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  • A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

  • Murder in Ancient Rome
  • By: Emma Southon
  • Narrated by: Sophie Ward
  • Length: 11 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Ancient History
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (33 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An entertaining and informative look at the unique culture of crime, punishment, and killing in ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, all the best stories have one thing in common - murder. Romulus killed Remus to found the city; Caesar was assassinated to save the Republic. Caligula was butchered in the theater; Claudius was poisoned at dinner; and Galba was beheaded in the Forum. In one 50-year period, 26 emperors were murdered.

But what did killing mean in a city where gladiators fought to the death to sate a crowd? In A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Emma Southon examines a trove of real-life homicides from Roman history to explore Roman culture, including how perpetrator, victim, and the act itself were regarded by ordinary people. Inside ancient Rome’s darkly fascinating history, we see how the Romans viewed life and death and what it means to be human.

©2021 Emma Southon. Published in 2021 by Abrams Press, an imprint of ABRAMS, New York. All rights reserved (P)2021 Blackstone Publishing

What listeners say about A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Average Customer Ratings
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    1 out of 5 stars
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Amateurish

For those who enjoy ancient history, I’d advise you to find something better researched and written. The author’s use of constant obscenities is the only thing that makes this work memorable - and not in a good way. For example: “He built a fleet to fu*k up the Carthaginian navy…” And so it goes on, and on.
I would understand if this approach was sparingly utilised for emphasis, or as a direct quote of extant texts, but no, it is used throughout the narration as a ‘quirk’, and gets tiresome fast - you quickly realise it is actually being employed to mask the author’s lack of skill.

4 people found this helpful

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Hilarious and interesting

The author is very engaging, funny, and deeply researched - it's a brilliant book. The narrator delivers a deadpan performance that highlights the humour in the book. It's a must listen!

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Great fun

Loved it. If you love ancient history this is just the thing, well researched and easy to follow. Entertaining!

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Hilarious

Loved it and highly recommend. Heads up though it has swearing in it so just be aware.

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A raucous ride

An informarive, engaging and amusing history designed for the modern audience, bloody togas included. I sniggered my way through it in two days. If you are too delicate to handle occasional f-bombs, you should move along to a more staid tome.

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Great read - well written, well researched and funny!

This book is very enjoyable. What could have been a trite rendition of the greatest hits of Roman murders, as the author sort-of puts it, is instead a truly engrossing exploration of the romans as a culture fundamentally different to our own. On the way the author entertains, educates and ultimately reverses the focus of so much of scholarly writing on Ancient Rome. In the end, the author leaves you feeling a little more empathy for the victims in ancient Roman society and a little less for our own cultural conceits.

Also, it’s funny.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

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  • Allison Jackson
  • 13-07-2021

Narration is stilted, author tries too hard

I wanted to like this. The author’s liberal sprinkling of “fuck” into the historical narrative is annoying and plastic. The narration is too animatronic to get into. Skip this one. I returned it.

17 people found this helpful

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  • DyingAnubis
  • 27-03-2021

Not Another Boring History Book

I love history, got a degree in it, but the reality is most history books are boring and pedantic. I had some concerns before I grabbed this book because Ancient Rome is not one of my favorite historical periods. My concerns were totally unfounded, Emma Southon did an amazing job writing this book. It is witty, informative, relatable, and at times laugh out loud funny. I loved it.

And if historical audiobooks scare you because you fall asleep through them, you won't fall asleep during this one. The writing is lively and the narrator was a fabulous vocal orator.

If you have an interest in crime, history, Ancient Rome, or non-fiction this is a book for you!

11 people found this helpful

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  • drewdpeabody
  • 25-04-2021

Brutally funny

Only a British author could lighten the mood of a litany of the myriad ways Romans killed each other.. Emma Southon uses a curse filled style to describe Roman's odd ideas about the taking of human life and the State's role in regulating it. This is full of gore in its graphic descriptions which I would consider it's only drawback. Get this only if you like dark humor and British slang

6 people found this helpful

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  • Nick
  • 06-04-2021

Highly Entertaining and Incredibly Insightful

Don't let the humorous style fool you into thinking this is a shallow book. It's very approachable for the more casual reader, but as an avid Roman history enthusiast I was constantly blown away by the depth of insights and critical analysis of stories and themes I thought I had known inside-and-out. It's certainly a very fun book if that's what you're looking for, but even if you're an Adrian Goldsworthy devotee like myself, there is a ton for you to learn and enjoy here. Could not recommend more highly.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Croby
  • 16-10-2021

Dissapointing

Unnecessarily profane with modern cultural references that are on the verge of being dated in 2021. Great concept; disappointing result.

