100 books like Augustus

By John Williams,

Here are 100 books that Augustus fans have personally recommended if you like Augustus. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Julian

Christopher Harris Author Of Mappamundi

From my list on getting right inside the minds of historical people.

Who am I?

I am the author of the Byzantine Trilogy (in 4 parts). These books depict the difficult beginning, decadent apogee, and sad end of the Byzantine empire. I think it is important to make historical fiction vivid, to immerse the reader in a distant time and place, with all its sights, smells, sounds, and tastes, as experienced by someone who was really there. I am also interested in what people believed, and why. For that reason, my historical novels are all first-person narratives, stories told by the people who lived through them. Here are some of the fictional memoirs that inspired me to start writing.

Christopher's book list on getting right inside the minds of historical people

Christopher Harris Why did Christopher love this book?

The short reign of Julian the Apostate is one of the “what ifs” of history. Raised as a Christian, Julian was a secret pagan. When he unexpectedly became emperor, he reversed the privileges of the Church and promoted his own Neo-Platonist cult, intending to restore paganism. Even though we know how things really turned out, it is fascinating to speculate about what might have happened if he had succeeded. 

Gore Vidal has filled this novel with war, politics, sex, religion, heresy, and philosophy. I have tried to follow his example (though I have been more sympathetic to eunuchs than he was).

By Gore Vidal,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gore Vidal's fictional recreation of the Roman Empire teetering on the crux of Christianity and ruled by an emperor who was an inveterate dabbler in arcane hocus-pocus, a prig, a bigot, and a dazzling and brilliant leader.


Book cover of I, Claudius

Fiona Forsyth Author Of Rome's End

From my list on political shenanigans in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

Ever since I stumbled through the “Early Roman Empire” paper in Finals using I, Claudius by Robert Graves, I have held a deep admiration of those authors who can portray the complex world of Rome with such authority. I went on to teach the Greeks and Romans for 25 years, so I have grown to love these characters—Caesar is a philandering schemer, Augustus has ice for blood, Livia is a skilled practitioner of poisons… How can one resist such entertaining people who operate in a system where the upper classes must compete through bribery, intrigue and occasional revolutions? 

Fiona's book list on political shenanigans in ancient Rome

Fiona Forsyth Why did Fiona love this book?

This is the masterclass in the portrayal of the first hundred years or so of the Roman Empire. Graves was a considerable scholar in his own right, providing the translation for the Penguin edition of Suetonius’ “Twelve Caesars”. He was also a poet and novelist, and his picture of the naïve Claudius making his unwitting way to power is probably on most people’s list of all-time great historical novels. What I particularly found striking was just how much work went into running the Roman empire, and one almost has sympathy for Augustus as he tries to mould Roman rule into something that is efficient and fair. The BBC adaptation, in my opinion, did a good job: Sian Phillips as Livia is a complete joy.

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.


Book cover of Rome: An Empire's Story

Eve MacDonald Author Of Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life

From my list on Carthage and Hannibal in the Ancient Mediterranean.

Who am I?

I am an archaeologist and ancient historian, originally from Canada but living in London in the UK. I teach and write and excavate the ancient world and have worked both in the Mediterranean in Italy and North Africa and in the ancient near east, in Iran, and in Oman. I try to understand how the ancient world worked, both the history and the material culture, and how much it impacts us still today. Hannibal was such a crucial figure in this world just as it was forming, and he was from Africa, was Carthaginian, and we have lost so much knowledge of him and his culture.  

Eve's book list on Carthage and Hannibal in the Ancient Mediterranean

Eve MacDonald Why did Eve love this book?

This is a great read on the way that Rome became an empire. It puts the whole story of the city of Rome and what it developed into (i.e. the biggest power of the ancient world and a paradigm for many empires that followed) into context and into the history of the Mediterranean world. The book is so useful to read because it is well written and contemporary, but it also helps us to understand Hannibal. This is because Rome's version of Carthage and Hannibal is the only version that we have to deal with, Hannibal in many ways becomes a reflection of Roman ideas of their own imperialism.

By Greg Woolf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rome in the archaic age was a minor satellite between the Etruscan and Greek world. This book traces the expansion of Roman influence first within Italy, then around the Mediterranean world and finally, at breakneck speed, deep into Europe, out to the Atlantic, along the edge of the Sahara and down the Red Sea. But there had been other empires that had expanded rapidily: what made Rome remarkable was that it managed to sustain its position for so long. Rome's Fall poses less of a mystery than its survival. Understanding how this happens involves understanding the building blocks of imperial…


Book cover of The Brothel of Pompeii: Sex, Class, and Gender at the Margins of Roman Society

Eve D'Ambra Author Of Roman Women

From my list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés.

