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SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome | Mary Beard
A sweeping, revisionist history of the Roman Empire from one of our foremost classicists. Ancient Rome was an imposing city even by modern standards, a sprawling imperial metropolis of more than a million inhabitants, a "mixture of luxury and filth, liberty and exploitation, civic pride and murderous civil war" that served as the seat of power for an empire that spanned from Spain to Syria. Yet how did all this emerge from what was once an insignificant village in central Italy? In S.P.Q.R., world-renowned classicist Mary Beard narrates the unprecedented rise of a civilization that even two thousand years later still shapes many of our most fundamental assumptions about power, citizenship, responsibility, political violence, empire, luxury, and beauty. From the foundational myth of Romulus and Remus to 212 ce—nearly a thousand years later—when the emperor Caracalla gave Roman citizenship to every free inhabitant of the empire, S.P.Q.R. (the abbreviation of "The Senate and People of Rome") examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries by exploring how the Romans thought of themselves: how they challenged the idea of imperial rule, how they responded to terrorism and revolution, and how they invented a new idea of citizenship and nation. Opening the book in 63 bce with the famous clash between the populist aristocrat Catiline and Cicero, the renowned politician and orator, Beard animates this “terrorist conspiracy,” which was aimed at the very heart of the Republic, demonstrating how this singular event would presage the struggle between democracy and autocracy that would come to define much of Rome’s subsequent history. Illustrating how a classical democracy yielded to a self-confident and self-critical empire, S.P.Q.R. reintroduces us, though in a wholly different way, to famous and familiar characters—Hannibal, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Augustus, and Nero, among others—while expanding the historical aperture to include those overlooked in traditional histories: the women, the slaves and ex-slaves, conspirators, and those on the losing side of Rome’s glorious conquests. Like the best detectives, Beard sifts fact from fiction, myth and propaganda from historical record, refusing either simple admiration or blanket condemnation. Far from being frozen in marble, Roman history, she shows, is constantly being revised and rewritten as our knowledge expands. Indeed, our perceptions of ancient Rome have changed dramatically over the last fifty years, and S.P.Q.R., with its nuanced attention to class inequality, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, promises to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.
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Kimberlone
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Reading in the sun...my favorite thing!

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Kimberlone
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Settling in for a wild Saturday night. Excited to try this hard cider rosé! ?

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Kimberlone
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Spent the afternoon/evening in the hammock.

Happy solstice everyone!

ferskner That looks so lovely! 5d
Libby1 ❤️Mary Beard❤️ 5d
42 likes2 comments
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Kimberlone
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The sun is my motivation to make progress on this book!

LyndseyReads Need to read this. I loved Women & Power. 6d
48 likes1 stack add1 comment
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Kimberlone
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I haven‘t cracked this book in weeks but hoping to make some progress this evening while taking advantage of the nice weather!

41 likes3 stack adds
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Kimberlone
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#Riotgrams #Day4 #StacksonStacks

Just one stack tonight before going to bed. These are my current nightstand books. The bottom two I am currently reading, the top one I just found today in a Little Free Library.

Got a bit behind on this challenge due to 3 days being internet-less, but getting back on track now!

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Kimberlone
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Learning new stuff!

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Kimberlone
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lover.of.the.classics I have actually wanted to read this for awhile! Is it good so far? 2mo
Kimberlone It‘s a little slow going in the beginning but starting to get to the more exciting stuff now! 2mo
teainthelibrary Jealous of the book AND the food!! 2mo
39 likes2 stack adds3 comments
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Kimberlone
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Kind of a gloomy day today so decided to spend a little bit of time with this book at my local coffee shop as an excuse to get out of the house.

35 likes1 stack add
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Kimberlone
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I recently watched the Netflix show Roman Empire, which alternates between historian talking heads and pretty high production value dramatizations, and have been craving to read more about Ancient Rome. This has been hitting the spot so far.

