Rome: Day One
Legends have it that Rome was founded on April 21st in the 8th century BCE. The ancient Romans were certain of it. And its founder, Romulus which many modern scholars throw into the realm of legend, is credited for not only establishing the city but also for giving it its governing bodies, religious structure and so much more. But is it truly a legend? Is there evidence for a historical Romulus? Archaeologist and author, Andrea Carandini does seem to think so. Relying on his decades worth of excavations, Carandini sets on a quest to rediscover Romulus and in turn, recreate the early years of the Romulian era.
I need to be honest here. This was a tough book to get through. It was not poorly written but the author does make a lot of assumptions going into the book. For instance, it is assumed that the reader knows the legends or mythologies surrounding Romulus prior to diving into the material. I will give Carandini some credit in that he does provide some of the stories surrounding the fabled founder of Rome as it was told by the ancient writers as supplementary texts at the end of the publication, as sort of an appendix.
Another assumption is that the author assumes that the reader is somewhat versed in Latin with various words interspersed throughout the material. I found it difficult to truly grasp what I was reading without looking these words up elsewhere. I also found it difficult to interpret many of the maps and diagrams used to illustrate various ancient Roman boundaries and territories, some of which were not fully described in the text itself.
Lastly, Carandini assumes that the reader has a general understanding of ancient Italy during the 8th century and before Romulus. He immediately dives into the research providing little context and it makes it difficult to follow along. There is also a lot of jumping around when presenting material and the evidence to prove his claims. The presentation does not seem to flow smoothly.
As for Carandini’s conclusions, I will say this: his presumptions of Romulus building Rome, in the way that the author envisions tend to be a bit of a stretch. Again, by profession, he is an archaeologist and he does rely on archaeological materials to back his hypothesis but nowhere in this published research do we find a direct connection to Romulus himself.
At the end of the day, would I recommend this book? Sure, but only if you have a background or general understanding in ancient Roman history. Overall, it was not a bad book. The presentation could have used a bit of cleaning up and a few things could have used a bit of explanation here and there but aside from that, as I mentioned earlier, it was not poorly written.
Book Review by Petros Koutoupis