The best books on the ancient city of Rome

Why am I passionate about this?

Simon has been a student and historian of ancient Rome for most of his life, and has authored one non-fiction work and numerous historical novels set in the era, a number of them set in the ancient city itself. He has spent time in Rome over the decades, hunting down traces of the ancient city and studying architecture and finds, ever deepening his understanding of the place, how it worked, what it looked like, and its place in the world. Rome is the core of three decades of research for Simon.


I wrote...

Commodus

By Simon Turney,

Book cover of Commodus

What is my book about?

Rome is enjoying a period of stability and prosperity. The Empire's borders are growing, and there are two sons in the imperial succession for the first time in Rome's history. But all is not as it appears. Cracks are beginning to show. Two decades of war have taken their toll, and there are whispers of a sickness in the East. The Empire stands on the brink of true disaster, an age of gold giving way to one of iron and rust, a time of reason and strength sliding into hunger and pain. The decline may yet be halted, though. One man tries to hold the fracturing empire together. To Rome, he is their emperor, their Hercules, their Commodus.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dans la Rome des Césars

Simon Turney Why did I love this book?

This French book is quite simply the best reconstruction of Rome in the age of Constantine you could hope for. If you read French or are happy to translate it, the sections about each area of the city are informative and interesting, accompanied by beautiful photographs, but even if you speak no French and have no intention of reading it, this book is still worthwhile. Between these sections, the book is filled with large, fold-out maps of reconstructed Rome, including every known building and right down to the alleyways, lovingly depicted. I have used it as a source for every book I’ve set in Rome now for the better part of a decade. An invaluable source and lovely work.

By Gilles Chaillet,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dans la Rome des Césars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rome l'éternelle, la magnifique, a été dessinée quartier par quartier, rue par rue, bâtiment par bâtiment, fenêtre par fenêtre, par le stakhanoviste Gilles Chaillet sur un magnifique et somptueux plan la reconstituant au 4ème siècle de notre ère.
Un travail de titan de plus de 5000 heures de réalisation, de 3000 heures de mise en couleurs et quasiment toute une vie de recherche et de documentation pour arriver enfin, et avec jubilation, au bout de cette oeuvre sans commune mesure.
Dans la Rome des Césars vous est présenté sous deux versions : un port-folio limité à 1000 exemplaires montrant le…


Book cover of 24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A Day in the Life of the People Who Lived There

Simon Turney Why did I love this book?

Matyszak is one of the most knowledgeable and most entertaining authors on the subject of the Roman world. His guides to legionaries and gladiators and so on are both fun to read and highly educational. He is extremely accurate in his detail, yet provides that detail in such a way as to be highly enjoyable. 24 Hours in Ancient Rome is a unique book. It takes us through everyday life in the ancient city through the eyes of its people, almost like a reality TV show, hour by hour from the bakers in the middle of the night to the tavern owners at lunchtime, twenty-four guides to the city giving you twenty-four wonderful angles of Rome.

By Philip Matyszak,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked 24 Hours in Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Walk a day in a Roman's sandals ... What was it like to live in one of the ancient world's most powerful and bustling cities - one that was eight times more densely populated than modern day New York?

In this entertaining and enlightening guide, bestselling historian Philip Matyszak introduces us to 24 characters who lived and worked there. In each hour of the day we meet a new character - from a senator to a slave girl, a gladiator to an astrologer, watchmen to washerwomen - and discover the fascinating details of their daily lives.


Book cover of Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide

Simon Turney Why did I love this book?

There are many books on the remains to be seen of the ancient city of Rome, but this is by far the best. Most such guides concentrate on the major famous locations and ignore the periphery. Sources that do cover them are usually only very dry academic ones. Arranged by region, the Oxford guide covers a plethora of sites, from the most famous to the relatively obscure, accompanied by detailed plans and photographs. The text is easy to read and is the most informative I’ve found. If you want to see the ancient city on a visit to Rome, do not start without this guide.

