Rome: A Cultural History

Rome: A Cultural History

Book rating: 05 Hardback

By (author) Robert Hughes

List price $39.05

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Paperback $20.85
  • Publisher: WEIDENFELD & NICOLSON
  • Format: Hardback | 544 pages
  • Dimensions: 160mm x 236mm x 50mm | 921g
  • Publication date: 23 June 2011
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0297844644
  • ISBN 13: 9780297844648
  • Illustrations note: 16
  • Sales rank: 13,649

Product 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 thinking and 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. This deeply personal account reflects his own complex relationship with a city he first visited as a wide-eyed twenty-year-old, thirsting for the sights, sounds, smells and tastes he had only read about or seen in postcard reproductions. In equal parts loving, iconoclastic, enraged and wise, peopled with colourful figures and rich in unexpected details, ROME is an exhilarating journey through the story of one of the world's most timelessly fascinating cities.

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Author information

Robert Hughes was born in Australia in 1938. Since 1970 he has lived and worked in the United States, where until 2001 he was chief art critic for TIME, to which he still contributes. He is the recipient of a number of awards and prizes for his work.

Customer reviews

By Karl Collicott 13 Oct 2011 5

Being an avid reader of history, and in particular Roman and Italian history I thought that this would be worth my time, and how right I was. Intelligent, without being pretentious, no doubt down to his down to earth Oz roots, it covered from being to, well pretty much the end. A long period of history I hear you say to cover in 500 pages, but the author manages it admirably by focusing upon some of the persons and events, be they general, emperor, pope, artist or dictator who have helped to create this fascinating city that has without a doubt shaped our world as we know it. It has added to my knowledge and has like many a good book made me want to explore in more depth a particular person or event, more books ordered then. It was well written and presented and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Review quote

In pages of trenchant prose, Hughes chronicles the art and architecture of Rome from the Emperor Augustus to Federico Fellini. This is quite an undertaking but Hughes is an entertaining, if at times highly opinionated critic SPECTATOR in this Herculean undertaking, Hughes has captured much of the true spirit of Rome: the aspiration to great achievement despite obstacles, setbacks or failures PROSPECT informative and entertaining EVENING STANDARD If visiting Rome, you should certainly take this passionate, erudite bruiser's Baedeker with you - a superbly rich blend of history, art and travelogue SUNDAY TIMES We enjoy reading Hughes precisely because he avoids an of that corseted coyness which characterises too much art history writing nowadays. Thankfully not having to worry about securing professional tenure at a university or gaining a coveted gallery curatorship, he can speak with the candour of a visceral enthusiasm, savaging mediocrity and rhapsodically defending excellence LITERARY REVIEW His love and knowledge of the city stand forth SUNDAY TELEGRAPH This authoratative and detailed cultural history of Rome is very readable despite being nearly 500 pages long...Robert Hughes loves to put forward his own opinions, which makes for a very personal view that is always entertaining WE LOVE THIS BOOK A story that lasts almost 3,000 years and is pivotal to so much of Western civilisation requires a chronicler of well-nigh unattainable erudition, who can write with the skill needed to prevent readers from succumbing to a literary version of Stendhal syndrome. Mr Hughes, the Australian-born art critic of Time magazine, comes as near as anyone to fulfilling that job description and for much of this wide-ranging volume he succeeds magnificently THE ECONOMIST A tour of the great city with a great guide: who could do this better? -- David Sexton EVENING STANDARD The second half of the book is an engaging history of this wondrous city, very much in the tradition of The Shock of the New, packed full of sharp observation and trenchant one-liners, artfully and fearlessly told -- Mary Beard THE GUARDIAN Hughes proves an entertaining and erudite guide. He is an impeccable raconteur, commanding, self-confident, witty -- Alastair Sooke DAILY TELEGRAPH The art critic's superb cultural history is also an invaluable guide to the eternal city SUNDAY TIMES Robert Hughes traces the Eternal City's history from Romulus and Remus, through the intrigues of the Empire and the Renaissance to the present day. A personal account of his relationship with the city, the book also considers Rome's place in global culture and its influence (spiritual and profane) on people around the world THE TIMES Robert Hughes is that rarity, a boisterous yet unforgiving critic. When he is most engaged, ideas and instances tumble out of him in cornucopious profusion -- Frederic Raphael THE OBSERVER the book's muscle and sinew lie in Hughes's supremely eloquent vingnettes of churches and palaces, statues and paintings - evocations of art and place crafted with all the swagger and savour of a critic who can make his readers see, and feel, afresh...He never disappoints -- Boyd Tonkin THE INDEPENDENT No one can nail a painting like Hughes -- Rachel Spence FINANCIAL TIMES this is the work of un maestro -- Christopher Bray WORD his account of the art and architecture blazes, via exhilarating close-up encounters with Rome's masterworks INDEPENDENT i To be sure, the city has a modern history too, and on this Hughes is predictably excellent. Anyone wanting a vivid account of how Futurism fed into Fascism, or a withering polemic on what Berlusconi has meant for the cultural health of contemporary Rome, need look no further -- Tom Holland MAIL ON SUNDAY On the art, he's informative, insightful and entertaining -- Tibor Fischer STANDPOINT And by all means, take this extraordinary and passionate guide with you CATHOLIC HERALD In Rome, the ever-eloquent Robert Hughes merged a galloping overview into his forte of art criticism. He composed a richly textured portrait of a city we see, and feel, afresh. Each monument and artwork sparkles, scrubbed clean of tired cliches -- Boyd Tonkin THE INDEPENDENT Christmas Books 20111125 I would read Mr Hughes's book if I were going to Rome. I'd read it if I weren't going to Rome. You culd read it instead of going to Rome, though given the choice, I'd choose Rome. Reading the book is like being taken around the Eternal City on a long brisk march by an entertaining, erudite acquaintance with a gift for storytelling and the oddly rare ability to describe what something actually looks like. -- Francine Prose INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE 20111203 If you want an agreeable, general account of the Eternal City or need encouragement to embark on a visit, you can welcome it [the book]as a friendly and alluring companion ARPLUS.COM 20111124 The last two sections of the book,which deal with teh time after the War, offer as sensible an account of Italian painting and sculpture of that period as you are likely to get -- Joseph Rykwert ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW 20111201 Hughes was once well-known as the art critic of Time magazine and he's predictably delightful on works of art he loves: the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Campidoglio, the Vatican frescoes of Raphael, the marble fantasias of Bernini. He's also an excellent hater. Confronting the flabbergasting monument to King Vittorio Emanuele II (begun 1884, completed 1935), he offers a list of its nicknames: the typewriter, the zuppa inglese, the wedding cake, the false teeth and (this one was news to me) the national urinal -- Craig Seligman BUSINESS WEEK.COM 20111129 This, so far, is my best read of the year -- Michael Collins IRISH CATHOLIC 20111208