Does anyone have recommendations for historical fiction set in Ancient Rome?

bookandcat Colleen McCullough did an excellent series following Caesar in ancient Rome! 2mo
bookandcat Stephen Saylor has a mystery series set in ancient Rome (Roma Sub Rosa) 2mo
bookandcat Kate Quinn has a good series as well: 2mo
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Kimberlone @bookandcat thank you for all the recommendations!!! 2mo
bookandcat Also if you want a very, very long read (nonfiction), I listen on and off to 2mo
Mynameisacolour I enjoyed this one! 2mo
41 likes1 stack add8 comments
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As_An_Adamant

One reviewer notes: “Ms. Beard seems more eager to tell us what historians DON‘T know than what they do.” This is an occasionally frustrating tendency of hers but ultimately I appreciate her cautious approach.

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As_An_Adamant
Pickpick

This is an accessible and engaging history of Ancient Rome. It is funny, informative and almost never boring. This book nicely covers the major institutions of the Roman Republic-turned-Roman Empire, and the lives of the individuals who comprised them. An apocryphal quote attributed by Tacitus to an enemy of Rome nicely sums up the imperial project: “They create a desert and call it peace.” We may yet have something to learn from history.

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GlassAsDiamonds
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Mary Beard in conversation with Dan Jones!!! I love her: she‘s just said that when journalists call and ask her which Roman Emperor Donald Trump is like, she, annoyed at the idiocy of equating historical empires, will name an Emperor no one‘s ever heard of ... (Elagabalus? spelling could be off) 😂😂😂 She‘s got Dan Jones almost crying with laughter.

TrishB I love both of them! Beard is great though 💜 5mo
BiblioLitten 😄😄 5mo
Karisa Oh! Elagabus was one of the worst! My middle schoolers love to try and find the most horrible emperors. He's always a contender (right up there with Nero and Caligula). What an excellent experience! Thank you for sharing it with us! 5mo
GlassAsDiamonds @Karisa yeah wow!!! I didnt know anything about him before this session but woah, the things you learn. Beard was very engaging but also very accessible: she commented that she used to have what she called a “Doormouse Rule”; the sooner a TV programme said “Romans ate doormice”, the less accurate it would be until she came across a doormouse “holder” in a museum so she needed to revise & acknowledge her error (so impressive). Such fun to share 😊 5mo
GlassAsDiamonds @TrishB I knew very little about either before the festival but they have been amazing! Jones looks like a biker (full sleeve and most of a sleeve tattoos on each arm) and must *freeze* through the holes in his jeans but his scholarship is on point and he‘s lovely. Beard held her own against both Jones and Germaine Greer so... woah!!! 😊😊😊 5mo
32 likes5 comments
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HardcoverHearts
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Help, Littens! I am looking for recommendations for book set in Rome, Florence, Naples or the Amalfi coast To prepare for my summer vacation that I just booked. I have read the Ferrante series and found it brilliant. I am thinking of reading SPQR to bone up in my history of Rome. Any other great books you would recommend? Any genre would work. Grazie!

sunnyaltman I read Inferno by Dan Brown on a plane to Florence, and it was an amazing introduction to the city. The plots can be silly, but Brown does his research on history, art, and architecture. You can follow the characters paths through museums and find the art referenced in the book. The same is true of Angels and Demons for Rome/Vatican City! 5mo
HardcoverHearts @sunnyaltman I forgot all about those! Of course! Thank you. I know my husband will be happy because those books got him back to reading again. 5mo
Sarah83 What about a book about the Medici family? In Germany there are quite a few books which deal with their history and their influence in Florence? 5mo
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HardcoverHearts @Sarah83 That‘s also a great idea! Thank you. 5mo
RidgewayGirl The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga is about a flood that caused damage to a library in Florence. It‘s full of beautiful descriptions of that city. 5mo
HardcoverHearts @RidgewayGirl That sounds perfect! Thank you! 5mo
andrew61 If you like non fiction there is a very good memoirby norman lewis Naples 44 about his time there during the war, slim but fascinating insight into the people and area 5mo
HardcoverHearts @andrew61 Sounds great- thank you! 5mo
30 likes8 comments
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Gezemice
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Mehso-so

Rome is still important: our calendar, political system, the concept of citizenship rights, and the underpinnings of our culture came from Rome. Mary Beard‘s book is both fascinating and frustrating: she likes to write about themes, sources and the difficulty of the historian‘s work, but it is hard to know WHAT actually HAPPENED. There is great analysis and insights, but a frustrating lack of narrative. ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

