Quote of the Week

SPQR

Cultural anxieties are often a privilege of the rich. – Mary Beard

My quote of the week is lifted from one my current reading projects, SPQR.  I am about a third of the way through the book and will give it full justice in a future book review, but thus far the book is a highly entertaining, readable, and well-researched account of Roman history. The difference between Beard’s account and the other voluminous histories of Rome is that SPQR (which is the Latin acronym that roughly translates to “People and the Senate”)  does not take the reader on a journey of curious glance at an ancient and monolithic homogenous society driven by lust for power and global conquest. Roman history is more than a well structured, militant, and inevitable global empire interspersed with the occasional maniacal Emperor. Rather, Beard succeeds wonderfully in making the Romans relatable to the modern day humanity and thus fully immersing the reader into the Roman experience in a highly engaging way. Beard presents Romans as tremendously open to foreigners, surprisingly meritocratic, earnestly dealing with the immemorial challenges of balancing the rule of law with the rule of men, and having great anxiety over Roman legacy and culture. It is commenting on the Roman elites’ obsession with the latter that Beard interjects with her pithy quote. The great Roman paradox is that while being all of the above they also were prone to  suffering violent  internecine struggles for power, succumbing to rule by de facto dictators, and also seem strangely foreign to us with their peculiar tastes in entertainment, which seem barbaric when judged by modern standards.  More to come on this book…

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