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Search tags: roman-history
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review 2019-12-04 23:51
The Twelve Caesars
The Twelve Caesars - Suetonius,Michael Grant,Robert Graves

For the past two millennia Caesar has denoted the absolute ruler of an empire, a legacy of one man who ruled Rome and the men who succeeded him and used his name.  The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius gives biographical sketches of the men who ruled the Western world for a century and a half, from the end of the Republic to the death of Domitian.

 

Each of Suetonius’ biographies follow the similar pattern in which the individual’s heritage, political-military career, private lives, personal habits, and physical appearance.  Though the pattern is the same, Suetonius’ style is to slowly weave in elements of one section into another—except for physical appearance—thus not breaking a nice flow for the reader.  As the main source of Caligula (Gaius in the text), Claudius, and Vespasian’s family history, Suetonius not only adds on top of Tacitus but covers what was lost from his contemporary’s works.  Yet unlike Tacitus, gossip and innuendo features a lot in the work making this book a little bit racy compared to Suetonius’ contemporary.

 

The translation by Robert Graves—of I, Claudius fame—was wonderfully done and did a lot to give the text a great flow.  Of Suetonius’ text the overwhelming use of portents and omens was a bit too much at times, though given the time period of the historian’s life this superstitious view was a part of everyday life.

 

The Twelve Caesars gives another view of the men who ruled the Western world.  Suetonius’ writing style and subject matter contrast with Tacitus but only for the better for the reader of both who get a full picture of the individuals the two contemporary historians cover.

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review 2019-11-17 16:16
Ideal for the middle school or high school student
Julius Caesar: Dictator for Life (Revised Edition) - Denise Rinaldo

My son is currently studying Roman history at school, and during one of our trips to our local library a couple of weeks ago he picked up as many books about Roman history as he could find. This Julius Caesar biography was among them, and while it's geared to a slightly older group of learners I'm not one to tell someone what they can't read. As soon as we arrived home, though, the books landed on the floor in his room, where they've sat ever since.

 

One of the reasons for this is that reading it wasn't an obligation. While he has a considerable amount of homework every week, he's allowed to choose what he wants to read. Because of this, he usual meets his obligations by reading books in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dog Man series, both of which he enjoys greatly. In addition to that, though, he also has a weekly project due that rotates between Literature, Writing, Science, and Current Events. This week Literature came up in the rotation, which means that he has to not just read a book but "respond" to it in some way. I decided to use the assignment to push him to read the Caesar biography, and for it I decided to read it myself.

 

For an adult it's a quick read, with plenty of illustrations and info boxes. Denise Rinaldo does a good job of presenting the basic facts of Caesar's life, with some helpful short-term background information added in for context. Overall, it's a fine introduction for anyone seeking "just the facts" on one of history's big names, and is ideal for the middle-school or high school audience to whom it is geared. Hopefully with a little help an elementary school reader can enjoy it as well!

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url 2019-06-11 03:21
Podcast #151 is up!
Romanland: Ethnicity and Empire in Byzantium - Anthony Kaldellis

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Anthony Kaldellis (a returning guest!) about his book on the self-identity of the people in what we call the Byzantine empire, but probably shouldn't. Enjoy!

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review 2019-04-18 17:28
Podcast #145 is up!
 Londinium: A Biography: Roman London from its Origins to the Fifth Century - Richard Hingley

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Richard Hingley about his archaeologically-based history of Roman London. Enjoy!

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url 2019-04-12 13:59
Podcast #143 is up!
Empires of Ancient Eurasia: The First Silk Roads Era, 100 BCE – 250 CE - Craig G. R. Benjamin

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it, I interview Craig Benjamin about his history of the emergence of the trading routes across Afro-Eurasia in the late ancient world. Enjoy!

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