Synopses & Reviews
The roar of frenzied spectators inside the Coliseum during a battle between gladiators. A crowd of onlookers gathered around a slave driver. The wondrous plenty of banquets where flamingos are roasted whole and wine flows like rivers. The silence of the baths and the boisterous taverns... Many books have dealt with the history of ancient Rome, but none has been able to bring its readers so near to daily life in the Imperial capital.
This extraordinary voyage of exploration, guided by Alberto Angela with the charm of a born story-teller, lasts twenty-four hours, beginning at dawn on an ordinary day in the year 115 A.D., with Imperial Rome at the height of its power. The reader wakes in a rich patrician home and discovers frescoes, opulent furnishings and richly appointed boudoirs. Strolling though the splendors of the Roman Forum, one overhears both erudite opinions from learned orators and local ribaldry floating out from the public latrines. One meets the intense gazes of Roman matriarchs strolling the streets, looks on as a banquet is prepared, and is afforded a peek into the sexual habits and fetishes of Roman patricians and plebs.
For all those who have ever dreamed of traveling back in time, Alberto Angela's narrative style will come as a welcome change to dry historical tomes. Rich in atmosphere and historical information, A Day in Ancient Rome is a voyage into a world both distant to us in time and surprisingly near in its habits, mores, and passions.
"Many books, documentaries and movies claim to chronicle daily life in ancient Rome, but it's rare to find a narrative so encrusted in detail as this lively offering from an Italian author and television host. Adopting a first person plural voice, Angela takes us on an eagle-eyed tour of the ancient city on an 'ordinary day' in the year A.D. 115. Serving as a Virgil-like guide, Angela begins in a Domus, an upper-class home, exploring its meticulous inner workings, from the aqueduct hook-up to the slave labor. Out in the streets, Angela provides a fascinating, nail-by-nail description of Roman construction before schooling readers in the particulars of buying slaves. Next up is a bloody scene at the Coliseum (featuring hungry lions and their worthy meal), and a steamy sunset tour of bedrooms, salons, and sexual mores; Romans viewed sex as 'a gift of the gods,' something to enjoy, and would 'judge our sexuality as excessively complicated... by mental complexes and roles.' Angela's rigorous research and populist style, aided by Conti's seamless translation, should fascinate casual readers as well as dedicated Italophiles." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Alberto Angela makes an important but often complicated subject fascinating and accessible. The reader is catapulted into a day in the Imperial capital and uncovers affinities, secrets, curiosities, and anecdotes about the inhabitants of ancient Rome...Angela transforms his book into a kind of three-dimensional set in which the reader strolls, visiting homes, markets, open air school, baths, and even public latrines." Il Giornale
"One discovers a wealth of details about the curious habits of ancient Romans, from their recipes to their tastes in interior design, from life in the Insulae, the giant Roman housing projects, to the shocking slave markets." Il Corriere della Sera
About the Author
Alberto Angela hosts two of Italy's most popular science television programs, Superquark and Quark Speciale. He is the author of Life-Sized Museums, A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities, and with his father Piero Angela, The Extraordinary Story of a Growing Life (1996), Sharks (1997), and Voyage in the Cosmos (1998).