Roma recounts the tragedy of the hero-traitor Coriolanus, the capture of the city by the Gauls, the invasion of Hannibal, the bitter political struggles of the patricians and plebeians, and the ultimate death of Rome's Republic with the triumph, and assassination, of Julius Caesar.
Witnessing this history, and sometimes playing key roles, are the descendents of two of Rome's first families: the Potitius and Pinarius clans. One is the confidant of Romulus. One is born a slave and tempts a Vestal virgin to break her vows. One becomes a mass murderer. And one becomes the heir of Julius Caesar. Linking the generations is a mysterious talisman as ancient as the city itself.
Epic in every sense of the word, Roma is a panoramic historical saga and Saylor's finest achievement to date.
©2007 Steven Saylor; (P)2007 Books on Tape
"Solidly anchored in fact and vividly imagined." (Publishers Weekly)
Saylor is well known and loved for his exceptional ancient Roman murder mysteries. This is not one of them. Most of the less than loving reviews here seem to relate to this main point. Neither is this an exhaustive description of 1000 years of pre-empire Roman history.
Instead, Saylor has focused on showing the reader what it would have felt like to live as a Roman during the period extending from Rome's founding through the beginning of the empire. He certainly does hits some of the major historical events, but doesn't focus on pouring facts down your throat. Instead, he concentrates on giving the reader an impression of how a Roman would have lived, how he or she would have seen the world around them, and reacted to things around them, and what kind of sense they would have made of the world.
All-in-all, Saylor has done a truly fantastic job. The story drags a bit at times, but what thousand year long story wouldn't? The narrator is fantastic, and the material is wonderful. If you enjoy stories of Ancient Rome, listen to this one.
I LOVED Roma. I usually listen to cds in the car and I recently agreed to take a useless 3 hour trip just because I knew I could listen to this book. It makes history come alive. I have read some books about Roman history and listened to a lecture series, but it was never real to me as it is now. The class warfare and government squabbles of the Republic sound alot like what is happening today. I expected the book to be interesting but I was surprised how timely it is.
It's true that the characters change a lot. The book is a series of related short stories, but there are stable threads running through them and the later stories are enriched by the earlier ones. I thought the book was engrossing. I'm just sorry I can't listen to it again for the first time.
Saylor is always good and this is a good book. He paints excellent pictures of ancient Rome and his take on the important events in Roman history is refreshingly candid. If the book has a draw back it is that it should probably be two books at least. The time span he covers causes him to have to travel lightly over over a lot of the topic.
Was this book worth 2 credits to me? No,I was disappointed.
My primary reason for listening was to combine a deeper understanding of early roman history with a good, immersive (20 hours)listen. While the author conscientiously (& at times too methodically) catalogs the development of roman institutions and customs over a millennia and is decent at retelling legends, I found he came up short in too many areas.
First, for the most part, his Roma develops in a vacuum. Little is said of the Etruscans or relations with other states, or how the city state grew. This is not an academic history, but everything has context. Many of the characters are prominent citizens who would be directly involved in great events. These characters are essentially not allowed beyond the city gates -- even in their heads. Foggy, disjointed history.
All things military are marginalized. Forget about battles or campaigns. The Gauls and Hannibal put in very brief appearances. More importantly, Rome was a martial society. Training started at an early age. There was no standing army so all able bodied citizens had to serve in the legions, effecting every family. Wars were frequent, yet very little is said of the development of the army and it's role in society. I'm not looking for a sword and sandals blood fest, but this "Roma" is significantly out of balance with history.
Finally, I found many of the characters disappointingly flat. Sulla is a nasty cardboard caricature. Caesar's brilliance is not shown when he speaks. Ditto Scipio. (The author tries to convey talent or charisma through a cataloging of a character's achievements or by mining clever lines from Suetonius. His own dialog can't reach such heights.)
