On My Way to the Colosseum...

R. J. B. Bosworth’s most recent tome navigates the changing politics and identity of Rome, from papal preserve to Fascist enclave to republican capital, deftly illustrating that the Eternal City is forever a work in progress.

Issue: July-Aug 2011

R. J. B. Bosworth, Whispering City: Rome and Its Histories (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), 368 pp., $35.00.

[amazon 9780300114713 full]WHISPERING CITY begins at the Colosseum metro station in central Rome, where a couple of tired “Roman legionaries” are taking a break and enjoying a cup of coffee at the station bar. Dressed up in hot, sweaty leather uniforms, with shiny helmets and unwieldy swords, these hucksters seem to make a reasonable living by selling themselves as a photo opportunity to weary tourists at the vast Roman amphitheater that still stands in the middle of one of the city’s busiest traffic islands, just across the road from the station. In fact, alongside the banks of souvenir stalls and the touts flogging what must be some of the most expensive bottled water in the Western world, these fancy-dress soldiers have become—over the last twenty years or so—a distinctive part of the landscape around Rome’s most iconic ancient monument.

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