Review – Roma by Steven Saylor
Roma is a true epic, charting the rise of the Roman republic from its legendary and prehistoric beginnings around 1000BC to the demise of Anthony and Cleopatra and the rise of the first Emperor, Augustus. The sequel, Empire, continues the story to the reign of Hadrian.
For those who have read the works of Edward Rutherfurd, who has written a similar style of book charting the histories of cities such as London, Dublin and New York, the concept of Roma will be familiar. Others have compared the style to James Michener. Saylor writes what are effectively a number of short stories which taken together chart the history of the city of Rome. Successive generations of two families, the Potitii and the Pinarii experience some of Rome’s defining moments.
One of the first stories involves the monster Cacus and his defeat by Hercules. Saylor imagines the original historical story as it might have happened, before the myths that grew around it. Other famous stories included are the rape of Lucretia, the story of Coriolanus, the first sack of Rome, the second Punic war, the Gracchi and the assassination of Caesar.
As always Saylor’s research is impressive, and reading the book is a genuinely educational experience. The concept will not appeal to everyone – if you are looking for an exciting story that you can read from beginning to end and won’t want to put down, then this probably isn’t the book for you. However, if you want to feel that you have been swept along in the tide of history, feel that you have grown with the little settlement that became the centre of one of the world’s greatest empires, then you could do much worse.