The Romans: An Introduction by Antony Kamm

Book Review by Christian Posratschnig+

Antony Kamm, a former lecturer in publishing studies at the University of Stirling, and author of books such as Julius Caesar: A Life and The Israelites: An Introduction, tried with The Romans: An Introduction something almost impossible: condense 1,200 years of Roman history into just over 200 pages.

This is the second edition (it was first published in 1995) and contains additional and revised material, new glossary of Latin terms and a timeline. It also has its very own website, a feature that is rather unusual in a book.

The first three chapters cover the origins of Rome, stretching all the way to Emperor Domitian. It suddenly stops there and the following topics are: Religion and Mythology, Society and Daily Life, Art and Architecture, Latin Literature and the Roman Army. The last chapter continues where the story stopped at Domitian and goes all the way to the Fall of Rome and its legacy. Personally, I would have preferred to have the history part organised chronologically rather than being interrupted but that is just my personal taste.

Looking at each chapter, there are several aspects of this book I really liked. Firstly, it is written in a very fluent and accessible way. Even for a non-native speaker it never felt unnecessarily complicated and not once did I need my dictionary to look things up. Each chapter has many relevant references to original sources from very well-known poets and historians such as Livy, Suetonius, Tacitus and Plutarch to less well-known ones like Propertius and Martial. They are not reduced to footnotes but are, in fact, used extensively within the text, which I found very convenient and appealing.

There are many black and white pictures, drawings and maps, all of good quality. In fact, the entire book is of very high quality even though it is paperback. At the end of each chapter, there is a “further reading list”. I find this very important and am grateful for Routledge not only for including their own books but also those the author saw fit as a good next step if one wants to delve deeper into a topic. For instance, the first chapter “Founding of Rome” recommends two books for further reading: The Etruscans by Rasmussen and Barker and published by Blackwell, and Routledges` The Beginnings of Rome: Italy from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars by T. J. Cornell . One can hardly deny that those are good next steps.

This book is a very good start not only for “classics and history students”, but also for someone who is generally interested in history but is not very knowledge about ancient Rome. I would not be surprised if this book turns out to be the starting point for many future “Romanophiles” adding the extra bonus of having its own website, I therefore heartily recommend this to anyone who seriously wishes to delve into Roman history.

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