GingerAntics Don‘t forget that we got sexism from them. Thanks for that, Rome. 5mo
Gezemice @GingerAntics Sexism is much older than Rome... Mary Beard includes a section on Roman women, and it is one of the best parts of the book. Roman women had actually quite a bit of independence. Greece was way worse. 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice women didn‘t even have citizenship in Rome. They were considered property. They were legally just above slaves, but depending on the man they could be equal to slaves. Greece was bad, too. It was just that Rome expanded and brought their sexism with them. They obliterated most of the matriarchal societies of Europe, thus solidifying patriarchy and sexism as the main form of civilisation on the continent. 5mo
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Gezemice @GingerAntics Yes, women did not have any political rights, but in practice they enjoyed more freedoms than women of Greece, such as going anywhere they wanted, property ownership, abilty to divorce, sexual freedom. Beard does not talk about the spreading of sexism, however. I do not know anything about the matriarchal societies of Europe - sounds like something to remedy! Do you have a good book you can recommend on the subject? (edited) 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice I‘ve learned about them from a bunch of different places for years. Let me think of there is a specific book I‘ve heard mentioned a lot. I‘m a historian of the British isles and pretty much all of that area was matriarchal until Rome came along. I know the Norse were fairly equal before Christianity came in. There are plenty of shield maidens through history. I don‘t think they were matriarchal, but they were certainly close. 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice I know that the Jewish/Hebrew word for the spirit of god (which became the Holy Spirit of Christianity) was feminine until Rome took over Christianity. It‘s still Feminine in Hebrew/Judaism. Men and women were equal in Christianity until Rome took over. I‘ve got info from various documentaries, lectures and legends. I know there are Roman sources, but they also claim they sacrificed humans as they usually did of other societies. 5mo
Crazeedi This is a book I have on my shelf TBR . Interesting to hear your take 5mo
Gezemice @Crazeedi It is an interesting book, and most of the issues are in the first half. The second half - from Augustus on - works well with Beard‘s approach and is a good read. But I have struggled with the first half. I also was listening, so this might have something to do with it - many of the audiobook reviewers shared my view. 5mo
Gezemice @GingerAntics Wow, a historian! That is awesome! I love British history, admittedly that means mostly the Tudors and know almost nothing of Britain before the Romans arrived. I would not mind a book on that subject, either! 5mo
Crazeedi @Gezemice I think I opened the book and read the first couple pages and thought ohhhh, maybe I'm not ready for this. Glad to hear your explanation, because I read good reviews on it 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice the problem is that the Romans brought writing. It seems that writing down knowledge was seen as disrespectful, you should memorise the oral tradition basically. That means all sources have one of two issues, either a Roman propaganda bent or a Christianisation. We do know that lineage was handed down through the mother‘s line, sex wasn‘t stigmatised, and the center of a community was the oldest woman. (edited) 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice men could be teachers, warriors, spiritual leaders. Women could be teacher, warriors, spiritual leaders. Gender didn‘t really matter as far as your role in life. Different groups did marriage/sexual relationships a little differently, but mostly your mother‘s line was more important (or possibly just easier to track) than your father‘s line. 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice I have a few books up on deck to be read soon, so I‘ll keep you posted. Often it ends up being something that‘s mentioned within a book about a much wider or different topic. The book I read recently about Grace O‘Malley/Granuile mentioned it in several places, but it wasn‘t about that. 5mo
Gezemice @GingerAntics That sounds all fascinating, thanks for the recap! Mary Beard also laments on the fact that sources are biased - they are from the winner‘s view. I can also see that we would not know much of oral traditions. But having Roman writers‘ biased view is better than not having anything. I have recently read a book on medieval British queens. An earlier view would be lovely. Thanks for looking out for a source! 5mo
Gezemice @Crazeedi Yeah, you gotta be ready. I hope you find the right mood! 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice She-Wolves? 5mo
Gezemice @Crazeedi Here is my full review if you are interested: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2652916192?type=review (edited) 5mo
Crazeedi @Gezemice thank you I will read! 5mo
Gezemice @GingerAntics Lol, I just realized I had She-Wolves on my Kindle and started reading it! But no, I am a fan of Alison Weir, so it was 5mo
GingerAntics Going to have to add that to my reading list. I‘ve got She-Wolves on my list already. 5mo
Gezemice @GingerAntics I have committed to way too many buddy reads in January, but will be reading She-Wolves soon. I am trying to get through Memoirs of Hadrian, but it is denser than I expected and I am having motivation issues... 5mo
GingerAntics @Gezemice it‘s going to be a bit before I can read it. It‘s going to be a matter of when I can buy it, because none of the libraries I have access to actually have it. 5mo
76 likes22 comments
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TamaraH71
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Im on a serious Roman kick right now. Ive been watching Mary Beard‘s Roman documentaries. I love her style. #SPQR

