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« on: December 25, 2007, 02:32:31 pm »

Thought it would be good to have a thread where we can recommend books and Documentary series.  I hate buying a book or DVD and finding it out of date or boring or just painful to read.

Here are a few that I've found particularly interesting and informative:

"Augustus" by Anthony Everitt is fantastic.  A joy to read.  His conclusions are reasonable and well thought out.

"Cicero" by Anthony Everitt is just as good as Augustus.  I've read it twice.

"Rome and Jerusalem" by Martin Goodman gives great info on what led up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the ramifications from that event on Christianity and world historyVery good read.

I will warn everyone about the "new" DVD called "Legions of Rome" it is supposedly a new DVD from 2007.  I bought it only to find it was actually made in the early 80's but put on DVD in 2007.  It was simplistic and featured state of the art (for 1980) computer graphics.  I returned it and to my surprise got a full refund.

I can recommend the PBS series "Secrets of the Dead" especially the one entitled "Headless Romans" very well done.  I'm trying to find a copy for myself.

Those are just a few.  What about you guys?  Any suggestions?
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2007, 07:24:05 am »

One of the best fictional accounts of Flavian Rome I've read is 'Domitia and Domitian' by David Corson. Endorsed by no less than the eminent Flavian historian Brian Jones, the book creates a plausible account of Domitian's reign and goes a long way to explain his tyrannical behavior.

When I get more time, I will list a few more books that have greatly enhanced my understanding of ancient Rome.
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2007, 07:38:11 pm »

I will definately look for that book!  Thanks!  I know you love the Flavian era so you will enjoy the above mentioned book "Rome and Jerusalem"

I'm about half way through "Pompeii: the Living City" by Alex Butterworth and Ray Laurence.  It combines historical facts in the context of a fictional narration.  Half the book is in italics (fictional) the rest tells why they can speculate that is what happened through inscriptions, scrolls and other historical facts.  Very interesting read.

On a side note I'm also reading "Wonderful Tonight...George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Me" by Pattie Boyd.  I'm on the first chapter and I'm already fascinated...she hasn't even gotten to the good stuff yet! Smiley  and I just finished "John" by Cynthia Lennon, that really changed my view of Lennon, just when I was starting to like Yoko! Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2007, 11:00:18 am »

I haven’t read too many fictional accounts of ancient Rome so I can’t really add much there, except to say that Robert Graves’s I Claudius and Claudius the God are excellent – truly classics – and the novels of Steven Saylor are most enjoyable and seem to be well researched for overall accuracy.  Also, there is Lord Lytton’s 19th century classic (still widely available) The Last Days of Pompeii, which influenced my interest in Roman history as a youth, though it is a true Victorian novel and is filled with much hyperbole.

On non-fiction works I am better qualified to comment, having read so many.  For general works on Rome, among the most useful (in my opinion) are as follows:

Philip Matyszak’s Chronicle of the Roman Republic (Thames & Hudson, 2003),

Chris Scarre’s Chronicle of the Roman Emperors (Thames & Hudson, 2004),

Mary T. Boatwright, Daniel J. Gargola, and J. A. Talbert: The Romans: From Village to Empire (Oxford, 2004),

Lesley and Ray Adkins: Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome (Oxford, 1998),

And, for a fun book with a good deal of useful information, there is Philip Matyszak’s recent Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day (Thames & Hudson, 2007).

Of histories of Rome perhaps the most famous (and one of the very best) is Edward Gibbons’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published in multiple volumes between 1776 and 1788). There are many editions available of this work, some better than others. The problem here is that most editions presently in print are abridgements. The original is very long but well worth reading in its entirety as the abridgements all leave out a great deal of important material (in some cases the original work has been reduced by as much as two-thirds).

A favorite of mine is the Loeb Classical Library series, which pairs ancient texts in their original language with modern English translations of the same. The series is huge and contains both Greek and Roman works. My personal favorite books of the series are those of the four volume set Remains of Old Latin, translated by E. H. Warmington (originally published 1940 and still in print by Harvard University Press). Of these, volume IV is particularly interesting, having as it does a very fine section on Republican coinage (indeed, among the best treatments of the subject I have read).

