Books about city life in ancient Rome
July 28, 2006 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Any good books/sites you can recommend about city life in ancient Rome?

I used to be a classics major, and so have studied quite a bit about the ancient Romans, so imagine my surprise when I realized that I knew next to nothing about how the citizens and denizens of the city of Rome lived during the Empire. I know bits and pieces, but have nothing resembling of an overview.
posted by Kattullus to Society & Culture (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I have really enjoyed the Sub Rosa series by Steven Saylor. They are mystery novels, so while I wouldn't use them as source material for a research paper, I found them to give me a pretty good idea of Roman life. (I am a former Classics major, myself). He starts well before the empire, though, but it's fun to watch his protagonist progress through the crumbling of the Republic.
posted by omphale27 at 3:55 PM on July 28, 2006

I found Tom Holland's Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic to be very evocative and full of details of daily life in ancient Rome. But that was the Republic, of course, not Empire -- it ends with the death of Augustus.
posted by trip and a half at 4:04 PM on July 28, 2006

Best answer: My classical archaeologist girlfriend recommends, in this order:

The Archaeology of the Roman Economy, Kevin Greene, University of California Press 1990 (because this deals with the economy, it necessarily deals with daily life)

The World of Rome: An Introduction to Roman Culture, Peter Jones and Keith Sidwell (editors), Cambridge University Press 1997

Daily Life in Ancient Rome, Jerome Carcopino, Yale University Press 2003

Daily Life in Ancient Rome, Florence Dupont, Blackwell Publishing 1994
posted by The Michael The at 4:42 PM on July 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I like Lindsey Davis' Falco mysteries, but again, they're fiction.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2006

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCoullough. First of a series of novels about Roman life. It's very thorough and very detailed, but I found it a bit dull. You may think differently. Though not a book, check out HBO's series "Rome", good show.
posted by zardoz at 6:43 PM on July 28, 2006

Also, check out these previous AskMe threads: 1 and 2.
posted by ericb at 7:12 PM on July 28, 2006

You can actually infer a fair amount about average roman life simply by reading Gibbon's chapters on the early church, since Gibbon describes the values and lifestyle of the early christians by contrast theirs with that of mainstream Roman citizens.

You'll still want more scholarly and more specialized sources, of course, but as a short, well-written take on the matter it'd be a shame not to read (that part of) Gibbon.
posted by little miss manners at 9:01 PM on July 28, 2006

"City" by David Macaulay
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:13 PM on July 28, 2006

The Michael The's answer is very comprehensive. I also enjoyed the first chapter of A World Full of Gods by Keith Hopkins. It's not about city life in Rome but does give an interesting idea about what life in another city would have been like.
posted by greycap at 2:38 AM on July 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks to all!

My local library has both Daily Life in Ancient Rome books, one of which I'll pick up on my next run.
posted by Kattullus at 8:02 AM on July 29, 2006

Not exactly about daily life in Rome, but a novel (or precursor to the novel) written by a Roman in about 60 AD.... a really fun book of wild adventures. The Satyricon by Petronius.
posted by nancoix at 6:32 PM on July 29, 2006

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