The Roman empire witnessed a huge diversity of human experience over its history. At its pinnacle, it exerted its rule across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, from Britannia to the Black Sea. In this collection of 100 lives, Philip Matyszak and Joanne Berry give voice not only to famed rulers and generals whose names and deeds have been enshrined in classical texts but also to the ordinary citizens – centurions, scholars, Christian martyrs and civil servants – who made up the fabric of Roman society.
The biographies of these individuals, whose stories range from the happy and uneventful to the tragic and dramatic, are pieced together from ancient art, artefacts and myths. Matyszak and Berry illuminate the sometimes surprising exploits of Rome’s women, such as Amazonia, a sword-swinging gladiator, and Metila, a priestess of the cult of Cymbele. Romans of every class and creed are represented, from Faustulus, a shepherd said to have adopted the infant Romulus and Remus, to the poet Virgil, whose words still echo down the ages.
Each of these lives forms part of a larger picture, together making up a rich mosaic that gives us a glimpse of what it meant to be a Roman.
'The authors are to be commended for what they accomplish with such a format … Great to see that so many women’s lives are included, even to illustrate a period where there are male alternatives – redressing this age-old imbalance'