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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "In this simple arena, hundreds of thousands went to their death...."
As we know, instead of violent movies and video games, Imperial Rome settled for real violence -- their "reality shows" in the Colosseum and elsewhere. Bloody executions, ordered by the State and often administered at the teeth and claws of ferocious animals, were scheduled earlier in the day. Lavish mortal hand-to-hand combat scenarios, sponsored by wealthy patricians...
Published on June 5, 2009 by K. M.

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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, informative--but with many typographical errors
I second the previous review--this book is a joy to read, and has nicely updated (though not replaced) Jerome Carcopino's "Daily Life in Ancient Rome" for today's reader. Every page is full of fascinating facts about the way Romans slept, bathed, washed their clothes, played street games, conducted business, ate meals, dressed, calculated the time of day, etc., etc...
Published on June 21, 2009 by Latin teacher


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "In this simple arena, hundreds of thousands went to their death....", June 5, 2009
This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
As we know, instead of violent movies and video games, Imperial Rome settled for real violence -- their "reality shows" in the Colosseum and elsewhere. Bloody executions, ordered by the State and often administered at the teeth and claws of ferocious animals, were scheduled earlier in the day. Lavish mortal hand-to-hand combat scenarios, sponsored by wealthy patricians who hoped to gain popular political support, were an inextricable later part of a typical day in the then largest city in the world.

But knowing isn't the same as "being there." In A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities, Alberto Angela, author and TV science show host, gets us a ticket with a seat number so we can witness, amongst other matches, a mortal struggle between a murmillo (a "fish man") and a retiarius. "This couple symbolically represents the fisherman, equipped with a net, trident, and dagger, and the fish...which hides among the rocks, ready to unleash its lethal bite (exactly like this type of gladiator, hiding behind his enormous shield)." Angela neglects nothing of the atmosphere; the Colosseum lives and breathes with the agonies in the arena and the audience's chants of "now he strikes him, now he strikes him." And as we watch the fray, Angela also teaches us vocabulary and showers us with facts galore. He is our guide, our instructor in this deadly place.

Fortunately for the less bloodthirsty readers, this day tour introduces (or reacquaints) us with many other aspects of Roman life. After a chapter to orient us in the 115 CE (or AD) Trajan Empire, Angela confidently leads us through the hours beginning with a predawn survey of the dark, silent streets of Rome. We then proceed to view, among other things, a wealthy Roman family's home, an apartment building for the common people, an outdoor school in session, the shops, a temple, a cattle auction and then one for slaves, the Roman Forum, a public toilet, a book shop, a food bar, the deadly events in the Colosseum of course, and an evening banquet complete with such Roman delicacies as "flamingo tongues, parrotfish livers, peacock and pheasant brains , and 'milk' from a moray eel." Finally before we bid Rome good-bye at midnight, there is some information about Roman sexual practices, but our voyeurism doesn't go too far.

This volume serves as an excellent introduction to ancient Rome for young people. However, A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANCIENT ROME is also definitely for adult edification. Anyone who has enjoyed fictional jaunts to Rome through historical novels by authors such as Colleen McCullough, Steven Saylor, Lindsey Davis, or Robert Harris will likely be fascinated with the chance to tag along on Angela's tour.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF ANCIENT ROME produces a remarkably illustrative overview of how Romans of that time lived. Angela succeeds in delivering a large quantity of information with an affable, inviting style. Now, in Angela's words, "And so concludes our day in the life of imperial Rome. An ordinary day, almost two thousand years ago." We've received a gift -- a chance to peek into some creepy crevices...and many magnificent spaces. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome shows us that the past is a much different country, January 11, 2010
This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
Roman television personality Alberto Angela has produced an outstanding new book on daily life in ancient Rome. The book is well written containing line drawings of ancient Roman clothing, hair styles, architecture and other aspects of daily life in the city on seven hills.
Angela goes through a 24 hour cycle showing us what the typical Roman citizen would be engaged in during that period of time. We awaken at dawn with a light Roman breakfast. We see how the Romans decorated their homes in a minimal style. Angela takes us into the tall insula apartment buildings of the city of 1.5 million. Rome was a city of many ethnicities and slaves did much of the work. The city in 115 was ruled by Trajan the emperor. We learn how the citizens worshipped the various deities in the Roman pantheon as we travel to the temples.
The most gruesome section of the book deals with the slaughters on display in the colosseum built during the reign of Vespasian. Thousands of gladiators, prisoners and animals died bloody deaths in the sawdust of the arena.
Angela explains the architecture of the Colosseum, the equipment used by the gladiators and the customs surrounding their battles to the death. The Romans would work 6 hours a day using the rest of the time for viewing the games, gambling and enjoying life in the crowded streets. Angela says that Rome was like a third world city where there was a mingling of rich and poor in the narrow lanes and the crowded open air markets.
Angela even discusses sexual matters and comments on Roman prostitution. Other than describing the Senate building he does not delve deeply into Roman politics. This book would be a good resource in a high school Latin or history course. It is entertaing and geared to the general reader. Of all the books of this kind Mr. Angela is to bec complimented on an excellent job of explaining the Romans to 21st century readers. Excellent!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful evocation in a highly original book., November 21, 2009
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This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
I was enthralled reading this book describing, hour-by-hour, a typical day in the life of ancient Rome in 115 A.D., at the height of the Empire The descriptions of the imaginary observer enable the reader to picture the scenes from daily life, as if they were from modern Rome. There are numerous fascinating details, all seemingly based on numerous archaeological finds and research, as well as descriptions from Latin authors.

