Selected Books on Roman History

Selected Books on Roman History

Here are suggestions for reading about ancient Rome, from its founding, through the kings, the Republic, and the Empire, to the Fall of Rome. Some books are suitable to school children, but most are for adults. Most cover a specific period, although there are some general ones. These are all recommended. Look to description rather than numbering. You may wish to note that some of these recommendations are classics in the field and have been around for decades. You may find their style of writing less flowing than the modern writers.

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Always I Am Caesar

Always I am Caesar. PriceGrabber

Tatum has something on Julius Caesar for everyone, from a refresher on the social and political structure of Republican Rome, to a new slant on the significance of Caesar's famous dying words, to a comparison between Caesar and notable modern leaders. Since the material is taken from public lectures, the prose flows like that of engaging modern professor or storyteller. (2008)

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The Beginnings of Rome, by Tim Cornell

The Beginnings of Rome, by Tim Cornell. PriceGrabber

Cornell covers Rome from 753 B.C. to 264 B.C. comprehensively and since it's from the late 20th century, up-to-date. I have used it extensively, especially when looking at Rome's expansion, although I haven't reviewed it. It's simply an essential for the period. (1995)

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Caesar Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy

Adrian Goldsworthy's Caesar - Life of a Colossus. PriceGrabber

Adrian Goldsworthy's

Caesar - Life of a Colossus

is a long, thorough, readable biography of Julius Caesar written by a military historian who includes great detail on the times and customs of the late Republic. If you aren't terribly familiar with Julius Caesar, Goldsworthy provides you with the events in his fascinating life. If you are familiar, the themes Goldsworthy selects in documenting Caesar's life make it a new story. (2008)

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The Day of the Barbarians, by Alessandro Barbero

Day of the Barbarians. PriceGrabber

For those non-specialists who want a clear look at the background and probable events at the Battle of Adrianople or the barbarization of the Roman Empire, or for those whose favorite period of Roman history is the Late Empire,

The Day of the Barbarians: The Battle That Led to the Fall of the Roman Empire

, by Alessandro Barbero, should be on the short reading list. (English Version: 2008)

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The Fall of the Roman Empire, by Peter Heather

The Fall of the Roman Empire, by Peter Heather. PriceGrabber

If you're looking for a thorough, basic book on the fall of Rome from a modern perspective, Peter Heather's

The Fall of the Roman Empire

would be a good choice. It has its own agenda, but so do the Christianity-focused (Gibbon) and economic-focused (AHM Jones) classic works on the fall of Rome. (2005)

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From the Gracchi to Nero, by H.H. Scullard

Scullard - From the Gracchi to Nero. PriceGrabber From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68

is a standard text on the period of the Roman Revolution through the Julio-Claudian emperors. Scullard looks at the Gracchi, Marius, Pompey, Sulla, Caesar and the expanding empire. (1959)

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A History of the Roman World 753 to 146 B.C., by H.H. Scullard

Scullard - A History of the Roman World. PriceGrabber


A History of the Roman World 753 to 146 B.C.

, H.H. Scullard looks at critical events in Roman history from the beginning of the Republic through the Punic Wars. Also chapters on Roman life and culture. (1935)

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The Last Generation of the Roman, by Erich Gruen

The Last Generation of the Roman Republic, by Erich S. Gruen. PriceGrabber

Erich S. Gruen, who writes about thirty years later than Sir Ronald Syme, provides an almost diametrically opposed interpretation of events of the period. (1974)

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Once Upon the Tiber, by Rose Williams

Once Upon the Tiber, by Rose Williams. PriceGrabber

Rose Williams wrote the witty

Once Upon a Tiber

with a specific audience in mind: students learning Latin who need a background in Roman history. To my mind, it is just as appropriate for students learning about Roman history, especially as a supplement to a series of context-limited readings-in-translation or textbooks. Instead of telling only such history as can be vouched for as historically accurate, Rose Williams reveals what the Romans wrote about themselves. (2002)

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Party Politics in the Age of Caesar, by Lily Ross Taylor

Party Politics in the Age of Caesar, by Lily Ross Taylor. PriceGrabber

Another classic, from 1949, this time by Lily Ross Taylor (1896-1969). "Party Politics" makes it clear that politics were different in Cicero and Caesar's day, although the dominant optimates and populares are often identified with modern conservative and liberal parties. Patrons had clients so they could "get out the vote." (1949)

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The Roman Revolution, by Ronald Syme

Syme's The Roman Revolution. PriceGrabber

Sir Ronald Syme's 1939 classic about the period from 60 B.C. to A.D. 14, the accession of Augustus, and the ineluctable movement from democracy to dictatorship. (1939)

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Roman Warfare, by Adrian Goldsworthy

Roman Warfare, by Adrian Goldsworthy. PriceGrabber

Adrian Goldsworthy's

Roman Warfare

is an excellent introduction to how the Romans used their soldiers to become a world power. It also covers techniques and the organization of the legions. (2005)