20 Best Books on Ancient Rome

Books on Ancient Rome: In historiography, ancient Rome is Roman civilization from the founding of the Italian city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, encompassing the Roman Kingdom, Roman Republic, and Roman Empire until the fall of the western empire. We hope that you enjoy our list of the best books on Ancient Rome.

Books on Ancient Rome

The Eternal City: A History of Rome by Ferdinand Addis, Pete Cross

Why does Rome continue to exert a hold on our imagination? How did the “Caput mundi” come to play such a critical role in the development of Western civilization?

Ferdinand Addis addresses these questions by tracing the history of the “Eternal City” told through the dramatic key moments in its history: from the mythic founding of Rome in 753 BC, via such landmarks as the murder of Caesar in 44 BC, the coronation of Charlemagne in AD 800 and the reinvention of the imperial ideal, the painting of the Sistine chapel, the trial of Galileo, Mussolini’s March on Rome of 1922, the release of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in 1960, and the Occupy riots of 2011.

City of the Seven Hills, spiritual home of Catholic Christianity, city of the artistic imagination, enduring symbol of our common European heritage—Rome has inspired, charmed, and tempted empire-builders, dreamers, writers, and travelers across the twenty-seven centuries of its existence. Ferdinand Addis tells this rich story in a grand narrative style for a new generation of readers.

The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic by Mike Duncan and Hachette Audio

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled: rising economic inequality disrupted traditional ways of life, endemic social and ethnic prejudice led to clashes over citizenship and voting rights, and rampant corruption and ruthless ambition sparked violent political clashes that cracked the once indestructible foundations of the Republic. 

Chronicling the years 146-78 BC, The Storm Before the Storm dives headlong into the first generation to face this treacherous new political environment. Abandoning the ancient principles of their forbearers, men like Marius, Sulla, and the Gracchi brothers set dangerous new precedents that would start the Republic on the road to destruction and provide a stark warning about what can happen to a civilization that has lost its way. 

DK Eyewitness Books: Ancient Rome: Discover One of History's Greatest Civilizations from its Vast Empire to the Blo to the Bloody Gladiator Fights by Simon James and DK Publishing

In Eyewitness: Ancient Rome, travel back in time and discover one of history’s most remarkable civilizations — from its vast empire and astounding engineering feats to the menu at a Roman dinner party. Explore the inside of the Colosseum and the battles that were fought within. Images and supported text throughout the book showcase the pottery, weapons, and other objects Ancient Romans left behind, the architecture they created, the gods they worshiped, family life, transportation, travel, trade, and more, giving an eyewitness account of this incredible empire.

 

Each book retains the stunning artworks and photography from the groundbreaking original series, but the text has been reduced and reworked to speak more clearly to younger readers. On every colorful page: Vibrant annotated photographs and the integrated text-and-pictures approach that makes Eyewitness a perennial favorite of parents, teachers, and school-age kids.

Rome's Economic Revolution (Oxford Studies on the Roman Economy) by Philip Kay

In this volume, Philip Kay examines economic change in Rome and Italy between the Second Punic War and the middle of the first century BC. He argues that increased inflows of bullion, in particular silver, combined with an expansion of the availability of credit to produce significant growth in monetary liquidity. This, in turn, stimulated market developments, such as investment farming, trade, construction, and manufacturing, and radically changed the composition and scale of the Roman economy.

Using a wide range of evidence and scholarly investigation, Kay demonstrates how Rome, in the second and first centuries BC, became a coherent economic entity experiencing real per capita economic growth. Without an understanding of this economic revolution, the contemporaneous political and cultural changes in Roman society cannot be fully comprehended or explained.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome “with passion and without technical jargon” and demonstrates how “a slightly shabby Iron Age village” rose to become the “undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean” (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating “the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life” (Economist) in a way that makes “your hair stand on end” (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this “highly informative, highly readable” (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries. With its nuanced attention to class, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, SPQR will to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.

