I was first exposed to this classic in high school, but, of course, lacked the experience and maturity to appreciate it. I am glad I was exposed to it anyway because I was indeed impressed by it and remembered it in spite of my immaturity. I picked it up again and re-read it and was delighted. Hamilton is a voice from another time, a time not just of ancient Romans but a time when educated people in the modern West were really educated in what really matters and will always matter: the best that has been written and thought about the drama of human life throughout the ages. With that classic outlook, the reader cannot but help to recapture some of the balance, insight, sensitivity, and maturity that are the best fruits of a classical education. Now, more than ever, we need the classic restraint and equanimity that comes from the best of classical civilization. Reading Hamilton is a great tonic for a society increasingly fragmenting into more and more lunatic and decadent dead ends. The classics mature our personalities--and we need that in a time when egotism and undisciplined emotionalism are so rampant.
I never studied Latin formally and my orientation to the Roman classics comes down to a 101 World Lit survey course in college that galloped through the antiquities faster than you can say "Virgil." It was time to fill in some gaps and I was pleased to see that Edith Hamilton, whose books were the wallpaper of school units on mythology in my baby boomer public schooling, had also written this book. I'd forgotten what a bright, unmannered voice she brings to the table, how lucidly she orders her information and how she can make it matter.
For Hamilton, the Romans moved into the center of western culture, usurping the Greeks' place, from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd AD. In The Roman Way she looks at the exemplary writers and forms who have had a lasting impact on western culture, and she never wavers from the view that understanding the Romans is key to making sense of modern public and private life. Her purpose is to palpate the Romans themselves--their values and social systems--believing the best way to understand them is through their writing. She helpfully compares and contrasts Roman romanticism with Greek classicism throughout the book. Obviously, in an introductory text like this, not every writer can have his due; those to whom she pays the most attention are Plautus, Terence, Cicero, Horace, Catallus, Juvenal, Virgil and Seneca. Through them, she reveals the Caesars, the Claudii, the Stoics, the art, the bloody warfare, the greed, the corruption, gender relations, class structure, the political intrigues and paradoxes, and the empire's demise.
Is this a complete concordance to the Roman canon? No. A comprehensive history? No. It's about getting a feel for who the Romans were and what mattered to them in their own words and why they continue to matter. It is a compelling overview made lively by Hamilton who does not look upon her topic as dead but rather quite vital.
Coupled with its sister volume 'The Greek Way' these overviews have been most enlightening. They should be on the course for all who wish to understand the nature of the western minid and outlook. These are seminal works should not be allowed to languish on the top shelves of Libraries but should be the subject-matter of tutorials, or study groups!
No one wrote about ancient history as well as Hamilton; she made these eras come alive, and explained them in a way that made perfect sense to a 20th-century reader. Her book on "The Greek Way" is even better, because I really dig the Greeks!!
Edith Hamilton's premise for this book is that we learn more about a time period or people by reading their literature, poetry, speeches and plays. By doing this we know what they were interested in and how they thought.
This small volume entertains us with silly comedies of cuckolded husbands and their shrewish wives, poems that speak of love and honor and classic speeches by Cicero and Mark Antony.
I don't know if this helped me with any chronological history of the Roman Empire but I do feel I understand the Romans better than before I read this book.
Cicero was the great Orator of Rome and was not a fan of Julius Caesar because he wanted to downgrade the Senates role in government. I enjoyed learning about him and his death at the hands of Mark Anthony's men.
Horace and Virgil were also interesting subjects to learn about.
Ms. Hamilton said the greatest poets were romantics like Virgil not classicists who only spoke what really happened. I think that would be true about poetry but not about history where you need facts not flowery statements.
I enjoyed this book and will probably try her first book "The Greek Way". The narration was done by Nadia May, not Wanda McFaddon as stated on the book. Nadia May is my favorite Audrey Hepburn sound alike.