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A History of the Roman Empire in 21 Women

Emma Southon



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One World
01 December 2023
Here’s how the history of the Roman Empire usually goes…

We start with Romulus, go on to Brutus overthrowing Tarquin, bounce through an appallingly tedious list of battles and generals and consuls, before emerging into the political stab-fest of the late Republic. From there, it runs through all the emperors, occasionally mentioning a wife or mother to show how bad things get when women get out of control, until Constantine invents Christianity and then Attila the Hun comes and ruins everything. But the history of Rome and empire is so much more than these Important Things.

In this alternative history, Emma Southon traces the story of the Roman Empire through women: Vestal Virgins and sex workers, business owners and poets, martyrs and saints. Each gives a different perspective on women’s lives and how they changed, across time and across class lines.

Imprint:   One World
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 135mm,  Spine: 35mm
ISBN:   9780861542307
ISBN 10:   0861542304
Pages:   416
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Emma Southon is an ancient historian who also works as Bookshop Manager at Waterstones. She is the author of Agrippina: Empress, Exile, Hustler, Whore, a Best Book of the Year for the New Statesman, and A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. 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.

Reviews for A History of the Roman Empire in 21 Women

"'Hugely entertaining and illuminating... Emma Southon brilliantly walks the line between humour and heartbreak, never shying away from the brutality some of the women endured, yet doing so with the lightest touch and managing to keep their humanity always in focus.' —Elodie Harper, author of The Wolf Den ‘Southon gives a fresh sense of Roman civilization... She presents ordinary, “small” lives as extraordinary… This is not just a book about the lives of historical women, but one about the history of womanhood… delightful… Southon’s book is a testament to those who were determined not to be left voiceless.’ —TLS 'The women in Southon’s book are nuanced, fearless and thanks to Southon's brilliant storytelling, unforgettable: ambitious kingmakers, charming courtesans, political actors, brave survivors and proud poets. Funny, original and often moving, this is exactly the type of book I wish I could have read when I was younger.' —Costanza Casati, author of Clytemnestra 'A History of the Roman Empire in 21 Women is a fantastic read. It is sparkling, irreverent and entertaining... Where was Emma Southon when I studied Roman history!?' —Laura Shepperson, author of The Heroines 'A fresh perspective. Following the lives of 21 women from across Rome and its territories, Southon rollicks through the empire we thought we knew so well.' —Idler '[A] lively, alternative history… Southon makes the important point that women have often been erased from Roman history… And Southon reminds us of all the behind-the-scenes diplomacy employed by women related to powerful men in order to further their own and their family's interests, which rarely gets mentioned or properly credited… Roman women have always been there – we must now ensure their stories sing out.' —BBC History 'Emma Southon is a truly original voice in popular historical writing. She has this amazing ability to take everything you thought you knew about Roman history, turn it upside down, reorient it, and show it to you anew, all the while making you laugh uproariously because she is, frankly, hilarious. A History of the Roman Empire in 21 Women is the history book I didn’t know I needed but I now find indispensable – an instant classic.' —Jane Draycott, author of Cleopatra's Daughter 'A whip-smart and revelatory read. Emma Southon brings us ""the story of Rome as told through women"" – women like a priestess, a businesswoman, and a poet; women who were queens, rebels, scapegoats, and survivors. This is the history you didn’t know you needed from a writer who should be on everyone’s radar.' —Shelley Puhak, author of The Dark Queens 'A fun and jocular guide.' —ARGO 'With laugh-out-loud humor, Southon not only shares the stories of these women but also delivers valid critiques of existing histories and biased sources. Clever, bold, and refreshingly feminist; readers will be engaged and entertained to the very end. This book deserves a home on library shelves to balance patriarchal nonfiction collections. More histories like this are needed.' —Booklist"

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