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review 2019-03-26 21:43
Antonina: or, The Fall of Rome (Collins)
Antonina: The Fall of Rome - Wilkie Collins

This is Wilkie Collins' first published novel, and it definitely shows. I am generally a fan of the expansiveness of Victorian prose, and of the tendency of Victorian narrators to break the fourth wall and address the reader directly. I find both things charming. But "discursive" doesn't begin to cover it when it comes to Collins' self-conscious and very long apostrophes to his reader, often merely for the purpose of moving from one setting to another. He rarely uses less than a page where a sentence (or nothing at all) would do. In fact, this was so noticeable that I checked to see whether "Antonina" was originally published in parts, or for a magazine, either of which might lead to - though not completely excuse - padding towards a word count. Not so, however - Antonina was published in volume form from the beginning. So all there is to see here is the growing pains of a young author; apparently he had yet to meet his highly influential mentor, Dickens.


Antonina, or the Fall of Rome is a historical novel set in an era most people are unfamiliar with, I should think, namely the early 5th century, when the Goths led, and the Huns participated in, the siege and eventual sacking of Rome. For the purposes of his novel, Collins has simplified the exceedingly complicated series of multiple sieges and battles, not to mention dramatic shifts in loyalties and alliances, down to one very long siege and its outcome. He has principal characters on both sides of the conflict; furthermore, he sets up a very deliberate contrast and conflict between extremist representatives of the Christian religion (by this point dominant) and the declining pagan religion. The conflict is centred in two men, one of them the rather oppressive father of the title young lady. There is an entirely incredible (and in my view unnecessary) coincidence about these two men introduced towards the end of the plot.


Madness is a primary motif of this work. Almost none of the primary characters make it through without having some sort of breakdown, but two of the principals - Goisvintha and Ulpius - are essentially mad for a large part of the novel. Goisvintha is a Goth woman whose husband and children have been murdered by the Romans; she exists primarily as a threat to Antonina to whose death she manages to attach an entirely disproportionate urgency as a symbol of her revenge on the entire Roman people. She is also more or less directly responsible for the death of her own brother, Hermanric, who has the poor taste to become romantically attached to Antonina for a very brief and idyllic period. Ulpius is a pagan priest, also a threat to Antonina (we are first introduced to him pretending to be a Christian acolyte of her father Numerian); Ulpius has already seen the defeat of his religion in Alexandria and ends up dementedly occupying a deserted temple, where he carries out human sacrifices with a hidden "mechanism" over the river, and also builds up a monumental pile of idols in it.


Antonina herself is more or less a cipher as a character; she loves music (against her father's instructions); she's naive and obedient; she very nearly dies of famine, but survives. This book doesn't really qualify as a romance, despite the Hermanric/Antonina episode in the middle of it. There is one alternate suitor, a somewhat older aristocratic Roman named Vetranio; he attempts to seduce/rape Antonina near the beginning, and his remorseful conversion from his pleasure-loving ways to sober country living (and support of, but not pursuit of, Antonina) forms the last few chapters after all the excitement of violent deaths in the temple - the real climax of the novel - is over.


Vetranio has one of the set-pieces of the novel: the feast of death, where he and a number of other degenerate friends have a banquet (without any food, more or less) with a corpse standing guard over the table, and with the intent of drinking/drugging their already weakened selves to death. The descriptions of this scene and the temple scene are the most heightened in the book - this is the beginning of Collins' reputation as a sensationalist writer.


If you're going to read one Wilkie Collins novel in your life, this definitely shouldn't be it (go for The Moonstone or The Woman in White), but as a diversion, despite its longueurs, it wasn't bad.

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text 2019-01-29 10:35
Top 03 Things to Keep In Mind While Booking a Rome Airport Private Transfers

As a visitor to any new country or place, we need all the travel arrangements in place, including the airport transfers. And, with a place like Rome, inundated with visitors all through the season, it is imperative that we make additional arrangements to ensure we are all right and tied up. There are Rome airport private transfers in special Limo for those who prefer privacy from day one on, or the airport shuttles, which also has select and pre-planned destinations.

As for the Limos working as Rome airport private transfers, these mostly belong to those tour operators who work on package deals, which covers up most of your visit. So, for instance, if you are traveling to Rome on a holiday, and would like transportation covered up, they will take care of it, literally from A to Z. There are many such tour operators out there who can give you great pricing on such packages. What you need to look for, is to understand if they will work out for you. Here are some questions which can help you pick the best Rome airport transfers and other tours into the cities noted landmarks.

• Do they have multiple options?
There are, as established earlier, private Limos and Shuttles for group travelers. It is always best to ascertain whether they have multiple options for you to decide upon, depending upon your budget.

