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‘The Reach of Rome: A Journey Through the Lands of the Ancient Empire, Following a Coin’ by Alberto Angela


What was life like in the Roman Empire? What kind of people we would have met in its cities? How were the Romans able to create such a great empire, connecting so many different peoples and places?

Admired in his native Italy for his ability to bring history to life through narrative, Alberto Angela in ‘The Reach of Rome: A Journey Through the Lands of the Ancient Empire, Following a Coin’ shows us the behind-the-scenes of Roman Empire.

Angela is a famous Italian palaeontologist, scientific populariser, writer and journalist. When he was a child, he accompanied his father Piero Angela, an Italian TV populariser (a myth in Italy), on his trips; this has given Alberto a cosmopolitan culture, stimulating him to write often about the world of the Romans, the first big globalized empire in history.

This book is, ideally, the continuation of ‘A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome’, the author’s previous best-seller, in which he imagines a hypothetical voyage of twenty-four hours, telling the daily life in Rome under Emperor Trajan in 115 AD, at the height of the Roman Empire.

In ‘The Reach of Rome’, Angela imagines waking up the next morning and undertaking a one year journey across the whole Roman territories by following a sestertius, the ancient Roman coin. Using this plot device, he pauses on people that gradually get hold of the coin; we could discover all their stories, their ways of life, their habits and their homes. Stretching from Scotland to Kuwait, from Spain to Germany, from the Sahara to the North Sea, from Britannia to Babylonia, the author draws the stories of some personalities more or less known in the past and stories of normal people. You can read about the amorous adventures of a Roman soldier, the tragic illness of a child slave, the musician’s attempt to survive a shipwreck to reach her boyfriend and many other stories, all based on what archaeologists have collected at archaeological sites.

This journey is hypothetical, but entirely plausible. Some characters actually lived in that time and in those places, and their names and jobs are true. Everything is based on research works, tomb steles, inscriptions and ancient texts.

 ‘The Reach of Rome’ traces the political forces that created the Empire and portrays those who commanded and manned it, as well as those against whom it was held. Rich with abundant descriptions, necessary to describe populations and environments, ‘The Reach of Rome’ is a great historical fresco in which Angela explains in an accessible way the rise, pre-eminence, crises, and collapse of the Roman dominion.

With maps and photos, mixing narrative and non-fiction writing and focusing on aspects of daily life so often overlooked in more academic treatments,step by step we can discover the normal life in the Empire. ‘The Reach of Rome’travels back in time and shows us a world that was perhaps not very different from our own.

For those wishing to watch the English presentation of the book and an interview with Alberto Angela at New York University, please click on the following YouTube link: https://youtu.be/po2SOxoeCpo

The Reach of Rome: A Journey Through the Lands of the Ancient Empire, Following a Coin on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0847841286

Written by Alessandro Volpino


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