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How to Survive in Ancient Rome (Paperback)

Ancient History Rome P&S History

By L J Trafford
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526757869
Published: 11th November 2020

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History Hit

An article written by the author for Dan Snow's History Hit: '10 Ways to Upset a Roman Emperor.'

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Imagine you were transported back in time to Ancient Rome and you had to start a new life there. How would you fit in? Where would you live? What would you eat? Where would you go to have your hair done? Who would you go to if you got ill, or if you were mugged in the street? All these questions, and many more, will be answered in this new how-to guide for time travellers. Part self-help guide, part survival guide, this lively and engaging book will help the reader deal with the many problems and new experiences that they will face, and also help them to thrive in this strange new environment.

Being a life-long lover of History, I immediately knew I had to access this title via NetGalley! Thank you so much for the ability to be able to read this copy in exchange for my honest review. I was not only educated but amused. Reading this was such an enjoyable experience because I felt as though I had a lunch date turned gossip fest where the topic at hand was Ancient Rome! This is not your typical, fact-ridden, heavy nonfiction droll. It was entertaining and delightful and made refreshing my memory on all things Rome actually enjoyable! I learned many new things which I had never read before and I found some of the greatest appeal in the manner in which this was written! LOVED!

NetGalley, Larinda Agee

This is an engaging, witty, and informative guide to 1st Century Rome for the prospective time traveller. Should you be planning a trip to The Eternal City during the reign of Domitian you will have lots of burning questions about the history, culture and social structure plus concerns about how to stay safe. This fascinating book tells you all you need to know and provides great entertainment too. LJ Trafford clearly has a wealth of knowledge and ample enthusiasm for the subject; great for both newbies to Roman history or the more experienced history nerd.

NetGalley, Zoe Nock

"How to Survive in Ancient Rome" is an entertaining look at daily life in ancient Rome (specifically in 95 CE under the Emperor Dominitian). Homes, food, travel, shopping, and entertainment are all covered in an irreverently British-style humor that had me imagining the book read to me by Stephen Fry (or often Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc of the Great British Bake Off). Dry wit combines with stories told to us 'by a Roman' help readers learn how to navigate visiting the greatest city in the world without (probably) getting killed. Although unless you are a Roman citizen, male, and of an age to enter politics, this book might convince you that time-traveling there for more than a few hours is not, in fact, a life choice you want to make. Unless you like eels. and enjoy such perfect health that you never, ever need to visit anyone claiming to be a doctor. Plenty of fun "Did You Know" facts and descriptions to make the reader feel like you are actually there. A fun read, and a good way to introduce history to people who believe it is just boring dates.

NetGalley, Anne Morgan

This is one of those intro level history books that’s accessible and funny, as well as being genuinely informative. It could well be more amusing to those who know the context, or just to history geeks like me, but however much you do or don’t know, the book offers a great way in to Ancient Rome. Filled as much with day to day details as with high politics, this is the kind of stuff you’re not always taught. All the little things that give you a sense of what life was like. I’d love to use it in my lessons, because if there’s any way to reel people into the past, it’s to get them to feel that tug of genuine curiosity— and there’s more than enough here to bait the hook.

NetGalley, Emma Davis

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is written as if you had a witty British friend next to you teling you all about Roman life during the height of the Empire... I loved the comprehensive and very accessible look at this world.

NetGalley, Janet Perry

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It takes real skill to turn the facts of history into pure fun, and L. J. Trafford has managed it with style and class. A book hasn't made me laugh so much for a long time, though I have come to the conclusion that life in Ancient Rome isn't for me... I'll settle for reading about it instead! "How to Survive in Ancient Rome" is amusing, witty, laugh-out-loud funny at times, and heaped with information that I'll never use (I hope!).

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

This was a really fun, quick read about life in Ancient Rome, from politics to hairstyles, medicine to food. It is deceptively informative, because the writing style is informal and funny so you don't realise how much you actually learn! This book is accessible to everyone, no matter how much you know about the Romans. If you do want extra information, I recommend you read the author notes throughout.

NetGalley, Ella Blake

A fun and interesting guide to everyday life in ancient Rome, “How to Survive in Ancient Rome” by L J Trafford is a quick read that answers many questions about how people actually lived 2,000 years ago.

Like any good guidebook, there is a bit of history to start: the founding of Rome and how it grew from a city on the Tiber to a large empire, from kings to republic to empire. Then we get into the interesting stuff that one would need to know if one was to move to the capital: politics, social classes, jobs, the roles of women and slaves (not good), food, living arrangements, entertainment, religion, hygiene, and other issues that may arise. There is a good bit of humor throughout the book, as well as extensive footnotes and additional information for anyone that wants to know more.

