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 most storied waterways of the world. Millions of years of natural history roll into nearly three thousand years of continuous human use and habitation. Tiber considers the flora, fauna, hydrology, commerce, who lived there and why, and how they made it work. Or failed to make it work. Allen considers issues of geology, geography, history, myth, religion, politics, economics, war, engineering, urban planning, the arts, and the many mysteries of Rome from antiquity to modern day. Tiber covers the river from its twin springs high in the Apennines all the way to its mouth at Ostia, ensuring that Rome the city decidedly does not have a monopoly on this river’s story.

The Tiber is, in short, a subject rich in possibility. It has been the domain for proto-mythic creatures and gods, battleground for armies and navies, livelihood for boatmen and fishermen, trove for archeologists and treasure hunters, subject matter for poets and painters, final resting place for criminals and martyrs. Tiber: The Great River of Rome is both readable for pleasure and a go-to resource for anyone starting out to examine any aspect of the subject. It is, like the river itself, discursive, open to digressions.