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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars light hearted and irreverent look at the Roman Empire
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...
Published on 1 Jun 2006 by Dr. Sn Cottam

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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 subsequent, less successful, european empires. Along the way we learn a little, but not much, roman history. For historians of the Roman Empire, they will learn nothing ; for the general reader interested...
Published on 25 Jun 2012 by Captain Kirk


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars light hearted and irreverent look at the Roman Empire, 1 Jun 2006
By 
Dr. Sn Cottam "Steve the medic" (Preston, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
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.

Enjoy!!
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lively and entertaining, but academically not quite tip-top, 9 April 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
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
By 
Andrew Walker "Andrew Walker" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Paperback)
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.
So, this is not a textbook but if you enjoy history or politics and want an entertaining and thought-provoking read, I thoroughly recommend this to you, especially as the price of a used copy is now 2. Don't you pay that for your lunchtime sandwich???
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dream of Rome, 7 May 2012
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This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
Having coming across this book in my local library I was so impressed I bought copies from Amazon for two of my daughters. I thought I'd read everything possible on this subject but Boris puts a completely different slant on the topic and I almost completed it in one sitting as I found it so concise and literally could not put it down. The only thing that spoils it is the picture of Boris on the front cover (I would have preferred something more pertinent to Rome) but that's a small price to pay for such an interesting work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cripes! Who would have thought we could learn so much from 2000 years ago?, 6 Aug 2007
By 
Caterkiller (Darlington, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Paperback)
Before getting started on this book roman civilisation meant Hadrian's Wall, Time Team and throwing Christians to the lions. This book tells you what the piles of stones can't: how the Roman Empire was built on trade with others, imbedding Roman values into conquered civilisations and how the cult of the empreror enabled this to come about. The romans were the first ones to understand globalisation and the benefits of free trade: each country trades with another the products it makes best and as a result everyone benefits (2000 years later most governments still do not understand this) and by imbedding shared values everyone works towards a common purpose. The romans did not achieve this by military force either, army payrolls and headcount were low and the empire only got into a mess when they overeached themselves in invading Bavaria and Britain; the rest of the time the "conquerees" were happy to be part of a greater empire because they soon saw the benefits at close hand (take note EU apparatchiks). In answer to some of critical reviews Boris acknowledges that this is not an exhaustive study of the Roman Empire but I for one am now keen to find out more.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Boris!!!!!!!, 23 April 2006
By 
M. Barnett "Bookworm" (Cheltenham U.K.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
Well who whould have belived it! Boris Johnson, the blonde buffoon from "Have I got News For You", the Tory M.P. for Maidenhead forced by Michael Howard to make a fool of himself by apogising to the City of Liverpool, the former editor of the Spectator who got caught with his pants down by the tabloids,has writen one of the best and least stuffy books on Rome and it`s Empire for a long time. This book is both infomative and at the same time very funny, at one point Boris recomends that every child in the E.U. should be required to read Aeneid by the time of their 16 birthday, wrong Boris, every child should read this book to give them a glimmer of where the Europe we know comes from.Well done Boris, give up all the rest of what your into and stick to writing you have a future in it.One small drawback is that the black and white photo`s are poor, a few colour plates would have improved it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dream of Rome - Boris' take on the Empire, 18 May 2010
By 
David Herdson (Wakefield, Yorkshire, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
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 rulers and public alike?

Johnson's opening sentence is "no one knows the exact moment Publius Quinctilius Varus realised what a colossal idiot he had been, but when the barbarians on either side of him started uttering their war cry we must assume the penny finally dropped". It is typical of the whole book: informative, entertaining and imaginative. If - as here - it assumes more than the facts strictly justify, it does so with a nod and a wink to the reader. It's not written with academic hesitations but with the style and panache of a talented journalist and politician, with a story to tell and a case to make.

That case is an interesting one. There were empires before and have been empires since. Why does Rome still echo down the ages as the definitive? Why have kings and emperors sought additional legitimacy in tying their power to the memory of Rome?

The answer - as Johnson explains - lies partly in what Rome was and partly in how Rome did it. The Roman empire was the last time that as much of Europe as lay within it (and large parts of Asia and Africa beyond) was at peace and united for so long a time. Those within the empire enjoyed a standard of life way beyond that of barbarians beyond the borders. It was almost literally the granddaddy of empires: the biggest, the most durable, the most peaceful and so definitive that the Romans gave us very words 'emperor' (and from Caesar, kaiser and tsar) and 'empire'. What was not to emulate?