Who am I?

I am a professor of ancient art at Vassar College where I teach Roman art and archaeology. I have published widely in the field and traveled extensively in the Mediterranean. My first encounters with Roman art occurred as a child in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where I would stand before Roman portrait heads because their faces seemed stern and grim, yet ordinary and matter-of-fact. I have continued to observe Roman portraits over the years, but admit that I still sometimes find them daunting.

Eve's book list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés

Eve D'Ambra Why did Eve love this book?

Tourists, who are marched through the only designated, purposely-built brothel in Pompeii, stare at the cubicles with built-in masonry beds and wall paintings depicting sexual acts. Richardson pieces together an array of evidence, from various finds and graffiti to the early excavation reports, to assess the experiences of both the male clients and the female prostitutes. According to Richardson, more than sex was provided by the women of the brothel. This book imaginatively reconstructs the activities of the brothel in an intriguing way.

By Sarah Levin-Richardson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this book, Sarah Levin-Richardson offers the first authoritative examination of Pompeii's purpose-built brothel, the only verifiable brothel from Greco-Roman antiquity. Taking readers on a tour of all of the structure's evidence, including the rarely seen upper floor, she illuminates the subculture housed within its walls. Here, prostitutes could flout the norms of society and proclaim themselves sexual subjects and agents, while servile clients were allowed to act as 'real men'. Prostitutes and clients also exchanged gifts, greetings, jokes, taunts, and praise. Written in a clear, engaging style, and accompanied by an ample illustration program and translations of humorous and…


Book cover of The Coin of Carthage

Theodore Irvin Silar Author Of Ashes I: A Novel of the Poor of Ancient Rome

From my list on fiction set in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

Ever since I spent a day wandering the Roman forum, imagining Caesar’s funeral at the site of his pyre, standing on the Palatine imagining living in palatial Palatine splendor, and looking down on Senators, plebeians, public baths, the Colisseum, temples, statues, basilicae, patricians, slaves, street vendors, centurions, courtesans, ladies, gladiators, urchins, schoolboys, pickpockets, and priests, I knew I wanted to write about it. I have done intensive research, with skills honed earning a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University (specialty: literary-historical). I seek out literary historical novels, novels with distinctive style, artful plotting, engaging characterization, and historical fidelity. 

Theodore's book list on fiction set in ancient Rome

Theodore Irvin Silar Why did Theodore love this book?

Bryher's historical novels, once acclaimed, are out of print. I think Bryher deserves re-discovery. I like how The Coin of Carthage, set during ancient Rome’s war against Carthage, concerns everyday people: traders, farmers, common soldiers. And no Rome. Rome is a glimpse from a hill. I like this ̶ a true peasant’s sense of distance, where very near is still far. We follow the workaday lives of Italian-Greek traders Zonas and Dasius, from Naples docks to Carthage streets, to bucolic Tivoli, farms, markets, courtyards, piers, ships, mule-trains. Setting Italia, characters commoners, heroes Italian-Greeks, the periphery, usually silenced, is given voice. A curiously moving book.

By Winifred Bryher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Coin of Carthage (Harvest/HBJ Book)


Book cover of Semper Fidelis

Theodore Irvin Silar Author Of Ashes I: A Novel of the Poor of Ancient Rome

From my list on fiction set in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

Ever since I spent a day wandering the Roman forum, imagining Caesar’s funeral at the site of his pyre, standing on the Palatine imagining living in palatial Palatine splendor, and looking down on Senators, plebeians, public baths, the Colisseum, temples, statues, basilicae, patricians, slaves, street vendors, centurions, courtesans, ladies, gladiators, urchins, schoolboys, pickpockets, and priests, I knew I wanted to write about it. I have done intensive research, with skills honed earning a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University (specialty: literary-historical). I seek out literary historical novels, novels with distinctive style, artful plotting, engaging characterization, and historical fidelity. 

Theodore's book list on fiction set in ancient Rome

Theodore Irvin Silar Why did Theodore love this book?

