The Bad Julias

Emma Dench

  • Children in the Roman Empire: Outsiders Within by Christian Laes
    Cambridge, 334 pp, £68.00, March 2011, ISBN 978 0 521 89746 4
  • Children, Memory and Family Identity in Roman Culture edited by Véronique Dasen and Thomas Späth
    Oxford, 373 pp, £82.00, October 2011, ISBN 978 0 19 958257 0

The Latin textbook we used at school in the mid-1970s was proud of its new approach. It introduced us to a Roman family whose lives were meant to look just as ours would have done if only we’d lived in a warmer climate without cars, televisions or plastic toys, and walked around dressed in sheets. Yet the children in the family, Marcus and Aemilia, seemed no less remote to us than the ghastly, overdressed 1950s family who lived in our rather more ancient French textbook, dining on chocolate ‘tartines’ served by a maid in a silly hat. Marcus always seemed a little forlorn, but I put that down to the stiffness of his tunic, his authentic but uncool haircut (hovering between the Beatles and pudding basin), or his hopelessly over-protected, bourgeois existence. However, the two books under review make me feel that Marcus had a lot to be forlorn about.

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[*] Mary Beard wrote about Caligula in the LRB of 26 April 2012.