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

What ‘pax’ meant in Rome’s golden age of imperialism

The Roman emperor Domitian began life as a spare. At the end of the 1st century CE, while his brother Titus was the heir to their father Vespasian, the younger boy’s ‘sense of resentment and frustration had festered’, writes Tom Holland. ‘Rather than stay in Rome, where his lack of meaningful responsibility was inevitably felt as something raw’, Domitian moved away with a wife whom his family disliked, ‘doomed forever to be a supernumerary’, paranoid, attracting gossip, avoiding any company in which ‘innocent mention of baldness’ might be viewed as ‘mockery of his own receding hairline’. In most judgments by posterity this Prince Harry of the early empire fulfilled all