Cover Image: How to Survive in Ancient Rome

How to Survive in Ancient Rome

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Member Reviews

I had a lot of fun and learned a lot about everyday life in Ancient Rome.
It's an engrossing, well written and well researched book that made me laugh and kept me hooked.
An excellent way to learn, it's highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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How to Survive in Ancient Rome is a light, informal introduction to Roman history that moves along sprightly and with some tongue-in-cheek humor.  The book is divided into several sections:  Social Structure, Family, Clothing, Accommodation, Shopping, Food and Diet, Entertainment, Health and Medicine, Work, Warfare, Religion, Law and Order, and Politics.  

As you can see from the listing and the placement of the political at the end, this is less a typical history and more one that focuses on day-to-day existence in the empire across time (it was around a while, after all, so things were hardly static).  Some more specific examples of that daily existence coverage include contraception (vulture dung, boiled mule testicles), laundry (“vast vats of stale urine”), the games (bring a cushion, “the stone seats can be very hard on the bum), and more.

If you’ve read much on Rome, you might not find a lot new here. I’m far from a scholar and still knew much here, but I did highlight some new information, such as how Rome penalized men and women for being single, something I hadn’t come across before. If you have read about Rome, the benefit here is less the information itself but how it is quickly and concisely presented, making it a good read to refresh your memory as well as give you a good overview sense not bogged down in too many names (all those emperors!) or too many other details.  If you haven’t read much, then it certainly serves as a very good intro, clearly written and structured, covering enough to inform but not overwhelm, and leaving you with a solid if not hefty sense of how the basic empire worked for most people.  Your reaction to the humor will be highly personal; I found it hit and miss, probably leaning a bit toward the miss, but not so much that it was an issue.  The book is enhanced by a good number of visuals, always a plus.  There’s also a decent list of sources for those looking for more detail, though a separate recommended list of titles would have been welcome. It’s a book that skates smoothly along the surface, so helping readers find the depths if they wish would have been helpful.
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A decent look at how people would live in certain categories. Informal writing. Different areas of life - not a month to month type of book.
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A spritely hop through deep and heavy history of ancient Rome, touching on several different topics with a lightness that will irritate the hardcore history crowd and delight casual readers. As someone with a light-to-moderate interest in ancient Rome (as in, I'll watch a documentary, but it's unlikely I'll read a book larger than this) it was just enough to keep me entertained and give me a handful of fun facts to spout off when there's a lull in conversation.

(Like, did you know ancient Romans washed their clothes in pee? Fun.)

Recommended for people who like to breeze through some miscellaneous nonfiction now and then.
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"How to Survive in Ancient Rome" was a fun and interesting read. I will definitely recommend this to patrons and some friends.
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How to Survive in Ancient Rome by L.J. Trafford, is a snappy, all encompassing digest of Ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Domitian (81-96 CE). Our hosts are a former imperial slave and now secretary to Domitian and a 'lady of leisure' one of the ultra-rich ruling elite. It would've been nice to have the perspective of a slave or a low-born Roman Citizen from the Subura though - but the sources are a bit light on with first hand accounts from this cohort.

This is a good, basic introduction to pretty much everything. Typical chapter headings include Family, Housing, Clothing, Food, Shopping, Entertainment, Medicine, Religion - the lot! Hence, the book doesn't go into any great detail - but that's the the purpose of this book. The many sources quoted in the Bibliography are sound, and the facts as stated, seem consistent with other readings. There are numerous  illustrations, but I would have liked to have seen even more, particularly more coloured pictures and maps. These would really help, there are lots of wee "Did You Know?" boxes throughout and these are always good, they keep things lively.

The book doesn't only discuss life during the period of Domitian (he was one of the bad ones by the way) the author also goes back and forwards in time. We learn about Rome from the very beginning, yes - Romulus and Remus. We also read a nice summary of the period before the Republic, ie. the period of The Kings. My favourite being Tarquinus Superbus (534 BCE - 510 BCE) - largely because of that cracking name.

This is perfect for those who are new to the subject or school kids. It would be a good coffee-table book.

Did You Know? The poet Martial knew  of a man who hung around the public latrines all day in the hope of securing a dinner party invitation.

Apparently, public toilets were great places to chat, gossip and make friends.

Overall, this was good fun.

