Ancient Rome in Fifty Monuments

Thames & Hudson. May 2024. 256p. ISBN 9780500025680. $39.95. HIST
Roberts (antiquities keeper, Ashmolean Museum; Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum) details the monumental constructions of ancient Rome, with a particular focus on the impact of the city’s leaders on its built environment. His book guides readers through specifics about the legendary kings in the eighth century BCE through the rise of Christianity in the fourth century CE. Stunning photos of Roman monuments as they appear today are presented alongside illustrated recreations of the sites in their prime. A chronological political history follows the rulers who built each monument and includes some discussion on both the methods and the rationales for their construction. Roberts says that his book also examines how average Romans perceived and interacted with these monuments, but that probe is mostly absent, and the political history is rather skeletal. Most of the text is focused on building materials, sources, and techniques.
VERDICT This solid, recommended, visually rich title is excellent in its depiction of temples, basilicas, forums and arches, but it does not stand alone as an introduction to ancient Rome. It’s best utilized as a supplement to more detailed and text-based histories of ancient Rome.
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