Rome as a Guide to the Good Life: A Philosophical Grand Tour
A unique, portable guidebook that sketches Rome’s great philosophical tradition while also providing an engaging travel companion to the city.
This is a guidebook to Rome for those interested in both la dolce vita and what the ancient Romans called the vita beata—the good life. Philosopher Scott Samuelson offers a thinker’s tour of the Eternal City, rooting ideas from this philosophical tradition within the geography of the city itself. As he introduces the city’s great works of art and its most famous sites—the Colosseum, the Forum, the Campo de’ Fiori—Samuelson also gets to the heart of the knotty ethical and emotional questions they pose. Practicing philosophy in place, Rome as a Guide to the Good Life tackles the profound questions that most tours of Rome only bracket. What does all this history tell us about who we are?
In addition to being a thoughtful philosophical companion, Samuelson is also a memorable tour guide, taking us on plenty of detours and pausing to linger over an afternoon Negroni, sample four classic Roman pastas, or explore the city’s best hidden gems. With Samuelson’s help, we understand why Rome has inspired philosophers such as Lucretius and Seneca, poets and artists such as Horace and Caravaggio, filmmakers like Fellini, and adventurers like Rosa Bathurst. This eclectic guidebook to Roman philosophy is for intrepid wanderers and armchair travelers alike—anyone who wants not just a change of scenery, but a change of soul.
Praise for Rome as a Guide to the Good Life: A Philosophical Grand Tour
“A delightful and immersive guide to the city of Rome and the philosophical tradition it embodies concerning the good life, or as we would say today, the meaning of life. Travelers seeking ancient wisdom among the city’s famous buildings and works of art could ask for no better companion.”
— Donald Robertson, author of 'How to Think Like a Roman Emperor'
“I have been a Roman for over half a century, but I’ll be sure to use Samuelson’s Guide the next time I visit my native city. I will look at it quite differently!”
— Massimo Pigliucci, author of 'How to Be a Stoic'
“Rome as a Guide to the Good Life immerses us in glorious works of art and architecture. But in Rome, every aspect of life, from Raphael to food to gesticulation, is an art. Rather than guiding us through the labyrinth of the city’s streets, Samuelson guides us through the labyrinth of life, more daunting than any streetscape.”
— Ingrid D. Rowland, author of 'Giordano Bruno' and 'The Collector of Lives'
“In this elegantly written book, Samuelson takes us by the elbow and leads us to his favorite places and works of art in the Eternal City, spinning stories about their history, pointing out their beauties and contradictions, and reflecting on their philosophical meanings. Whether you travel to Rome with this book as your guide, or read it from the comfort of an armchair, Samuelson teaches us ancient lessons that can enrich our modern lives.”
— Lori Erickson, author of 'Holy Rover,' 'Near the Exit,' and 'The Soul of the Family Tree'
"A stimulating, thoroughly readable mix. . . For the seasoned Romanist as well as a first-time visitor, this is an excellent vade mecum for our times. All will read it with profit and enlightenment: it will certainly accompany my next trip."
— Sir Michael Fallon
"A breezy and eclectic tour of the Eternal City in which [Samuelson] introduces readers to both physical and philosophical delights.”
"The book stands out in its dual appreciation for Rome as a locus for the sweet life and the life of the mind. . . . The author’s wit, enthusiasm, and willingness to turn his head and squint his eyes while looking at what seemingly has been picked over by centuries of cicerones makes reading Rome as a Guide like being on the most engaging of walking tours."
— ClassicalEd Review
"As he leads us through the city, Samuelson introduces the largest philosophical questions and shares what the legacy of Roman culture has to teach us by way of answer. The result is an erudite guide to the city’s heritage that offers eloquent instruction on how to conduct ourselves and make meaning in the face of life’s enduring uncertainties.”
— James Mustich