The best books about rampaging Romans bathed in barbarian blood

Who am I?

I have a fascination for Roman history, having been born in the UK, and visiting Hadrian’s Wall. I have read many, many works of both history and historical fiction about Rome. To me, these five are the most memorable. Obviously the story has to be fantastic but it's important to be accurate. The opening battle in Gladiator annoyed me because the Romans never broke lines to fight man to man with barbarians. The concept of the Celts living among the rubble of the Empire, of being surrounded by things they cannot understand helped inspire my Empire Of Bones series. I even have a gladius sword and use it to inspire my own battle scenes. 


I wrote...

Bridge of Swords

By Duncan Lay,

Book cover of Bridge of Swords

What is my book about?

Sendatsu is a warrior on the run, hunted by his own people. All he wants to do is get back to his children but, to do that, he’s going to have to wade through a river of gore and maybe save a country from a war-crazed king who wants to write his legacy in blood.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Eagles at War

Duncan Lay Why did I love this book?

This takes us into the Teutoberg Forest ambush, where three legions were massacred by a German prince called Arminius. Hero Lucius Tullus tries to prevent the tragedy—and then tries to drag his men out of the mire. It’s tough, gritty, and you will feel as exhausted as Tullus when he finally makes it out. It’s so realistic you can smell the mud and blood. 

By Ben Kane,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Eagles at War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BASED ON REAL HISTORICAL EVENTS

A TIME FOR VENGEANCE
AD 9, German frontier: Close to the Rhine, a Roman centurion, Lucius Tullus, prepares to take his soldiers on patrol. On the opposite side of the river, German tribes are resentful of the harsh taxes about to be imposed upon them. Suspicious that there might be unrest, Tullus knows that his men's survival will be determined not just by their training and discipline, but by his leadership.

A TIME FOR WAR
What neither Tullus nor his commander, Governor Varus, realise is that ranged against them is the charismatic chieftain and trusted…


Book cover of Wounds of Honour

Duncan Lay Why did I love this book?

High-born Marcus Aquila finds himself on Hadrian’s Wall in a lowly auxiliary cohort after his family angers the mad Emperor Commodus. He arrives just in time for a tribal rebellion and finds himself up to his neck in crazed berserkers. The action is fast, the battles incredible. Be careful as you turn the page, because you might just slip in all the entrails. The series loses steam around book 7 but the first three are stunning.

By Anthony Riches,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Marcus Valerius Aquila has scarcely landed in Britannia when he has to run for his life - condemned to dishonorable death by power-crazed Emperor Commodus. The plan is to take a new name, serve in an obscure regiment on Hadrian's Wall and lie low until he can hope for justice. Then a rebel army sweeps down from the wastes north of the Wall, and Marcus has to prove he's hard enough to lead a century in the front line of a brutal, violent war.


Book cover of Under the Eagle

Duncan Lay Why did I love this book?

This is the first of the fantastic Macro and Cato series, this sees the bookish Cato drafted into the army under the gruff and tough Macro. Against all odds, this unlikely pair become both friends and an unstoppable team. There’s plenty of humour mixed in with the battles and you identify easily with Cato’s attempts to fit in and become a soldier. 

By Simon Scarrow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

IF YOU DON'T KNOW SIMON SCARROW, YOU DON'T KNOW ROME!

UNDER THE EAGLE is the gripping first novel in Simon Scarrow's bestselling EAGLES OF THE EMPIRE series. A must read for fans of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden. Praise for Simon Scarrow's compelling novels: 'Gripping and moving' The Times

AD 42, Germany. Tough, brutal and unforgiving. That's how new recruit Cato is finding life in the Roman Second Legion. He may have contacts in high places, but he could really use a friend amongst his fellow soldiers right now.

Cato has been promoted above his comrades at the order of…


Book cover of Vindolanda

Duncan Lay Why did I love this book?

Flavius Ferox is kind of like a Roman sheriff looking after tribal lands in northern England. What looks like a simple raid soon turns into something much more. Ferox is a fantastic character and there’s some subtle humour in with the bloodshed. The start of an excellent trilogy, this gets you in from the start.

