Antoninus Pius

The horrors of dining with a Roman emperor

Emperor of Rome? Is there a typo in the title? Mary Beard’s latest book is about not one but 30 Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar (assassinated 44 BCE) to Alexander Severus (assassinated 235 CE), so why the singular? The answer is that Emperor of Rome is a study of autocracy and one autocrat, as Marcus Aurelius put it, is much the same as another: ‘Same play, different cast.’  Beard’s subject is emperors as a category, because it was the symbol of rule rather than the ruler himself that mattered to the 50 million imperial subjects between darkest Britannia and the Saharan desert in the first three centuries of the Christian