100 illustrations; 16 pages of color; 5 maps

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Hands-On History! Ancient Rome: Step into the time of the Roman Empire, with 15 step-by-step projects and over 370 exciting pictures by Philip Steele

Travel back through the centuries to one of the greatest civilizations in history – the Roman Empire. Discover fascinating facts about the Roman way of life, the clothes people wore, the entertainments they enjoyed, and the food they liked to eat. Amazing projects allow you to construct a model Roman home, make a legionary’s uniform, and fashion a headdress that will leave you looking fit to rule an empire! Ideal for home or school use for ages 8 to 13

A Murder on the Appian Way: A Mystery of Ancient Rome by Steven Saylor, Scott Harrison

The year is 52BC, and Rome is in turmoil. Rival gangs prowl the streets as Publius Clodius, a high born populist politician, and his arch-enemy, Tito Milo, fight to control the consular elections. But when Clodius is murdered on the Appian Way and Milo is accused of the crime, the city explodes with riots and arson.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius was the last famous Stoic philosopher of the ancient world. The Meditations, his personal journal, survives to this day as one of the most loved self-help and spiritual classics of all time. In How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, cognitive psychotherapist Donald Robertson weaves the life and philosophy of Marcus Aurelius together seamlessly to provide a compelling modern-day guide to the Stoic wisdom followed by countless individuals throughout the centuries as a path to achieving greater fulfillment and emotional resilience.

How to Think Like a Roman Emperor takes readers on a transformative journey along with Marcus, following his progress from a young noble at the court of Hadrian―taken under the wing of some of the finest philosophers of his day―through to his reign as emperor of Rome at the height of its power. Robertson shows how Marcus used philosophical doctrines and therapeutic practices to build emotional resilience and endure tremendous adversity, and guides readers through applying the same methods to their own lives

A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome by Emma Southon, Sophie Ward

In Ancient Rome, all the best stories have one thing in common—murder. Romulus killed Remus to found the city, Caesar was assassinated to save the Republic. Caligula was butchered in the theater, Claudius was poisoned at dinner, and Galba was beheaded in the Forum. In one 50-year period, 26 emperors were murdered.
But what did killing mean in a city where gladiators fought to the death to sate a crowd? In A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Emma Southon examines a trove of real-life homicides from Roman history to explore Roman culture, including how perpetrator, victim, and the act itself were regarded by ordinary people. Inside Ancient Rome’s darkly fascinating history, we see how the Romans viewed life, death, and what it means to be human.

Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires (Oxford Studies in Early Empires) by Walter Scheidel

Two thousand years ago, up to one-half of the human species was contained within two political systems, the Roman empire in western Eurasia (centered on the Mediterranean Sea) and the Han empire in eastern Eurasia (centered on the great North China Plain). Both empires were broadly comparable in terms of size and population, and even largely coextensive in chronological terms (221 BCE to 220 CE for the Qin/Han empire, c. 200 BCE to 395 CE for the unified Roman empire). At the most basic level of resolution, the circumstances of their creation are not very different. In the East, the Shang and Western Zhou periods created a shared cultural framework for the Warring States, with the gradual consolidation of numerous small polities into a handful of large kingdoms which were finally united by the westernmost marcher state of Qin. In the Mediterranean, we can observe comparable political fragmentation and gradual expansion of a unifying civilization, Greek in this case, followed by the gradual formation of a handful of major warring states (the Hellenistic kingdoms in the east, Rome-Italy, Syracuse and Carthage in the west), and likewise eventual unification by the westernmost marcher state, the Roman-led Italian confederation. Subsequent destabilization occurred again in strikingly similar ways: both empires came to be divided into two halves, one that contained the original core but was more exposed to the main barbarian periphery (the west in the Roman case, the north in China), and a traditionalist half in the east (Rome) and south (China).

