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

ISBN-13: 978-0195393750 ISBN-10: 0195393759 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; First Edition edition (June 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195393759
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195393750
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 42 customer reviews
All in all, this is an entertaining book, and I'd recommend it highly to anyone with a general, non-academic interest in Roman history.
T. Simons
This book is great as a bedside read, it's easy to ready a few pages, feel completely satisfied, and then pick up right back where you left off the next night.
Laura I
I really enjoy the way the book is arranged, in bullet point/paragraph style, so one can read a little at a time or more when time affords it.
ccincalif

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Aceto TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2010
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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alejandra Vernon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2010
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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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE on September 28, 2010
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kurt A. Johnson on June 30, 2013
Format: Hardcover
You've read about the Romans in history books, and you know all about them, right? Well, think again! This fun and interesting book is filled will all sorts of trivia and tidbits from Roman life. Everything is covered here from daily life, occupations, and all sorts of everyday activities. Most of the entries are direct quotes from contemporary sources, which makes them even more interesting, and all are very short indeed. (The shortness means that the book is great for picking up and putting down again.)

Yep, I really enjoyed this book. On one comedy show, a character dismissed a book by saying, "As a bathroom book, it's a triumph." Well, forgive me for saying it about this book, but truly, as a bathroom book it is a triumph!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TammyJo Eckhart VINE VOICE on July 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While J.C. McKeown warns us that he won't give a lot of context for his quotes, he gives enough that anyone who has a bachelor's degree level of understanding of the ancient Greek or Roman worlds will find the quotations and snippets he provides amusing and even useful since he gives us the citations. For those with less knowledge, these "curiosities" might be a bit confusing.

In all, he has 23 chapters covering topics as varied as women and kings, slaves and sex, foreigners and food. Some of these are much longer than others for example the chapter on food is nearly twice as long as any other. There are many anecdotes that I know of which could have added a great deal to the book but then McKeown never claims to be presenting a definite collection, only an amusing one of bits and pieces he's noted over his career as a classicist.

I note that there are far more Roman pieces than Greek perhaps revealing McKeown's own interests and research field though that level of details about the author is missing. What is most odd is the achronological nature of the entries after he has organized them by topic and subtopic in some chapters.

The drawings and photos of ancient art and inscriptions was very well placed and added to the contents. I suppose some readers might be shocked by the violence and sexuality of the ancient world and those folks shouldn't bother with this book. For anyone else who likes a book you can read a few minutes at a time and who enjoys snapshots of the past, this will be a pleasure.
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