Vintage £9.99 (384pp) £9.49 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The First Ladies of Rome, By Annelise Freisenbruch
Friday 19 August 2011
Despite the authorial sketch ("She now lives in Dorset, where she teaches Latin"), anyone expecting a genteel account of "the women behind the Caesars" will be in for a shock. It includes a contemporary account of how Messalina (Mrs Claudius), passed her leisure hours: "She stood there naked and for sale, with her nipples gilded, under the trade-name of She-Wolf."
This wonderfully researched work displays wit and cultural reach. Julia, daughter of Augustus, is compared to Dorothy Parker for her crack about restricting errant sex to times of pregnancy: "Passengers are never allowed on board until the hold is full." Sex may sell the book, but there is much else, such as Livia's "indoor illusion" of a garden in Rome.
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 British tourists 'murdered' in Thailand: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 3 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 4 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
- 5 Julian Assange and Edward Snowden join piracy mogul Kim Dotcom’s political campaign in New Zealand
Fifty Shades of Grey movie: New picture of Anastasia Steele unveiled
Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
Cilla, ITV - TV review: No wonder Cilla's chuffed with this story of her life – even the Beatles take a back seat
Doctor Who, Listen, review: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode
Tyler, The Creator says having new U2 album automatically downloaded on his iPhone was 'like waking up with herpes'
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke