Weekend Reads: “A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”

Hi, everyone. This week, I thought I’d give you all a peek into my research for Pompeii Fire. This is one of the best books I’ve read about life and death in ancient Rome.

A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient RomeA Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome by Emma Southon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t think I would laugh so hard while reading a book about gruesome murders, but I did.

Author Emma Southon’s clever turns of phrase throughout the book help provide some relief from the absolutely horrific Roman way of death across history. Looking at everything from poisonings to crucifixions in disturbing detail, Southon shows us the various ways in which murder or homicide (the terms are not interchangeable) might or might not have been legal in the ancient empire.

It’s obvious that the author has done plenty of homework; there is a lengthy *partial* bibliography in the back. It’s so extensive that I can only imagine what might have been left out. Southon has used both primary and secondary sources to make sure her facts are right, not only based on what one contemporary might have said, but for verifications from other correspondents as well.

And here’s the thing: you will learn a ton of stuff about Roman law, social mores, and daily life by reading this book. This is is a warts-and-all examination of the Roman judicial system, the imperial government, and who was deemed worth of justice under the law (hint: not everyone). I learned things from this book that I had never come across in a year-long study of ancient Rome as I did research for a novel set in that time period.

Highly recommended … and not just for the laughs.

View all my reviews

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