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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome by Alberto Angela

A stroll through ancient Rome                    My rating:   5 out of 5

Reading this book is like being with a tour guide who has taken you back in time, and is giving you a day's guided tour of 115 CE Rome, and what it is like to live there, bringing it all to life by describing the people and activities  you are passing as you wander around.

The day starts before dawn when you observe the slaves preparing the house for the owners, right through every aspect of the day, up to midnight.

Our chatty guide, who occasionally asks rhetorical questions, takes us from the home, onto the streets, into different living quarters, shops, the baths, the Colosseum (bit gory) etc. etc., giving us fascinating insights along the way - for example, some Romans wore wrist timepieces!  - and offering comparisons with current day Rome.  It is a work of imagination of what life was like then, based on historical fact, research and artefacts found.  Many times the author refers to a gravestone that has been found, after talking about a person you have observed on your tour.

Chapters are short - divided into short segments of the day, and there is a great list of Contents if you want to return to sections (there is no index).    There are some very helpful illustrations.

I thought this would be the sort of book that I would skip over some chapters,  but I didn't miss a page.  It is so well written that every page is fascinating.  No dry historical lectures here.    I have never been to Rome, but that was no hindrance to enjoying  this insight into the lives people led in those days.  If you are about to visit Rome, this book would be a fantastic pre-visit read, so you can really understand what you are seeing. 

There are also references to Pompeii and other Roman sites, so this book, though based in Rome, is really a guide to life at that time, not just in Rome. 

I shall definitely be tipping the Tour Guide! , and recommending this book to everyone who has any interest in the lives of the Ancient Romans.  


  1. I really dig this review. I love historical non-fiction like this and my interest is now officially piqued. I'd definitely pick up "A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome".

    1. Thanks tsmillheim. I hope you love it, I've been recommending it to everyone as I think it is such a great book. :)

  2. Definitely seconding your enthusiasm for this book, it was just wonderful to read it whilst in Rome, helped with understanding of the ruins. I gather he has written a book on Pompeii, but it is waiting to be translated.