Keith Hopkins & Mary Beard's The Colosseum
is a wee tiny book (<200 pages, large font, lots of illustrations) that was quick to get through, though enjoyable and witty. I feel like about 85% of the book is about Things People Believe About The Colosseum That Are Probably Wrong, which isn't so much a correction of popular thought, but rather a useful compilation and acknowledgement of popular thought with a critical analysis of it on top of the likelihood of said things being true.
There's very little hard history about the Colosseum, so the book explores more of the cultural and social history that has been retained from antiquity to modern times, with a healthy dose of the Victorian romanticism of the building, plus (more cool for me!) the "rediscovery" of the Colosseum during the Renaissance... It's just so fascinating that there was a whole stretch of time where people forgot what the Colosseum was even for
, i.e. how common memory works, even for something as huge and distinctively Roman as the great amphitheatre.
Also, Hopkins and Beard talk a lot about current tourism around the Colosseum (rather critically, to my surprise), plus Ridley Scott's Gladiator
(I still find it hilarious), and even namecheck THAT Beyonce/Pink/Britney Pepsi ad, among the Colosseum's many examples of cultural impact. Overall, it's a fun, light little book for easy reading, and really funny throughout.
As a follow-up, I'm currently watching Beard's BBC documentary Meet the Romans
which is my first time I've heard her speak. She's such a delight, and I think afterward I'm going to rewatch Gladiator
while imagining her watching it and commentating throughout.