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Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire Paperback – 7 Jun 2007

4.5 out of 5 stars 75 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; Reprint edition (7 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846072840
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846072840
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"Lively and well-researched: an excellent read" (Peter Heather, author of The Fall of the Roman Empire)

"This is a history of Rome that combines vivid drama and a gripping storyline with a keen alertness to bigger historical questions" (Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge University)

"Brings the distant past to fully fleshed life" (Good Book Guide)

"Highly recommended" (Birmingham Evening Mail)

"Rome is revealed as it really was - gritty, magnificent and sometimes pretty sordid. Splendid stuff" (Manchester Evening News)

Book Description

An accessible and highly entertaining single-volume history of Ancient Rome

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The story of the rise and fall of Rome is infinitely fascinating. I picked up this book with very limited knowledge of Rome and a little curiosity, and put this book down with a brand new enthusiasm for the period.

This book squeezes many pivotal moments of Rome's history into a mere 400 odd pages. Chapters include: Revolution, Caesar, Augustus, Nero, Rebellion, Hadrian, Constantine, and Fall. It was such compulsive reading I finished it within three days - and that almost never happens with non-fiction books. Simon Baker has done a fantastic job of making this history book highly readable and accessible to all. It is informative and educational, but not dry as you might expect from the subject matter.

It is an excellent introduction to that period for the uninitiated, but for those who already have some knowledge it may be too basic an overview for you.

I have given this book 5 stars because the genius of this book is that the process of learning is completely painless. Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down.

I thoroughly recommend this to people curious about Ancient Rome, it won't disappoint.
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By J. Chippindale TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 May 2008
Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in the history and events that took place in the Roman Empire this book is like manna from heaven. The author relates Roman history in such a way that the book almost reads like a novel, being both exciting and educational. But if truth be told this is far more interesting than any novel.

Rome was after all one of the greatest, if not the greatest empire ever known. There are figures from its past that stick out like beacons. Probably the greatest of them all Julius Caesar and of course his main adversary Pompey. Others out of the many notables include Mark Antony, Nero, Claudius and many more.

There were also Rome's great buildings. The Forum, the circus maximus and the Flavian amphitheatre, now more commonly known as the Colosseum, all built to show potential enemies the might that was Rome. Then on to the true might of Rome, its Legions. An army that comprised the greatest fighting force the world had ever seen. Because of their discipline and rigid training they were at that period in history, virtually unbeatable.

The author pulls all these facts together beautifully to make a book that is not only informative and educational but also high readable as well.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you are looking for a quick, enjoyable guide to the story of Rome and its Empire this is a great book to start with. A really good read, fast paced and informative. Perfect as a prelude to more concise reading. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
All in all, this is an excellent book. The author seems to understand Rome better than most others do, or at the very least, better than most others can explain. For example, I was never aware that the Senate was not actually a political body, but a think tank. Also, I did not know that the Christians that rejected the Holy Trinity, the Arians, were called so due to the "renegade" bishop called Arius. To cite one more example, Baker is the only author to refer to the ousting of the Etruscan king by Brutus as a "coup d'etat". But, push come to shove, Baker only had 400 pages to work with, and he had to pick only the most pivotal moments in Roman history, and focus on them. This causes three problems: there are important things left out, there are useless details just thrown in there, and finally the pivotal moments are not what I would have chosen.

The first problem becomes apparent when Baker goes from Augustus in chapter II to Nero in chapter III. Although later briefly mentioned, not discussed are the purges of Tiberius and Caligula, the bribing into office of Claudius, and the insane excesses of Caligula. Another case is with the description of the fall of Rome. Baker dedicates 40 pages of the last chapter describing the plight of the Vandals and how their general Alaric essentially defeated the Western Empire, and then a measly three and a half paragraphs on Atila the Hun, who defeated both the Eastern and Western Empires.

The first case of useless details is Tiberius Grachus, famous for being a tribune who fought for the common people, and for this, the Senators killed him. Baker, spends 50 pages on this, and it makes for an extremely boring read. Baker follows this guy all the way across Spain and then during the sack of Carthage, just to tell us what I just told you.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Roman history spans some 2,000 years with the 'Empire' years sandwiched in the first 1,000. So, to capture that in 300 pages just isn't practical? There were over 100 Emperors, and as many dictators (like Caesar) prior to that, so again, the book simply has to be selective.
I would suggest that those looking to get a really good education in Roman history have read several books on the subject?
This book sticks to Rome's military history / conflicts and the building of the Empire through several of its key and longest serving Emperors. Many others of course are mentioned in passing.
I particularly liked the chapter on Nero but I had no idea that a million Jews suffered at their hands of Vespasian? The book was an interesting and very informative read, though perhaps not the easiest to plough through as there's plenty of text on each page and the book felt more like a 400 plus read to me.
The book tells you little about the life of the average Roman or what the Romans actually achieved apart from dominance. It doesn't get involved with what Rome brought to the party for countries that they ruled (roads, baths etc.), though some of their engineering feats are mentioned in battle.
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