Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Roma by Steven Saylor
(from the back of the book)
From its mythic beginnings as a campsite along a trade route to its emergence as the center of an extensive, powerful empire, Steven Saylor’s breathtaking novel brings to vivid life the most famous city in the ancient world. Told through the tragedies and triumphs of the descendants of two families, Roma shows the events, the people, and the turning points in history that have come to symbolize ancient Rome in the modern imagination.
Roma covers 1000 years of history. It does this by skipping over large chunks of time and stopping along the way at important and often famous events like Romulus and Remus’ founding of Rome, Hannibal, the building of the Appian Way, the assassination of Julius Caesar among others. Saylor manages to keep a sense of continuity and maintains a flow through the entire 550 page narrative by following one family through time. The setting and the characters are well written and even though the characters keep changing and you only spend a small portion of the book with each of them you get to know them all and get a good look at the world they live in. You also get to learn about Rome; how her famous roads were built, religious ideas and ceremonies, the changing of politics over time. And even though the time span is so long it does not feel like the book tries to cover too much. Having everything laid out together gives you a nice perspective on all these famous events as they relate to each other and to the passage of time. I found it very interesting the way Saylor would recount an event when it happened or show you the beginning of a religious rite and then show you how the event was remembered centuries later so you could see how things passed into legend and became part of tradition. Saylor brings to life many of the famous stories of Ancient Rome in an entertaining and very readable way.