The Roman Forum, By David Watkin

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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