None of my breakups have been particularly dramatic. Maybe that’s why I have a fascination for messy break ups. Messy, not violent. I’m not in favor of violence. Nero did not feel the same way. Nero loved violence. If I learned nothing else from this book, it’s that I do not want to live during the Roman Empire. I’m also in an anti-romance phase. It’ll pass, but for now, reading about love affairs gone wrong and listening to murder podcasts is my bag.
Jennifer Wright has a definite point of view. She’s chatty and fun, sharing the gossip and giving a little historical context, but she definitely picks sides and has opinions. Her point of view is one of the things I liked best about the book. Each of the stories was sad and enraging in their own way. Nero was the worst – he murdered everyone. Henry VIII was a huge jerk for executing two of his wives. Henry II was remarkable for not executing Eleanor of Aquitaine after she and their sons rebelled against him. Violence against partners and exes didn’t end with Henry VIII of course. Despite the heartbreak, some of the stories had happy endings for the individuals, though not for the couples.
Here are some general lessons I think we can take from break ups of bygone eras:
An imbalance of power doesn’t make for a good relationship or a good break up (Authoritarian rule doesn’t seem to lead to good behavior).
Violence towards your ex is never excusable, and is always going to make you look like the bad guy, even if your ex was cheating.
Passion and drama make for a good story, but a softer, kinder love probably makes for a better life.
Not everyone should get married, and societal pressure to do so does no one any favors.
Social pressures to conform to gender norms or heterosexual norms are also dumb.
Let it go and move on.
You can’t control the future or what other people do, but you can choose your response. Keep it classy.
Ovaries before brovaries.
No matter how badly you behave, you will probably be arrested before you are as bad as Nero.
Norman Mailer is the WORST.
We really do live in the best time to break up. Instead of taking a baseball bat to our exes car or burning their stuff, we can watch gifs of women in make up and fancy clothes do it for us.