By Amanda Claridge,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The city of Rome is the largest archaeological site in the world, capital and showcase of the Roman Empire and the centre of Christian Europe.

This guide provides:

* Coverage of all the important sites in the city from 800 BC to AD 600 and the start of the early middle ages, drawing on the latest discoveries and the best of recent scholarship

* Over 220 high-quality maps, site plans, diagrams and photographs

* Sites divided into fourteen main areas, with star ratings to help you plan and prioritize your visit:
Roman Forum; Upper Via Sacra; Palatine; Imperial Forums; Campus…


Book cover of A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

Simon Turney Why did I love this book?

This is an absolute treasure trove of knowledge. The book is precisely what it says. Arranged roughly by subject, the book is a collection of tidbits and snippets taken directly from ancient sources. What you are learning are fascinating and often amusing or unbelievable facts on ancient Rome, written by the men who lived there at the time, from Pliny regarding medical bills as a “down payment on death” to Roman naming conventions, you will learn more about ancient Rome from simply browsing this book than you would from any single treatise.

By J.C. McKeown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ancient Romans have left us far more information about themselves than has any other Western society until much more recent times. But what we know about them is sometimes bizarre, and hardly fits the conventional view of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army and a very logical and well ordered language.

A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities is a serendipitous collection of odd facts and opinions, carefully gleaned from the wide body of evidence left to us by the Romans themselves. Each highlights a unique and curious feature of life in ancient Rome. Readers will…


Book cover of How to Survive in Ancient Rome

Simon Turney Why did I love this book?

This is quite simply the best entry-level guide to the ancient culture, world, and city of Rome I have found. Written in a humorous and engaging manner, it walks the reader through the history of Rome from its legendary founding to the date the book is nominally set (the reign of Domitian), all from the point of view of someone of Domitian’s time. It covers every subject from the dos and don’ts of dinner parties to the importance of gods. A perfect start for someone new to the subject, and equally entertaining for the scholar.

By L.J. Trafford,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Survive in Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imagine you were transported back in time to Ancient Rome and you had to start a new life there. How would you fit in? Where would you live? What would you eat? Where would you go to have your hair done? Who would you go to if you got ill, or if you were mugged in the street? All these questions, and many more, will be answered in this new how-to guide for time travellers. Part self-help guide, part survival guide, this lively and engaging book will help the reader deal with the many problems and new experiences that they…


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By John Kenneth White,

Book cover of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

John Kenneth White Author Of Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

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Why am I passionate about this?

Reading was a childhood passion of mine. My mother was a librarian and got me interested in reading early in life. When John F. Kennedy was running for president and after his assassination, I became intensely interested in politics. In addition to reading history and political biographies, I consumed newspapers and television news. It is this background that I have drawn upon over the decades that has added value to my research.

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What is my book about?

It didn’t begin with Donald Trump. When the Republican Party lost five straight presidential elections during the 1930s and 1940s, three things happened: (1) Republicans came to believe that presidential elections are rigged; (2) Conspiracy theories arose and were believed; and (3) The presidency was elevated to cult-like status.

Long before Trump, each of these phenomena grew in importance. The John Birch Society and McCarthyism became powerful forces; Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first “personal president” to rise above the party; and the development of what Harry Truman called “the big lie,” where outrageous falsehoods came to be believed. Trump…

Grand Old Unraveling: The Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the Rise of Authoritarianism

By John Kenneth White,

What is this book about?

It didn't begin with Donald Trump. The unraveling of the Grand Old Party has been decades in the making. Since the time of FDR, the Republican Party has been home to conspiracy thinking, including a belief that lost elections were rigged. And when Republicans later won the White House, the party elevated their presidents to heroic status-a predisposition that eventually posed a threat to democracy. Building on his esteemed 2016 book, What Happened to the Republican Party?, John Kenneth White proposes to explain why this happened-not just the election of Trump but the authoritarian shift in the party as a…


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