• Do their trips and tours or airport transfers come with a tour guide?
For most of us, our trips start the minute we land at our destination. So, that means, we would love to ask about the locations we pass on, towards our hotel. A local tour guide accompanying you from the airport transfers can be a great way to start the vacation. Also ensure they can communicate well in English, before booking.

• Does their costing fit into your budget?
Even on a luxurious holiday to Rome, one cannot exceed the budget or stretch it beyond repair. Work out the cost to make the holiday a remarkable, and yet cost-effective one to remember for a lifetime!

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review 2018-12-21 00:01
The Annals of Imperial Rome
The Annals of Imperial Rome - Michael Grant,Tacitus

Augustus might have established the Principate, but it was up to his successors to continue it and prevent Rome from once against descending into civil war.  Tacitus in The Annals of Imperial Rome, the reigns of the Caesars from Tiberius to the death of Nero which would lead to the events in the writer’s The Histories.


The work begins with Tacitus reviewing the reign of Augustus and how Tiberius became his successor, over his more popular nephew Germanicus whose side of the family would eventual rule.  Tiberius shrewdly attempts to be modest in claiming the Imperial title, but this hides his dark nature that he developed during his self-imposed exile before becoming Augustus’ heir.  Under Tiberius is when the show trials and political persecutions of leading men that would begin that would become notorious under later Emperors.  The middle and the very end of Tiberius’ reign, all of Gaius (Caligula)’s reign, and the first half of Claudius’ reign have been lost.  Tacitus’ work picks up with how Claudius’ wife Messalina was brought down and his niece Agrippina shrewdly manipulating her way into marriage with her uncle so as to get her son, the future Nero, to become Emperor.  Though the show trials and political persecutions continue, Claudius doesn’t instigate them and attempts to be lenient for those being wrongly convicted.  Yet once Nero becomes an adult and Claudius’ son Britannicus still a child, Claudius’ days are numbered.  Once his great-uncle and adoptive father is dead, Nero assumes the leadership and begins consolidating power including poisoning Britannicus at dinner one night.  Though his mother Agrippina attempts to influence him, Nero humors her while attempting to get rid of her and finally succeeding.  Though taught and tutored by the renowned Seneca, Nero has learned to rule in the guise of Tiberius yet with the ruthlessness of Gaius and soon anyone that offended him or could have been a threat to him or perceived to be by his hangers on.  Though the end of Nero’s reign is missing, the trials and murders of senators were increasing in number to the point that later as mentioned in The Histories they decided to turn on Nero and proclaim Galba.


The unfortunate incompleteness of Tacitus’ work does not diminish the great historical account that it presents of early Imperial history as well as his critique of the Roman aristocracy during the reigns of Augustus’ Julio-Claudian successors.  Though we know his opinions of Tiberius and Nero the best since their reigns survived the best, Tacitus critiques of those family members that did not rule were highly invaluable especially all those who in the writer’s opinion might have been more fitting successors to Augustus if not fpr political intrigue or bad luck.  If there is a complaint with this book it is with a decision by translator Michael Grant decision to use modern military terminology in reference to Roman’s military was it, but his decision to use Roman numerals to help identify different historical actors who had the same name—a very common Roman practice—without a doubt help keep things straight.  The biggest complaint that I had with Tacitus’ other works, which I had from Oxford World Classics, were non-existent with Penguin Classics and thus I encourage others towards that particular publisher.


The Annals of Imperial Rome is Tacitus’ finest work, showing the corruption of absolute power and how many choose to allow it overcome them instead of standing up to it.  Although probably (at least) one-third of the work is missing, the portions we have covers how a politically stable Rome begins to slowly unravel through ever increasing fear of the most powerful man in the Empire.  The end result of this is chronicles in Tacitus’ previous work.

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review 2018-12-09 00:22
Review of Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn
Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism - Scott Hahn,Kimberly Hahn,Peter Kreeft

This is a very difficult book to rate. I appreciated the authors' deep faith and ability to share their religious experiences through this book. I had a hard time with how simple their conversion from being Protestantism to Catholicism seems to be. The authors both had graduate degrees (multiple) in theology but then presented their "awakening" to the true Catholic faith as being as simple as reading a book or looking at a Scriptural passage a new way. It was written in a way that was almost hard to believe that it could be so simple. I understand that this wasn't meant to be a book of theology, but I would have appreciated a more in-depth analysis of how their conversions took place over time rather than the seemingly instant intellectual conversions as they happened.

I realize I am probably being far too critical, but that was how this read struck me. I do have a sincere appreciation for the story told here.

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review 2018-11-06 04:48
Podcast #122 is up!
Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny - Edward J. Watts

My latest interview is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Edward J. Watts about his history of the fall of the Roman Republic and its relevance for us today. Enjoy!

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