Mary Beard is arguably the most well-known contemporary historian of ancient Rome’s vibrant
culture and certainly its most eloquent spokesperson. Cambridge professor, salty blogger,
television personality, and best-selling authoress of riveting and dramatic prose, Beard teases new
interpretations out of ancient literary and historical texts, archaic Latin inscriptions on stone
and papyrus, and senatorial laws and imperial decrees. What is most exciting, however, is that
she gives a voice to the underclasses—the slaves, the poor, and the women—without whom
the mighty Roman republic could never have become the even mightier Roman empire. Beard’s
SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome is a modern classic, both authoritative and popular, magisterial
and eminently readable, and enhanced by over a hundred illustrations of Roman sculptures, coins,
and monuments as well as by maps and a timeline that give visual testimony to her many new and
fascinating “takes” on what she calls a “conversation” with the Senate and Roman People or SPQR
as they were known then and now. In fine, Beard strives, as she says, “to tell Rome’s story and to
explain why ... it matters,” and she does so in stellar fashion. Ergo, we’ll have much to learn and to
discuss as we explore and relive Roman history from 753 BCE to 212 CE.
Required Reading: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard., Paperback, New York,
Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2016. (ISBN: 978-1-63149-222-8).
Daniel Taylor ’63 is the Hiram A. Jones Professor and Chair Emeritus of Classics at Lawrence
University. He is the author of three books and dozens of articles. He was named Lawrence’s Outstanding
Teacher in 1998, Wisconsin’s Distinguished Foreign Language Educator in 1990 and was nationally
acclaimed for Excellence in Teaching the Classics in 1983. He is a two-time year-long National
Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellow and a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Italy. Now
retired, he and his wife Donna live in Summit County, CO, and have organized and led four Björklunden
Seminars Abroad to Greece and Italy. “Dr. Dan” revels in the Björklunden experience and is looking
forward to his 30th Björklunden seminar.