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The Dream of Rome [Paperback]

Boris Johnson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

5 Mar 2007

Focussing on how the Romans made Europe work as a homogenous civilisation and looking at why we are failing to make the EU work in modern times, this is an authoritative and amusing study from bestselling author Boris Johnson.

In addition to his roles as politician, editor, author and television presenter, Boris Johnson is a passionate Roman scholar. The recent ‘Dream of Rome’ TV series saw him travelling throughout the Roman Empire in order to uncover the secrets of the governance of the empire, and the reasons behind why the Romans held such power and prestige for so long.

Fiercely interested in Europe and the current issues facing the European Union, Boris Johnson will look at the lessons we could learn from the Romans and how we could apply them to our modern politics.

Boris Johnson was the editor of the Spectator, MP for Henley and is now the new Shadow Minister for Education. He writes a column for the Daily Telegraph and lives in London and Oxfordshire with his wife and their children.

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The Dream of Rome + Have I Got Views For You + The Spirit of London
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; New Ed edition (5 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007224451
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007224456
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 69,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Boris Johnson was elected Mayor of London in May 2008. Before this he was the Editor of the Spectator and Member of Parliament for Henley on Thames. He is the author of many books, notably Have I Got Views for You and Dream of Rome.

Product Description


'As an introduction to the history of the Roman empire, this book is hugely stimulating. I read it in two sittings, completely gripped. If Ruth Kelly has an ounce of sense, she will make this book compulsory reading for every 16-year old in the country.' Toby Young, New Statesman

'History comes alive only when written from the heart and Johnson's is full of swashbuckling japes, bloodthirsty yells and energetic sideswipes.' Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

'Written with all the wit and zest that have helped to make him Britain's favourite celebrity MP.' Tom Holland, Daily Telegraph

'Johnson has not been intimidated by dry classics masters: his style is bright, breezy, populist and pacy.' The Times

'Described with his special combination of sharp-eyed intelligence and golly-gosh exclamation…the sublime and the bizarre are richly represented in this portrayal of ancient Rome…a splendid romp through the Roman world.' Sunday Telegraph

'Lovers of Latin and ancient history unite! At long last there is a warm, funny, erudite introduction to the Roman empire…The success of “The Dream of Rome” lies in the modern twang of the author. It is an art Boris Johnson has to perfection…a marvellous reader-friendly account of Rome.' Independent

About the Author

Boris Johnson is an MP for Henley, and has been Shadow Minister for Higher Education since December. He writes a column for the Daily Telegraph and lives in London and Oxfordshire with his wife and their children.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Boris Johnson, well known Tory MP, columnist, journalist and editor increases his reputation as an engaging and entertaining writer with this light-hearted and enjoyable romp through Roman history. In turn Boris covers the emperor cult, the origin of the Empire, citizenship, the relationship with Greece, elite culture, economics, popular culture (illustrated by the universality of the disgusting sounding garum - fish sauce - eaten all over the Empire), religion, the army, currency, the games and the end of the whole shebang. Boris illustrates these by reference to his own travels and meetings with experts (including one who tried to make garum for himself) and his punchy, irreverant and entertaining style is extremely readable. His asides are wonderful and apt - comparing Latin poets moaning about the loss of the 'good old days' to 'the politicians and journalists of today's Britain who lambast Tesco for forcing down the prices pain to farmers and then whip round it in half an hour on Saturday when they do their weekly shopping', and his comparison of the Augustus emperor cult and the rise of Christianity is thought-provoking if nothing else. And the book is scattered with interesting and pleasing anecdotes - the very un-Romance word cerveza (Celtic for beer) is still used in Spain for the same liquid.

Perhaps the comparisons to the contemporary European Union are a bit overdone (and it's difficult to say where Boris himself stands on the EU issue) but as he points out himself it's essential to know where we come from if only to avoid the mistakes of the past. And some of the prints illustrating the beginning of each chapter are so dark as to be barely discernable. But Boris' enthusiasm for the ancient world is infectious and exhilarating, providing more than an effective counter-blast to the dismal utilitarian approach to education propounded by some of his political opponents.

