Many books, documentaries and movies claim to chronicle daily life in Ancient Rome, but it's rare to find a narrative so encrusted in detail as this lively offering from an Italian author and television host. Adopting a first person plural voice, Angela takes us on an eagle-eyed tour of the ancient city on an "ordinary day" in the year A.D. 115. Serving as a Virgil-like guide, Angela begins in a Domus, an upper-class home, exploring its meticulous inner workings, from the aqueduct hook-up to the slave labor. Out in the streets, Angela provides a fascinating, nail-by-nail description of Roman construction before schooling readers in the particulars of buying slaves. Next up is a bloody scene at the Coliseum (featuring hungry lions and their worthy meal), and a steamy sunset tour of bedrooms, salons, and sexual mores; Romans viewed sex as "a gift of the gods," something to enjoy, and would "judge our sexuality as excessively complicated... by mental complexes and roles." Angela's rigorous research and populist style, aided by Conti's seamless translation, should fascinate casual readers as well as dedicated Italophiles.
"Alberto Angela makes an important but often complicated subject fascinating and accessible. The reader is catapulted into a day in the Imperial capital and uncovers affinities, secrets, curiosities, and anecdotes about the inhabitants of ancient Rome... Angela transforms his book into a kind of three-dimensional set in which the reader strolls, visiting homes, markets, open air school, baths, and even public latrines."
"One discovers a wealth of details about the curious habits of ancient Romans, from their recipes to their tastes in interior design, from life in the Insulae, the giant Roman housing projects, to the shocking slave markets."
Il Corriere della Sera