Ancient Rome: Facts and Fictions

ABC-CLIO. Mar. 2020. 239p. ISBN 9781440855627. $63. REF
Bontty (history, Univ. Louisiana at Monroe) seeks to set the record straight about nine common myths related to ancient Rome and its empire. Bontty examines questions such as: “Did Romans plow salt into the soil of Carthage at the end of the Punic Wars to make the city uninhabitable in future generations?” She argues that many of these myths came into general currency through past misinterpretations of ancient documents and the creative license employed by novelists, playwrights (notably Shakespeare), filmmakers, and others whose works distorted the past in order to speak more directly to contemporary sociopolitical issues or simply to sell more books and movie tickets. Each of the nine myths is given its own chapter, wherein Bontty lays out in detail the myth in question, how people came to believe it, and what really happened according to the primary evidence. This work is well organized and well conceived, though it suffers somewhat in execution. For example, the first section of each chapter (where Bontty explains the myth) can be somewhat confusing, as she discusses the myth and then provides actual historical background for the content without clear transitions. Furthermore, while the detailed exposition of primary sources is welcome and valuable, some of the quoted passages are too long, not sufficiently contextualized, or not demonstrably pertinent to the topic at hand.
VERDICT A decent attempt with a worthwhile premise, this book may be of interest to history buffs or undergraduate students, though the lengthy passages of ancient texts may prove difficult to follow for general readers.

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