The best books on the religious lives of Greeks and Romans

Who am I?

Growing up, I could never “get” the secrets of math or science. If I could, I would have been an archaeologist. But I was always interested in “origins;” where do our modern ideas come from? My passion for reading led me to begin to uncover “origins” (or, the element of “looking for clues” in a “murder mystery”). Uncovering “ancient origins” entails thoroughly exploring ancient society. I continue to daily keep up with the research and new interpretations in the study of these fascinating worlds.


I wrote...

Greek and Roman Religions

By Rebecca I. Denova,

Book cover of Greek and Roman Religions

What is my book about?

Greek and Roman Religions surveys the origin and evolution of religious concepts and rituals in ancient Greece, to their adaptation in ancient Rome. The book highlights myth, native cults, and religious festivals. All religious concepts are integrated into the historical, social, cultural, and political contexts; the text contains brief surveys of the histories of Greece and Rome and how such historical events influenced their religious concepts.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Pagans and Christians

Rebecca I. Denova Why did I love this book?

I first encountered Lane Fox when I was working on my dissertation in graduate school. Working on “Gentiles” in the New Testament, I had to thoroughly understand the historical background. This book became my “pagan Bible,” in effect. The first half fully details ancient concepts and rituals, and the second emphasizes which elements were absorbed by the rise of Christianity and which were rejected and why.

By Robin Lane Fox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Explores the character of early Christianity, with details on religious life, secular daily life, and the condition of paganism at the time of its defeat


Book cover of The First Man in Rome

Rebecca I. Denova Why did I love this book?

Growing up, my hobby was reading historical novels. A great writer can transport the reader into different cultures, the past as well as the future. McCullough spent 13 years researching the background. Beginning with The First Man in Rome, she surveyed the history of the late Republic (from Sulla, Caesar, and Pompey) to the reign of Augustus (seven novels). Throughout, her descriptions of both private and political life highlight the integration of “religion and society.” Eliminating the dry, jargon-loaded scholarly debates of Classicists, her novels bring the ancient world to life. I learned more about ancient Roman religion from these novels than any scholarly textbook.

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 Roman Blood

Rebecca I. Denova Why did I love this book?

My other great hobby is “murder mysteries.” Steven Saylor’s mystery novels utilize real people and events in Ancient Rome, in this case, the famous advocate Cicero. Roman Blood highlights the first famous case of Cicero, defending a man accused of patricide, the worst crime in Roman culture (he won). Readers will recognize the beginnings of “forensic science,” as he and his secretary Tiro follow the clues in formulating the defense. Again, one can learn so much about Roman religion and society in this format.

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 Religions of Rome: Volume 1: A History

Rebecca I. Denova Why did I love this book?

Mary Beard is a professor of Classics at Cambridge University who also does popular documentaries on ancient Rome for the BBC (available on YouTube). This volume reaches back to the founding of Rome and the traditions of how Romulus and the first king of Rome, Numa, created Roman religion. It highlights the origins of the major Roman religious festivals.

By Mary Beard, John North, Simon Price

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book offers a radical new survey of more than a thousand years of religious life at Rome. It sets religion in its full cultural context, between the primitive hamlet of the eighth century BC and the cosmopolitan, multicultural society of the first centuries of the Christian era. The narrative account is structured around a series of broad themes: how to interpret the Romans' own theories of their religious system and its origins; the relationship of religion and the changing politics of Rome; the religious importance of the layout and monuments of the city itself; changing ideas of religious identity…


Book cover of Rituals and Power: The Roman Imperial Cult in Asia Minor

Rebecca I. Denova Why did I love this book?

Price traces religious concepts of Asia Province from their origins as Greek colonies to the changes adapted and introduced by Rome through Augustus’ Imperial Cult. This text highlights religious life in one of the major provinces. The advantage of this book is that Price coordinates the history with the latest archaeological excavations in Turkey

By S. R. F. Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his study of the Greek cults of the Roman emperor in Asia minor, Simon Price attempts to discover why the Roman Emperor was treated like a god. He contends that ever since the emergence of Christianity within the Roman Empire the problem has been misinterpreted; a Christianizing distinction between religion and politics has led to the cult being considered simply as a form of political honours. Drawing on anthropology as well as numismatics and archaeology, literary sources and inscriptions, Dr Price offers a fundamentally different perspective. He examines how the Greek cults of the Roman Emperor located the Emperor…


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Book cover of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

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

New book alert!

Who am I?

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?

It is 1948 in Berlin. The economy is broken, the currency worthless, and the Russian bear is preparing to swallow its next victim. In the ruins of Hitler's capital, former RAF officers and a woman pilot start an air ambulance company that offers a glimmer of hope. Yet when a Soviet fighter brings down a British airliner, Berlin becomes a flashpoint. The world teeters on the brink of World War Three.

Award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader tells the backstory of the Berlin Airlift in Cold Peace, the first book of the Bridge to Tomorrow series.

Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

By Helena P. Schrader,


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