After reading Pooja’s review of Emma Southon’s A Rome of One’s Own, I clicked over to NetGalley and requested an arc. It was as delightful as Pooja said and my review would have been up much sooner if my brain hadn’t decided it will only produce words when a deadline is looming. It’s out next week, and I highly recommend it if you enjoy thoughtful and dryly witty examinations of ancient history and how histories are constructed. Southon divides her book between Rome as a Kingdom, a Republic, an Empire, and post empire.
If a man says he thinks about Ancient Rome a lot, ask him who Tanaquil was, or if he can tell you about the Julias of the Roman Empire. Does he even know Galla Placidia? To be fair, I could not have answered any questions about these women prior to reading Southon’s book either. Southon roots the lack of interest in Roman women not only in modern era patriarchal assumptions that women in history are inconsequential because they don’t lead armies, but also in the mythology of the founding of Rome, primarily written during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Given how badly we interpret events that happened yesterday, I don’t envy the historian attempting to glean facts from accounts written centuries later. Southon instead looks at why the stories of the few named women of the Roman Kingdom are constructed the way they are. I’m not going to get into all the interesting stuff in these chapters, because that’s what book clubs are for.
This was a fascinating read. I would definitely have been thinking about Rome if Emma Southon had been writing when I was reading ancient histories. I enjoyed Southon’s writing so much I immediately downloaded the audiobook version of A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. I have not listened to it yet because my brain continues to be a jerk. Anyway, pour one out for Tarpeia, the first Roman scapegoat.
I received this as an advance reader copy from Abrams Press and NetGalley. My opinions are my own, freely and honestly given.