Addis is immensely skilled at smoothly and revealingly integrating portraits of noteworthy figures of all kinds into the much larger picture, while identifying the varying, evolving, world-influencing attributes that contributed to Rome’s ability to maintain its global consequence and role in the imagination of generations. The author’s methodical yet swiftly flowing presentation yields an excellent and valuable one-volume treatment of the many-faceted tale of the Eternal City, a widely appealing achievement that deserves a place in all public libraries.
Addis’s chosen formula is to serve up selected highlights, mostly the expected ones...but to come at them from quirky angles ... The hammed-up tone works to draw the reader in ... Addis casts a keen eye over not just the big figures of history but also its crowds, mess and detritus. His focus is as much on the sordid underbelly of urban life as it is on Rome the sublime caput mundi ... Addis doesn’t shy away from baroque descriptions of death and decay ... The art appreciation isn’t always subtle ... Addis’s remarks on La Dolce Vita might be taken as an unkind caricature of his own book: 'its endless cameos, its episodic structure, its capering progress of characters with nowhere to go.' But that would be unfair. An end-to end reading throws up many instructive continuities ... Thanks to his enthusiasm, Addis succeeds in keeping his reader afloat. He relishes the highs and lows of Rome’s past in his purplest passages while pricking the bubbles of other people’s poetic license.
In many ways, it reads more like a slightly modernized and extended version of Livy than an actual work of what we would consider modern, serious history ... With no factual basis at all, he tells us about the emperor Elagabalus ... It’s all very enjoyably cinematic, provided you remember that movies deal in make-believe ... The Eternal City proceeds in leaps and pauses all the way through the best stories of Rome’s history ... Addis says his book is an attempt 'to give Rome meaning,' and he very wisely notes that this is always the aim of the city’s historians, however self-centered it inevitably turns out to be ... This is at once insightful and an obvious dodge, and readers of The Eternal City will be left wondering if it can possibly justify this more-than-600-page mélange of folklore, fiction, and fact.