Professor Mary Beard

The definitive account of ancient Rome by acclaimed historian Mary Beard vividly depicts ordinary Roman lives and contains more than 45 full-colour images specially selected for the Folio edition of S.P.Q.R.

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How did a civilisation based on cruelty and violence, slavery and infanticide provide the foundations of modern Western culture and politics? Ancient Rome’s astonishing story of conquest, atrocities and excess is something against which the Western world continues to judge itself, while its debates about citizenship, government and individual rights still shape our own discussions on civil liberty today.

‘Masterful … This is exemplary popular history.’

  1. Economist

Production Details

Bound in printed and blocked cloth
Set in Bembo Book with Cenotaph Titling
512 pages
Black & white title-page spread, 46 colour and 57 black & white integrated illustrations
5 maps
Printed endpapers
Blocked cloth slipcase
10˝ x 6 ¾˝

A Genuine Superpower

In this bestselling account, Mary Beard considers how Rome grew from an insignificant village to a genuine superpower. Her sparkling narrative also reveals the Romans’ view of themselves and their achievements, and why they remain so important to us. Covering 1,000 years of Rome’s past, and casting fresh light on the basics of Roman culture, this breathtaking survey blends epic events with the colourful experiences of ordinary citizens to provide a definitive history of ancient Rome.

New insights into Rome’s greatness and grime

Within these pages are the Punic Wars against Hannibal and Carthage; the slaves’ uprising under Spartacus; the mighty conqueror Julius Caesar and his rivalry with Pompey; the formidable Livia, Rome’s first Empress consort; Cicero, author of unequalled speeches and writings; the brutal assassination of the notorious Caligula; Trajan’s military campaign in the east, and the spread of the Roman empire, from Spain and Syria to Gaul and Britain. Beard also takes a sideways and frequently humorous glance at bar culture, looked down on by the city’s elite for promoting gambling; religious observances, such as the Festival of Lupercalia, when naked young men ran round the city whipping any women they met; the public baths (best avoided by those with open wounds because of the risk of developing fatal gangrene);  the magnificent villas of the wealthy, a world apart from the commoners’ shanty-town homes; and the slaves-turned-gladiators and their grisly fights to the death in the Colosseum. She reveals the dangers of pregnancy (with childbirth the cause of death of 1 in 50 Roman women) and traces the progress of newborns into their roles as 4-year-old labourers and teenage brides. 

The unsurpassed visual heritage of the Eternal City

The book contains more than 45 specially selected sumptuous full-colour images. The glorious reproductions collected here include beautiful Etruscan jewellery; details from Trajan’s column showing a fortified camp; a stone relief depicting Praetorian officers; statuary from Hadrian’s extraordinary villa at Tivoli; and votive objects from an archaic Roman temple site. Interspersed throughout the text are 60 black-and-white images: a coin showing the sweeping hair of Mithradates; the crumbling remains of Hadrian’s Wall; an image of the arch of Constantine; and the tombstone of a devoted couple (both former slaves) who met when the bride was aged just 7.

About Mary Beard

Mary Beard is one of the most original and best-known classicists working today. She is Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement. Her books include the Wolfson Prize-winning Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (2008), Women & Power: A Manifesto (2017) and Civilisations: How Do We Look?/The Eye of Faith (2018). Her popular TLS blog has been collected in the books It’s a Don’s Life (2009) and All in a Don’s Day (2012). Mary Beard is a Fellow of the British Academy and was awarded an OBE in 2013 and a damehood in 2018 for services to classical scholarship.


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