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Review: The Reach of Rome. A Journey Through the Lands of the Ancient Empire

Alberto Angela

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

The Reach of Rome. A Journey Through the Lands of the Ancient Empire

The book “The Reach of Rome. A Journey Through the Lands of the Ancient Empire” in the footsteps of one coin” by Alberto Angel is another position by the author, with the help of which he tries to fascinate readers with the world of ancient Romans. This time the author decided to take us – as the title suggests – on a journey through the Roman Empire.

Unexpectedly, the main character of the book is a coin – a brass sestertius – which was the basic means of payment in the Roman Empire. We learn the story of how it is minted in the Roman mint and then travels with subsequent owners around the Empire. The author set the action of the book in 117 CE – at the time when the Roman state has the largest territorial range in history. On the throne – for 19 years – is Trajan, one of the best emperors in history, who was nicknamed Optimus princeps – “The Best Emperor” during his lifetime.

The plot is written very clearly and is easy to follow. With subsequent chapters, the reader moves to a new location to learn more about the ancient world in subchapters. In order to better understand the action, the author allows us (literally) to take part in the events, get to know the characters by name and their thoughts, and take part in the discussion. At times it may seem that the book is written very simply and infantilely; however, this is a false belief. The plot is very nicely framed, and the descriptions of phenomena, monuments, customs and characters allow us to explore the knowledge of Rome.

We start our journey in distant Britain, in the Vindolanda camp, which today is a real treasury of knowledge about the Roman military and everyday life. Then we go to Gaul, Germania, Italy, Spain, Africa, Greece, Asia Minor or the Middle East. We even reach India and find out where the Roman footprints went the farthest.

What’s amazing is that the book never gets boring and the action doesn’t drag on. Huge substantive values ​​embedded in the plot, allow you to really get to know the ancient world of this period very well. The simplicity of the content, in turn, guarantees that the book can be read by laymen as well as younger readers.

Are there things you can stick to? There are minor substantive issues. I admit that sometimes I miss a more detailed explanation of the subject. An example is the lack of a clearer explanation why, according to the records, it was not proper for a wife to drink wine. It also seems to me that the section on adultery is written a bit chaotically and some sentences are mutually exclusive. There are also phrases in the book suggesting that Roman legionaries wore red tunics – but not only (!) as the book suggests; or that the Numidians were black – looking at the preserved images of King Juba or Masinissa, it’s hard to believe. However, these are details that will always appear and in my opinion do not destroy the full potential of the book.

In addition, a very nice edition of the book should be mentioned on the plus side. On the downside, there is certainly a small number of illustrations – pictorial sketches every few dozen pages are really insufficient. Great here – in my opinion – photos and illustrations of important places or objects would work well. In addition, at the end of the book we can find a very poor list of Roman emperors and a bibliography. I suspect that the author used many items when writing the book, especially since he has contacts with researchers and participated in excavations.

Overall, the book is really worth recommending. The reader reaching for it is sure that he will receive a product worth every zloty spent. A multitude of curiosities and a simple message guarantee interesting reading. Alberto Angela tries to infect us with a passion for ancient history and once again he succeeds.

Purchase book in Amazon

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