Robert Knapp, INVISIBLE ROMANS

Robert Knapp, Invisible Romans: Prostitutes, Outlaws, Slaves, Gladiators, Ordinary Men and Women… The Romans That History Forgot. Profile Books, London and New York, 2013.

This is, I suppose, a decent enough introduction to social history and the Roman empire. Unfortunately, Knapp limits himself by concentrating primarily on inscriptions, literature, and – mainly Pompeian – iconography, failing to make a remotely adequate use of archaeological evidence and research. He also generalises and simplifies in ways that may well be unavoidable in a general survey, but fail to satisfy me. Citations! Where this general survey has another point of failure is in its unwillingness to point the reader clearly to where work has been done in greater depth. It further neglects to point out (in ways that I’ve come to expect from other work) that there are differences in the Roman experience from one end of the Roman empire to the other.

I’m not satisfied with it in the least. But as an introductory/popular text, it does the job it sets out to do well enough – although I think Jerry Toner’s Popular Culture in Ancient Rome covers much of the same ground with rather more nuance.