Profile £8.99 (279pp) £8.54 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Roman Forum, By David Watkin
Friday 22 July 2011
Unlike the previous 15 volumes in Profile's excellent "Wonders of the World" series, this learned but lively book explores a site that "can be baffling, ugly and frustrating".
Watkin blames archaeologists for making the Forum "more or less impenetrable" to non-specialists. Nevertheless, he promises to reveal "a genial and humane place to visit".
Watkin is informative about Roman survivals – noting the ill-luck that befell the dedicatee of the still-intact Arch of Septimius Severus (the Emperor died in York soon after and his succeeding sons were murdered, one by the other) – but half his book is devoted to "post antique monuments", such as the Baroque church of SS Martina e Luca, the "most sophisticated building in the Forum".
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