Will Durant’s 1944 Caesar and Christ is a fine one-volume treatment of Roman history as well. It is part of the “Story of Civilization” series (volume 3, in fact) but stands alone. It remains in print today and is widely available.

Less widely available but extremely good is Basil Kennet’s Antiquities of Rome, often known simply as Kennet’s Rome, first published in London in two volumes in 1713 but continuously published (often in a single volume edition) for the next 150 years. Well worth it if you can track one down.

In my personal opinion, however, the definitive history of Ancient Rome is without question the 16 volume (actually 8 volumes, each volume being split into two books) monumental work by Victor DuRuy entitled History of Rome, first published in French around 1880 and published in English in 1884. This is an amazing work and, although considered “popular” in its day, far outstrips most later “scholarly” works in terms of academic quality. It also has copious illustrations, including many of coins.

Then there are the many books on specific areas of Roman history and culture (i.e. literature, poetry, the army and military campaigns, law, architecture, the early Church, etc., etc., etc…). I’ve found I can’t go wrong with anything written by Michael Grant, John R. Clarke, Anthony Everitt, or Edith Hamilton.

And, of course, let us not forget the writings of those who were there! Much Roman history and literature written by Romans themselves has come down to us. There are the books of Livy, Tacitus, Suetonius, Plutarch (who was Greek but writes about the lives of both Greeks and Romans), the two Plinys, Cicero, Julius Caesar himself, and many others...


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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2008, 04:57:17 pm »

Robert Grant's 'Augustus to Constantine' is still well worth reading (it was published in 1970) if you're interested in religion at all. It's a scholarly, but readable, account of the history of the early church within the empire, and gives as gives a picture as you'll get of the shifting relationships between church and state. Just what's needed for debunking the old stereotype of bloodthirsty pagans throwing every Christian in sight to the nearest lion!
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2008, 05:27:26 pm »

"Paul, a Herald of the Cross" by Florence M. Kingsley - This particular account of Paul's life is a fictionalized tale based upon Acts and the epistles, and follows Paul from the Damascus Road to his life's end in captivity in Rome. What is valuable about the book, fiction though it is, can be found in the historical, political and religious setting that Kingsley brings to life. Ms. Kingsley's research and grasp of the times is colorfully vivid, in fact, the first half of the book barely touches on Paul himself. Instead, Kingsley lays before the reader the world of the eastern Roman empire. Providing a fictionalized account of the Herodians, the imperial courts of Tiberius through Nero, governors, high priests and sects, slaves and beggars, shysters and charlatans, Kingsely paints a picture of how the empire looked, smelled, and sounded. The pomp of the court, the sycophantic courtiers, the horror of pagan rites - all displayed with literary skill one would expect of a book written in 1896 or so (I don't recall the exact date). Its a good read and leaves one with a tangible sense of the setting. It can be purchased from antiquarian book sellers for less than $15 usually.


When Jerusalem Burned by Gerard Israel, 1973, non-fiction. This is an account of the Vespasian/Titus lead destruction of Jerusalem, also from a Christian partial-preterist perspective. If you ever needed a little help getting through Josephus, (the book relies heavily on Josephus' "Jewish Wars" and other histories). What terrible tribulation was felt in that city, and how sad that few people even know about AD 70.


"Into the Antiquities Trade" by Kevin R. Cheek. Non-fiction. This one was recommended by ensible on his blog, I read it, loved it. Its a fascinating peek into the trade, and takes the reader on journeys to dangerous places like Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. I can tell you that had I read this book in my early 20s, I'd be in a different line of work or dead trying.  Wink

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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2008, 05:37:58 pm »

If anyone hasn't read Peter Green's Alexander to Actium, Berkeley, 1990, it really is wonderful.  It doesn't have to be read before Augustus to Constantine, it's just a wonderful book.  Pat L.
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2008, 05:56:52 pm »

I want to recommend two books:

Sulla by Karl Christ, and
Tiberius by Zvi Yavetz

Both books have as subject enigmatic characters which sometimes are represented as monsters. But if you have read these books you came to another view onto these complex personalities.

