Customer Reviews: Rome: Day One
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3.6 out of 5 stars8
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on July 7, 2015
Caveat Lector! Carandini spins quite a tall tale in this book...but that's all it is—a work of fiction. Readers with a serious interest in early Rome are advised to read T.P Wiseman's review of this book in The Classical Journal ("Carandini's handsome little book offers no more than an enjoyable fantasy,") and Wiseman's longer expose of Carandini's other (Italian-language) books, "Reading Carandini," in The Journal of Roman Studies, which more closely examines Carandini's methodology (such as it is) and his personal motivations for advancing his idiosyncratic notions. Readers interested in rigorous history (as opposed to sheer fantasy) will find more substance in Cornell's The Beginnings of Rome and Wiseman's Remus: A Roman Myth.
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on September 7, 2012
I gave "Rome, Day One" three stars with a heavy heart, because the book IS interesting. Having read anglo historians on ancient Rome, I have found it refreshing to be able to read an Italian archeological perspective and, besides, the often too dismissive historian view of Roman ancient tradition is unconvincing. Andrea Carandini believes that there is a structured core of truth about the Remus and Romulus story of the foundation of Rome, and he describes, with more detail than anybody else I've read, how the foundation could have happened. The illustrations are black, white and gray toned, but they are a banquet for the hungry eyes of everybody curious about how Rome really was like in the beginning. If other professional historians understood the power of illustration as Carandini does, their books would be so much better appreciated than they are!

The book has two aims: first, as stated above, to mix tradition and archeology in order to recreate the foundation of Rome, and the second is to present Rome, together with Greece, as distinct in terms of political organization from the ancient eastern states and empires, the democratic versus totalitarian roots of, respectively, the "West"and the "East" (indeed, Carandini extends this distinction to our own days in his "Conclusion", in a oversimplified manner).

The first objective is met finely, albeit with the same dismissiveness towards alternative views that historians show to the traditional account. I would like to know who thinks differently and why, and thus I probably would appreciate more Carandini's views. Instead, throughout the book, Carandini frequently reminds us that he has been excavating in the area for twenty years. Although this is not the only argument supporting his views, it feels like the number of years is very important in the matter, at least to him. It is and it is not, because one could have excavated for 40 years and end up finding little, while one luck digging season... Anyway, my point is that I would like to see more explaining and less bragging.

Another thing that bothered me is that he rarely mentions anybody else's archeological efforts, and he writes as if everything of importance have been found by him and his team. Maybe it is so, but maybe it isn't.

Finally, the author would have much helped his argument if he further clarified the comparison between early Roman foundation traditions and those that appeared after the Greek introduction of Troy, Aeneas, and other such characters in the story. He should have done it because the book is not for the specialist. This is very important because it would have supported his choice of sources for the traditional account.

Bottom line: if you like to read about the history of Rome, particularly early Rome, you must read this book, because it is so fascinating. Only be prepared for a different sort of scholarship than that of British and American historians.
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on September 22, 2013
I'm star rating this item three because I suspect it is, in fact, an excellent piece of work for its intended audience of scholars, historians and archaelogists. It's not really fair for myself - a layman just interested in the history of Rome - to grade it according to my own lack of understanding, bust Amazon requires I add a rating, so three it is...

What I will say is this, the book is somewhat mis-marketed. Everything about its layout, cover art, blurb and design suggests that the reader is in for an engaging, argumentative, perhaps journalistic style laymans book. What it actually is, however, is a rather dense archaelogical thesis that I found somewhat slow-going and very difficult to comprehend. There's no narrative here, only a lot of challenging and dry scholarly description.

Here is a brief example:

"The King Augur and in(du)perator (Ennius), who had auxiliaries and a mounted guard, was potentissimus both with the priestly order - composed of the flamines of the divine triad and the five pontifices, in addition to the vestal virgins - and with respect to the Quirites gathering in the Comitia Calata and curiata where the king stated his ius, and from which bodies his army was formed."

If you had a hard time with that sentence then you'll have a hard time with the rest of the book.

