Daily life under the Emperor Trajan as seen through cameo portraits of Flavius the Senator; his client Marcus, a parvenu merchant; their families; slaves, country cousins; former slaves now set up as tradesmen; etc. The method may not please purists because there's no visible documentation and it's hard to draw the line between the representative and the personal--it seems that most of the young gifts we meet have a covert interest in book learning, and the traditionalist farmer Decius does editorialize (""Cruelty and bloodshed and fighting will be the ruin of Rome, mark my words""). And it's too bad Dillon doesn't give the sources of some of the anecdotes. But the presentation is inviting overall, with good views of trades like barbering, the state of medicine and surgery, the preparations for an elaborate banquet, the activities of a young man who aspires to be a satirical poet, and differing views on slavery, including a farmer who is debating whether to breed pigs or slaves. There is balance also, in the contrast between the families of Flavius and Marcus--the former relatively austere but educated in little more than rhetoric, the latter coarse and rather decadent but influenced by an excellent Greek teacher/slave. Even lethargic students should find this easy going.