SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome is a very interesting book about the history of Rome from its foundation in 753 B.C. to the reign of Emperor Caracalla in 212 A.D. It was written by historian, Cambridge professor and TV lecturer Mary Beard and published in November 2015.
The book explains the evolution of Rome from a small village in central Italy to a gigantic imperial city exceeding one million inhabitants. It explains how the small village grew to become a city. It also contains lots of interesting and probably unknown facts to many about the history of ancient Rome. Facts that challenge many preconceived notions and ideas about Rome and the Romans. For example, the Roman Republic didn't exactly evolve from the Greek democracy. Another preconceived idea is that Caligula and Nero were bad emperors. But were they really that bad?
Throughout her book, Mary Beard backs her points with evidence or shows us how little evidence there is for many of our preconceived ideas about the history of ancient Rome. This is another aspect of the book that we like: how the author is careful not to make any judgments and how she carefully picks her sources.
The book also contains lots of interesting facts about the daily lives of ordinary Romans. There aren't many history books that make the effort to tell the lives of average Romans. Beard tells us about the lives of Roman butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, women, slaves, etc. If you are wondering how night life was during the Roman times, the book describes bars and brothels in Roman cities. It describes the lives of ordinary Roman women, how the day of a butcher was.
Beard shows us how ancient Romans and the history of ancient Rome are very relevant to our world today, when it comes to our culture, some of our customs or questions of power, citizenship, empire, inequality, luxury, etc. For example, Caracalla gave the Roman citizenship to ALL free inhabitants of the Empire including those living in the remote provinces. This meant that 30 million people became citizens overnight!
Overall, a must-read if you are studying the history of ancient Rome or if you are just interested in it. The book is well-written, enjoyable to read and challenges many assumptions that people have about ancient Rome.