29 September 2021

Originally published in 2015, this is Tom Holland’s story of the rise and fall of the house of Caeser in a special, Folio Society edition. To be specific, it’s the story of the first five emperors, Augustus, Tiberious, Caligula, Claudius and Nero, burnished with 24 pages of colour illustrations, 11 hand drawn maps and three family trees. All bound within a slipcase and printed on high quality paper.

What’s particularly good about this tale of the glamour and decadence of ancient Rome is that Tom Holland delivers it with panache and keeps the historical references and sources off to the side of the main drama. It means it reads particularly well and brings home the absolute power and total lunacy that such brings. Caligula sending someone to the arena because they were more sycophantic than the rest of his hanger’s on was particularly cruel.

What may come as a surprise is how much of Rome was little better than a slum, and what it took for the leaders to start constructing massive vanity projects, echoing the Greeks. For anyone interested in the period, this is an entertaining and attractive addition to your bookshelf.



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