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

How to tell your Roman emperors apart

Rising professors do well to be controversial if they wish to be invited to contribute to mainstream media. But the elder professor, lauded, loved and telly-tastic, has the privilege of swerving controversy without losing the limelight. And so Mary Beard gives us this rich disquisition on the Caesars’ visual representation (and misrepresentation), from swapped plinths to forged heads. Handsomely illustrated and brightly ringing with Beard’s enjoyment and scholarship, the book doesn’t inflame debate but brings it down a few degrees. While her publicist might have preferred more engagement with today’s ‘sculpture wars’ (touted on the dust jacket but not mentioned within), Beard provides no ammo for either side, but takes

A nicer side of Nero

New York I haven’t felt such shirt-dripping, mind-clogging wet heat since Saigon back in 1971. The Bagel is a steam bath, with lots of very ugly people walking around in stages of undress that would once upon a time have embarrassed that famed stripper Lili St Cyr. How strange that very pretty girls do not shed their clothes as soon as the mercury hits triple figures, but less fortunate ones do even if the number is a cool 80. June is my London party month, or used to be before the city was transformed into a prison camp. And what about The Spectator party? I haven’t heard a woid, as