3 Stars
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My thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book, which is, to judge from the dedication, laudably intended to interest young people in the Roman world. This can be the only explanation for the Boy’s Own romp through history from the founding of Rome to the emperor Domitian, in whose reign we land for our orientation briefing on social life in Ancient Rome. Will this sort of ‘1066 and all that’ approach wash with today’s youngsters? I’m not convinced.

I confess that by this point I myself (not a youngster) was on the verge of giving up on this one, so irritating had been the narrative to this point, but that would have been a mistake as the social history covered from then on is genuinely interesting and well informed.

The erudition is worn lightly, to be sure, but a fascinating array of topics are covered - money, transport, naming conventions, time measures, social classes, patronage, the family, schools, clothing and jewellery, cosmetics, laundries, apartment blocks, the cost of housing, the fire service, dinner parties, markets, fish paste ketchup, gladiators, baths, the army, name but a few.

I hope this book does succeed in interesting readers in what it might have been like to live in ancient Rome. The book comes with a very extensive set of footnotes and a bibliography, both of which are useful too.
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Being a life-long lover of History, I immediately knew I had to access this title via NetGalley!  Thank you so much for the ability to be able to read this copy in exchange for my honest review.  I was not only educated but amused.  Reading this was such an enjoyable experience because I felt as though I had a lunch date turned gossip fest where the topic at hand was Ancient Rome!  This is not your typical, fact-ridden, heavy nonfiction droll.  It was entertaining and delightful and made refreshing my memory on all things Rome actually enjoyable!  I learned many new things which I had never read before and I found some of the greatest appeal in the manner in which this was written!  LOVED!
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How to Survive in Ancient Rome by L.J. Trafford is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November.

Trafford answers a reader's prospective questions on fulfilling roles in society, one's family and their gender, what to do, believe in, eat, to be law-abiding, and to keep safe and healthy. However, they speak quite simply, like a children's Saturday morning show on the History or Discovery channel, but with witty adulty jokes scattered throughout.
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This is an engaging, witty, and informative guide to 1st Century Rome for the prospective time traveller. Should you be planning a trip to The Eternal City during the reign of Domitian you will have lots of burning questions about the history, culture and social structure plus concerns about how to stay safe. This fascinating book tells you all you need to know and provides great entertainment too. LJ Trafford clearly has a wealth of knowledge and ample enthusiasm for the subject; great for both newbies to Roman history or the more experienced history nerd.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and to the publishers for a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
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This is one of those intro level history books that’s accessible and funny, as well as being genuinely informative. It could well be more amusing to those who know the context, or just to history geeks like me, but however much you do or don’t know, the book offers a great way in to Ancient Rome. Filled as much with day to day details as with high politics, this is the kind of stuff you’re not always taught. All the little things that give you a sense of what life was like. I’d love to use it in my lessons, because if there’s any way to reel people into the past, it’s to get them to feel that tug of genuine curiosity— and there’s more than enough here to bait the hook. 

ARC via Netgalley
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"How to Survive in Ancient Rome" is an entertaining look at daily life in ancient Rome (specifically in 95 CE under the Emperor Dominitian).  Homes, food, travel, shopping, and entertainment are all covered in an irreverently British-style humor that had me imagining the book read to me by Stephen Fry (or often Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc of the Great British Bake Off).  Dry wit combines with stories told to us 'by a Roman' help readers learn how to navigate visiting the greatest city in the world without (probably) getting killed. Although unless you are a Roman citizen, male, and of an age to enter politics, this book might convince you that time-traveling there for more than a few hours is not, in fact, a life choice you want to make.  Unless you like eels. and enjoy such perfect health that you never, ever need to visit anyone claiming to be a doctor.  Plenty of fun "Did You Know" facts and descriptions to make the reader feel like you are actually there.  A fun read, and a good way to introduce history to people who believe it is just boring dates.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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This book is written as if you had a witty British friend next to you teling you all about Roman life during the height of the Empire (under Domition). Although I wish the suthor had given at least a nod to the persecution of Christians during this time, i loved the comprehensive and very accessible look at this world.
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It takes real skill to turn the facts of history into pure fun, and L. J. Trafford has managed it with style and class. A book hasn't made me laugh so much for a long time, though I have come to the conclusion that life in Ancient Rome isn't for me... I'll settle for reading about it instead! "How to Survive in Ancient Rome" is amusing, witty, laugh-out-loud funny at times, and heaped with information that I'll never use (I hope!).

