ROMANS by Michael Sheridan


Their Lives and Times
Email this review


 A delightful excursion through the history, politics, and culture of the Eternal City, showing the continuity between Rome's turbulent history and its equally intriguing present. The glories and savageries of ancient republican and imperial Rome permeate journalist Sheridan's account: Reminders of Rome's ancient past are everywhere as Sheridan shows the influence of the symbolism and history of the Roman state on the universal Church and even on Mussolini's Italy. Sheridan deftly traces the history of the Latin language and literature from the ancient past until modern times, as it served as the Catholic Church's lingua franca until the 1960s. Sheridan writes not only of the native Romans, but of foreigners who, like himself, were attached in some way to the ancient city: Edward Gibbon, who conceived his great history amid the ruins of the Forum, and the Shelleys, who romanticized Rome until their young son died there of an illness exacerbated by the climate. Sheridan draws an arresting portrait of the complex Count Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law, whose specious rise and tragic fall paralleled that of Fascist Italy. The author also devotes two chapters to the Catholic Church, providing a snapshot of the church during the sea change of Vatican II and following its progress through the increasingly conservative reigns of Paul VI and John Paul II. Finally, Sheridan discusses the scandal-ridden turmoil of current Italian politics. Tracing the fabled inefficiencies, corruption, and surprising stability of the modern Italian state to ancient Rome, Sheridan muses that ``its success depended upon the mechanism elaborated by Cicero and savaged by Juvenal: that is, the relationship between patron and client, the reciprocal use of favor, the courteous mutual understanding that oils every transaction.'' A pleasant journey through the past and present of Europe's greatest urbs.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-312-13158-5
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


NonfictionTHE ITALIANS by John Hooper
by John Hooper