A few slight criticisms, that could be corrected in a second edition (which is the only reason I have, reluctantly, not awarded 5 stars). The editing is a little sloppy in places, which can jar and spoil the flow. There were several, but two that I remember are Sulla being referred to as Silla and mistaking Marcus Aurelius for Mark Anthony. Since the day involves a walk around various places in ancient Rome, it would have been helpful to have had a few maps to show where the various places were in relationship to each other and, perhaps, something to show where they are located in present-day Rome and what still remains to be seen, whether in museums or in situ (photographs would be an added plus). The author often refers to Latin authors' descriptions while giving the name but, only once that I recall, giving a reference to the work. That would be very helpful for those who might want to follow-up further with contemporary accounts and would provide an encouragement to dip into the great Latin authors. While translating the book from its Italian original into English, the bibliography could have been altered for an English-speaking audience. Out of about 40 references, almost all are in Italian and only two are in English. Hopefully, someone from the publisher will read these suggestions and that there will be demand for subsequent editions.

If you think you might just possibly enjoy this book, don't hesitate.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating approach to learning about ancient Rome, July 25, 2009
By 
Steven A. Peterson (Hershey, PA (Born in Kewanee, IL)) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
This wonderful little work provides a fascinating way of learning about daily life in ancient Rome, based on the best knowledge of historians--by taking an hour by hour look at what the Romans do. The depiction of the day takes place in 115 AD, under the reign of the Emperor Trajan. After a very brief examination of the era 19-21, we begin with life a few hours before dawn. Streets are dark--as are houses. When night fell, darkness reigned in Rome; very few homes had lanterns or other forms of lighting.

The book begins with the start of the day for a wealthy man, at 6 AM. His home (the domus) is described nicely. A slave begins heating up the "stove" in the kitchen. At 6:30, the master awakens and pays his respects to the household deity. By 7, he begins dressing in his comfortable toga (a nice diagram on page 47 illustrates the process). By 7:10 AM, the woman of the house rises and begins her day.

The book, thus, proceeds along these lines, with interruptions every so often to outline important aspects of Roman life. For instance, one such "time out" described the structure and functioni9ng of large apartment complexes that were manifest in many areas of Rome, the insula. A fascinating discussion!

On throughout the day, until darkness arrives. At 9 PM, the author, Alberto Angela, discusses the sexual lives of Romans. By midnight shops are closed and locked, few people walk the streets (and many of those who do are pretty unsavory).

All in all, a nice little work for those who are curious about the lives of ancient Romans. The hour by hour view works very nicely.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Engaging, informative--but with many typographical errors, June 21, 2009
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Latin teacher (Berkeley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
I second the previous review--this book is a joy to read, and has nicely updated (though not replaced) Jerome Carcopino's "Daily Life in Ancient Rome" for today's reader. Every page is full of fascinating facts about the way Romans slept, bathed, washed their clothes, played street games, conducted business, ate meals, dressed, calculated the time of day, etc., etc. However, a major drawback to the book are the typographical errors that litter every page. Sometimes they are a mere annoyance; other times they result in misspelled Latin names and phrases, which the Latin-less reader will not be able to recognize as wrong. Perhaps this isn't a huge problem for the recreational reader, but I'd hesitate to assign this book to my Latin class--though I'd very much like to--as long as these errors remain.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Walk Like a Roman, August 26, 2009
This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
This book is about an imaginary walk through ancient Rome by the author, Alberto Angela. It begins early in the morning and ends late at night on one day in the year 115 CE (or A.D.). Angela writes about his experiences from the perspective of a modern man, comparing life in ancient Rome with life today. He also writes with a thorough knowledge of history, both before and after 115. If all of this sounds confusing, it's not. It's easy to follow and it reads well, although the translation of Angela's Italian seems a bit rough, and there are scattered typos.

Angela looks at a wide variety of topics, including housing. He looks at the typical "domus" or stand alone residence of the wealthy. It's comfortable and tastefully decorated. But many poorer Romans live in an "insula," or large apartment structure, six stories high, which covers a whole city block. The main building material is cement. The insula is divided into many small units, in which the people are crowded together. On the ground floor there typically are shops. The other lower floors are the most desirable, because the construction there is more solid, if only because the upper floors rest upon the first floors. The higher up, the more flimsy the construction, and there's an attic above the sixth floor which is basically thrown together haphazardly. People also prefer the lower floors (and the rents are higher) because they can more easily escape one of the frequent fires that break out due to the practice of cooking meals and warming the rooms with open braziers.