Best regards
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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2008, 02:33:04 pm »

Great additions everyone.  I'll recommend another...
MARK ANTONYS HEROES: How the 3rd Gallica Legion Saved an Apostle and Created an Emperor by Stephen Dando-Collins

It's a great reference to see how Caesar's legions were conscripted,  when they were taken over and when and where they retired.  You follow the 3rd Gallica as they move around from Gaul to Italy to Judea and Syria.  The first half is almost a biography on Mark Antony.  The middle (where I am now) is a reference to the Bible book of Acts with Paul being the major player.  I'm finding it a good read even if I don"t agree with all of the authors conclusions.
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« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2008, 09:18:02 pm »

As promised, here is a list of a few books I have found highly valuable:

From Tiberius to the Antonines by Albino Garzetti  Good general introduction to the period.

Agricola and Roman Britain A. R. Burn  Excellent narrative of Agricola and his times.

Agricola and the Conquest of the North W. S. Hanson  Agricola in a more archaeological context.

Roman Britain Peter Salway  A must read for understanding Roman Britain.

Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire M. Rostovtzeff  An eye opening treatment of the subject from a socialist stance.

Vesuvius A.D. 79 E. De Carolis and G. Patricelli  A wonderful account of Pompeii's last day.

Flavius Josephus M. Hadas-Lebel   An excellent narrative account of Josephus' life.

The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World Talbert   A beautifully well done atlas.

Jesus  An Historian's Review of the Gospels M. Grant   One of the best books about the historical Jesus.

Romans and Barbarians Derek Williams  Contains the best account of the Varian disaster I've yet read.

The Emperor Titus B. W. Jones   A must have for the Flavian expert.

Vespasian B. Levick  Good account of Vespasian's life and Career.

Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors A commentary Jones & Milns  Excellent translation with detailed commentary.

Empire of Pleasures Andrew Dalby  If you ever wanted to know about Roman luxury items, this is the book. Highly recommended.

Apocalypse  The Great Jewish Revolt Against Rome Neil Faulkner   Excellent, detailed treatment of the subject.

More later...

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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2008, 06:33:46 pm »

Vespasian70 u mentioned 'Domitia and Domitian' by David Corson. His sequal 'Trajan and Plotina' is out, I've read good things.
Right now I'm re-reading The Fall of the Roman Empire by Michael Grant. I needed to brush up on my late empire stuff.
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« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2008, 10:51:52 am »

Quote from: ROMA on January 08, 2008, 06:33:46 pm
Vespasian70 u mentioned 'Domitia and Domitian' by David Corson. His sequal 'Trajan and Plotina' is out, I've read good things.

I also have Trajan and Plotina sitting on the bookshelf, but I haven't picked it up yet. It would be interesting to see how Corson treats their marriage.
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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2008, 09:56:47 pm »

Thought I'd bring this back to the top.

Started reading Cassius Dio's history of Augustus.  I'm reading the Penguin Classics translation that starts with Actium and Mark Antony and Cleopatra's defeat.  Not as fast paced or gossipy as Suetonius but a good read none the less. 
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« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2008, 02:21:01 pm »

I really enjoyed Rubicon by Tom Holland which I can highly recommend so I just began another of his books Persian Fire
 I'm in the first chapter but it's already captivated me.  He has a way of finding a plausible truth between folk lore and what could have really happened.  In a nut shell it covers the 5th century BC and the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire under Cyrus
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« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2008, 03:14:28 pm »

I have recently finished reading Scipio by Ross Leckie.
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« Reply #15 on: February 18, 2008, 07:29:50 pm »

A few more:

The Roman Conquest of Scotland  J. Fraser  A new narrative about the battle of Mons Graupius.

Tacitus  R. Syme   An excellent study of Tacitus and his times.

Nero  M. Griffin   THE biography of Nero

Beloved and God R. Lambert   Very good telling and explaination of the Hadrian/Antinous affair.

The Roman Imperial Army G. Webster   A fundamental book about the Roman Imperial Army by the esteemed British scholar Graham Webster.

Rome and Jerusalem M. Goodman   Goes some distance to explain why these two great ancient cities were at odds.

