Book Review – Chronicle of the Roman Emperors

Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: The Reign-By-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial Rome by Christopher Scarre

This is an excellent history book.  It is well organized and a useful reference work for projects and information purposes.  It is also well enough written to be an enjoyable read. It does not pretend to be a general/complete history of Imperial Rome; instead it covers the emperors themselves, giving a coherent unbiased picture difficult to get from most traditional histories.  It gives an account of each emperor from Augustus to Romulus Augustulus.

This book provides a history that acknowledges the reports of historians from all areas (including enemies of Rome), these are critically analyzed for their biases (e.g., that of senatorial authors against emperors who ignored the senate, or of Christian authors against the persecutors) to attempt to give a balanced account.  The author does not blindly accept what either group has to say about emperors who they either demonize or deify. This is a very worthwhile practice, and so overall the book is a very helpful primer for a novice on the subject.

Especially interesting was the family information as well as the timelines, maps and illustrations. This book is concise and complete for its size and also manages to include text sketches of other prominent people of the day as well as each emperor’s most famous construction projects, laws or other interesting tid bits.

The smaller details of imperial titles, etc., are pulled out into handy sidebars where they can be ignored if desired or enjoyed by those who like that sort of thing.

The book is beautifully illustrated with photographs of portrait busts of most of the emperors as well as the monuments they built. There are also many drawings and plans showing reconstructions of their palaces and monuments.  It is very easy to read and Latin concepts are easily explained.  An excellent book for author research or school projects.
-HMC

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