The best books on ancient Roman history

Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni Author Of Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar
By Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni

Who are we?

Rob is an Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a former congressional speechwriter. His forthcoming book, Word on Fire: Eloquence and Its Conditions is under contract with Cambridge University Press. He’s published research in journals including the American Political Science Review, the Review of Politics, and History of Political Thought. He has also written for publications including Slate, The Atlantic, and Aeon. Jimmy is an award-winning author and ghostwriter. With Rob, he published a Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. The book won the 2017 Neumann Prize, awarded by the British Society for the History of Mathematics for the best book on the history of mathematics for a general audience. Jimmy’s writing and commentary have appeared in the Washington Examiner, the New York Observer, Forbes, and The Atlantic, among many other outlets.


We wrote...

Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar

By Rob Goodman, Jimmy Soni,

Book cover of Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar

What is our book about?

A truly outstanding piece of work. What most impresses me is the book's ability to reach through the confusing dynastic politics of the late Roman Republic to present social realities in a way intelligible to the modern reader. Rome's Last Citizen entertainingly restores to life the stoic Roman who inspired George Washington, Patrick Henry and Nathan Hale. This is more than a biography: it is a study of how a reputation lasted through the centuries from the end of one republic to the start of another. --David Frum

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The books we picked & why

Book cover of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Why did I love this book?

Mary Beard is one of the most respected classics scholars working today, but she's also shown that she's able to write accessible and timely books for the general public. SPQR is one of the best introductions to Beard's work, and to life and politics in ancient Rome. It's a magisterial history, telling the story of Rome from its mythical founding to the end of the empire--full of fascinating facts, but never dry.

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome "with passion and without technical jargon" and demonstrates how "a slightly shabby Iron Age village" rose to become the "undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean" (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating "the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life" (Economist) in a way that makes "your hair stand on end" (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this "highly informative, highly readable" (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but…


Book cover of Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician

Why did I love this book?

When we were first figuring out how to write our biography of Cato, Everitt's work on Cicero was our go-to guide. It doesn't simply cover in fascinating detail the key events from the end of the Roman Republic--it's a model of how to bring an ancient figure to life, situating Cicero in the midst of the all-too-modern political controversies that shaped his life.

By Anthony Everitt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • “An excellent introduction to a critical period in the history of Rome. Cicero comes across much as he must have lived: reflective, charming and rather vain.”—The Wall Street Journal

“All ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher combined.”—John Adams

He squared off against Caesar and was friends with young Brutus. He advised the legendary Pompey on his botched transition from military hero to politician. He lambasted Mark Antony and was master of the smear campaign, as feared for his wit as he was for his ruthless disputations. Brilliant, voluble, cranky, a genius…


The Roman Way

By Edith Hamilton,

Book cover of The Roman Way

Why did I love this book?

An oldie (first published in 1932) but a goodie. Hamilton's short essays on the classic Latin writers--from the first writers of Latin comedy through to the epic poets and historians who did so much to shape the language--aren't just a crash course on the Roman literary canon. They're an accessible introduction to Roman culture from the ground up.

By Edith Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this informal history of Roman civilization, Edith Hamilton vividly depicts the Roman life and spirit as they are revealed in the greatest writers of the time. Among these literary guides are Cicero, who left an incomparable collection of letters; Catullus, the quintessential poet of love; Horace, the chronicler of a cruel and materialistic Rome; and the Romantics Virgil, Livy and Seneca. The story concludes with the stark contrast between high-minded Stoicism and the collapse of values witnessed by Tacitus and Juvenal.


Book cover of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic

Why did I love this book?

Just about the best one-volume history of the Roman Republic out there. Holland doesn't just bring you dry facts; he pulls you into the gripping drama of that era and brings each character--Pompey, Caesar, Cato, and Cicero, among others--to life. A must-read.

By Tom Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roman Republic was the most remarkable state in history. What began as a small community of peasants camped among marshes and hills ended up ruling the known world. Rubicon paints a vivid portrait of the Republic at the climax of its greatness - the same greatness which would herald the catastrophe of its fall. It is a story of incomparable drama. This was the century of Julius Caesar, the gambler whose addiction to glory led him to the banks of the Rubicon, and beyond; of Cicero, whose defence of freedom would make him a byword for eloquence; of Spartacus,…


Cleopatra: A Life

By Stacy Schiff,

Book cover of Cleopatra: A Life

Why did I love this book?

Here's a useful maxim for all readers of history: Read anything that Stacy Schiff writes, period. Schiff brings her elegant pen and careful eye to Cleopatra's story, and what's powerful is how much she managed to wring out a figure shrouded in rumor, myth, and fragments of stories tucked here and there. As Cato's biographers, we had to do similar sleuthing--Cato didn't leave behind much written work--so we impressed.

By Stacy Schiff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as…


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Interested in Rome, Cicero, and ancient Egypt?

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

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