Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Secret Confessions

Okay, maybe a better title would be, not-so-secret obsessions. I have weird things that I am interested in. And this isn't what you are thinking.

For the last 8 months, I have been obsessed with all things Roman. I mean, ancient history Roman. Like Julius Caesar and Mark Antony and Romulus and Claudius.... I know, I know, weird, huh?

My other long term (like for the last 10 years) obsession has been the Napoleonic Era of Britain. I think this one makes a little more sense. I have read all of Jane Austen's novels over and over and over and they are mostly set during this era. Then I read all of the Master and Commander books (20 of them) by Patrick O'Brien. These are great-they made a pretty good movie with Russell Crowe but the books are still better. Then I read the Horatio Hornblower books. (and watched the miniseries) And I rounded it all out with a fantastic non-fiction tome called To Rule The Waves, by Arthur Herman. Now THAT is a wonderful tale that reads part spy novel, part pirate story. If you are even the tiniest bit interested in the British Empire or naval history, it is well worth the time. (And for all you Pacific Northwesterners, Nancy Pearl highly recommends this book as well.)

But I digress. My love of the British Navy has not diminished in the slightest, but I cannot get enough about the ancient Romans. It all started with the HBO series, ROME, and spiraled out of control from there. My father-in-law, it turns out, shares the same obsession as myself and introduced me to the Roman Blood series by Steven Saylor. Delightful detective novels set in a historically correct Sulla- Julius Caesar time period--I could not get enough of these. Then I read a few in the Under the Eagle series by Simon Scarrow. Not bad--realistic descriptions and stories of Roman Legions fighting in Britain but not enough to keep me interested.

And now I have nearly finished I, Claudius by Robert Graves and I can't wait to start the second one, Claudius the God. This is a very interesting novel because it is written in first person, like an autobiography and it was published in 1934. Not only is a giving you an accurate history of the time period, but Graves makes the character of Claudius quite compelling, with humor, and sympathetic all at the same time. It turns out there is a well regarded BBC miniseries (of course there is) based on I, Claudius made in 1974 and starring Derek Jacobi (Gosford Park and Gladiator) and John Hurt (too many to note.)

I think my obsession is starting to get a little notice: a friend recently let me have this copy of The Early History of Rome and my dad just went to Italy on a cruise and brought me back these coin replicas that I want to incorporate into some jewelry.

Although, stopping to think about it now, this actually does makes sense. Some of the best known mosaics in the world have come from this region and this time period and I already have read quite a few books on the art of this time. Now I just have a little more of the narrative of the people of this time. I find it riveting.


  1. You and my husband should go get drinks sometime and talk Rome. He's read all the Graves books (and I've read I, Claudius as well.) We both highly recommend the miniseries, even having consumed the novel. It's excellent!

  2. The "I, Claudius" series was all the rage with me and all my geeky college friends back in our day. Derek Jacobi was our acting hero.

  3. I was planning on watching the miniseries when I am done with the books. (OK, not like I don't know what happens to Claudius, but it will help the narrative if I am not reading from 2 sources at once!) Trevor is not interested at all in reading it, unfortunately. I should have been his father's daughter, I guess.

  4. Trevor's grandfather was also a Roman history buff. He gave this book to his son and claims it's the best one ever written, "BRITANNIA" - A History of Roman Britain" by Sheppard Frere.Incidentally, there are tons of Roman coins in Britain that sell for pennies because there are so many.