The Colosseum by Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard - review by Peter Jones

Peter Jones

Better Than Wembley

The Colosseum


Profile Books 224pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

his is an extremely interesting and intelligently illustrated book, rather spoiled for me by its tone. Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard (H–B, though H recently died) write in too chatty a fashion for my tastes, as if Roman history were intrinsically boring and readers needed to be jollied along. Furthermore, they rarely miss a chance to pilger on about how disgusting they find their chosen subject, beating their breasts and sanctimoniously inviting the reader to do the same, as if their Cambridge-liberal credentials might be jeopardised by their writing about a building whose purpose was to celebrate the deaths of humans and animals. 'There is still a sense of transgression in the paradox of taking pleasure in touring the site where Romans took their pleasure in state-sponsored mass murder,’ they sermonise. Not for me, there isn't. I find no paradox in enjoying a visit to any ancient site, whatever happened there. And even if I did, how exactly would I be 'transgressing'? When they piously toynbeed on, saying: 'it may finally come as a relief to know that [the Colosseum] has also been harnessed by some more noble causes [including Amnesty International]. … With the slogan “The Colosseum lights up

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