Severnmeadows I‘m a Mary Beard fan. I like that on Desert Island Discs the book she chose was the Odyssey rather than a Latin text. (She didn‘t say whether she meant the original Greek text 😊) 2mo
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JLaurenceCohen

I love Roman history and Beard is a terrific writer.

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JenniferP
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Excited to read this!

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Flaneurette
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Recent selfie of my hubs and me from my anniversary/ birthday trip to Italy. Sorry about bad quality but it was dark out and maybe you will be distracted by the amazing colosseum in the background. #friyayintro

BarbaraBB Great picture 💕 7mo
merelybookish Awesome! 7mo
saresmoore Selfies with architectural distractions—great idea! 7mo
batsy Lovely photo! 7mo
gradcat Wow! 7mo
52 likes2 stack adds5 comments
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Nitpickyabouttrains
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Pickpick

A long book full of interesting Rome facts and corrections to common misconceptions. Good for history fans but enter with caution because it does just keep going.

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ssravp
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Pickpick

A surprisingly easy read, but I feel like I‘d need to read it 10 times just to pick up everything.

Booksnchill I have it on audible and listen frequently by chapter! 10mo
29 likes2 stack adds1 comment
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AthenaWins
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I'm one half way through this book, and I can't love it more. It feels wrong to read it without a glass of wine!

RaimeyGallant Cheers! :) And welcome to Litsy! #LitsyWelcomeWagon Some of us put together Litsy tips to help new Littens navigate the site. It's the link in my bio on my page in case you need it. Or if you prefer how-to videos, @chelleo put some together at the link in her bio. @LitsyWelcomeWagon 10mo
Chelleo Welcome 🤗 10mo
Eggs Welcome to Litsy 👋🏻👋🏻 10mo
StillLookingForCarmenSanDiego Welcome to Litsy 📖💙 10mo
AthenaWins Thank you! 10mo
13 likes5 comments
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ChrisPawluk
Pickpick

Great read, a fresh take on the history of Rome

1 like1 stack add
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Sophoclessweetheart
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Good morning everyone! ✨🖤

What are your plans this weekend?
I am hoping to have a deep clean in the house today, take some new photos, play in the garden with my daughter and at some point read more SPQR. It‘s unusual for us to be home at the weekend so we‘re going to make the most of it. #spqr #classicist #classicsstudent #bibliophile #bookaddict #booklover #currentlyreading #bookish #bookblog #bookworm

Cathythoughts Good morning 🌞... I‘m planning to take it easy ... read & rest 👍🏻 12mo
Sophoclessweetheart @Cathythoughts Sounds Wonderful ! 🙌🌞🖤 12mo
Crazeedi This is on my bookshelf, haven't readyet! 12mo
59 likes1 stack add3 comments
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Sophoclessweetheart
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I‘m laid in bed with my daughter and sister, chatting and they‘ve both fell asleep... 🤫🤫 Oh well, at least I can read now before going to sleep myself. What are you up to this evening ? #booklover #bookblog #bookish #bookworm #bookaddict #bibliophile #classicist #classicsstudent #currentlyreading

Weaponxgirl Drinking wine, watching Poirot and reading my book in the adverts 😂 a perfect Friday night imo 12mo
Emilymdxn I‘ve really been wanting to read SPQR is it good?? 12mo
Sophoclessweetheart @Weaponxgirl Sounds like an amazing night 👌🏻🖤 12mo
Sophoclessweetheart @Emilymdxn It is! And really accessible too if you‘re a casual reader. 🖤 12mo
JazzFeathers I'm trying to catch up on the #YearOfTolkien readalong. I'm soooo behind. But l'm really enjoying it. 12mo
56 likes5 comments
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Sophoclessweetheart
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{#currentlyreading — SPQR} 🌋🏺

