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Feb 19, 2024

Top 10 Books About the Romans

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How often do you think about the Roman Empire? To be honest, we think about the Romans daily. So, being the ‘book specialist’ we thought would take a look at the top 10 books about the Romans. From the biography of a Roman emperor to an archaeological tour of Rome, we have selected our ten favourite books (both fact and fiction), all about the Roman empire.

So, without further ado, let's take a look at our favourite Roman books and see if they can match up to the might of the Roman Empire:


SPQR by Mary Beard

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Top of our list is SPQR. Written by author and historian Mary Beard, this well-researched, highly detailed Roman history book will change the way you look at the Roman Empire and its place in history. It will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish as it explores how a small Iron Age village became the financial and political hub of the Mediterranean.


I, Claudius by Robert Graves

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Originally published in 1937, ‘I, Claudius’ is a historical novel that addresses the life of Roman Emperor Claudius. Written as an autobiography, the book narrates Claudius’s life from childhood, through his rise to power, to his eventual death. Considered to be one of Robert Graves's best works, ‘I, Claudius’ is critically acclaimed by both critics and historians alike.


The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

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Originally published over six volumes between 1776 and 1788, ‘The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ was initially labelled as largely controversial due to its candid directness and scattered criticism of Christianity. The book illustrates the slow decline of the Roman Empire from its peak around AD 100 to its eventual demise in the early fifth century.


Asterix the Gaul by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

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No list of Roman books would be complete without Asterix and Obelix. First appearing in late 1959, the Astérix comic follows the adventures of a village of unyielding Gaulish Warriors as they resist the Roman occupation around 50 BC. Set during the reign of Julius Caesar, this French comic is often the first contact with the Roman Empire that we get as children, especially after it was adapted into film and TV.


Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire by Jérôme Carcopino

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Author Jerome Carcopino masterfully brings to life one of the most well-known cities to have ever existed – Rome. ‘Daily Life in Ancient Rome’ gives us an inside look into the daily lives of the people who lived, worked, and died in the ancient city of Rome. The narrative shines a light on the daily routines, cultures, religions, and social classes of a fully functioning Roman capital.


The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

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Written by the personal secretary to Emperor Hadrian himself, ‘The Twelve Caesars’ is an exquisitely detailed account of the private and public lives of the men who stood at the helm of the Roman Empire from its rise to power to its gradual decline. Using imperial archives together with eyewitness accounts, Suetonius (original author) was able to show the power behind Rome in a whole new light, through the masterful use of anecdotes, satirical narration, and detailed descriptions.


The Corrupting Sea by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell

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With less of a direct focus on the Roman Empire, ‘The Corrupting Sea’ by Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell is an exploration into how the Mediterranean Sea has moulded human civilization. Tracing the intercontinental sea back to its origins, Horden and Purcell take us on a deep dive into how it has influenced the lives and cultures of the peoples that have developed around it, and how mankind has, in turn, changed the sea itself. This book provides a fascinating insight into how the Roman Empire was so heavily affected by the Mediterranean and how it could have been the key to its success.


Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide by Amanda Claridge

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Take an archaeological tour of Rome with this addition to our list. Amanda Claridge presents a fascinating guide to Roman structures that were built within the empire’s capital that date back to the years between 800 BC and 600 AD. Featuring in this guide are buildings from across the many eras of the Roman Empire, such as the Colosseum, the Mausoleums of Augusts and Hadrian, the Roman Forum, and the Catacombs. This book provides, in great detail, the history of each of these great buildings, with reference to historical sources and tables that allow you to see key information from the time of its construction such as who was the reigning emperor and other key buildings that stood at the same time.


Domina: The Women Who Made Imperial Rome by Guy de la Bédoyère

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Often, light is shone on the men who wielded the power behind the Roman Empire, but rarely is much said of the women who held station at the top of Roman society. However, Guy de la Bédoyère does just that with his book – ‘Domina’. Bédoyère paints an evocative picture of daily life in Imperial Rome, highlighting the lives of significant women such as Empress Messalina, Agrippina, and the wives of Lucius Cornelius and Julius Caesar.


The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire by Kyle Harper

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Throughout history, the fall of the Roman Empire has been attributed to many factors like government corruption, barbarian invasion, and overexpansion. However, in this book, Kyle Harper presents a convincing argument that climate change and disease played a significant role in the downfall of the Roman Empire. Through the analysis of historical records and reports, Harper proposes that gradual changes in climate could have caused widespread crop failures, which, combined with the introduction of new diseases from other parts of the world, created a perfect recipe for the decline of the civilization.


And so, our collection of the top 10 books about Romans comes to an end. Whether it’s the magnificent architectural prowess of the Roman masons or the daily habits of Roman citizens that interests you, there is sure to be something on this list for you. Have you read any of our top picks? Or would you add any others to the list?


Did You Know?

Did you know that the Roman Empire covered around three and a half percent of the earth’s total land area and ruled over approximately 20% of the world's population at its peak? Stretching from Britain to modern day Iraq the Roman empire was a force to be reckoned with.

Rome has influenced many things that we may take for granted, even today! Take roads for example, while they didn’t invent roads, they applied a level of craftsmanship to them that had never been seen before, they were so well designed that they still form the basis for some modern-day roads that we still use. Roman influence can also be seen across our society, with Roman influence still noticeable in our culture and politics. Even modern-day languages have been influenced as Latin forms a basis for a number of them, including French, Italian, Spanish, Romanian and several others.

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