Lockdown Reads 4: The Lays of Ancient Rome

This recommendation is for a very different sort of book to those which I have written about before and will likely write about in the future.

The Lays of Ancient Rome, written by Thomas Babington Macaulay, a man with the most fabulously British name, is a collection of a series of narrative poems which recount the stories which have shaped modern understanding of early Roman History and canon.

I first learned of the book when one of my friends quoted this reference to me, in particularly poetic fashion, just before a boxing match:

‘Then out spake brave Horatius, The Captain of the Gate: “To every man upon this earth Death cometh soon or late. And how can men die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers, And the temples of his Gods.”’

This particular excerpt is taken from the poem Horatius, a story of sacrifice not dissimilar to Thermopylae, but for the ending. Horatius and his two comrades defend the Sublician Bridge, the crossing point on the Tiber at Rome, against an advancing Etruscan army. Horatius ends up standing alone whilst Roman engineers demolish the bridge into the river to halt the Etruscan advance. Whilst Horatius survives, swimming back to shore, his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice is a powerful reminder of the strength of character which few men possess when they need to carry the world on their shoulders.

Aside from this poem, others, like The Battle of Lake Regillus and The Prophecy of Capys, tell other ‘foundation myth’ type stories absolutely brilliantly and eloquently.

This book of poetry is undoubtedly hard to read; however, to help nourish a blossoming understanding of Roman history, and a passion for classic works of literature, I could not think of one much better.

Author: The West Laine Wanderer

I'm a resident of Britain and part-time traveller of the globe. I'm passionate about conservation, writing, photography, and travel. I'd love for you to check out my blog! I post new and original content each week so you have content to read when you most need it!

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