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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Johnson's inimitable style and panache pervade this book, which is a rumbustious survey of the Roman Empire, how it unified Europe and why the EU is failing to do so. Starting with the Teutoburg Forest disaster in AD 9, which is recreated with a dash of imagination but in a very plausible and engaging manner, Britain's favourite flop-haired politician covers an admirable range of material. The chapter on how later empires have used the imagery and vocabulary of Rome particularly deserves mention.
The one flaw that this book has is an insufficient engagement with the process of "Romanisation", the way in which non-Romans "become Roman". Johnson accepts the process more or less at face value, providing the interesting example of a (fictional) Gaulish peasant who slowly assimilates the values and practices of Rome. Unfortunately, over at least the last ten years, the consensus that had formed around the idea of Romanisation has been exploded: there is now very little agreement over exactly how, if, and why it took place. Emphasis has been placed on resistance to Roman rule (which, to be fair, Johnson does discuss), on the continuance of native practices under a Roman guise, the idea of Creoleisation and a whole variety of other models. In short, the scholarship has become fragmented, and Johnson's book does not reflect that.
Still, given that the usual state of public knowledge about the Roman Empire tends to reflect, at best, 19th century views, at least Johnson's engaging and entertaining book may contribute to dragging them into the 20th. It is not an academic book - there is no bibliography, no index - and so perhaps shouldn't be held to academic standards of work. It is a thought-provoking work, thoroughly enjoyable, and is certainly to be recommended!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boris pulls it off (so to speak) 26 Aug 2007
You don't need to be a Conservative to like this book and you certainly don't need to know anything about Roman history (it might even help if you don't). You'll have come across Boris Johnson's "Tim Nice But Dim" TV image but you will be pleasantly surprised in several ways.
The book is about the rise of the Roman Empire, the way the Romans ran their affairs (a subject on which Boris is, of course, an expert!) and most specifically what messages it holds for us in the 21st century. I am no Roman scholar but I was impressed by the breadth and depth of his knowledge and the extent to which he had thought about it - you get the sense this book has been gestating for at least 20 years.
Don't be put off by this praise for his research. You will also know he has been the editor of `The Spectator' and you do not get there by being the upper class twit he has played in front of the cameras. Journalism has allowed him to develop a style of writing that talks directly to you as the reader, never patronising, using different ways to get his message over (humour, analogies, "imagine you were there", and so on). This makes the text very, very readable.
Where the book could turn off some readers is with the message for us today - does the success of the Roman Empire suggest a federal Europe is a good idea, for example? Some other reviewers have said you end up not really knowing where Johnson stands but I don't think that's the point. He lays out his interpretation of history, starts the reader on the path of thinking about the implications and then leaves us to make our own minds up. If there were dogmatic conclusions to the different chapters I think it would be a much weaker book, that was rightly seen as a historical excuse for a political rant.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Dream of Rome
I recommend this book, because it is surprisingly easy to read and says some very interesting things which lead ultimately to Boris Johnson's clearly worked out political... Read more
Published 2 days ago by Mrs. Florence Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars A most enjoyable read!
Whatever you think of Boris Johnson as a character or of his politics, he is undoubtedly a most entertaining writer. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Peter Upton
4.0 out of 5 stars Pax Romana
Boris Johnson has produced an enjoyable tour around the Roman Empire which is easy to read yet always informative. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mac McAleer
3.0 out of 5 stars Skimpy essay
This is really an extended essay with Boris using his memories from his Classics degree to illustrate his theory that the Roman Empire was the aspirational blueprint for... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Captain Kirk
5.0 out of 5 stars Dream of Rome
Having coming across this book in my local library I was so impressed I bought copies from Amazon for two of my daughters. Read more
Published 23 months ago by lizzy
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done Boris
I love this book. Although written in populist style it covers all the fine detail required at undergraduate level and so is a useful reference book as well as very readable
Published on 12 Feb 2011 by GillV
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative
Boris Johnson is a naturally brilliant writer. I read a book about electioneering by him which made me laugh out loud. Read more
Published on 24 Nov 2010 by James Lizard
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dream of Rome - Boris' take on the Empire
Boris Johnson brings his unique and very accessible style to an interesting but at first glance esoteric question: why does the Roman empire still hold such a fascination for... Read more
Published on 18 May 2010 by David Herdson
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and fun to read
I enjoyed reading this book, I learned many interesting facts about the Roman empire. It shaped my political view on governments and the EU.
Published on 2 May 2010 by Reatinus
5.0 out of 5 stars Empires and Encumberances
I've just finished a great book written by - would you believe it - Boris Johnson! I have a bit of a soft spot for Boris. Well alright, a lot. I can't see him without grinning. Read more
Published on 10 Feb 2010 by Ms. Keri
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