A solid, thoughtfully researched, hugely sympathetic account of Ancient Rome's twelve hundred years. The author, Pierre Grimal, though a Frenchman and Sorbonne professor, writes really more like a meat and potato Englishman: the style is hearty, the documentation beefy, with only a few side-dish superlatives served up as seasoning, Rome being the ""most marvellously humane society that the world had hitherto known"", the ""father for all mankind"". About a quarter of the book is reserved for an extensive chronological table and a highly useful historical and biographical dictionary. The survey, a concentrated study of Roman manners and little of Roman machinations, is especially apt when dealing with the customs, laws and landscapes of varying times and temperaments. He shows Roman structures as developing step by step with Hellenism, then surpassing it through the creation of the Republic, a political phenomenon, and the extensions of the Empire, a military one. The Roman ideal was of ""naturalism"" as against the ""divine"" speculations of the Greeks; its civilization combined both rural and urban enthusiasm, it concretized the commonplace and common-sense; its social sphere, however, went full circle from parochialism to cosmopolitanism. In the end, if the Greeks left the legacy of art, the Romans left that of administration. The professor, obviously opting for the latter, is not too surprisingly subdued when assessing aspects of Latin culture or ""the pleasures of the city"". Incidentally, the book inaugurates a projected series presenting general pictures of the ""Great Civilizations""; it's a notable ""first"".