Monday, October 14, 2013

Undefeated by the Romans

A few months ago I posted a blog that mentioned I was reading The Romans for Dummies book (here). It has taken a long time, but I have finally finished it.

Sometimes I start a book that I think will be really interesting, but bog down partway through. I hate to be defeated by a book! So I often keep plugging on, trying to get it done. If desperate, I'll start skipping and scanning, just to get the gist of it without suffering through every word.

Occasionally, I'll find a book so boring that I decide it really has no worth for me and it is silly to spend any more time on it.

There have been a few times I have found a book so disgusting I have thrown it in the trash. I don't want to pass it on and pollute other minds!

But the Romans book seemed worthwhile to read. I've long been interested in the times of the Roman empire. There are a lot of fascinating characters, events, and accomplishments that took place under the Romans. Their influence on subsequent history is enormous.

So why did it take me so many months to finish this book?

I'm sorry to have to say it, but I was mostly just bored, bored, bored by it. But I wanted the information. So I read it a bit at a time over many weeks. The problem, it seems to me, is that the author tried to cover around 2,000 years of history in slightly less than 500 pages. Given that task, there wasn't space to spend developing the really interesting stories about people and events. Instead, you get bits and pieces in very condensed form. There are lots of names and dates I'm never going to remember. Neither will I really remember how the political structure of Rome was organized in different stages of the development from a village to an empire. And there were battles galore, but I'll only remember the general tenor of those times, rather than what general met what tribe in what battle in which country.

I come away from this book with a general overview of the entire span of the Roman Empire, from before it was an empire until its ultimate collapse. There were lots of villains and a few heroes, but only some of their names will stick with me.

Rather than being a fun and interesting read, this was more like a textbook (and why can't they be written in a lively and interesting manner?) that needed to be studied, with note-taking and exams to make the information stick.

I'm sorry I can't give a more positive review of the book. Someone else might come away from it with an entirely different view.

In the meantime, if you like history, I would highly recommend a slim volume by Will Cuppy titled The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody. It is copyrighted 1950, but I recently found a used copy through Amazon to replace my old paperback that I have worn out. I have laughed so hard reading this book (many times over the years) that my eyes teared up and I could no longer see the page. Jerry used to look at me like I was nuts when I was reading Cuppy's take on various historical personages. His history is generally accurate, but his viewpoint and the way he tells it are hilarious.

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