In this rich history of Italy’s Tiber River, Bruce Ware Allen charts the main currents, mythic headwaters, and hidden tributaries of one of the world’s most renowned waterways. He considers life along the river, from its twin springs high in the Apennines all the way to its mouth at Ostia, and describes the people who lived along its banks and how they made the Tiber work for them. Take a trip with Leonard and Bruce back in time down this majestic waterway.
Allen (The Great Siege of Malta) offers readers a miscellanea of anecdotes and sketches related to the Tiber in Rome, arranged in a generally chronological order. Emperors, popes, and other nobility—both secular and clerical—rub elbows with more common folk in these pages. Some themes feature prominently, such as descriptions of military action and recurrences of the Roman mob, last seen in 1944, tossing into the river the Fascist prison warden Donato Carretta. Other executions, suicides, and deaths by misadventure are included, as are floods and vagaries of the river, and somewhat random tidbits on ancient sewers, dragons, and the Renaissance-era occupation of fishing out firewood as it floated by. Bridges that span the river make several appearances, as do things hidden by its depths, ranging from the apocryphal story that the river’s bottom was lined with bronze sheeting to assorted sunken treasures including statues and a lost train. Alas, “the river… is now cut off from easy access, and largely from view.” With this amusing and delightful compendium of historical Tiber trivia, Allen has given readers a view of the river after all.