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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A fun and interesting guide to everyday life in ancient Rome, “How to Survive in Ancient Rome” by L J Trafford is a quick read that answers many questions about how people actually lived 2,000 years ago.

Like any good guidebook, there is a bit of history to start: the founding of Rome and how it grew from a city on the Tiber to a large empire, from kings to republic to empire. Then we get into the interesting stuff that one would need to know if one was to move to the capital: politics, social classes, jobs, the roles of women and slaves (not good), food, living arrangements, entertainment, religion, hygiene, and other issues that may arise. There is a good bit of humor throughout the book, as well as extensive footnotes and additional information for anyone that wants to know more.

I requested and received a free advanced electronic copy from Pen & Sword via NetGalley. Thank you!
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This was a really fun, quick read about life in Ancient Rome, from politics to hairstyles, medicine to food. It is deceptively informative, because the writing style is informal and funny so you don't realise how much you actually learn! This book is accessible to everyone, no matter how much you know about the Romans. If you do want extra information, I recommend you read the author notes throughout. However, there were a few aspects that I think could have been explored further, like politics/the cursus honorum and the history of Rome. What it did do really well though was the social side and the inclusion of women and slaves in Roman life.
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This was an interesting read i liked it for the most part. The information was handled well but it did seem a bit surface level at times and it was a lot shorter than i thought it would be. This was accessible for everyone which makes it a good entry text for those who are newer to Roman history but for those who need a deeper look, there are better books.
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I have never read a more interesting history book that tells what few have said before. I am a history buff and especially interested in Ancient Roman and European history. I have read the many books on such things but always wondered how the people REALLY lived. Now I know. I am very glad I read this as my picture of Rome is now complete. How to Survive in Ancient Rome is written in. a conversational tone which makes it easy to read. I read this in two days as I could not put it down once I started. I would never have guessed the many things the Roman citizen , slave, soldier, rich person, did daily. Men and women and children are covered. One example I took away from this excellent book is how the poor ate daily. In all of the years of Roman history study I never knew that their were bake houses for the poor to take their grain to. The reason why was that very few had a cooking spot in their small apartments so had to take their allotment of grain to a local baker who ground the grain and then baked it! The concept of religion is supposedly so complex that I rarely see it covered in a way that makes sense . After reading I learned a lot about the Gods and how people came to them daily for help. The photos are relevant and the illustrations fit the story nicely. Votive hair to Aesclepius for baldness ? I would never have guessed this even was a common occurrence or even worked but it happened in Rome. This book is interesting and made me smarter . I understand how my ancestors lived and how history is fun and relevant for all today. Five stars,
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This is a very entertaining overview of everyday life in Ancient Rome. Breezy and full of humor, the book covers in brief nearly all aspects of what it was like to live in Rome in the late first century. A great book for the general interest reader!
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Hilarious, witty and full to the brim of absolutely fascinating information, this book is unlike any other I've read on ancient Rome, and I've read a LOT.  There is so much I want to blurt out but don't want to spoil the fun for anyone.

We are taken on a wondrous journey by foot through Rome 2,000 years ago learning about emperors, wars, punishments, clothing, food, slaves, corruption (fire fighters wait to be bribed before putting out fires and no policing), how years and months are determined, politics, entertainment, occupations (any poisoner applicants?), family naming (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Divi Filius or having five Julias in one household), etc.  Having visited Rome many times myself, it was easy to experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes through the author's words but even if you haven't been there (go!) you will feel you are in the middle of the action.

The first part of the book introduces us to the founding of Rome including a helpful timeline, followed by The Republic years.  I had no idea Rome had peace, no war, for only one year over a span of nearly 500 years.  Then comes the Empire years where we learn about known and unknown emperors, how they looked and how they died.  Be sure to read the author notes, too.

Have questions?  This engaging book has answers plus answers questions you didn't know you had!  It is not textbook-ish or encyclopedic whatsoever but written simply and so funny I giggled many times throughout.

Such a great book to read before going to Rome.  Or read it if you are intrigued by ancient Rome.   The writing style makes details easy to remember, as do illustrations and photographs.  I regaled my mom with information all morning!

My sincere thank you to Pen & Sword and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this delightful book.  Much appreciated.
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