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As I write this, my wife and I are awaiting the imminent arrival of our first child. A natural tendency to find reassurance in research has led me to read a series of modern takes on fatherhood, which have proved of varying value. Imagine my delight, then, when Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman World arrived on my desk. What better source of information? Unsurprisingly, What to Expect When You're Expecting this is not, though I have noted Soranus’ sage advice not to indulge pregnant women's cravings for charcoal or earth (Gyn. 1.15.48; 50). What Maureen Carroll's major new work does offer is the first systematic study of the youngest Romans, those in their first year of life, a topic which – despite the raft of work on the Roman family and life course over the last few decades – still stands in need of a synthesis. As well as evidence-gathering, Carroll's work has a central thesis; that ‘the evidence from archaeology, funerary epigraphy, and material culture marshalled in this study dispels the long-held notion that the very youngest infants were insignificant beings without a social persona whose lives were treated with indifference’ (7). Instead, what Carroll paints is a picture of the first year of life marked by both regular milestones – ‘from the naming day at eight or nine days, the official registration of birth by the thirtieth day, the release from swaddling bands at forty to sixty days, and the beginning of teething at six months, to the achievement of the child's first birthday’ (12) – and ongoing and substantial parental investment.
The first time I visited Pompeii, I was walking along one of its iconic paved streets when another visitor in front of me stumbled over a rough patch of pavement. Looking down resentfully, she turned to her friend and said in an irritated tone, ‘Look at this! They really need to do something about these roads…’. If that sore-toed tourist had found Eric Poehler's new book, The Traffic Systems of Pompeii, in the Pompeian gift shop, she would have been much illuminated. This long-gestated project represents an exciting new type of scholarship on the ancient world, using evidence gleaned from the scratched and rutted roads of Pompeii and other urban sites across the empire to expose both how ancient traffic worked and the constantly evolving negotiations between residents and government over its control.