The book has some moments, but the author got locked into an regular pace, like he had his outline and was word processing away.I found myself looking at my IPod regularly, hoping I was about to reach the end. Stick with Colleen Mcculloug
I work in sales for a cellphone company and so obviously love technology. I couldn't function without my Audible apps on my phones!!
YES!! I completely recommend this to any of my friends who enjoy history.
I loved how all of Romes history could be tied in by following a heirloom. (It's just extra awesome it's a penis pendant.)
His voice is just perfect!
Probably the Fascinus, even though it's not really a character. It's the penis with wings pendant that the family passes down from generation to generation.
While listening to this I felt as if I knew the Potitius & Pinarius families. Fabulously written!
Although the narrator does a great job with this book, I would not spend two credits on this book. It reads like a children's book with a few rated R scenes thrown in for reasons that seem to have little to do with the overall progress of the story.
Suggestions for something to read about Ancient Rome that is better literature: Pompeii by Robert Harris or either of the Claudius books by Robert Graves.
I have had this book on my wish list for quite sometime, but I was hesitant to spend 2 credits after reading the negative reviews here. I'm so sorry I hesitated. I've learned to ignore certain negative reviewers...maybe the reviewers themselves should be rated, as well as the book.
After reading Colleen McCullough's excellent "Masters of Rome series", I was interested in finding more on Rome. I tried Livy's History of Rome, which was good, but was so dry, and lacking in color or excitement, that I was unable to finish it. So I decided to try Steven Saylor's book. After only a few minutes of listening, I was rewarded with a wonderful, colorful, story of ancient Rome as Livy probably wished he had written it. Suddenly, Livy's stories made sense after listening to Roma by Saylor. Saylor obviously has absorbed and studied much of Livy, and he has fleshed out and enriched the barebone details of the ancient work, making it accessible and entertaining. For example, the three or four paragraphs in which Livy sketches the story of Hercules in Rome, becomes a lengthy, full chapter of adventure in Saylor's novel. The chapters on Romulus and Remus were so good, I wanted to read them twice. I never understood the significance of the Roman religious festivals such as Lupercalia (the original Valentine's Day), and so often found them boring. But after listening to Saylor's vivid descriptions and explanations, I find I want to celebrate Lupercalia myself!
Well worth two credits, and maybe even three. For the first time ever, I found myself listening to 7 hours at one sitting. A true historical adventure novel in the fashion of "Sarum" by Edward Rutherford, this work by Saylor surpassed my greatest expectations. If you're into historical novels, don't let this one go by without checking it out. Ignore the negative reviews, and you'll be pleasantly surprised. I was.
History brought to life in a fascinating story. Can't wait to get the next book.
Learning about the Lupercalia, loved re-living of the run of the wolves.
Loved it all, every second.
Perhaps I am spoiled by James Michener, but I don't get the word pictures that describe people and things in as much depth as I had hoped. However, it was a good "read" in terms of understanding the times. It sped through history and lacked the sense of depth at any particular part of it that would have made it more "real" to me.
Oh, if someone wanted company on a long commute, or was bored, it would have value, but as to learning something from it, not so much.
I don't know. Maybe just more substance to the characters? I didn't get to know or like any of them.
This is an outstanding, well-written and fascinating book with a perfect narration by John Lee. The only thing that is frustrating about it is that it tries to cover too much in a single volume. It would have been much better as a series of as many as ten novels. The material is there, and the author is easily up to the task: The characters, background, dialog, exposition and everything else are all wonderful. But as soon as you get familiar with a group of characters the story suddenly moves on a hundred years and you have to get used to another group. After every little episode I had the feeling of being short-changed.
In a way, it's more like a historical docu-drama than a novel. But that's not quite right either, because it really does have the quality of a novel; or rather, of a series of frustratingly unfinished novels. This feeling gets heightened towards the end, where I started to get the feeling that the author was getting a little tired of the project. The whole story of Julius Caesar and his murder was much too perfunctory, with much less introduction and background than many of the other episodes.
This is a good book and I'm not sorry I read it,but it could have been much, much better. And that's a pity.
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