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A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Murder in Ancient Rome

Published by Oneworld Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

‘Those left cold by the sober tones of scholarship will find this voice liberating and intoxicating. Its energy is boundless and its range immense.’ Wall Street Journal

In Ancient Rome all the best stories have one thing in common – murder. Romulus killed Remus to found the city, Caesar was assassinated to save the Republic, Caligula was butchered in the theatre, Claudius was poisoned at dinner.

But what did killing really mean in a city where gladiators fought to the death to sate a crowd? Emma Southon examines real-life homicides from Roman history to take us inside Ancient Rome’s unique culture of crime and punishment, and show us how the Romans viewed life, death, and what it means to be human.

About The Author

Emma Southon is a Bookshop Manager at Waterstones and the author of Agrippina: Empress, Exile, Hustler, Whore, a Best Book of the Year for the New Statesman. Armed with a PhD in Ancient History, she also co-hosts the History is Sexy podcast. She lives in Belfast, with her cat Livia, and tweets @NuclearTeeth.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (September 17, 2020)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781786078384

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Raves and Reviews

‘A brilliant idea, brilliantly executed.’

– Tom Holland, author of Rubicon, Dynasty and Dominion

‘Southon brings some great and little-known murder stories to light, revelling in the bizarre and the macabre.’

– BBC History Magazine

‘She has a rare gift… Those left cold by the sober tones of scholarship will find this voice liberating and intoxicating. Its energy is boundless and its range immense… At a moment when the study of classics struggles to escape its starchy, imperialist legacy, Ms Southon’s cheeky enthusiasm feels like the path of salvation.’

– Wall Street Journal

‘Blood, guts, murder, emperors and a sprinkling of uplifting Latin. A wonderful book on the Roman way of death. Mirabile dictu!’

– Harry Mount, author of Carpe Diem and Amo Amas Amat... and All That

‘I love this funny, scholarly, erudite, irreverent book; Emma Southon wears her learning lightly but we never for a moment doubt her authority, and the past arrives with total immediacy from the first page. Reading it is like seeing a classical statue not remote and austere on a pedestal, but painted in all its original bright colours.’

– Sarah Perry, author of Melmoth and The Essex Serpent

'The genius of Emma Southon’s new book, A Fatal Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome, is that it simultaneously humanizes the Romans and alienates us from them, portraying a society that’s at once a familiar ancestor and a rabid monster.'

– Foreign Policy

‘this very approachable analysis of Classical homicide isn’t a dry academic tract… conversational and tongue-in-cheek without sacrificing scholarly credibility. A good chance to learn a lot and have fun doing it.’

– Herald (Glasgow)

Resources and Downloads

More books from this author: Emma Southon