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The Ancient City: A Study on the Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome by Prof Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges and Prof Arnaldo Mornigliano

From the Introduction: “The Necessity of Studying the Earliest Beliefs of the Ancients in Order to Understand Their Institutions” It is proposed here to show upon what principles and by what rules Greek and Roman society was governed. We unite in the same study both the Greeks and the Romans, because these two peoples, who were two branches of a single race, and who spoke two idioms of a single language, also had the same institutions and the same principles of government, and passed through a series of similar revolutions. We shall attempt to set in a clear light the radical and essential differences which at all times distinguished these ancient peoples from modern societies. In our system of education, we live from infancy in the midst of the Greeks and Romans, and become accustomed continually to compare them with ourselves, to judge of their history by our own, and to explain our revolutions by theirs. What we have received from them leads us to believe that we resemble them. We have some difficulty in considering them as foreign nations; it is almost always ourselves that we see in them. .

The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (The Princeton History of the Ancient World) by Kyle Harper

Here is the monumental retelling of one of the most consequential chapters of human history: the fall of the Roman Empire. The Fate of Rome is the first book to examine the catastrophic role that climate change and infectious diseases played in the collapse of Rome’s power―a story of nature’s triumph over human ambition. Interweaving a grand historical narrative with cutting-edge climate science and genetic discoveries, Kyle Harper traces how the fate of Rome was decided not just by emperors, soldiers, and barbarians but also by volcanic eruptions, solar cycles, climate instability, and devastating viruses and bacteria. The Fate of Rome is a sweeping account of how one of history’s greatest civilizations encountered and endured, yet ultimately succumbed to, the cumulative burden of nature’s violence.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

Exquisitely observed, Four Seasons in Rome describes Doerr’s varied adventures in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. He reads Pliny, Dante, and Keats — the chroniclers of Rome who came before him—and visits the piazzas, temples, and ancient cisterns they describe. He attends the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II and takes his twins to the Pantheon in December to wait for snow to fall through the oculus. He and his family are embraced by the butchers, grocers, and bakers of the neighborhood, whose clamor of stories and idiosyncratic child-rearing advice is as compelling as the city itself.

This intimate and revelatory book is a celebration of Rome, a wondrous look at new parenthood, and a fascinating story of a writer’s craft—the process by which he transforms what he sees and experiences into sentences.

The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer, John Lee

This is the first volume in a bold new series that tells the stories of all peoples, connecting historical events from Europe to the Middle East to the far coast of China, while still giving weight to the characteristics of each country. Susan Wise Bauer provides both sweeping scope and vivid attention to the individual lives that give flesh to abstract assertions about human history.

Dozens of maps provide a clear geography of great events, while timelines give the reader an ongoing sense of the passage of years and cultural interconnection. This old-fashioned narrative history employs the methods of “history from beneath”―literature, epic traditions, private letters and accounts―to connect kings and leaders with the lives of those they ruled. The result is an engrossing tapestry of human behavior from which we may draw conclusions about the direction of world events and the causes behind them.

13 illustrations, 80 maps

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Rome: An illustrated military and political history of the world's mightiest power by Nigel Rodgers and Hazel Dodge

This superbly illustrated book offers an insight into the rise of Rome, which, for six centuries, ruled almost the whole known world. Over 1500 years after Rome’s final decline and fall, this detailed examination of the people, places and events of this military and political empire will continue to fascinate.

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Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up (Volume 71) (Sather Classical Lectures)by Mary Beard

What made the Romans laugh? Was ancient Rome a carnival, filled with practical jokes and hearty chuckles? Or was it a carefully regulated culture in which the uncontrollable excess of laughter was a force to fear―a world of wit, irony, and knowing smiles? How did Romans make sense of laughter? What role did it play in the world of the law courts, the imperial palace, or the spectacles of the arena?

