The best novels set in Ancient Rome

Who am I?

I have been mesmerized with ancient history since I was in high school. Since then, I’ve kept myself inspired by reading the best historical fiction I can get my hands on. Each and every time an author gives me the opportunity to be teleported to the ancient world, I am so grateful. There are so many things we can learn from the ancient Greeks and Romans, and that’s exactly why I and other authors continue to write about that time period. 

I wrote...

The Man With Two Names

By Vincent B. Davis II,

Book cover of The Man With Two Names

What is my book about?

Rome, 107 BC. Quintus Sertorius just lost his father and he may lose his home. When his rural village is stripped of its political status, he must leave his family to secure their food and protection from inside Rome's bloodthirsty government. As he transitions from countryman to politician, he's thrust into the middle of a bitter political war…

As Quintus struggles to gain the aid his village so desperately needs, he approaches Gaius Marius, the uncle of Julius Caesar himself. But with each passing day in the unforgiving landscape of the Eternal City, he puts his family and his own life in even greater danger. In a ruthless battle of conscience, will Quintus lose both himself and the ones he loves?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Roman Blood

Vincent B. Davis II Why did I love this book?

In addition to historical novels, I’ve always enjoyed a good crime/legal thriller. In Steve Saylor’s Sub Rosa series, you get the best of both worlds. From book 1, Roman Blood, through the remainder of the series, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. Gordianus the Finder is a compelling protagonist with a plethora of nuances that will keep you flipping pages. Steven Saylor gives us an incredibly vivid glimpse into the daily lives of the ancient Romans, from the lowest, forgotten members of society to the most opulent and powerful politicians. This book definitely encouraged me to think outside the box with my own writing and consider what truth lies behind the oftentimes skewed historical narrative we’ve been left with.

By Steven Saylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on a case involving the savage murder of the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius. Charged with the murder is Sextus's son, greed being the apparent motive. The punishment, rooted deep in Roman tradition, is horrific beyond imagining.

The case becomes a political nightmare when Gordianus's investigation takes him through the city's raucous, pungent streets and deep into rural Umbria. Now, one man's fate may threaten the very leaders of Rome itself.

Book cover of Quo Vadis?

Vincent B. Davis II Why did I love this book?

I’ve read a lot of books in my life, and this might be the only one that’s ever made me cry. The story follows an ambitious young Roman as he meets members of a strange new cult. At first, he’s opposed to them, but slowly falls in love with one of the new religion’s adherents, and joins them in their struggle against the oppressive Roman government. I’ve never been a big fan of romance, but this book showed me why love is so integral to good storytelling. It also gives a great example of how to weave religion or morals into a historical narrative without being overbearing or taking away from the story itself.

By Henryk Sienkiewicz, Jeremiah Curtin (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This glorious saga unfolds against the backdrop of ancient Rome-from the Forum to the Coliseum, from banquet halls to summer retreats in Naples, from the luxurious houses of the nobility to the hovels of the poor, Quo Vadis richly depicts a place and time still captivating to the modern imagination. This radiant translation by W.S. Kuniczak restores the original glory and richness of master storyteller Henryk Sienkiewicz's epic tale.

Set at a turning point in history (A.D. 54-68), as Christianity replaces the era of corruption and immorality that marked Nero's Rome, Quo Vadis abounds with compelling characters, including:

Vinicius, the…

Book cover of The First Man in Rome

Vincent B. Davis II Why did I love this book?

Despite being one of the most famous novels set in ancient Rome, it stands up to its reputation. The depth of research and care Colleen expresses for the time period and her characters are unmatched. I must admit that I haven’t read the other books in the series, although I’m certain they’re just as impressive. I had to stop after reading The First Man in Rome because it was so good and so realistic, I was afraid I might take some fabrications as truth and implement them in my own books!

By Colleen McCullough,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The First Man in Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With extraordinary narrative power, New York Times bestselling author Colleen McCullough sweeps the reader into a whirlpool of pageantry and passion, bringing to vivid life the most glorious epoch in human history.

When the world cowered before the legions of Rome, two extraordinary men dreamed of personal glory: the military genius and wealthy rural "upstart" Marius, and Sulla, penniless and debauched but of aristocratic birth. Men of exceptional vision, courage, cunning, and ruthless ambition, separately they faced the insurmountable opposition of powerful, vindictive foes. Yet allied they could answer the treachery of rivals, lovers, enemy generals, and senatorial vipers with…

Book cover of Lord of the Silver Bow

Vincent B. Davis II Why did I love this book?

Okay, I’m taking some liberties here. Gemmell’s series is actually set during the Trojan war rather than ancient Rome, but there are constant references to “The Seven Hills,” so I’ll make an exception. I read this book when I was still in grade school and instantly fell in love with historical fiction, and ancient history in general. This book was fundamental to getting me started on the path of writing historical fiction. And to my delight, the story is just as impressive and moving now as it was then. This is the Trojan War like you’ve never seen before, and the narrative is so in-depth and engrossing, you’ll be transported to the ancient world for weeks.

By David Gemmell,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Lord of the Silver Bow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Three lives will change the destiny of nations. Hellkaon, the young prince of Dardania, haunted by a scarred and traumatic childhood. The priestess Andromache, whose fiery spirit and fierce Independence threatens the might of kings. And the legendary warrior Argurios, cloaked in loneliness and driven only by thoughts of revenge. In Troy they find a city torn apart by destructive rivalries - a maelstrom of jealousy, deceit and murderous treachery. And beyond its fabled walls blood-hungry enemies eye its riches and plot its downfall. It is a time of bravery and betrayal; a time of bloodshed and fear. A time…

Book cover of Imperium

Vincent B. Davis II Why did I love this book?

My favorite novel set in Ancient Rome, and perhaps my favorite novel period. This series follows the personal slave of the famous Roman Statesman Cicero. The first-person perspective allows us to see directly into the inner workings of the Roman Republic. The details are visceral, the emotions are real. Despite his vanity and arrogant tendencies, you find yourself constantly cheering for Cicero in his struggle to achieve respect in the cutthroat world of Roman politics. This book was a major inspiration for me as I began writing my own series, and I continue to return to it to this day.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history.

The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium - supreme power in the state.

This is the starting-point of Robert Harris's most accomplished novel to date. Compellingly written in Tiro's voice, it takes us…

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The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

By Nicholas Ponticello,

Book cover of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

Nicholas Ponticello Author Of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

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What is my book about?

Vanderough University prepares its graduates for life on Mars. Herbert Hoover Palminteri enrolls at VU with the hope of joining the Martian colony in 2044 as a member of its esteemed engineer corps. But then Herbert is tapped to join a notorious secret society: the Order of the Scepter and Gavel. As a new pledge, Herbert has to prove himself in a series of dangerous initiation rites, even if it means risking his life and the lives of his friends.

Many years later, when Herbert thinks the scandals of his youth are finally dead and buried, a murder occurs in the Martian colony, and Herbert starts to suspect it is linked to the secret Order of the Scepter and Gavel of his past.

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Interested in ancient Rome, Rome, and private investigators?

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

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