I‘ve decided to finally delve further into the marvellous Mary Beard and the history of Ancient Rome. Mary Beard is a woman I adore, one of my heroes. I‘ve read two of her books and this will be my third, I‘m working my way through her entire bibliography one book at a time. Have you read this? #classicist #classicsstudent #ancientrome #bookblog #booklover #bookaddict #bibliophile

Weaponxgirl She is one of my heroes too but I've only read women and power so far. I'm afraid I do get intimidated by the size of her books and don't think I'd make it through a library copy before I had to give it back. 12mo
Caroline2 @Weaponxgirl I‘m the same, I‘ve had the tagged book sitting on my tbr shelf for ages but I must admit I find the size of it intimidating! 😳 12mo
Caroline2 @Sorceryandswords can‘t wait to hear what you think of it! 👍🏻 12mo
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kathedron I've got this one waiting for me on my Overdrive shelf. 12mo
BooknerdsLife Awww 😍 This one sounds like a perfect book for my daughter who loves anything History! From ancient history up to WWII 😆 12mo
Sophoclessweetheart @Caroline2 @Weaponxgirl I like chunky books so that‘s not been an issue for me 😅 I‘ll be sure to let you both know what I think. As a Classics student, Mary is a huge inspiration x 12mo
Sophoclessweetheart @River_Voice Oh!! I‘ve read that one! It‘s really good x 12mo
OutsmartYourShelf I really enjoyed it but then I love Roman history. Must get around to reading Women & Power from my TBR pile. 12mo
Sophoclessweetheart @Deangirl As do I. 🖤🖤 12mo
57 likes2 stack adds10 comments
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peacegypsy
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The standard bodega souvenir book, but I felt I must learn as much as possible about the Eternal City.

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Lacythebookworm
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1. Coffee in my Powell‘s mug
2. Need to finish Victoria
3. Tagged book for non-fiction, starting Future Home of the Living God
4. Sunny, 55F
5. Ear and nose piercings
#humpdaypost

Cortg Love your mug! 1y
Lacythebookworm @Cortg Thank you! It was included in one of their subscription boxes. 😍 1y
azulaco @Powells is my Mecca 🙏🏻 anytime I‘m in Portland (edited) 1y
Lacythebookworm @azulaco I‘ve only been once, but it was magical 💕 1y
79 likes4 comments
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rachelspelledwrong
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I'm tearing through, guys!

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rachelspelledwrong
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"A typical cremation urn from the early cemeteries of Rome and the surrounding area. In the form of a simple hut, these houses for the dead are one of the best guides we have to the appearance of the accommodation for the living."

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rachelspelledwrong
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"-an ancient book amounted to what fitted into a roll of papyrus and is closer to the length of a modern chapter."
This book is amazing.

RaimeyGallant Ooooh, interesting. 1y
2 likes1 comment
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SeeJaneRead
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I think this is the Ancient Roman equivalent of those faux distressed wood boards you can buy at HomeGoods that say “Live. Laugh. Love.”

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SeeJaneRead
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Calling Law & Order SVU: we have a flaming fire dick on the loose I repeat a FIRE DICK 😵🔥 #ThisIsNotADrill

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rachelspelledwrong
Pickpick

Wonderful narrative style that is easy to read

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rachelspelledwrong
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How on earth am I supposed to read with this dude here

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Lucas.Rencher
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Back to SPQR I got about halfway through it and then took a break to read And Then There Were None. What do you guys think of SPQR?

Rachel.Rencher I love when you tell me about all the Roman history you're learning 😊🤗 2y
Foxyfictionista I really wanted to love this book but I had to dnf it. I found that it was too disjointed and she would mention interesting little facts but never elaborate on them. It wasn't for me. 2y
75 likes1 stack add2 comments
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sprainedbrain
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Christmas has certainly come a little early for me!

Thank you so much, Scott! I believe this book was on my tbr thanks to a recommendation from you (one of MANY) and it‘s very cool of you to gift it to me. Looking forward to reading it soon.

