Ancient Rome

Great Lives Lecture Series: Cleopatra

Cleopatra: A Biography by Duane W. Roller

The University of Mary Washington's 2013 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Tuesday, January 29, with a lecture on Cleopatra by Duane W. Roller author of Cleopatra: A Biography:

Few personalities from classical antiquity are more famous-yet more poorly understood-than Cleopatra VII, queen of Egypt. In the centuries since her death in 30 BC, she has been endlessly portrayed in the arts and popular culture, from Shakespearean tragedy to paintings, opera, and movies. Despite the queen's enduring celebrity, however, many have dismissed her as a mere seductress. In this major new biography, Duane Roller reveals that Cleopatra was in fact a learned and visionary leader whose overarching goal was always the preservation of her dynasty and kingdom. Roller's authoritative account is the first to be based solely on primary materials from the Greco-Roman period: literary sources, Egyptian documents (Cleopatra's own writings), and representations in art and coinage produced while she was alive. His compelling portrait of the queen illuminates her prowess as a royal administrator who managed a large and diverse kingdom extending from Asia Minor to the interior of Egypt, as a naval commander who led her own fleet in battle, and as a scholar and supporter of the arts. Even her love affairs with Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius-the source of her reputation as a supreme seductress who drove men to their doom-were carefully crafted state policies: she chose these partners to insure the procreation of successors who would be worthy of her distinguished dynasty.

Find out more about this lecture on Mary Washington's web site.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are held at 7:30pm, in Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall, and are free and open to the public.

Great Lives Lecture Series: Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman

The University of Mary Washington's 2013 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series begins Thursday, January 24, 7:30pm, with a lecture on Julius Caesar by Philip Freeman, author of Julius Caesar:

More than two thousand years after his death, Julius Caesar remains one of the great figures of history. He shaped Rome for generations, and his name became a synonym for "emperor" -- not only in Rome but as far away as Germany and Russia. He is best known as the general who defeated the Gauls and doubled the size of Rome's territories. But, as Philip Freeman describes in this fascinating new biography, Caesar was also a brilliant orator, an accomplished writer, a skilled politician, and much more. Julius Caesar was a complex man, both hero and villain. 

Find out more about this lecture on Mary Washington's web site.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are held in Dodd Auditorium in George Washington Hall, and are free and open to the public.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World

By Anthony Doerr

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"Anthony Doerr has received many awards -- from the New York Public Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Library Association. Then came the Rome Prize, one of the most prestigious awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and with it a stipend and a writing studio in Rome for a year. Doerr learned of the award the day he and his wife returned from the hospital with newborn twins.Exquisitely observed, Four Seasons in Rome describes Doerr's varied adventures in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. He reads Pliny, Dante, and Keats -- the chroniclers of Rome who came before him -- and visits the piazzas, temples, and ancient cisterns they describe. He attends the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II and takes his twins to the Pantheon in December to wait for snow to fall through the oculus. He and his family are embraced by the butchers, grocers, and bakers of the neighborhood, whose clamor of stories and idiosyncratic child-rearing advice is as compelling as the city itself.This intimate and revelatory book is a celebration of Rome, a wondrous look at new parenthood, and a fascinating story of a writer's craft -- the process by which he transforms what he sees and experiences into sentences."

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Ghosts of Vesuvius: A New Look at the Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections

By Charles R. Pellegrino

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"The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 and the subsequent destruction of the thriving Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum are historic disasters of monumental proportions, resonating across millennia and remembered to this very day. Now Dr. Charles Pellegrino -- the acclaimed author who unearthed Atlantis, returned readers to Sodom and Gomorrah, and revealed startling new secrets about the most fabled sea tragedy of all in his superb New York Times bestseller Her Name, Titanic -- takes us back to the final days of an extraordinary civilization to experience an earth-shattering catastrophe with remarkable and unsettling ties to the unthinkable disaster of September 11, 2001.

"Through the modern wonders of forensic archaeology, astonishing facts about the everyday lives of the doomed citizens of Pompeii and Herculaneum have been brought to light, revealing a society that enjoyed "modern" amenities such as central heating, sliding glass doors, penicillin, hot and cold running water -- and a standard of living and life expectancy that would not be achieved again until the 1950s. But these thriving twin cities would be buried along with every hapless citizen in less than twenty-four hours when Vesuvius came frighteningly alive, sending a fearsome column of smoke and fire twenty miles into the sky.

"Employing volcano physics, Pellegrino shows that the Vesuvius eruption was one thousand times more powerful than the bomb that leveled Hiroshima, bringing to vivid life the frightful majesty of that volcanic apocalypse. Yet Pellegrino digs deeper, exploring fascinating comparisons and connections to other catastrophic events throughout history, in particular the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. As one of the world's only experts on downblast and surge physics, Pellegrino was invited to Ground Zero to examine the site and compare it with devastation wreaked by Vesuvius, in the hope of saving lives during future volcanic eruptions. In doing so, he offers us a poignant and unforgettable glimpse into the final moments of our own 'American Vesuvius.'"

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By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and Olympic Champions

By Richard Cohen

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By the Sword is an epic history of sword fighting—a science, an art, and, for many, a religion that began at the dawn of civilization in ancient Egypt and has been an obsession for mankind ever since. With wit and insight, Richard Cohen gives us an engrossing history of the world via the sword.

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Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

Lavinia of the blushing smiles and flaming hair merited only a few lines in the last books of Virgil’s Aeneid. That Lavinia was simply another lovely and dutiful princess to be married to the hero in accordance with the gods’ wishes. But Lavinia’s character is imagined and fully fleshed out by Hugo-winning writer Ursula K. Le Guin, transformed into a woman of strength and nobility in Lavinia.

The original heroic poem, written in the tradition of Homer’s famous works, traced the journey of Aeneas, a surviving prince from the fall of Troy, to his ultimate destiny as Rome’s progenitor as husband to Lavinia, princess of Latium. Son of Venus and therefore a target of her rival Juno’s spite, the gods themselves conspired in the affairs of these hapless mortals. It was by Venus’ intervention that the African queen Dido loved Aeneas and spared his life. Likewise, it was a messenger from Jupiter that convinced him to leave her for his greater destiny as a founder of Rome. The gods directed every important decision made by mortals. 
 
The battle death of Aeneas’ first wife and abandoned Dido’s suicide are just the sort of collateral damage that happens when the gods insert themselves directly into heroes’ lives—nothing to be taken personally because, after all, the gods’ purpose is to found the Roman Empire, and Aeneas is their agent. What’s a dead wife or royal lover when the divine legitimacy of the Empire is in the balance?

The Thieves of Ostia : a Roman Mystery

By Caroline Lawrence

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In Rome in the year 79 A.D., a group of children from very different backgrounds work together to discover who beheaded a pet dog -- and why. Learn a little Latin as you read. Enjoy the background information on the homepage: http://www.romanmysteries.com/pages/50-Home_Page
Recommended for ages 9 and up.

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