Ancient Rome

I haven’t read many books on Ancient Rome and, to be honest, it’s not a time period I’ve ever felt much enthusiasm for, but I think that is slowly beginning to change. I have featured below all the novels I’ve read set in Rome since I’ve started blogging, followed by a list of future possibilities.


Imperium by Robert Harris

The first in a trilogy of books about the Roman statesman, orator, philosopher and lawyer Marcus Tullius Cicero. The novels are narrated by Tiro, Cicero’s secretary and form a fictional biography of Cicero’s life. This is an excellent book – I learned a huge amount about Roman society, politics and law, as well as being entertained by a thrilling and gripping story.


Lustrum by Robert Harris

The second book in the trilogy sees Cicero beginning his year as consul and working to thwart a conspiracy against him. I loved this book as much as the first and was struck by the parallels between modern politics and those of the Roman Republic. Highly recommended, though be aware that the US title is Conspirata.


Dictator by Robert Harris

The final book in this fantastic trilogy brings Cicero’s story to an end. Dictator covers the last fifteen years of Cicero’s life, though as the title suggests, the focus of the book is on the rise and fall of Julius Caesar.

Cleopatra's Daughter

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

This is the story of Kleopatra Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. Orphaned at the age of ten, Selene is brought to Rome to live in the household of Octavia, sister of the Emperor Octavian (Augustus), but dreams of one day returning to Egypt. I enjoyed this book and learned some interesting facts from it, but it lacked the depth I prefer in historical fiction.

The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis

I’d heard a lot about Lindsey Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco mystery series, so I was pleased to finally have the opportunity to try one for myself. The Silver Pigs is the first in the series, in which Falco is investigating a conspiracy which threatens the reign of the Emperor Vespasian. I enjoyed the book, with a few reservations, but I listened to this one as an audiobook and would prefer to read the next one in physical form.

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

Narrated by Nero himself, this is the first of two volumes giving a fictional account of the Roman Emperor’s life. Well researched, detailed and interesting, this novel is a fascinating read conveying the danger and intrigue surrounding Rome’s imperial family. However, Margaret George takes a revisionist approach to Nero and I found the character a bit too nice for my liking!

Colossus - The Four Emperors

Colossus: The Four Emperors by David Blixt

This novel follows the story of Titus Flavius Sabinus and his family during one year in which four different claimants become Emperor of Rome. I loved the portrayal of Roman life, beliefs and customs – my only problem with this book was the long battle sequences!

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

Probably one of the most famous novels to be set in Ancient Rome, this book is presented as the fictional autobiography of the Emperor Claudius. In this volume, Claudius takes us through his early life and the reigns of his predecessors, Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula. His own time as emperor is the subject of the sequel, which I haven’t read yet. I enjoyed this fascinating novel, but my limited knowledge of the Roman Empire made it more challenging for me than it probably should have been.


More suggestions

In my Historical Musings post in May 2015 I asked for recommendations, in the hope of discovering the perfect book to spark an interest in Roman history. The response was overwhelming! I am listing some readers’ suggestions below, as well as a few books that I already have on my shelves, and I plan to read at least a few of these titles in the near future.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves
Claudius the God by Robert Graves
The Ruso series by Ruth Downie
The Falco series by Lindsey Davis
Master and God by Lindsey Davis
The Course of Honour by Lindsey Davis
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff
Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar
Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw
Bearkeeper’s Daughter by Gillian Bradshaw
Island of Ghosts by Gillian Bradshaw
Imperial Purple by Gillian Bradshaw
The Ides of March by Thornton Wilder
Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling
Lustrum by Robert Harris
Dictator by Robert Harris
Pompeii by Robert Harris
I am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith
Kate Quinn (various novels)
Steven Saylor (various novels)
SPQR series by John Maddox Roberts
Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough

The Classical World by Robin Lane Fox
Rubicon by Tom Holland
Pompeii by Alex Butterworth
SPQR by Mary Beard

If you can think of any more Roman books to add to my list, please leave a comment and let me know!

5 thoughts on “Ancient Rome

  1. Steven McDonald says:

    I really enjoyed the ‘Masters of Rome’ series by Colleen McCollough. I was surprised that it was not on your list. I’m a big Dorothy Dunnett fan. McCollough takes her time narrating the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Emperors.

    • Helen says:

      Thank you, Steven. I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed the Masters of Rome series. I’ll add it to the list above. Ancient Rome has never been one of my favourite periods to read about, but I am slowly working my way through the recommendations I’ve received from other readers and am starting to feel more enthusiastic about Roman history.

      It’s good to meet another Dunnett fan! 🙂

Please leave a comment. Thanks!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.