The Bottom Line
- Clearly written.
- Good exercises to test understanding.
- Delves into fascinating topics/trivia.
- A couple of questionable assumptions.
- Chapters on the family, housing, domestic life, and education.
- Chapters on slavery, freed men (libertini) and freed women (libertinae).
- Chapters on urban life, occupations, trade, and leisure.
- Separate chapters on the stages of men/boy's lives and women/girl's.
- Chapters on religion, public entertainment, and the Roman measuring system.
- 84 illustrations.
- A chapter devoted to resources, including books, websites, films, and fiction.
Guide Review - To Be a Roman - Text and Workbook
Although the book is designed for classrooms, like most of Bolchazy-Carducci's materials, it is self-contained enough for autodidacts or homeschoolers, as well. To make sure you understand and to reinforce the clearly written short chapters, the authors provide 19 sets of tests and puzzles. There are lovely depictions of Roman life in black and white photos of friezes, statues, and mosaics. Occasional repetition ensures that even if you read out of sequence, you still find the critical information in each coherent and independent chapter.
I do have a reservation, though. There are some statements that seem, if not necessarily wrong, too speculative for an introduction to Roman life. This is especially the case in the chapters on Roman slaves. On p. 53 the authors suggest slave owners manumitted their slaves because "[g]ranting freedom was a way to encourage peaceful support for Rome throughout the Italian peninsula and abroad." Among questions this raises are (1) why the authors imply that slaves went back to their ancestral homes instead of staying on as clients of their former masters, their patrons, and (2) why ordinary individual Romans would routinely go to the expense of freeing their slaves for such noble motives. Fortunately, there is little of this inadequately explained speculation.