Yes, technically Flavius Ferox isn't a Roman as he was born a Silurian (a very warlike tribe of Wales) but he fights for the Romans and he has no problems at all in being bathed in barbarian blood at the end of a battle. That makes him a more than worthy addition to this list.

By Adrian Goldsworthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gripping, authentic novel set in Roman Britain from bestselling historian, Adrian Goldsworthy.

AD 98: VINDOLANDA.
A FORT ON THE EDGE OF THE ROMAN WORLD.

The bustling army base at Vindolanda lies on the northern frontier of Britannia and the entire Roman world. In just over twenty years time, the Emperor Hadrian will build his famous wall. But for now defences are weak as tribes rebel against Rome, and local druids preach the fiery destruction of the invaders.

It falls to Flavius Ferox, Briton and Roman centurion, to keep the peace. But it will take more than just a soldier's courage…


Book cover of War at the Edge of the World

Duncan Lay Why did I love this book?

This starts the Twilight Of The Empire series as Aurelius Castus—known as Knucklehead to his troopsslaughters his way across the Roman Empire. It’s gritty and believable and starts with an absolutely eye-popping fight. And then it just gets better from there.  

We meet Castus as a simple soldier but he becomes a Centurion and then a senior officer as the series develops and his concern changes from just staying alive and slaughtering his enemies to complex moral and political issues. But don't worry, no matter what uniform he wears, he still swings a sword with the best of them.

By Ian Ross,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War at the Edge of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once a soldier in an elite legion from the Danube, newly promoted centurion Aurelius Castus now finds himself stuck in Britain's provincial backwater. But when the king of the Picts, the savages beyond Hadrian's Wall, dies under mysterious circumstances, Castus is selected to command the bodyguard of a Roman envoy sent to negotiate with the barbarians. What starts as a simple diplomatic mission ends in bloody tragedy, and soon Castus and his men are fighting for their lives-and it isn't long before the legionnaire discovers that nothing about his doomed mission was ever what it seemed. The first book in…


You might also like...

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

Book cover of Dinner with Churchill

Robin Hawdon Author Of Number Ten

New book alert!

Who am I?

My writing is eclectic and covers many topics. However, all my books tend to have a thriller element to them. Perhaps it's my career as an actor and playwright which has instilled the need to create suspense in all my writings. I sometimes feel that distinguished authors can get so carried away with their literary descriptions and philosophical insights that they forget to keep the story going! It is the need to know what happens next that keeps the reader turning the pages. Perhaps in achieving that some subtlety has to be sacrificed, but, hey, you don't read a political thriller to study the philosophical problems of governing nations!

Robin's book list on lone heroes and threats to national security

What is my book about?

This is a new novel by one of the UK's most prolific writers. It is based around an extraordinary true incident at the start of World War II when fierce political opponents Winston Churchill and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain encountered each other at a famous dinner party. Seen from the perspective of Lucy Armitage, a young girl suddenly conscripted by a strange stroke of fate into Churchill's overworked but adoring team of secretaries.

As Churchill prepares to take over the leadership of the nation, Lucy finds herself increasingly involved in her famous employer's phenomenal work output and eccentric habits. When romance and the world of espionage impinge on her life, she becomes a vital part of the eternal struggle between good and evil regimes that still exists today.

Dinner with Churchill

By Robin Hawdon,

What is this book about?

It is on historical record that, on the evening of October 13th 1939, six weeks after war had been declared on Hitler's Germany, Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, fierce and implacable opponents for years over the appeasement issue, met together with their two wives, Clementine and Anne, for a private dinner at Admiralty House, and event which caused ripples throughout Westminster.

Chamberlain was still Prime Minister, but had seen all his efforts to negotiate peace with Hitler shattered. Churchill had been recalled to the cabinet after ten years 'in the wilderness', his dire warnings of the Nazi threat vindicated.

Lucy…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ancient Rome, the Roman Empire, and Rome.

Ancient Rome Explore 284 books about ancient Rome
The Roman Empire Explore 163 books about the Roman Empire
Rome Explore 313 books about Rome