Author(s): Ferdinand Addis
Why does Rome continue to exert a hold on the world's imagination? Ferdinand Addis brings the myth of Rome alive by concentrating on vivid episodes from its long and unimaginably rich history. Each of his beautifully composed chapters is an evocative, self-contained narrative, whether it is the murder of Caesar; the near-destruction of the city by the Gauls in 387 BC; the construction of the Colosseum and the fate of the gladiators; Bernini's creation of the Baroque masterpiece that is St Peter's Basilica; the brutal crushing of republican dreams in 1849; the sinister degeneration of Mussolini's first state, or the magical, corrupt Rome of Fellini's La Dolce Vita.
This is an epic, kaleidoscopic history of a city indelibly associated with republicanism and dictatorship, Christian orthodoxy and its rivals, high art and low life in all its forms.
In this entertaining, broad-brush portrait, the author suggests that there is an origin for the eternal city. From about 478 BCE, Rome had arguably the largest population, making it the oldest continuously occupied site in Europe. The challenge therefore becomes one of how to condense 3,000 years into 600 pages. The formula here is to serve up the usual highlights by presenting them as visual events. The author moves easily from Romulus and Remus to post empire and the dark ages. Thankfully we linger a while at the Renaissance. While it’s good to be reminded, the art appreciation here is not always subtle; Bernini’s St Teresa is summed up as 'the face of ecstasy'. The story concludes with a visual cameo from Fellini’s film; La Dolce Vita – the famous Trevi fountain scene. Although the author offers little original research, I think the book is the more accessible for that. It's a lively and witty read. Mike