Monday, June 6, 2016

SPQR by Mary Beard

  • THE BOOK
    • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
    • Published November 9, 2015
    • Other works by author: The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, The Parthenon, The Roman Triumph and several more.

  • THE PREMISE
    • SPQR is a Roman acronym for Senatus PopulusQue Romanus meaning the Senate and People of Rome.
      • Latin is interesting when comparing it to English. "Que" means "and" but it appears after both of the words you want to link: "Senatus Populusque" means "the senate and the populace" even though the literal translation is more "senate populace and". 
    • Anyhoo, this is a history of ancient Rome (duh) from its founding until the 200s CE.
    • The author breaks down the foundation story of Romulus and Remus and Aeneas, whom many later Romans claimed descent from in their family histories.
      • Her point is that, while Romulus and Remus are surely fictional, their fight and the ultimate murder of Remus by his brother (or his army) founded Rome with a violence which continued throughout its history.
      • It is said that Rome was named for Romulus but in reality, Romulus was named for Rome and the backstory made to match the circumstances.
      • Julius Caesar claimed descent from Venus who was the mother of Aeneas, Trojan prince. Uh-huh.
    • A lot of the conclusions are of the style "we just can't know" what really happened. This is true (if disappointing) as the Roman leaders were constantly rewriting their histories. Unless and until some actual written or archeological evidence comes to light  we really have no way of knowing what or why certain things happened. Historians can only speculate. The author does a good job of avoid pointless speculation as fact.
    • More archeological evidence is uncovered every day so someday more might be known about various things as time passes.
    • The author also does a good job of including what's known about the lives of women and the ordinary people, who left very little written evidence behind.

  • MY THOUGHTS
    • I love Roman history so this was a good one because it included the most recent research. The writing was good and not dry as some of these kinds of books can tend to be but it's the names that get you confused as some are so similar.
      • Here are the names of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty:
        • Gaius Julius Caesar
        • Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus OR Imperātor Caesar Divi Filius Augustus
        • Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus
        • Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
        • Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
        • Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
      • That's why we know them as Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero.
    • Recommended for those interested in Roman history. 

1 comment:

  1. Everything you need to know about Roman history can be found in the movie, "Caligula."

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