Ancient Rome matters. Its history of empire, conquest, cruelty and excess is something against which we still judge ourselves. Its myths and stories - from Romulus and Remus to the rape of Lucretia - still strike a chord with us. And its debates about citizenship, security and the rights of the individual still influence our own debates on civil liberty today.
SPQR is a new look at Roman history from one of the world's foremost classicists. It explores not only how Rome grew from an insignificant village in central Italy to a power that controlled territory from Spain to Syria but also how the Romans thought about themselves and their achievements and why they are still important to us.
Covering 1,000 years of history and casting fresh light on the basics of Roman culture, from slavery to running water, as well as exploring democracy, migration, religious controversy, social mobility and exploitation in the larger context of the empire, this is a definitive history of ancient Rome.
SPQR is the Romans' own abbreviation for their state: Senatus Populusque Romanus, 'the Senate and People of Rome'.
©2015 Mary Beard (P)2015 Audible, Ltd
"She's pulled off that rare trick of becoming a don with a high media profile who hasn't sold out, who is absolutely respected by the academy for her scholarship...what she says is always powerful and interesting." (The Guardian)
"An irrepressible enthusiast with a refreshing disregard for convention." (Financial Times)
Avid reader of history, biography, and true crime.
My 3-star rating is a compromise between my objective and subjective opinions of this book. Objectively it is a stunner – such a wide-ranging meticulously researched and engagingly written history of 1000 years of Rome and its empire and people can only be described as a masterpiece which warrants a wholehearted 5-star rating. Mary Beard presents the fruits of her rigorous scholarship in an almost conversational manner making it accessible to anyone from novices to those who are already familiar with Rome and its history. So far, so good. But subjectively, even though I knew I was listening to a book which ticked all the boxes, I did not actually enjoy it. Despite the wealth and variety of material, mostly I found it flat. I found the narration flat too, but don’t know whether it was the narrator or the material. It felt like reading a history book in preparation for an exam or assignment, a duty rather than a pleasure. So, five stars for content and one star for grabbing my attention – that makes an overall rating of three stars.
"Interesting and erudite"
Mary Beard is one of our leading Classical scholars and yet this is a very entertaining and readable (or listenable) book. Rather than being a flighty survey of the period, Beard provides an accessible, clear and interesting broad account of Rome without watering it down.
Beard's use of recent scholarship within a solid survey of the period.
Pompeii by Mary Beard. Another fine performance.
Probably not - you would want to dip into this and reflect before moving onto the next chapter in order not to be overwhelmed by the depth of the text.
"Excellent if you already know Roman History"
This is a really good listen with lots of interesting stuff in it. The only caveat is that you really have to know roman history well to appreciate it. I don't mean it's for experts only, but it's the kind of book that goes over things from a different angle from the "and then this happened" approach. I was a little bit disappointed at her choice of end date for the book. I don't mind not picking 476ad but this didn't even get to Constantine, which I think is a pity
Very very highly. Mary Beard has provided me with a much needed overview of Roman history. It's a cleverly crafted book, moving steadily forward through the historical dimension but pausing from time to time to explore the big themes in depth or to meet the big characters. And it's not just the big names it introduces us to; some of the most moving episodes concern ordinary people whose lives we can only glimpse through the archaeology, perhaps an inscription on a gravestone.The author always tells us what evidence lies behind the historical consensus, sometimes questioning it and sometimes admitting to lack of conviction. It was often funny and irreverant and never dull or self important.
Other good histories such as Robert Goodwin's Spain.
A model narrator. She animates Mary Beard's prose (which hardly needs animating) and, importantly, stays in the background.
"Passion and Majesty"
"Who could be so indifferent or so idle that they did not want to find out how, and under what kind of political organisation, almost the whole of the inhabited world was conquered and fell under the sole power of the Romans in less than fifty-three years, something previously unparalleled?" – Polybius (c. 200 – 118 BCE)
Mary Beard is everything one could ask from an academical mind writing for anyone else rather than one’s most immediate peers. A gifted scholar, she’s also a great writer and storyteller; a great teacher, that is, she knows that knowing isn't enough without the ability to share that knowledge. That to teach is to always remain a learner oneself.