Johnson regularly compares that unity and peace with today's EU and how the two went or have gone about fulfilling those objectives (though he skims rapidly over the fact that in order to achieve that peace and unity, Augustus had to abolish democracy).

The 'dream' of Rome of the title has a double-meaning. It is both the dream of later rulers seeking to recapture that lost glory and also the concept of Rome that the Romans themselves had; their own dream, as it were. As Johnson explains, with the aid of various real and imagined characters, this self-image of what it meant to be Roman was vital in maintaining cohesion, and he goes through the various unifying factors, from the baths and games to the cult of the emperor to the more prosaic such as the ubiquitous fish-paste sauce beloved across the empire. Rome sold its dream and for a long time, conquered people assimilated, integrated and became Roman themselves.

It's a very personal book, not just in the well-judged and often irreverent references Johnson makes to his own experiences but in style. In few other books will you get writing such as "[Rome] tolled to us across the ages, like the church bell of a sea-drowned village. It is like a memory of childhood bliss that the elderly continent has struggled ever after to recapture" sitting alongside an assertion that "if you wanted to create a First XI of history's world-class statesmen, you'd pick Augustus as your midfield playmaker". But here you do and here it works. It works because Johnson's enthusiasm and skill shine through and the cascade of metaphor, simile and analogy mesh to brilliantly highlight how they did it and what the dream was and is.

I was going to give this four stars when I began writing the review (the book is a bit short and some subjects are dealt with briefly), but heck, what matters isn't a dry, detailed study of Roman life, culture and history - there are enough of them anyway - it's the ability to make his point and to make it in a way that convinces, enthuses and entertains. The Dream of Rome does this without question. It gets five stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I came, I saw, I read., 5 Nov 2007
By 
Mr. Mark R. Phoenix (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Paperback)
As someone who's knowledge of the Romans was gleaned from Asterix books and Sword & Sandal epics, this was a fantastic introduction to the Roman Empire.

Now, Boris is a bit of a Tory, and though he does write thus it doesn't mean this book won't appeal to anti Tory types. Others have suggested that he could perhaps be accused of labouring the EU/Roman empire connection a tad, but it is a useful parallel. And it does help to illustrate one of the central themes of the book, that study of the classical world can still teach us much about current geopolitics and other stuff too.

The Dream of Rome was interesting, witty and thought provoking. And besides, I now know when Gaius Julius Caesar was assassinated (44 BC), that there was a black Roman Emperor (Septimus Severus, who died in York by the way), that the Romans were into fish sauce in a big way and loads of other interesting stuff which will make me the toast of informed society.

I'm off to read some Virgil now. Good job Boris.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, 6 Feb 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
This is a wonderful book. Mr Johnson focuses on how the Romans made Europe work as a diverse civilisation that tolerated modes of private personal behaviour now considered risque within Europe. He looks at why we are failing to make the EU work in modern times, in a manner only someone such as himself, a best selling author who has known what it is like to 'swing both ways'could achieve.It is much better than his television series, where Mr Johnson came across to me as irritating. Others do not share my view as his series has been hailed as fabulous by the television critics who know better than me. The book uncovers the behind the scenes, bedroom secrets of the empire, and the reasons behind why the Romans held such power and prestige for so long against the odds. The book is illustrated with many pictures, some risque, and is full of witty descriptions, insight, politics, and some great jokes. All in all good value. But not suitable for your children! Definitely an 18 certificate!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Boris does Classic Rome, 30 July 2014
This review is from: The Dream of Rome (Hardcover)
my politics and the politics of Boris are very different. So this is not the review of a Boris sycophant. However, I enjoyed the wit of this book, the parallels that Boris draws between the Roman Empire and modern European politics are interesting and he is quick to also point out what was and is corrupt in both systems. His enthusiasm for Latin (always with a rough translation ) comes over and yet the book is anything but academic. I will make you smile and also there will be something you didn't know and is worth discovering... a good start to further and more in depth reading. It is worth the money just for his description of the 'fish sauce' that Romans smothered everything in.
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The Dream of Rome
The Dream of Rome by Boris Johnson (Paperback - 5 Mar 2007)
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