The best books on Roman Britain

Emma Southon Author Of A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome
By Emma Southon

The Books I Picked & Why

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

By David Mattingly

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

Why this book?

David Mattingly is one of the world’s foremost experts on Roman imperialism and a clear-eyed writer with consistently fascinating perspectives. His book on Roman Britain is one of the few that considers the realities of life in colonised Britain and the human impact of Roman imperialism, from the earliest years of Roman invasions and resistance through the final days of Roman Britain four centuries later.


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The Emperor's Babe

By Bernardine Evaristo

The Emperor's Babe

Why this book?

This novel is a wild and dizzying trip through Roman London in the Third Century by the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. Written in verse full of Latin puns and joyful wordplay, it follows Zuleika, a Sudanese-British girl who ends up having an affair with the emperor Septimius Severus. It might not be the most historically accurate in its depiction of the emperor, but as a depiction of Roman London as a thrilling and multi-cultural city–and as a gripping read—it’s one of a kind.


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Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain

By Charlotte Higgins

Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain

Why this book?

Part travelogue, part history and part consideration of the legacy of Rome in Britain, Higgin’s trip around various Roman sites (mostly in England) is a great exploration of what remains of Roman Britain in the twenty-first century, both in the landscape and in our collective consciousness. It doesn’t aim to provide a chronological history of Roman Britain but instead offers a personal reflection on Romans in Britain more broadly.


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Life and Letters from the Roman Frontier

By Alan K. Bowman

Life and Letters from the Roman Frontier

Why this book?

Vindolanda is one of Britain’s best Roman sites, in part because of the letters which have been discovered. Written by Roman soldiers and their families, these letters include birthday party invitations, complaints about debts and shopping lists and they only surviving letters from a woman to a female recipient. They provide a staggeringly intimate look at daily living in a Romano-British fort and Alan K. Bowman brings the whole site to life.


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Eagle of the Ninth

By Rosemary Sutcliffe

Eagle of the Ninth

Why this book?

Sometimes, classics are classics for a reason. Here Sutcliffe imagines what happened to the famous Ninth Legion, who vanished on the wrong side of Hadrian’s Wall, through the eyes of young Marcus and his freedman Esca. Originally written for kids, it appeals to all ages because it is full of adventure, touching relationships and plain great writing which conjures a world both familiar and alien.


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