In Unwritten Rome, a new book by the author of Myths of Rome, T.P. Wiseman presents us with an imaginative and appealing picture of the early society of pre-literary Rome—as a free and uninhibited world in which the arts and popular entertainments flourished. This original angle allows the voice of the Roman people to be retrieved empathetically from contemporary artefacts and figured monuments, and from selected passages of later literature.How do you understand a society that didn’t write down its own history? That is the problem with early Rome, from the Bronze Age down to the conquest of Italy around 300 BC. The texts we have to use were all written centuries later, and their view of early Rome is impossibly anachronistic. But some possibly authentic evidence may survive, if we can only tease it out – like the old story of a Roman king acting as a magician, or the traditional custom that may originate in the practice of ritual prostitution. This book consists of eighteen attempts to find such material and make sense of it.
This is an important book, and that scholars dealing with early Rome will have to grapple with its basic arguments, even if they don’t agree with them.
Gary D. Farney, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.06.11
Wiseman’s great skill, fully on display here, is his ability to use both literary and material evidence to create, with enviable erudition and imagination, a plausible and engaging portrait. For the journey to unwritten Rome, this book is an inspiring and informative guide.
Michael Johnson, Classical Journal
Unwritten Rome is a learned and beautifully written book.
Lee Fratantuono, The Historian, 73.3
This book will be essential reading for every serious student of the history of Roman literature; it will be quite impossible to ignore it. As Wiseman cast brilliant light on Roman myth in his recent book [The Myths of Rome], here he does the same for the broader literary tradition. This is a feast of a book that you dive into and just keep going.
Barry B. Powell, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wiseman has a gift for combining different kinds of evidence, over which he has an unrivalled mastery, into new and provocative arguments. The book will be an indispensable companion to Wiseman’s much acclaimed The Myths of Rome. Tim Cornell, University of Manchester
... on y retrouve toutes les qualities du savant anglais : une érudition très solide, une indiscutable rigueur dans le raisonnement, une remarquable claret dans la présentation, une grande prudence critique, le tout n’excluant cependant pas un appel à l’imagination''les lecteurs qui ont apprécié The Myths of Rome, sans nécessairement en partager toutes les idées, prendront certainement un vif plaisir à lire la présente Unwritten Rome.
L’Antiquité Classique, 79