Angela also looks at the public latrines, where the people sit in the open on long planks in which holes are cut. I'll spare you the details about what the Romans do with the urine that is collected in these public latrines and elsewhere in Rome.

There's also much about the diet of the Romans and their clothing. He looks at the family and the traditional roles of each member. Of course, he examines the gladiator spectacles. He points out that those most likely to die were condemned prisoners who were often thrown to wild animals that, Angela informs us, were specifically trained to attack and kill.

There's a detailed treatment of slavery. Slaves in ancient Rome performed many of the tasks done by machines or made easier by modern inventions: washing clothes, cooking (electric and gas stoves today), hauling water from wells (running water in homes), and moving people and goods (cars and trucks).

All in all, it seems that a small percentage of wealthy Romans lived in relative comfort. Relative, that is, to the dirty, dangerous, unhealthy existence of the masses. In the wealthiest nations today, even the poorest people enjoy basic comforts that were far beyond the reach of almost all Romans.

I would have liked an index and a more thorough bibliography. There are only two pages of bibliography, and most of the sources appear to be untranslated Italian books. But Angela does cite important ancient sources, notably Suetonius.

Despite some flaws, it's still a fun and informative work. Highly recommended
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid recreation of the nitty-gritty details of life in ancient Rome, July 1, 2009
By 
Bruce Trinque (Amston, CT United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
Alberto Angela's "A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome" sets out to recreate what a visitor to ancient Rome (115 AD during the reign of Trajan) might see and hear and smell during an ordinary twenty-four hours. The author, an Italian author and science show television host, leads the reader upon a genuinely "you are there" kind of exploration. Sometimes, we diverge a little from our informal tour to explore past or future, but for the most part the focus is kept on the details of ordinary life as experienced in the homes of both rich and poor, in taverns and shops, in the Colosseum and Forum, often with extraordinarily vivid vignettes (such as the execution of a convict by a live lion). Life, complete with blood, sweat, and tears, is very present, and we experience it up close.

Another reviewer here commented unfavorably upon the number of typographical errors. I do not retain enough of my high school Latin to recognize typos in that language, but I did not find English typographical errors (with occasional awkward bits of translation) to seriously detract from the great enjoyment afforded by this book. It is both very entertaining and highly informative.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A walking tour into the past, September 19, 2010
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This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
As a traveller, I've taken many a walking tour of some of the world's great cities. This book is just such a tour, but displaced in time back to 115 A.D., at the height of the Roman Empire's power and glory. The ancient Rome described by this book is both familiar and alien to the modern reader. The multi-story apartment buildings in which most common Romans lived would be in some ways familiar to many city dwellers today, sans running water and flush toilets. The most alien topics would of course be the ubiquitous slavery and gladitorial contests for which we have no familiar comparisons. The book walks the reader through various viginettes and scenarios to glimpse everyday Roman life in all it's glory and sordidness. Details such as the fact that massive private houses depicted in "I Claudius" or the recent "Rome" miniseries were fairly uncommon. Even well off citizens lived in apartments with a bottom-up heirarchy (the wealthy lived on the ground floor which was the easiest to escape during a fire...the pent-house dwellers were the poorest who got roasted). The author fills the book with many small details of life which mostly escape mainstream histories which are primarily concerned with Roman politics and war. Most history books don't describe things such as Roman toilets and kitchens in much detail, which this book does. Or the miserable life of many slaves who did the menial work, but at least had a hope that they could buy their freedom and even eventually become rich (and ironically have slaves of their own). Altogether a very interesting read, rich in detail, while still being quite accessible for the average reader.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where Fact and Imagination Meet, August 14, 2009
By 
G. Poirier (Orleans, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
In this rather curious book, the author imagines being transported back in time, along with the reader, to a typical day in Ancient Rome in the year 115 CE. The day starts "a few hours before dawn" and ends at midnight. The author acts as a tour guide as he leads the reader through the streets and buildings of Ancient Rome. During this tour, the reader learns a great many things: the living conditions of the rich and the poor, eating and working habits, diet, social structure, family life, entertainment, moral values, superstitions, religion, sexuality, population statistics, monetary structure, etc. Some of the most important buildings and monuments are also explored, e.g., Roman Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon, Baths, Trajan's Column, etc. This is all described with fascination, awe, passion and, occasionally, surprise - as though the author was also seeing these things for the first time. He asserts that the facts that he recounts are based on historical and archaeological evidence; however, details of most events observed and of most individuals encountered are mostly imaginary - probably to add a bit of life to the tour. The writing style is particularly friendly and accessible, clear and even sporadically gripping, e.g., the gladiatorial combats. The book contains many detailed descriptions. Although these are informative, some may be a bit monotonous to a reader who is not particularly interested in what is being described. There is very little here that an avid ancient history buff will not already know. Consequently, readers who are less familiar with Ancient Rome are likely to enjoy (and indeed be fascinated by) this book the most.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but full of errors, May 17, 2013
This review is from: A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities (Paperback)
Interesting and entertaining but I discovered many factual errors. For example, Marcus Aurelius did not give the funeral oration for Julius Caesar, it was Marc Antony. Needs better editing.
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