3 people found this helpful

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  • S. Krosney
  • 13-04-2021

Fun listen, great cursing

This is a fun listen. Well researched and entertaining, if a bit on the juvenile side. The real gem here is the narration. Sophie Ward is a spectacular cusser. World class. She should have her own genre.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Ross
  • 25-03-2021

hot take

One star knocked off from performance because of the audio mixing. It sounds muffled, like the reader was speaking through a fish bowl.

Once you get used to that flaw, it proves to be a wonderfully humorous book that brings a nice spark of levity to what would otherwise be an incredibly distressing topic. It still is a distressing topic, but at least it doesn't linger on it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 25-03-2021

Flawless start to finish

I couldn’t put it down, which says a LOT for a history book! The text was refreshing and conversational. The reading was natural and funny. I loved every single part of this book and I learned SO much. I wish I could give it 7 stars out of 5.

Additional review: it’s been months since I’ve read this and I’m still trying to chase the high. Nothing in the genre compares.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 18-03-2021

Some technical glitches

Several point of the recording are missing. The audio pauses and resumes but not where is cut out.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Chana Goanna
  • 16-12-2021

Could have been such a good listen

I *ADORE* Roman history and I eat up murder stories with a spoon, so this should have been an utter joy to listen to. Alas, the author had to ruin it by injecting her personal politics and 21st- century moral lens. I got through a few hours and then just couldn’t take it anymore. The narrator was fine, but it was weird to hear her swanning along in this very posh accent and then throwing in the f-word (which I gave no objection to as a word—it just sounded very much out of place).

2 people found this helpful

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  • Louise ROONEY
  • 25-07-2022

Utterly brilliant!

Easy to listen too, accessible, loved the wry humour. Top listen, I'd put it in my top ten.

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  • Steph W
  • 27-06-2022

Glitchy recording but great book

The book is fantastic. Emma Southon is a new favourite of mine. I prefer Imogen Church's narration (she narrated Southon's other book about Agrippina). this narrator of this book has some interesting pronunciations of words which jar like 'dude' pronounced like the name 'Jude' and 'Pliny' pronounced Ply-knee (ply like plywood). but most annoyingly there are two glitches in the recording where it skips some words. e.g in Pasiphae chapter.

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  • T Hobbs
  • 22-05-2022

Interesting

Very interesting to have the facts put together
Many of those murders we know but it is told with details which makes a book about murders very enjoyable

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  • Lilith Grandeur
  • 22-04-2022

A fabulous book, and the narrator has grown on me

I was excited to see that the writer of my favourite historical biography (Agrippina) had written another book. The matter of the book is interesting and often funny... or it should be, if not for the calm and lulling voice of the narrator.

The narrator is not bad by any measure. Her diction is clear and every fact comes through well enough, but the sparkling humour of the writing barely peeks through. Disappointing, but I've listened to the first few chapters of it as it's included with Prime and it's... okay.

Edit: I withdraw the harsher parts of my above comment. Having listened to the whole book, the narrator's tone has grown on me and I intend to listen to it again. Different from the narrator of this author's other book, a bit drier and more subtle, but certainly not worse.

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  • mike
  • 14-04-2022

Emma Southon - the new Mary Beard

I know I Claudius back to front and the Robert Harris Cicero novels by heart …. Southon adds a whole new level of erudite access to that fascinating area of history. I love Mary Beard - but even that modern historian just roles her eyes at the excesses of the subject - Southon calls it like it is - with all the expletives necessary. Her knowledge of the subject is astonishing - and she brings it to an accessible and fascinating level. Really - an author to watch!

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