As I stated I'm only entering this review as a warning for the lay readers who may be seeking something more narrative based and engaging. From a scholars perspective, though, it seems very good - lots of fascinating maps and diagrams of the dig sites and the corresponding foundation texts are well-sourced from primary sources such as Livy, Ovid and Plutarch. Actually the last thirty or so pages of the book is the appendix of the original texts from these sources and, in my opinion, made for a more engaging read than the book itself.
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on July 18, 2015
The chief controversies surrounding Rome's early years (did Romulus really exist? did Rome have a discrete founding event? when did Rome become a self-governing city? how did Rome get its name?) have vexed historians for centuries and will probably never be settled, but Carandini's hugely ambitious interpretation of recent archeological work near the Palatine adds considerably to the arguments in favor of an actual Romulus. Carandini's Romulus is a hero straight out of Livy -- a displaced youth from Alba Longa with royal lineage and twin brother Remus. Carandini makes a case not just for an actual founder, not just for an actual founder presiding over an actual founding event, but for an actual founder presiding over an actual founding event actually taking place on the legendary date of 21 April. The evidence Carandini marshals for the historicity of the early chapters in Livy's "Ab Urbe" won't be dismissed easily, despite howls of protest from the anti-Romulus camp. Carandini will always have his detractors, but his work has made possible a serious discussion of Livy among academic historians...
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on February 16, 2012
Exceptionally interesting book. Well written/translated and a very quick read, not only because of its size but also it grips you to the finish. I sat down and finished it in a few hours and I am an unusually slow reader.

I was expecting more of an archaeological review of his findings rather than a narrative of the Romulus myth supplemented with recent findings that Carandini suggest as proof. Although I do not agree with his controversial assertions in this short monograph (and neither do many contemporary scholars) it is a must read for anyone interested in pre-republican Rome.

Word of Advice:
If you are not well versed in the Myths of the founding of Rome I suggest you read the appendices of this book first. He has contained a number of literary sources that outline the myth and it makes for a much easier read after you have absorbed those.

All-in-all I would suggest this book to a friend and will most likely go back and read it again myself to get a better picture of this brilliant archaeologist theories.
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on December 5, 2011
Having just reviewed "The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean," which is an 816-page opus, it is quite a change to review this small (in size), 184-page book. Although it is quite slim, "Rome: Day One" is a fascinating book that postulates that recent archeological evidence proves that Rome was indeed founded around its mythological founding date of 753 BCE as a true city by a king-priest, possibly Romulus. This completely overturns current thought that Rome was only a few huts in the mid-8th century BCE, and didn't approach city status until the mid-7th century BCE. The evidence provided by Carandini is convincing and may very likely change the history books. I look forward to his further archeological findings.
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on September 2, 2012
This book can be read as a welcome update on archeology of Rome - and it is fully satisfying on this account (see other reviews).

It is, however, much more. It shows that "democracy" as balance between orders (king/consul, senate, people - played out in places and buildings of the city) first emerged in Rome. The superiority of the "Roman" democratic model over the Athenian one (equality of people under the law) is striking, and worth reflecting upon. The modern view of "checks and balances" as a way to political sustainability comes from Rome, not Athens, which foundered for lack of it. That Romulus came out of the blue with such a sophisticated political model is historically far more important that what he materially did on the first day. It is the author's merit to have clearly pointed out this. He is right in saying that the founding of Rome was foremost a conscious political act (though embedded in walls and buildings).

I've read the Italian version. If the English translation still contains the "Western syndrome" vs. "Oriental syndrome" discussion at the end - forget it. It is base eurocetrism which no longer has currency. To call China's model "despotic" betrays youthful lectures of Hegel and Marx that were never updated. SAID Orientalism (Modern Classics (Penguin)) of course would be a place to start. On China - just for fun - reading KUHN The Age of Confucian Rule: The Song Transformation of China (History of Imperial China) would clear any obfuscations one may entartain about Western "superiority".
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on August 18, 2012
This is a book with chapters on the founding of rome, it didn't just happen , it was a long process and we get lots of charts and graphs that show the archeological points of rome's founding to show what the digging has found. And I was surprised to find that the city was a series of villages going back at least 3,300 years ago. This is the kind of book where the archeologist explains digs and other faucets of what they found in rome. It's not a fast history read it's a bood that a non archeologist can enjoy but don't expect a story here. This is about archeology and what they can surmise about rome's founding. Without Rome the world today would not exist so it's interesting to see where it all began. It does talk alot about the myths of the cities rise too. So you do get that aspect of it.
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