What We Are Reading Today: How to Be a Bad Emperor by Josiah Osgood

Updated 08 November 2019

What We Are Reading Today: How to Be a Bad Emperor by Josiah Osgood

If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes the best guide to leadership is the negative example. But that insight is hardly new. Nearly 2,000 years ago, Suetonius wrote Lives of the Caesars, perhaps the greatest negative leadership book of all time. 

He was ideally suited to write about terrible political leaders. In How to Be a Bad Emperor, Josiah Osgood provides crisp new translations of Suetonius’ briskly paced, darkly comic biographies of the Roman emperors Julius Caesar, Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Entertaining and shocking, the stories of these ancient anti-role models show how power inflames leaders’ worst tendencies, causing almost incalculable damage. 

Complete with an introduction and the original Latin on facing pages, How to Be a Bad Emperor is both a gleeful romp through some of the nastiest bits of Roman history and a perceptive account of leadership gone monstrously awry. 


What We Are Reading Today: Crossing the Pomerium by Michael Koortbojian

Updated 23 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Crossing the Pomerium by Michael Koortbojian

The ancient Romans famously distinguished between civic life in Rome and military matters outside the city — a division marked by the pomerium, an abstract religious and legal boundary that was central to the myth of the city’s foundation. 

Michael Koortbojian explores how the Romans used social practices and public monuments to assert their capital’s distinction from its growing empire, to delimit the proper realms of religion and law from those of war and conquest, and to establish and disseminate so many fundamental Roman institutions across three centuries of imperial rule. Crossing the Pomerium probes such topics as the appearance in the city of Romans in armor, whether in representation or in life, the role of religious rites on the battlefield, and the military image of Constantine on the arch built in his name. 

The book reveals how, in these instances and others, the ancient ideology of crossing the pomerium reflects the efforts of Romans not only to live up to the ideals they had inherited, but also to reconceive their past and to validate contemporary practices during a time when Rome enjoyed growing dominance in the Mediterranean world.