SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a solid and well-rounded examination of early Roman history, cutting through what must have obviously been a bunch of BS written of and about themselves in the early days but also giving credit where credit is due.
I mean, obviously, those two twins suckled at the teats of a wolf. Obviously.
But seriously, there's a lot of interesting facts that make me wonder whether the original tales of a city founded on liberty and the forceful taking of nearby tribe's women might not have been a fanciful tale, too. After all, there were a lot of positive things that came out of Rome that doesn't quite jibe with the whole idea of a bunch of brother-murdering brigands with a penchant for rule by rape.
Obviously, early Rome has gone through a TON of narrative revisions on itself. And continued to do so right through all the Emperors. Murder one average, run-of-the-mill Emperor, run his name through the muck to justify murdering him, and then play yourself up as a liberator.
Poor Julius. It's not like he was trying to set up a single rule system that cut out the senators. And then those same murderers did everything they could to ESTABLISH the same rule they used as an excuse to murder the poor sod! Alas.
Fascinating history, of course, and it goes well beyond the more notable examples. Probably most interesting to me was Augustus Caesar. He was a rip-roaring murderer in his youth but he got a MASSIVE PR overhaul. I don't know which agency he went to, but they did a BANG-UP JOB. So much so it set the whole tone for the next 1.5 millennia. :) That's BRANDING.
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