everything in a larger context. Examining the surviving evidence (archaeological and literary), and critiquing it. The writing style itself, which is flowing and lets Beard passion for Roman history shine through.

What to be aware of

This is probably not the first book about Rome’s history you should read. Beard covers a thousand years of history, and necessarily somethings are left out. A working knowledge of the commonly accepted timeline and general events will make following the book easier.

I also wish Beard would have gone into further depth at a few points, but again this is probably more than a single, non-technical book can cover.


If you want to take your knowledge of Rome to the next level, and before you delve into original sources and academic papers, this is the book for you.

Assaph Mehr, author of Murder In Absentia: a story of Togas, Dagger, and Magic - for lovers of Ancient Rome, Urban Fantasy, and Detective mysteries. ( )
  AssaphMehr | Nov 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
By the time Beard has finished, she has explored not only archaic, republican, and imperial Rome, but the eastern and western provinces over which it eventually won control. She deploys an immense range of ancient sources, in both Greek and Latin, and an equally wide range of material objects, from pots and coins to inscriptions, sculptures, reliefs, and temples. She moves with ease and mastery through archaeology, numismatics, and philology, as well as a mass of written documents on stone and papyrus.
You push past this book’s occasional unventilated corner, however, because Ms. Beard is competent and charming company. In “SPQR” she pulls off the difficult feat of deliberating at length on the largest intellectual and moral issues her subject presents (liberty, beauty, citizenship, power) while maintaining an intimate tone.
added by eereed | editNew York Times, Dwight Garner (Nov 17, 2015)
Beard presents a plausible picture of gradual development from a community of warlords to an urban centre with complex political institutions, institutions which systematically favoured the interests of the upper classes yet allowed scope for the votes of the poor to carry weight. We may think of the Greeks as the great originators of western political theory, but Beard emphasises the sophistication of Roman legal thought, already grappling in the late second century BC with the complex ethical issues raised by the government of subject peoples.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Beardprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dyer, PeterCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Ancient Rome is important.
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Book description

Cicero's finest hour -- In the beginning -- The kings of Rome -- Rome's great leap forward -- A wider world -- New politics -- From empire to emperors -- The home front -- The transformations of Augustus -- Fourteen emperors -- The haves and have-nots -- Rome outside Rome.
Haiku summary
Hut, village, market town,
Kingdom, Republic, Empire,
Rome, unstoppable.


Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871404230, Hardcover)

One of the world’s foremost classicists presents a revolutionary history of the Roman Empire that will become the standard for our time.

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 revolution, and how they invented a new idea of citizenship and nation, while also keeping her eye open for those overlooked in traditional histories: women, slaves and ex-slaves, conspirators, and losers. Like the best detectives, Beard separates fact from fiction, myth and propaganda from historical record. She introduces the familiar characters of Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Nero as well as the untold, the loud women, the shrewd bakers, and the brave jokers. S.P.Q.R. promises to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come. 100 illustrations; 16 pages of color; 5 maps

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 10 Jul 2015 16:12:11 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A prominent classicist explores ancient Rome and how its citizens adapted the notion of imperial rule, invented the concepts of citizenship and nation, and made laws about those traditionally overlooked in history, including women, slaves, and criminals.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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