Eilís Dillon Lee R. Johnson - Essay

Lee R. Johnson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Rome Under the Emperors, US title of Living in Imperial Rome,] is an enjoyable introduction to the study of Roman history…. Miss Dillon writes with a historian's regard for accuracy: I found almost no errors of historical fact and few of historical interpretation, other than the usual one which ascribes to Greeks of the second century AD the values of Athenians of the fifth century BC. Even this may be intentional, for the Greek slaves and paedagogues serve largely to comment on the defects of Roman society, which Miss Dillon's Romans could not do without stepping out of character—and she is careful not to allow them to do so. Many aspects of ancient civilization which we now regard as very bad—slavery, imperial tribute, the terrible overcrowding of the urban plebs—are accepted with the matter-of-factness that must have been standard in the days of the Emperor Trajan.

Another virtue of Miss Dillon's book is that her characters, although intended to represent types of Roman society, are individuals, not simply stereotypes, and are interesting in themselves. It is this that will make her book so appealing to young readers and hopefully will sustain their interest in classical antiquity until they can graduate to Carcopino's Daily Life in Ancient Rome and other books of the same level. In the meantime, Miss Dillon's book is highly recommended.

Lee R. Johnson, "'Rome under the Emperors'," in The Social Studies (copyright © 1977 Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation), Vol. LXVIII, No. 3, May-June, 1977, p. 132.

As in Across the Bitter Sea (1973), Dillon turfs in the potentially complex emotive binds of her main characters with copious chunks of recent Irish history [in Blood Relations]…. In spite of considerable belabored forensic on behalf of the Irish Cause, Dillon reproduces scenery and local ambiance with a sure eye and ear. Students of the Troubles may balk at some of the breezy statements (DeValera "cares nothing for power" huh?), and there's more blood than relations, but, for anyone who can't get ahold of [Leon Uris's] Trinity, a certain amount of light is shed on the roots of a tragic, ongoing conflict.

"Fiction: 'Blood Relations'," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1977 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLV, No. 21, November 1, 1977, p. 1157.