29 November 2017
The hills are alive
Rome: A History in Seven Sackings
(Atlantic Books, 464 PP, £20)
Tablet Bookshop price £18 • Tel 01420 592974
A popular, accessible history of Rome that is not a guide book in disguise should be welcomed. Matthew Kneale’s account, deftly written and using a wide range of up-to-date as well as ancient sources, provides just the answer an interested reader might seek. He covers the history, if not quite from the foundation of the city, then from the fourth century BCE up to the “sprawling metropolis” of today. The range of topics he brings to the reader’s notice is imaginative and interesting. Attention is paid as much to the changing nature of Roman cooking as to the more obvious changes in the city’s structure, the smell and ubiquity of its rubbish and the grandeur of its churches.
Each chapter divides into three parts. The first opens on to a vivid scene, such as the agonised conclave preceding the election of Clement VII in 1523, or the icy winter in the Castle of Canossa in 1077. This introduces a narrative of the particular threat to the city that is the subject of the chapter, whether by Gauls (twice), Normans, Spanish, French (in 1870) or Nazis.
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