Book Review: The Roman World by Nigel Rogers

The Roman World by Nigel Rogers is one of the best surveys of the Ancient Romans I have run across in years. This is not a military history of Rome, or even a history at all. It is rather a description and explanation of Roman life and culture as we understand it was lived.

The book itself is 249 pages long and divided into 12 chapters that are thematically organized. There is a small six page index but no bibliography. The lack of a bibliography does not really detract from the book because this is not meant to be a scholarly work so much as a detailed introduction to Ancient Rome for the laymen. In that purpose it succeeds very well. The chapter headings range from Building techniques, housing, Literature, science & technology, to the Arts. Each chapter is quite well developed and each specific sub heading is the focus of a two page essay. The format leads to some subjects being glossed over because of space limitations but the sheer volume of information packed into this volume is astounding by itself.

Nigel Rogers has managed to pack The Roman World with an astounding variety of information about Rome and do so in an entertaining and informative manner. The book is never boring and the writing style is engaging. What I found most refreshing about the book was its lack of obvious bias. The author describes such practices as gladiatorial combat and other blood sports practiced by the Romans without judgment.(pp. 186-188) He also dispels some myths about the persecution of Christians in the late Imperial period by pointing out that persecution was much rare than many people would think.(p.180) The descriptions of public buildings in chapter III is fascinating in and of itself, especially his description of the purpose behind Triumphal Columns and Arches. (pp.68-71) There is little judgement and much description in this excellent survey of the Roman world from the beginning to the end of their empire. There are many nuggets of information that are little known but fascinating that crop up throughout the book. It is obvious that Mr Rogers has a command of the history of Rome throughout this book.

This survey of Roman life and culture is entertaining and easy to read and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in trying to understand or just learn about the way the Romans lived and died.