NPR 4 THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When U Can’t

Roman Army




Historian Mary Beard has spent her career working through the texts and source materials of ancient Rome. She has written several books on the subject — including her most recent work, ROME HISTORYSPQR: A History of Ancient Rome — but she doesn’t feel like she’s close to being done with the topic. “One of the great things about history is that it sort of isn’t a done deal — ever,” Beard tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies. “The historical texts and the historical evidence that you use is always somehow giving you different answers because you’re asking it different questions.” Beard notes that history is a shifting discipline, and that many of our popular notions of ancient Rome are based on culture rather than fact. Take, for instance, “Et tu, Brute?”, William Shakespeare’s version of Julius Caesar’s final words. Beard says it’s “one of the most famous quotes in the whole of Roman history — except it certainly isn’t what Caesar ever said.” Despite her tendency to “myth-bust” ancient Rome, Beard still enjoys popular cultural representations of the empire. “There’s no reason not to enjoy those stereotypes and have all the fun with them,” she says. “Just as long as we realize that that’s what they are.” MORE