Working IX to V: Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns, and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World

Vicki Leon, Author . Walker $16.95 (312p) ISBN 978-0-8027-1556-2

Remember that Metropolitan gala in The Devil Wears Prada , where Miranda Priestly has someone whisper in her ear the name of everyone she meets? Well, ancient Roman politicians had such an aide, too: he was called a nomenclator. León entertainingly introduces us to this and other colorful professions held by men and women in Greco-Roman society. With short, humorous anecdotes, she describes the daily grind of scribes, vestal virgins, fishmongers, astronomers, sophists, hoplite slaves, sellers of purple, curse-tablet makers, funeral clowns, sycophants and orgy planners. Scribes, for example, were speed writers who not only recorded public information but also acted as journalists jotting down juicy tales of love, death and political intrigue in the Daily Record. The beast supplier, or praepositus camelorum, tracked, captured and supplied all the animals used in gladiatorial contests and circuses in Rome. León weaves sketches of actual people employed in these professions. Banker's son Apollodorus, a rich-kid-turned-lawyer, litigated a 19-year lawsuit after his father willed his fortune to an ex-slave. Drawing on the same outrageous sense of humor that's made her Uppity Women series so popular, León demonstrates how uncannily similar the workaday experiences of the ancient world are to ours. Illus. (June)

Reviewed on: 04/09/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
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