A prodigious study of the influence of Rome on American arts and letters. Vol I covers the impact of classical Rome, while Vol. II covers that of Catholic (medieval and baroque) and contemporary Rome. Employing copious b&w illustrations (paintings, sculptures, photographs), and writing in smooth prose aimed at a general audience, Vance (English, American Studies/Boston Univ.) begins with a look at the Forum's effect on Americans--starting with the 1864 trip of William Dean Howells to view that republican shrine; he found it ""filled with mere fragments and rubbish""--and concludes, more than 800 pages later, with Rome's most recent influences, on the works of, among others, Cy Twombly, Gore Vidal, and John Cheerer (who ""found in Italy, and especially in Rome, an appropriate setting for his particular comic vision of sad befuddlement""). In between, Roman art, architecture, politics, and thought come alive as reflected in American eyes (including an engaging discussion of fictional depictions of an American Pope); in all, then, an erudite, challenging, deeply informative work for those enamored of the Queen of cities.