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Description

Rome - as a city, as an empire, as an enduring idea - is in many ways the origin of everything Robert Hughes has spent his life writing about with such dazzling irreverence and exacting rigour. In this magisterial book he traces the city's history from its mythic foundation with Romulus and Remus to Fascism, Fellini and beyond. For almost a thousand years, Rome held sway as the spiritual and artistic centre of the world.

Hughes vividly recreates the ancient Rome of Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, Nero, Caligula, Cicero, Martial and Virgil. With the artistic blossoming of the Renaissance, he casts his unwavering critical eye over the great works of Raphael, Michelangelo and Brunelleschi, shedding new light on the Old Masters.

In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when Rome's cultural predominance was assured, artists and tourists from all over Europe converged on the city. Hughes brilliantly analyses the defining works of Caravaggio, Velasquez, Rubens and Bernini.

Hughes' Rome is a vibrant, contradictory, spectacular and secretive place; a monument both to human glory and human error.

©2011 Robert Hughes (P)2011 Orion Publishing Group Ltd

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To Be Avoided!

This work is a major disappointment, both in terms of contents and of organization.

First, it must be underscored that the author is an art critic, not a historian. Thus, he does not seem to understand various events and simply presents them at face value. For instance:
• he does not link the Crusades with restrictions imposed to Christian pilgrimages to the Holy Land;
• he does not seem to realise that the Muslims wrested Palestine manu militari from the ... Christian Eastern Roman Empire;
• he says nothing of the creation of monasteries;
• he does not appear to understand the importance of relics in the Middle Ages;
• he sees medieval papacy as a dictatorship whereas monarchy was the norm in that period;
• he blames the Pope for the sack of Rome in 1527 because he ‘waited’ one month before surrendering!

The material is generally presented in chronological order but there is often serious confusion, going for example from the 4th century to the 12th and back to the 9th in the same paragraph. Worse, many elements included in the book are off topic, such as a discussion of Velasquez, who was trained in Rome but of course worked mostly in Spain, of Dannunzio, who was also educated in Rome but lived mostly elsewhere afterwards, and of Italian Fascism _ which is in fact presented in surprisingly uncritical light.

At times marked with unwarranted vulgarity, the book seems written to allow the author to vent his blunt opinions on various topics, including television, mass tourism and Silvio Berlusconi. His main target is definitely the Church. This leads the reader to ask: why should one write about Rome if opposed to Christianity in general and to Catholicism in particular?

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