Ms Beard knows how to unfold her story. The most thrilling audiobook I’ve listened to this autumn hasn’t been the new Galbraith thriller nor the David Mitchell ghost story, it has been Ms Beard’s version of Rome. The book is masterly chiseled out of marble. One of its strengths is that it doesn’t sell its vision as the definite word, but rather as one version, as reflected in the subtitle for the book, where instead of the pompous definite article it reads ”A History of Rome” instead. I also had to get the book so that whenever I was unable to listen, I could at least steal an occasional glance or two at it. It’s that good.
I’ve had a soft spot for Roman history not only for the interesting and larger-than-life stories the era presents, but also because of its centrality in the spreading of the early Christian Church, as well as the evolution of the Latin language and its influence on two that I happen to a be a teacher of. Beard’s new book is a welcome breath of fresh air to this interest of mine, and in history in general.
Where does one start with the history of Ancient Rome? From the ”beginning”? From the ”end?” Ms Beard starts from 63 BCE, the year of Cicero’s consulate and the Catiline conspiracy. From there she reaches all the way back to the mythical beginning, proceeds to the age of kings before the Republic, and advancesuntil the 2nd century CE, well into the golden age of the Empire. Her constant focus is the Senatus Populusque Romanus, the senate and the people of Rome, so she ends her book at 212 CE, when the emperor Caracalla made every free inhabitant of the Empire a full Roman citizen. This structure works well. She’s able to look at the big picture, plunge in and discuss details, move back and forth in time, and emphasize connections between ideas and events.
Ms Beard also proves her experise and academic maturity with her historical skepticism, and the book is full of he fine humour as well as an obvious passion for knowledge. All of this presented with great majesty of style.
Phyllida Nash’s narration is exquisite and really gets the conversational tone of Beard’s writing. This audiobook successfully transcends a mere ”reading”. It’s like Nash and Beard are telling all this just for me as we’re walking through Villa Borghese and marvelling at the cityscape, full of new and old.
”Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town” is also available, also read by Nash. It’s a must. This year we’ve also been treated to Peter Fankopan’s ”The Silk Roads: A New History of the World” so there’s a lot to be excited about if you love gazing at the horizon.
"The tale of Rome on a grand scale. Fascinating."
A massive undertaking packed with not just historical facts, but the human side of the story too. Rationally looking at some of the stories of Rome and putting them into context. Absolutely fascinating.
"History as it should be taught."
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a 'good read'. Mary Beard tells the gripping story of Rome with great verve and a feeling for the subject that marks her out as one of our finest classicists.
Cicero, without doubt, and I guess that this politician and political fixer is one of Mary Beard's too!
Beautifully delivered in an English that I thought was lost in a mire of Americanisms. Phyllida Nash's reading was an additional pleasure.
There was nothing that moved me beyond awe at the way in which Mary Beard presented her subject.
My only further comment would be to anyone who loves History, not just ancient history, to get Audible's rendition , sit back and be transported!
I love watching Mary on TV as she brings the subject to life with her passion and huge knowledge. In this audio book the knowledge is there but I am missing her unique story telling. The narrator does her best but obviously doesn't really know what she is talking about and although I love this topic, I've had three goes at this and it just sends me to sleep. Disappointed.
"Superb reading of Mary Beatd's SPQE"
Very well and clearly read. It brings Rome to life. I really enjoyed it.
I would recommend it whole heartedly .
"Its probably a me thing"
I have always enjoyed history but I am very much the amateur historian and this book made me feel even more so. The author is without doubt very knowledgeable and if you studied classics this could be right up your street. I got half way through and realised I was only listening as I felt I should so I gave up as there are enough unenjoyable things I have to do in life with out adding to them. If you have a much stronger understanding of Roman History than I do this could be very much for you but I found it very hard going and it wasn't for me
"Boring, but very informative"
This book is very well written, the amount of information is good, but I find the delivery of the narrator quite boring to listen to.
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