My review of The Roman Forum by David Watkin ran today at PopMatters.
This book is a nice contrast to another offering from Harvard University Press that I reviewed back in May, Paris From The Ground Up. That book attempted to tell the complete story of the history of Paris, but was full of half-started threads and distracting tangents. It took on too much and diluted its power. The Roman Forum narrows its scope and succeeds in bringing this rich, historical location to life.
It also introduces an intriguing conflict that many readers might not have thought of, a conflict between art, architecture, and archaeology that is evident in the controversial excavations, restorations, and preservation attempts in the Forum. Watkin deftly explores this conflict, though he’s not unbiased. He explicitly decries the damage archaeology has done to the Forum’s true historical and artistic character, however well-meaning those efforts were. This slim, attractive book is a very entertaining and enlightening read, well written and impressively researched.