By Mary Beard,

Book cover of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Book description

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome "with passion and without technical jargon" and demonstrates how "a slightly shabby Iron Age village" rose to become the "undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean" (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating "the grand sweep and the intimate…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked SPQR as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Perhaps the best place to start for a novice looking to learn about Roman history. I have had students, friends, and family all tell me that this was the book that really got them excited about ancient Rome.

Beard is a very witty, engaging writer who is able to combine major historical moments with obscure but revealing anecdotes to tell a coherent narrative of Roman history. She also demonstrates, such as in her introductory chapter’s discussion of modern references to the ancient conflict between Cicero and Catiline, the continuing relevance of Roman history to our understanding of politics today.

From Paul's list on for aspiring Roman history buffs.

Mary Beard, Cambridge University professor of classics and noteworthy TV personality, is the lively author of a number of books on the ancient world. Roman antiquity endured for a thousand years, and her most beloved book covers that millenium: SPQR: A History of Ancient RomeSPQR is a renowned best seller which enchants even those who have scant knowledge of classical antiquity.

There are lots of great histories that are changing the way we see the ancient world, but for an accessible overview of a whole civilization this book is hard to beat. With an eye for the extraordinary and the everyday, and a career’s worth of expertise packed into every page, this is a guidebook to make the foreign familiar. Combining archaeological advances with ancient texts, this book will update those who think they already know something about Roman civilization, challenge those who think they know everything, and amaze those who currently know nothing.

From Nick's list on changing how you see history.

This is a seminal work on the development of ancient Rome and an excellent overview of the city’s history. It presents an outline account from its early development to Late Antiquity written in an accessible and engaging style. Although its principal focus is a chronological account of Rome’s political development and rise to world power, it is much more than this and presents fascinating insights into Rome’s social and cultural history.

It examines themes of immigration and belonging, how to be a Roman, the nature of slavery and the lives of the ordinary people, and many others, alongside its account…

From Kathryn's list on the ancient Mediterranean.

No one does comprehensive Roman history like Mary Beard. In detailing the rise of Rome from a humble fishing village to a continent-spanning center of the empire, she takes care to examine the lives of those often left out of the historical narrative: women, the enslaved, immigrants, and the poor. Beard writes with wit and passion, making this highly readable even as it covers a lot of territory.

From Cass' list on ancient Roman society.

Mary Beard is one of the most respected classics scholars working today, but she's also shown that she's able to write accessible and timely books for the general public. SPQR is one of the best introductions to Beard's work, and to life and politics in ancient Rome. It's a magisterial history, telling the story of Rome from its mythical founding to the end of the empire--full of fascinating facts, but never dry.

From Rob's list on ancient Roman history.

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