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A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195393750
ISBN-10: 0195393759
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"This cabinet is as true to the Roman world as the highbrow history it eschews. Whether we use it as a gift to friends or light reading for ourselves, the readers' understanding of the ancients will be enriched by the stories they take away from this treasure chest of curiosities." --Bryn Mawr Classical Review


"Zestful. This book could persuade the most history-hating student to fall in love with ancient Rome. It's a highly entertaining read." --Sunday Times


"Entertaining" --Times Literary Supplement


"To be enjoyed as a lighthearted Romanophile outing." --UNRV.com


"The esteemed classicist J.C. McKeown shows in his Cabinet of Roman Curiosities, the ancients were as passionate, opinionated, and curious as we are today-if not more so. A madcap smorgasbord of the ancient world."--The Daily Beast


"Readers' understanding of the ancients will be enriched by the stories they take away from this treasure chest of curiosities."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review


About the Author


J. C. McKeown is Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the author of Ovid's Amores.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195393759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195393750
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 1.3 x 5.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Book Info: Genre: Non-fiction, historical anecdotes
Reading Level: Any who can read it can learn some fun facts about Rome
Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning fun and interesting facts about the Romans

My Thoughts: There are a number of quotes from the book in the synopsis, but I just have to add a few of my own that I found funny, such as:
Romans on Dealing with Children:
Pliny states, in “Natural History”, “Putting goat dung in their diapers soothes hyperactive children, especially girls.” [pg. 5]

Romans on Solving Marital Discord:
Livy reports that about 170 women from leading families were convicted in 331 B.C. of poisoning their husbands. Other sources give even larger numbers. [pg. 8]

Romans' Preferred Animal to keep Watch:
Marcus Manlius Capitolinus saved the Capitol from the Gauls in the early 4th century B.C. when he was alerted to their approach by the cackling of Juno's sacred geese. [pg. 19]

Romans Naming Themselves:
Caracalla [ruled A.D. 211—217] called himself Germanicus after victories over the Germans, and it was said that he was mad enough and stupid enough to say that, had he conquered Lucania [a region in southern Italy], he would have claimed the title Lucanicus [which means not only “Lucanian” but also “sausage”]. (Historia Augusta Life of Caracalla 5). [pg. 21]

Romans on Successful Grape Cultivation:
“Vines should be freed for a few days from the trees to which they were attached, and allowed to wander and spread themselves, and lie on the ground they have gazed at for the whole year. Just as cattle released from the yoke and the dogs after a hunt enjoy rolling about, so vines also like to stretch their lumbar regions.” (Pliny Natural History 17.209) [p.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Fulvia stabbed Cicero's tongue with her hair pins..." History books do not teach you this sort of thing. Yet how can you understand Cicero, let alone Ancient Rome without knowing of them. And just think how common knowledge of such practice would chasten our "news" casters on cable TV.

"Putting goat dung in their diapers sooths hyperactive children..." A much safer practice than, say, riddling our children with Ritalin.

This book is more than fun, though fun it is by the pail-full. It is a book of knowledge and of rare angles and attitudes of insight. As powerful as Rome was, it never quite got over its inferiority complex about the Greeks. Wet nurses were ideally Greek. The Roman gods were mostly Latinized Olympians. Virgil never got completely past Homer; the loser Trojans were recycled through a sea voyage metamorphosis while shipwrecked near Carthage. Their new and glorious destiny became the founding of Rome. I suppose it all resolved when good old Constantine himself gave up on Rome and her so-three-centuries-ago Pantheon and moved the capitol to Greek Byzantium and a new model deity of Hebrew-Hellenic flavor. This fine little book told me that Istanbul is not an Arabic name, but Greek, from "eis ten polis" or "into the city".

I was shown how the Romans had the same balance between sport and education as modern America. A free man gladiator was paid five hundred sestertii as a bonus for winning (the base pay was simply not being dead), which was the equivalent of teacher's yearly pay.

Because Dr. McKeown is such an authority on Classical Latin and on Roman literature and poetry, this is not another goofy book of bathroom trivia. If you have read nothing in this area or a great deal, the book is rather useful.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"A Cabinet of Roman Curiousities" is subtitled "Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire." I thought it sounded interesting and would be a fun read. It is actually pretty interesting, but it's not that fun. It's basically a glossary of Roman facts arranged byt topic (family, food, the Army, etc.) but after the first couple of tidbits in each section, it is stretching to be entertaining. The facts are, well, just factual. It is probably a better book for picking up and reading an excerpt or two at a time than a front to back read. I tried to read it through and got bored, but flipping around pages was entertaining enough.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For those like me, fascinated by all things Roman, "A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities" will find a comfortable space next to your copy of Suetonius' "The Twelve Caesars," and will corroborate much of what you see in your DVDs of HBO's "Rome," and "I, Claudius." It has a plethora of information under such diverse headings as "Family Life," "Religion and Superstition," "Foreigners," and the rather spicy "Not For the Puritanical," where the exploits of Messalina (remember her from "I, Claudius" as the emperor's nymphomaniac wife?) are detailed, among other decadent escapades...and yes, there's a chapter on "Decadence" too.

There's an average of 3 to 5 informative pieces per page, interspersed with a smattering of black and white photos. You'll get pieces written by Seneca, Cato, Livy, Suetonius and so many other historians of antiquity. Our modern historian, J.C. McKeown, Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has done a marvelous job of bringing all these tantalizing tidbits together, for our education and amusement. This is a book that one picks up at random for a quick read of a few pages, and an hour later, is still immersed in it. Ah, those Romans. One minute you'll think "how far we have come from all this," and the next minute, realize that human nature hasn't changed much at all. "If you have a garden in your library, you'll have all you need." Cicero.
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