Meet the Ancient Romans

Meet the … Ancient Romans
James Davies
Big Picture Press

This is one of a new history series. It’s an engaging look at the Ancient Romans, presented with an exuberance that young readers will find both highly entertaining and illuminating.

Small chunks of information are delivered with a gentle wit, on almost thirty topics. These range from The Birth of the Roman Empire (a comic strip rendering of the Romulus and Remus myth), through emperors …

writing and number systems, home life, clothing, inventions, food and farming, bathing, theatre, building (the Romans were superb builders and engineers) …

medicine (herbs and healing baths were prescribed for most illnesses);

entertainment, (the Romans pitted animals against animals as well as humans; and entry to the Colosseum was free, sometimes even the food came gratis), and ending with the fall of the empire, and a spread on Rome Today.

Throughout, the emphasis is on the visuals: Davies has an off-beat style, uses limited colour to great effect and peppers his illustrations with amusing speech bubbles.

All in all a great introduction for a younger audience, to a fascinating ancient civilisation, the legacy of which is still evident today.

Check out the companion volume ‘Meet the Ancient Egyptians’ too.

Historium

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Historium
Richard Wilkinson and Jo Nelson
Big Picture Press
This handsome, outsized volume offers a virtual museum experience within hard covers. The opening pages – the ‘Entrance’ provide a brief rationale for what is included, ‘ only a selection of the civilisations that have ever existed, but we hope it will inspire future exploration.’ and a short explanation of archaeology. Next comes a timeline that illustrates the objects featured in the six galleries: Africa, America, Asia, Europe, The Middle East and Oceania.
Gallery 1 includes Southern Africa, Western Africa …

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and Ancient Egypt with each culture being given a short overview followed by a key to the artefacts that includes description, cultural context and anthropological significance.
In Gallery 2, America, five civilisations feature: The Olmec, The Maya,

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The Aztecs, The Hopewell (I hate to admit my ignorance about this one), and the Pueblo.
Enter Gallery 3 and you’re taken to Ancient Asia – India (the ancient culture I’m most familiar with),

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China, Japan and Korea.
Gallery 4, Europe encompasses The Celts, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome …

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and The Vikings.
The Middle East is the location for Gallery 5 and here Jo Nelson offers readers five Mesopotamian objects, another five from The Ancient Levant, a frieze from Ancient Persia; and Early Islam has fragments of a woven tapestry, wall painting fragments and an earthenware bowl.

 

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The 6th Gallery, Oceania includes items from the Indigenous Australians,

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Melanesia, Polynesia and The Maori.
Wilkinson’s digital illustrations are not photos though they have a considerable degree of photorealism in the detail and some truly stand out from the page.

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Moving from early Stone Age (a hand axe) right through to the 19th century (a Polynesian head of a staff god) is indeed an ambitious enterprise and of course, it can never take the place of a real museum visit; but you would need to visit a great many to see everything Historium presents. There is a final index citing the museums (with locations) of the artefacts displayed in the whole fascinating enterprise. It certainly does give the next best thing: a basic introduction to a number of ancient cultures (mostly no longer in existence) and an exciting visual experience that will one hopes, inspire readers to go (coining a phrase from Bruner), ‘beyond the information given’

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