Beginning with the legend of Romulus and Remus and the creation of the city of Rome, this book provides an entertaining and amusing jaunt through over 1000 years of Roman history. Each double-page spread contains information about one specific aspect of Roman life: the beginning of the Roman Empire, famous emperors, life in the army and as a slave, gods and goddesses, entertainment and much more. Inside the back cover, there’s a simple timeline of Ancient Rome and some information about life in the modern-day city. There’s an interesting mixture of the usual information that appears in every children’s book about the Romans (how the planets were given their names, how Roman numerals work, etc.) as well as plenty of lesser known trivia. I certainly had no idea that Julius Caesar was never officially a Roman Emperor, that Caligula once put his horse in charge of the government or that a Roman century consisted of only 80 soldiers!
The book is extremely eye-catching, as it’s printed on bright red paper throughout. The bold, black and white illustrations are cartoonish in style and could use slightly more informative labelling but, on the whole, work effectively alongside the text. The irreverent style of writing, quite similar to that of the Horrible Histories series, ensures that serious matters are covered in a way that is accessible to younger children. This book serves as an ideal introduction to Ancient Rome and would definitely fire up a child’s enthusiasm for further reading on the subject. The author and illustrator, James Davies, also produced Meet the… Ancient Egyptians, which was published at the same time and is of a similar high-quality. Bene factum James!