When I first saw this book on the "bargain shelf" I couldn't believe my good fortune. The Roman World: People and Places by Nigel Rodgers (with consultant Dr. Hazel Dodge) is beautifully put together with a sown binding and heavy pages. I was struck by the numerous glossy photos adorning each page and the wealth of information. The book is presumably part of a series, because I found a similar book on the same bargain shelf a couple of weeks later and of course had to take it home with me.
Life in Ancient Rome: People and Places is arranged in parts containing short "chapters". This means that it is relatively easy to follow, and the information is excellent, however it reads somewhat like a textbook, which tends to get a bit dull after a while unless the subject of that particular section really interests you. I found that it took me much longer to finish this book than I thought it would, and in hindsight I don't think it was meant to be read "cover to cover", rather it was meant to be used as a resource, looking up different sections as information on a particular subject is sought. For this it would serve excellently, as the table of contents breaks down the chapters into each two to four page section. I also found that I was apt to become distracted by the photographs and spent more time looking at them than doing any actual reading, however the photographs definitely made the reading more enjoyable.
Rodgers goes very in depth in the two part book. Part One, entitled "Rome: The First World City" deals largely with the architecture in the Roman Republic and Empire. It starts out with discussion of the building projects of the various emperors and leaders, goes into building materials and techniques, then the following chapters discuss public buildings, imperial palaces, homes and different cities. Part Two, entitled "Roman Arts and Society" tackles literature, the arts, religion, entertainment science and the economy, and the people of Rome. The last chapter is a bit of a catch-all for anything from food to funeral rites to business and commerce (the latter might be better placed in the previous chapter). In Part Two we find great discussion into the lives of ordinary and great people alike, and Rodgers makes an effort to debunk some of the myths including those surrounding slavery in Rome.
My only quarrel is that no where does the author mention the Roman legions. This topic is covered very nicely in what is presumably another book in the same series, however I felt that the legions deserved some mention, even if only a passing one. Still, I highly recommend The Roman World: People and Places for the wealth of information it does contain, and for the beautiful and informative photographs, drawings, and other images.
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