A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome

Written by Emma Southon
Review by Clare Lehovsky

This is a witty and erudite summary of murder and death as a part of Roman daily life. Emma Southon’s work spans from early Republican Rome to the imperial period. She has a section for different types of murder; for example, she explains how murder was carried out in the Senate and also the Slave State of Rome. Additionally, she emphasises the difference between state, public punishment and family, private punishment; it is the Roman state’s business to ensure that a nefarious gang leader is executed but a private matter entirely if a father strangles his daughter because she slept with a man outside of marriage.

Southon uses her knowledge lightly so that you learn a lot without realising it. In this Southon is able to compare the Roman penal system with modern-day judicial systems without having to bring in too many facts. She uses anecdotes from primary sources to assure the reader that the author knows her area of expertise. But be warned, the subject matter is not for the faint-hearted. Nevertheless, Emma Southon will to guide you through the bloody annals of history and give you an entertaining and appropriate commentary while doing so.