Happy holidays! 😃

mrsmarch This is on my bedside table right now! Mary Beard is a rock star. 2y
vivastory I haven't read it yet. It's on my 2018 TBR. Enjoy! 🎄📚 2y
RedbagReadbooks @sprainedbrain just watched a documentary on Caligula that she narrated. It was wonderful 2y
manifestsanity Mary Beard's documentary series Meet the Romans is on Amazon Prime. It's fantastic. 2y
Emilyrjones22 This book is fab. Super in depth but readable - with a touch of Mary Beard sass thrown in! 2y
111 likes1 stack add5 comments
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FrankieCroooow
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Currently reading

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EllanaRose
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Going to start this tomorrow I think, but I will be reading it for The Gauntlet slot on the #HRPGBingo card. I've had it for a while now but never seemed to get around to reading it. I'm excited!
That said... I'm tempted by the new Mary Beard book...

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Bianca
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This is my #litsypartyofone tonight. And the rest of the weekend for #nanowrimo 🤘🏼

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Sbrennan102
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My two favorite books to kick off my profile. Currently working at my tiny corner desk. It's been a joy this Sunday despite the work load.

RaimeyGallant Welcome to Litsy! #LitsyWelcomeWagon P.S. I just posted a screenshot of this month's #LitsyGames in case you want to play along. It's a great way to get to know the community. 2y
RaimeyGallant One more P.S. Here's a compilation of Litsy tips that some of us put together:
http://litsy.com/p/aDJja2lMZFFY
2y
5 likes1 stack add2 comments
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rwmg
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SPQR @ Fatburger

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rwmg
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Lunchtime reading. Getting ready for my online bookclub

1 like1 stack add
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Sophoclessweetheart
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• New theme! Hello! I'm trying to stick with the autumn feel because autumn is just 🍂🍁☕️💛 These are the books I got yesterday. Have you read any of them? I'm particularly fond of reading all of Mary Beard's books and thought to start with these two. ✨#classicsstudent #marybeard #A105 #book #booklover #bookstagram #bookblogger #bibliophile #met_createchange

LauraBrook I haven't read anything of those, but Mary Beard sounds like an intriguing author to me. Is she readable? I don't know a ton about that era, and don't want to feel too lost if I'd try reading one of her books. 2y
Sophoclessweetheart @LauraBrook These are the first two books I've picked up by her but I've seen her documentaries and read her blog which discusses the classics also and I really can't see why her books wouldn't be readable because her blog is and of course, her passionate tour de force personality makes her enjoyable. She mostly writes about ancient Roman civilisation but she has a book or two on Greek too! X 2y
20 likes2 comments
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TobeyTheScavengerMonk
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Here's my Audible sale #bookhaul that has me looking forward to my daily drives, as requested @2BR02B

Kimberlone Intrigued by Jake Gyllenhaal narrating 2y
LeahBergen Ooo, what is that Macbeth novel? (off to look it up 🏃🏻‍♀️). 2y
2BR02B SPQR sounds so good! If only I had another fifty bucks to spend on audiobooks. 2y
rabbitprincess Narration by Alan Cumming would pique my interest as well! 2y
58 likes4 comments
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Reveur
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Another audiobook try!!! I've been getting better at finding books I enjoy on audio. And I'm hoping this one will be good since I just returned from my own Roman adventure!

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mikki
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Pickpick

Ahh those crazy Romans. If you ever wondered (as Mary Beard) did how a small village in the quarrelsome Italian peninsula became a sprawling empire, read this book. Beard strings together a fascinating and coherent narrative of Roman politics, economies, and cultural lore. My favorites were the stories of day-to-day Roman life, but let's face it, we're all here for those stories of mad imperial excess and shenanigans and Beard does not disappoint.

2 likes1 stack add
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mikki
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'They called it, in ignorance, "civilisation", but it was really part of their enslavement'...

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mikki
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Had to take a break to marvel at the fact that one of the world's most infamous bad guys was immortalized in history with the nickname "Baby Boots." Gotta love these Romans.

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Aninski
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Got my latest Book Outlet order yesterday! I'm sooo happy about this #bookmail ❤️