Travel in the Ancient World L. Casson   If you ever wanted to know what a sea journey was like in ancient times...

A new Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome L. Richardson   Looking for information about a long lost Temple or domus? This book will have it and then some.

The Bible as History W. Keller   Fundamental book about the historical aspects of the bible.

Roman Coins H. Mattingly    Wonderful overview of Roman coins from a world expert.

The Roman Imperial Coinage Volume II part 1  I. Carradice, T. Buttrey  An essential catalog of Imperial Flavian Coinage. The introductions are priceless.
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« Reply #16 on: February 19, 2008, 03:43:42 pm »

Restorer of the World: The Roman Emperor Aurelian, by John F White. Decent coverage of Aurelian's reign, with inadequate sources filled out with an assessmant of the period as a whole.

Nero, Edward Champlin. Concentrates on Nero as a performer. A very interesting assessment of the man!

An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, David Mattingly. I've only just started this one, but it's a really solid piece of work.
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« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2008, 06:21:58 am »

Here's three books that fall under the headings: academic text, biography and historical fiction:

The Pursuit of History, by John Tosh (Fourth Edition, Pearson/Longman, 2006)--first published in 1984; it is amazing.
Caesar, Christian Meier (Fontana Press, 1996)--first published in 1982 in German; this is a keeper.
Imperium, Robert Harris (Pocket Books, 2006)--this book about Cicero is the epitome (IMO) of historical fiction. Smiley
 
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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2008, 09:56:51 am »

Jim,

Caesar against the Celts by Ramon L. Jimenez is an awesome book about J. as well.

A very good narrative account of the first Roman invasion of Britain is worth the price of the book.
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« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2008, 12:15:35 pm »

I would recommend "Religions of Rome: Volume 1, A History" by Mary Beard, John North and Simon Price. Published by Cambridge University Press in 1998, reprinted at least 3 times (I have a 2002 reprint). This book is stuffed full of information that is important in understanding a large part of the basis of life in Republican and early Imperial Rome, not to mention a full understanding of what you can see on the coinage.  I also intend to get hold of Volume II, a sourcebook, which should be good. 

As a companion, perhaps "Religion in the Ancient Greek City" by Louise Bruit Zaidman and Pauline Schmitt Pantel, translated by Paul Cartledge, published by Cambridge University Press in 1992; I have a 1995 reprint.  This taught me what the ancient Greeks meant by religion, and the place it held in their lives.

I am not at all religious, and these were as much fun to read as any far-out fantasy, with the added frisson that people really thought this way!

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« Reply #20 on: February 20, 2008, 12:28:12 pm »

Speaking of Mary Beard, has anyone read her new book The Roman Triumph?

If it's anything like her Colosseum book it should be a good read.
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« Reply #21 on: February 21, 2008, 12:38:23 am »

This one is more related to (early) Christainity in the eastern Mediterranean, but I'd like to recommend -
William Dalrymple

From the Holy Mountain - A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium
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« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2008, 11:16:24 am »

I have a couple books on the way, wondering if anyone has read them, Lives of the Later Caesars: The First Part of the Augustan History, by Anthony Birley(translator) and Constantine the great: The man and his times by Grant, Michael.  I know that Grant book is sighted frequently about Constantine so i thought i should pick it up.
I got them for a good price on amazon, but there's a couple more items I'd really like to pick up like Vespasian by Levick, and the books Anthony Birley did on Hadrian and Severus. anyone read these?
And for a good book I havent gotten too far into yet but am enjoying: Carausius and Allectus: The British Usurpers by Casey.
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« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2008, 02:24:57 pm »

Casey is good; I don't know the others. Another one you could try is John White, 'Restorer of the World: the Roman Emperor Aurelian'.
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« Reply #24 on: March 09, 2008, 05:49:24 am »

Quote from: ROMA on March 08, 2008, 11:16:24 am
(...)
And for a good book I havent gotten too far into yet but am enjoying: Carausius and Allectus: The British Usurpers by Casey.

I have just finished that book, and I agree it is a good read, full of information, even down to summarising the fantastic fiction about these two and how they were presented by writers of different times.
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