Mary Beard is a professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, due to retire at the end of 2022 after nearly 40 years of teaching. Her frequent media appearances have led to her being described as “Britain’s best-known classicist.”
Beard’s book Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town won the 2009 Wolfson History Prize. We interviewed Mary Beard in 2009, when she was working on Pompeii. She told us about books that have had the deepest impact on her thinking about the ancient world: “I’ve chosen these books because all of them made a big difference to me. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them”.
SPQR is probably Mary Beard’s best-known book. It’s a comprehensive and very readable history of ancient Rome, though it assumes a little too much knowledge to make an easy introduction to the subject.
Books by Mary Beard
Mary Beard wrote a review of the book (Boudica: Iron Age Warrior Queen), which she published along with other essays in Confronting the Classics. You have to read Mary Beard’s reviews very carefully because they tend to be very highly nuanced. Sometimes you can read something as complimentary, but it’s actually much more reflective and critical. I think that’s partly why Mary Beard is so famous. She’s really good at those sorts of complexities. When we look at her review, I take it as reasonably complimentary about my book. She was particularly complimentary about the second half of the book, less so about the first half. I think she felt we over-simplified the complexity of interpreting the archaeological materials. But she really did like the stuff about reception—on the Renaissance up to the present day.
Interviews with Mary Beard
Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, talks us through the books that have had the deepest impact on her thinking about the ancient world and explains why studying Classics is absolutely relevant to modern life.
Interviews where books by Mary Beard were recommended
How accurate is what we think we know about the Romans? Tom Holland, the author of Rubicon, tells us about the exercise of power, the staging of ceremony and the influence of religion in ancient Rome.
Caesar, Cicero, Achilles, Socrates, Plato: millennia later, we still talk about them. Olly Murphy, classics teacher at Wycombe Abbey, one of England’s top girls’ schools, recommends books and explains why classics remains one of the most exciting subjects for teenagers to study.