SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome - Mary Beard

June 26, 2018

4 / 5 Stars 


A comprehensive browse through Roman history, but slightly waffly in places.

I love Mary Beard. I love anyone who makes history accessible and fun; and who manages to bring out the storytelling quality of it. Her books always seem to get the balance right between facts and fun, and leave me (a total layperson when it comes to history) feeling like I've learned something without trying too hard. 


In this aspect, SPQR is no exception. Told with Beard's usual charming, anecdotal style, it guides the reader through the history of Rome, from the founding fathers / casual fraternal butchers Romulus and Remus, to the emperors that made Rome so famous; such as Caligula, Augustus, Nero and of course, Julius Caesar. 

The common folk aren't ignored either. Through the book, we get some appreciation of how the city mutated, from a little backwater to a sprawling metropolis. Glimpses of normal Roman life come through the pages, with plenty of humour too (I always enjoy Mary Beard's interpretations of the graffiti!).

My only criticism is there were a few places where I lost my concentration a little. Nothing too much, but just a few areas that weren't as compelling as the previous sections. However, overall it was thoroughly enjoyable and I remain a big fan of this lady's work.

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