Book Review: SPQR by Mary Beard


This is book I wanted to read for a while, and finally got down to sit and read it. Beard is a Professor of Classics at Cambridge, and this novel is the culmination of 50 years of love and research into Roman culture.

What to expect

A review of the first millennium of Roman history. From the sketchy beginnings till the 3rd century, Beard covers many aspects of Rome’s development.

The book deals with how much we know, and more importantly don’t know, about the early beginnings. How much of Rome’s early history is actually dubious myths, and how much is reconstructed by historians for fragmentary evidence.

It covers the transformation from Republic to empire, as well as daily lives , so that we can glean from what it was like to be “Roman”.

What I liked

Trying to put everything in a larger context. Examining the surviving evidence (archaeological and literary), and critiquing it. The writing style itself, which is flowing and lets Beard passion for Roman history shine through.

What to be aware of

This is probably not the first book about Rome’s history you should read. Beard covers a thousand years of history, and necessarily somethings are left out. A working knowledge of the commonly accepted timeline and general events will make following the book easier.

I also wish Beard would have gone into further depth at a few points, but again this is probably more than a single, non-technical book can cover.


If you want to take your knowledge of Rome to the next level, and before you delve into original sources and academic papers, this is the book for you.

You can get your copy on Amazon.

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