Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Brian Campbell's 'The Romans and Their World'


In Thet Romans and their World: A Short Introduction, Brian Campbell has written a lively, compact history of Rome most readers of this site should appreciate. It is well and tightly written, but without footnotes, since he has less space than many pulp mystery fiction writers have to work in. Despite its petite frame, the work is chock full of information.

I'm not experienced in curriculum development for ancient history, but I think this might be an excellent penultimate selection in a Roman history series for autodidacts using modern books. I'd start with an overview like that of a great fiction writer. Steven Saylor fits the bill exquisitely. He covers Rome from before it was founded through the Empire. His first volume, Roma, is based largely on Cornell's The Beginnings of Rome, which is a dense, probably difficult book to read for a beginner, but after Saylor's introduction, a reader should be able to make head or tails of it and learn about the problems of studying Roman history as well as some of the history of early Rome. Following this, I'd suggest Mary Beard's book because it does an excellent job covering major facets of Roman life in a thorough, but easy to read style. It's after Beard that I'd turn to Campbell's book: The Romans and their World: A Short Introduction. Women of ancient Rome tend to get short shrift, so my final recommendation is for a book that does much to remedy the situation. After this tour, the autodidacts might want to branch off into specialized areas, like the Fall. Here's today's list of books to teach yourself about Rome. The list may change and I'd love to read your choices.

  1. Fictional Roma/Empire, by Steven Saylor,
  2. T.J. Cornell's The Beginnings of Rome,
  3. Mary Beard's The Fires of Vesuvius,
  4. The Romans and their World: A Short Introduction, and
  5. Annelise Freisenbruch Caesars' Wives Sex, Power, and Politics in the Roman Empire.