Laughter in Ancient Rome explores one of the most intriguing, but also trickiest, of historical subjects. Drawing on a wide range of Roman writing―from essays on rhetoric to a surviving Roman joke book―Mary Beard tracks down the giggles, smirks, and guffaws of the ancient Romans themselves. From ancient “monkey business” to the role of a chuckle in a culture of tyranny, she explores Roman humor from the hilarious, to the momentous, to the surprising.  But she also reflects on even bigger historical questions. What kind of history of laughter can we possibly tell? Can we ever really “get” the Romans’ jokes?

On Roman Religion: Lived Religion and the Individual in Ancient Rome (Cornell Studies in Classical Philology, 67) by Jörg Rüpke

In Rüpke’s view, lived ancient religion is as much about variations or even outright deviance as it is about attempts and failures to establish or change rules and roles and to communicate them via priesthoods, practices related to images or classified as magic, and literary practices. Rüpke analyzes observations of religious experience by contemporary authors including Propertius, Ovid, and the author of the “Shepherd of Hermas.” These authors, in very different ways, reflect on individual appropriation of religion among their contemporaries, and they offer these reflections to their readership or audiences. Rüpke also concentrates on the ways in which literary texts and inscriptions informed the practice of rituals.

Maximus: A Medieval Scottish Romance (The Immortal Highland Centurions Book 1) by Jayne Castel and Tim Burton

Maximus Flavius Cato should have died in 118 AD—the year the Ninth legion was lost forever in the wilds of Caledonia. Instead, a Pict druidess curses him and two others with immortality. Over a thousand years later, as he struggles to solve the riddle that holds the key to breaking the curse, Maximus has an encounter with a comely tavern wench. His immortal life will never be the same again.

Heather De Keith has made a lot of mistakes—but marrying a bad man was her greatest. After her husband never returns from battle, she’s forced to take up work serving ale in a local tavern. Stubborn pride prevents her from returning to her kin at Dunnottar Castle. But when an enigmatic stranger comes to her aid one evening in the tavern, Heather lets attraction overrule good sense. The night they spend together spurs her to make the decision she’s put off for too long. It’s time to go home.

Meteorites & Sacred Stones on Coins of Ancient Greece & Rome by Michael Blood

Now there is finally a book describing and showing examples of the Meteorite & Sacred Stones
found on many of the Ancient Greek and Roman Coins. The text is arranged to give an overview
of the sacred stones and meteorites, their origin myths, names and locations followed by an extensive
chronological list of chapters on Emperors and royalty who’s coins show depictions of these various
meteorites and sacred stones Illustrated with a full-color depiction of each along with a description
of the issuing person, his or her time and nature of influence, etc.
There are links for further information throughout the text as well as an extensive Reverences list with links.
Never has such a numismatic reference been available for the collector of these types of coins.
I doubt any reader will fail to discover coins of which they were not heretofore aware.

Warfare in the Ancient World: From the Bronze Age to the Fall of Rome by Stefan G. Chrissanthos

From the clash of bronze weapons on bronze armor to the fall of Rome, war often decided the course of ancient history. This volume is a practical introduction to the study of warfare in the ancient world, beginning with Egypt and Mesopotamia, and tracing the advances made in battle tactics, technology, and government over hundreds of years, culminating with developments in Greece and the Roman Empire. The chronological structure allows the reader to trace certain general themes down through the centuries: how various civilizations waged war; who served in the various armies and why; who the generals and officers were who made the decisions in the field; what type of government controlled these armies; and from what type of society they sprang. Major events and important individuals are discussed in their historical contexts, providing a complete understanding of underlying causes, and enabling readers to follow the evolution of ancient warfare as armies and empires became steadily larger and more sophisticated. Yet as Chrissanthos makes clear, history comes full circle during this period. Rome’s collapse in 476 C.E. inaugurated an unforeseen dark age in which great armies were left decimated despite advanced technology that, while proving decisive in the outcome of many critical battles and stand-offs, had vanished amidst the Empire’s crumbling walls.o.