The best books on Roman Britain (by an award-winning historian)

Who am I?

Dr. Simon Elliott is an award-winning and best-selling historian, archaeologist, author, broadcaster, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent, Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology, Ambassador for Museum of London Archaeology, Guide Lecturer for Andante Travels, and President of the Society of Ancients. He frequently appears on broadcast and social media as a presenter and expert regarding the ancient world, and currently has 12 books on sale on similar themes, with three more due later this year. He is also a PR Week award-winning, highly experienced communications practitioner who has advised a wide variety of clients at a senior level on their interaction with the world of the media and politics. 

I wrote...

Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

By Simon Elliott, Simon Elliott,

Book cover of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

What is my book about?

Legio IX Hispana had a long and active history, later in its career founding both Lincoln and York in Britain, from where it guarded the northern frontiers in the Roman province. However, it is last mentioned in history in AD 82 and epigraphy in AD 108, after which it completely disappears. The mystery of its disappearance has inspired debate and imagination for centuries. In his new best-selling work, Dr. Simon Elliott analyses whether it was most likely lost in the north of Britain, in the south here, on the Rhine or Danube, or in the east.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409

Why did I love this book?

In my opinion the definative, academic standard account of the Roman occupation of Britain. Professor Mattingly’s book is very well organised, with sections which easily engage the reader on specific aspects of the Roman presence here, for example religion, political organisation, the military, agriculture, and industry. It also explains in great detail the various impacts across Britain of the transition from the Late Iron Age to the Roman period.  

By David Mattingly,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked An Imperial Possession as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part of the Penguin History of Britain series, An Imperial Possession is the first major narrative history of Roman Britain for a generation. David Mattingly draws on a wealth of new findings and knowledge to cut through the myths and misunderstandings that so commonly surround our beliefs about this period. From the rebellious chiefs and druids who led native British resistance, to the experiences of the Roman military leaders in this remote, dangerous outpost of Europe, this book explores the reality of life in occupied Britain within the context of the shifting fortunes of the Roman Empire.

Book cover of Hadrian's Wall: Creating Division

Why did I love this book?

The northern border of Roman Britain came to define much of the occupation in the province, given the far north of the main island of Britain was never fully conquered. This meant the north and west of the province featured an exceptionally large military presence, with the whole local economy there bent on maintaining it. By far the most enigmatic manifestation of this is Hadrian’s Wall, the physical northern frontier for much of the Roman period. In this brand new work, featuring much new research, Matthew Symonds of Current Publishing goes into great detail about the history of the fortification, its purpose, and the impact it has had on British history following Rome’s departure. 

By Matthew Symonds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hadrian's Wall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Over its venerable history, Hadrian's Wall has had an undeniable influence in shaping the British landscape, both literally and figuratively. Once thought to be a soft border, recent research has implicated it in the collapse of a farming civilisation centuries in the making, and in fuelling an insurgency characterised by violent upheaval. Examining the everyday impact of the Wall over the three centuries it was in operation, Matthew Symonds sheds new light on its underexplored human story by discussing how the evidence speaks of a hard border scything through a previously open landscape and bringing dramatic change in its wake.…

Book cover of Roman Britain: A New History 55 BC-AD 450

Why did I love this book?

Many narratives on the history of the Roman presence in Britain focus on the political, economic or social aspects of the story. However, here Patricia Southern focuses particularly on the human experience, giving real insight into the lives of the individuals who lived through the Roman occupation.  

By Patricia Southern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Roman Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For nearly four centuries, from AD 43 to 410, Britain was a small province on the north-western edge of the vast Roman Empire. Though it was small, it was not insignificant. There were more Roman soldiers in Britain than there were in the provinces of North Africa, and the governors who were appointed by the Emperor were among the most prominent men of their day, at the peak of their careers. People from all classes of Roman Britain's multi-cultural and varied society can still speak to us, indirectly via the works of ancient historians, annalists and biographers, and directly from…

Book cover of A History of Roman Coinage in Britain

Why did I love this book?

Numismatics has a huge role to play in helping tell the story of Roman Britain, not only from a chronological perspective, but also because the types and quality of the coinage tells us much about the nature of the province and empire in a given period. Here the British Museum’s Sam Moorhead has written a masterful account of this key aspect of the archaeology of Roman Britain. 

By Sam Moorhead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of Roman Coinage in Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you have a Roman coin that you want to identify look no further. If you want to delve deeper into the coin, emperor, or particular period the book is an excellent starting point for further and deeper research. With over 1600 colour photographs this is the only book on Roman Coins you will ever need! Written by Sam Moorhead of the British Museum, this book provides a chronological overview of Roman coinage from the Republican period (300BC) to the early 5th century, with an emphasis on Roman coinage used in Britain. The text provides an introduction to the history…

Book cover of Beyond the Empire: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Scotland

Why did I love this book?

As detailed, the far north of Roman Britain was never fully conquered. Therefore it was the location of numerous Roman military campaigns, some of conquest and others to suppress aggression and dissent. Each Roman foray north of the border has left its footprint in the form of archaeology, and here Dr. Andrew Tibbs details each such site to enable the reader to visit and interpret them. Highly recommended.

By Andrew Tibbs,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beyond the Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Though Scotland was never successfully conquered by the Roman Empire, the lands north of Hadrian's Wall nonetheless include many Roman sites that bear witness to Rome's attempts to impose her will over the whole of Britain. Beyond the Empire offers a complete listing of all 330 known Roman sites in Scotland, including location maps, details of notable archaeological finds, what is visible on the ground, and how to visit them.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in ancient Rome, Roman Britain, and the Roman Empire?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ancient Rome, Roman Britain, and the Roman Empire.

Ancient Rome Explore 261 books about ancient Rome
Roman Britain Explore 25 books about Roman Britain
The Roman Empire Explore 148 books about the Roman Empire

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Eagle of the Ninth, The Emperor's Babe, and Life and Letters from the Roman Frontier if you like this list.