The best books on ancient Rome from an archaeologist and historian

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent 50 years studying, teaching, and writing about Roman history, participating in and leading many archaeological expeditions to the Roman world, particularly in Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the Levant. I have written a dozen books on the ancient world, including the best-selling Cleopatra: A Biography. Ancient Rome is both my expertise and passion.


I wrote...

Empire of the Black Sea: The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic World

By Duane W. Roller,

Book cover of Empire of the Black Sea: The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic World

What is my book about?

What is commonly called the kingdom of Pontos flourished for over two hundred years in the coastal regions of the Black Sea. At its peak in the early first century BC, it included much of the southern, eastern, and northern littoral, becoming one of the most important Hellenistic dynasties not founded by a successor of Alexander the Great. It also posed one of the greatest challenges to Roman imperial expansion in the east. Not until 63 BC, after many violent clashes, was Rome able to subjugate the kingdom and its last charismatic ruler Mithridates VI. This book provides the first general history of this important kingdom from its mythic origins in Greek literature (e.g., Jason and the Golden Fleece) to its entanglements with the late Roman Republic. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of A Brief History of the Romans

Duane W. Roller Why did I love this book?

This is probably the best recent one-volume history of Rome, which covers the entire scope of the Roman world from its beginnings to its collapse. It is nicely illustrated, and gives a solid summary of the Roman environment that is easily understood by non-specialists. It is an exciting story: from a village on the Tiber River to ruling the world, an unexpected process that is well laid out.

By Richard J.A. Talbert, Mary T. Boatwright, Daniel J. Gargola , Noel Lenski

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Brief History of the Romans as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How did a single village community in the Italian peninsula eventually become one of the most powerful imperial powers the world has ever known? In A Brief History of the Romans, Second Edition, Mary T. Boatwright, Daniel J. Gargola, Richard J.A. Talbert, and new coauthor Noel Lenski explore this question as they guide students through a comprehensive sweep of Roman history, ranging from the prehistoric settlements to the fall of the empire in 476.
Addressing issues that still confront modern states worldwide--including warfare, empire building, consensus forging, and political fragmentation--the authors also provide glimpses into everyday
Roman life and perspective,…


Book cover of From the Gracchi to Nero

Duane W. Roller Why did I love this book?

This is a focused survey of the most fascinating period in Rome's history, when the ancient Republic evolved into an empire: the era of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and the emperors Augustus, Nero, and others. During this period Rome's expansion meant major internal changes and a century of instability, and I know of no better book that explains why and how this happened.

By H.H. Scullard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From the Gracchi to Nero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Gracchi to Nero is an outstanding history of the Roman world from 133 BC to 68 AD. Fifty years since publication it is widely hailed as the classic survey of the period, going through many revised and updated editions until H.H. Scullard's death. It explores the decline and fall of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the Pax Romana under the early Principate. In superbly clear style, Scullard brings vividly to life the Gracchi's attempts at reform, the rise and fall of Marius and Sulla, Pompey and Caesar, society and culture in the late Roman Republic, the…


Book cover of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Duane W. Roller Why did I love this book?

This is the first great study of the Roman world. Although over 200 years old, it is still influential in the way we look at Rome. It is also one of the great monuments of English prose. Although we may no longer agree with many of his conclusions, it is a joy to read and helps us understand the basis of the Roman world.

By Edward Gibbon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spanning thirteen centuries from the age of Trajan to the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, DECLINE & FALL is one of the greatest narratives in European Literature. David Womersley's masterly selection and bridging commentary enables the readerto acquire a general sense of the progress and argument of the whole work and displays the full variety of Gibbon's achievement.


Book cover of The Art of Rome

Duane W. Roller Why did I love this book?

This is a lavishly illustrated work showing the major pieces of Roman art, an important component of their ideology and self image. It explains how the Romans built on the Greek tradition of art and architecture and created their own artistic world, much of which is still with us today.

By Bernard Andreae,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English, German (translation)


Book cover of I, Claudius

Duane W. Roller Why did I love this book?

Although fiction, this is an impressive study of the early years of the Roman empire, and was the basis of the popular televisions series of the 1970s. It is well worth reading for a more personal insight into the Roman world. Everything Graves describes is documented in some way in the ancient texts.

By Robert Graves,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked I, Claudius as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A work of historical fiction which recreates the life and times of Emperor Claudius, who lived from 10 BC to AD 41, a time when poisoning, blasphemy, treachery, incest and unnatural vice were commonplace. From the author of CLAUDIUS THE GOD AND HIS WIFE MESSALINA.


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Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an…

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Rome, ancient Rome, and the Byzantine Empire?

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