I found it very difficult to put this book down.
Simon Baker takes a refreshingly novel approach to describe the centuries-long panoply of the rise and fall of the greatest empire the world has ever known.
Instead of plodding through the subject, the author chooses a number of critical events upon which the fate of the empire turned. He devotes a chapter to each of these events and commences each chapter by describing the circumstances surrounding the event; circumstances which often sound bafflingly inexplicable. He then narrates the story of the build-up that led to the event. As such, each chapter is an absorbing and fascinating story in its own right.
Baker writes in an engaging and unpretentious style and has managed to produce a book that is at once both exciting and educational; a difficult task to pull off.
Stepping back from the detail, I think the author does full justice to the Ancient Romans: A brave, clever, determined and brutal people, whose accomplishments and historic remains leave us astounded nearly two millennia later.