NetGalley, Darius Ostrowski

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I have never read a more interesting history book that tells what few have said before. I am a history buff and especially interested in Ancient Roman and European history. I have read the many books on such things but always wondered how the people REALLY lived. Now I know. I am very glad I read this as my picture of Rome is now complete. How to Survive in Ancient Rome is written in. a conversational tone which makes it easy to read. I read this in two days as I could not put it down once I started. I would never have guessed the many things the Roman citizen , slave, soldier, rich person, did daily. Men and women and children are covered. One example I took away from this excellent book is how the poor ate daily. In all of the years of Roman history study I never knew that their were bake houses for the poor to take their grain to. The reason why was that very few had a cooking spot in their small apartments so had to take their allotment of grain to a local baker who ground the grain and then baked it! The concept of religion is supposedly so complex that I rarely see it covered in a way that makes sense . After reading I learned a lot about the Gods and how people came to them daily for help. The photos are relevant and the illustrations fit the story nicely. Votive hair to Aesclepius for baldness ? I would never have guessed this even was a common occurrence or even worked but it happened in Rome. This book is interesting and made me smarter . I understand how my ancestors lived and how history is fun and relevant for all today. Five stars.

NetGalley, Patrick Carmen

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a very entertaining overview of everyday life in Ancient Rome. Breezy and full of humor, the book covers in brief nearly all aspects of what it was like to live in Rome in the late first century. A great book for the general interest reader!

NetGalley, George Schaeffer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Hilarious, witty and full to the brim of absolutely fascinating information, this book is unlike any other I've read on ancient Rome, and I've read a LOT. There is so much I want to blurt out but don't want to spoil the fun for anyone.

We are taken on a wondrous journey by foot through Rome 2,000 years ago learning about emperors, wars, punishments, clothing, food, slaves, corruption (fire fighters wait to be bribed before putting out fires and no policing), how years and months are determined, politics, entertainment, occupations (any poisoner applicants?), family naming (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Divi Filius or having five Julias in one household), etc. Having visited Rome many times myself, it was easy to experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes through the author's words but even if you haven't been there (go!) you will feel you are in the middle of the action.

The first part of the book introduces us to the founding of Rome including a helpful timeline, followed by The Republic years. I had no idea Rome had peace, no war, for only one year over a span of nearly 500 years. Then comes the Empire years where we learn about known and unknown emperors, how they looked and how they died. Be sure to read the author notes, too.

Have questions? This engaging book has answers plus answers questions you didn't know you had! It is not textbook-ish or encyclopedic whatsoever but written simply and so funny I giggled many times throughout.

Such a great book to read before going to Rome. Or read it if you are intrigued by ancient Rome. The writing style makes details easy to remember, as do illustrations and photographs. I regaled my mom with information all morning!

NetGalley, Brenda Carleton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved, loved, loved this book!! I was a big fan of the Terry Deary horrible histories series as a child, and enjoyed his series he's made for adults also, and have enjoyed this book equally as much. It's written in a similar way, very well researched and giving you information you wouldn't have learnt in school but in a very humorous way. I appreciated that it was broken down into lots of smaller sections which made it perfect for reading whilst commuting or cooking at home as your could easily pick it up and put it down as needed, but to be honest I enjoyed it so much I started it on a Saturday and finished it the same day; it was just too good to put down. I have already recommended this book to family and friends, and am hoping the author will make this into a series as I'd love to read another like this but set in another time/place like maybe Vikings or something no one else has really covered yet like the Babylonians. To sum up, just buy the book and read it people; you won't regret it!

NetGalley, Saffron Melnyk

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful, slightly humorous book, that gives an explanation of how to survive in ancient Rome. This is history that brings a subject to life, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. The style of writing is not dry and tedious detail, but instead, a rich understanding of everyday life in Ancient Rome, with the history of Rome added.

NetGalley, Mary Hawkes

About L J Trafford

L.J. Trafford studied Ancient History at the University of Reading after which she took a job as a Tour Guide in the Lake District.


Moving to London in 2000 she began writing ‘The Four Emperors’ series. The series comprises four books – Palatine, Galba’s Men, Otho’s Regret and Vitellius’ Feast – which cover the dramatic fall of Nero and the chaotic year of the four emperors that followed.


She is a regular contributor to The History Girls blog and once received an Editor’s Choice mark from The Historical Novel Society. Her proudest moment remains creating #phallusthursday a popular Twitter hashtag dedicated to depictions of penises in antiquity.

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Imagine you were transported back in time to Ancient Greece and you had to start a new life there. How would you fit in? Where would you live? What would you eat? Where would you go to have your hair done? Who would you go to if you got ill, or if you were mugged in the street? All these questions, and many more, will be answered in this new how-to guide for time travellers. Part self-help guide, part survival guide, this lively and engaging book will help the reader deal with the many problems and new experiences that they will face, and also help them to thrive in this strange new environment.

By Robert Garland

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