In an ancient Roman Britain garrison town, Roman army physician, Ruso, and his native wife, Tilla, investigate a series of murders. Worse, Emperor Hadrian is coming. Ratcheting tension. The central issue in Semper Fidelis is the rivalry between Roman legionaries and Briton conscripts. The crime is solved, but the story doesn’t end. Briton conscripts riot, and, Hadrian absent, his empress, Sabina, must intercede.

The empress Vibia Sabina (posthumously deified), is my favorite character. Neglected, bored, sarcastic, calculating, duplicitous, funny, she is the perfect spoiled patrician matron.  What I like best is how everybody lies to everybody in Semper Fidelis, a tour-de-force of mendacity. An interesting, different, more-than-just-murder-mystery historical novel.

By Ruth Downie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Ruso rejoins his unit in the remote outpost of the Roman Empire known as Britannia, he finds that all is not well with the Twentieth Legion. As they keep a suspicious eye on the barbarians to the north, the legionaries appear to have found trouble even closer to home-among the native recruits to Britannia's imperial army.

A young soldier has jumped off a roof, killing himself. Why? Mysterious injuries, and even deaths, begin to pile up in Ruso's medical ledgers, and it soon becomes clear that this suicide is not an isolated incident. Can the men really be under…


Book cover of Imperial Women of Rome: Power, Gender, Context

Eve D'Ambra Author Of Roman Women

From my list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés.

Who am I?

I am a professor of ancient art at Vassar College where I teach Roman art and archaeology. I have published widely in the field and traveled extensively in the Mediterranean. My first encounters with Roman art occurred as a child in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where I would stand before Roman portrait heads because their faces seemed stern and grim, yet ordinary and matter-of-fact. I have continued to observe Roman portraits over the years, but admit that I still sometimes find them daunting.

Eve's book list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés

Eve D'Ambra Why did Eve love this book?

It is a learned but lucid work that shows us why we don't know the names of many of the emperors' wives and female kin. Boatwright looks at a range of activities of the imperial women across Roman institutions (the imperial gov't and its laws, the military machine, and the family and the court). Important now to understand how power takes hold in conservative, entrenched societies, and how leading women are exploited in these regimes. 

By Mary T. Boatwright,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Imperial Women of Rome explores the constraints and activities of the women who were part of Rome's imperial families from 35 BCE to 235 CE, the Roman principate. Boatwright uses coins, inscriptions, papyri, material culture, and archaeology, as well as the more familiar but biased ancient authors, to depict change and continuity in imperial women's pursuits and representations over time. Focused vignettes open each thematic chapter, emphasizing imperial
women as individuals and their central yet marginalized position in the principate. Evaluating historical contingency and personal agency, the book assesses its subjects in relation to distinct Roman structures rather than…


Book cover of Image and Status: Roman Working Women in Ostia

Eve D'Ambra Author Of Roman Women

From my list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés.

Who am I?

I am a professor of ancient art at Vassar College where I teach Roman art and archaeology. I have published widely in the field and traveled extensively in the Mediterranean. My first encounters with Roman art occurred as a child in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where I would stand before Roman portrait heads because their faces seemed stern and grim, yet ordinary and matter-of-fact. I have continued to observe Roman portraits over the years, but admit that I still sometimes find them daunting.

Eve's book list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés

Eve D'Ambra Why did Eve love this book?

This is the book that changed my perspective on Roman art. It focuses on relief sculptures, mainly from tombs in the port of Rome, that commemorated the livelihoods of ordinary people, artisans, shopkeepers, and laborers, with scenes of their work rendered in their own artistic styles (rather than those of the official state monuments). Now some of these tomb plaques are included in mainstream Roman art history textbooks, but the effect of this book taking both class (particularly those of low status) and gender seriously in the study of ancient art and archaeology was groundbreaking. 

By Natalie Boymel Kampen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Kampen, Natalie


Book cover of Women's Lives, Women's Voices: Roman Material Culture and Female Agency in the Bay of Naples

Eve D'Ambra Author Of Roman Women

From my list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés.

Who am I?

I am a professor of ancient art at Vassar College where I teach Roman art and archaeology. I have published widely in the field and traveled extensively in the Mediterranean. My first encounters with Roman art occurred as a child in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where I would stand before Roman portrait heads because their faces seemed stern and grim, yet ordinary and matter-of-fact. I have continued to observe Roman portraits over the years, but admit that I still sometimes find them daunting.

Eve's book list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés

Eve D'Ambra Why did Eve love this book?

It is an anthology of essays that provide a range of topics and approaches to women who lived and worked in these small towns, now spectacularly preserved despite their sudden destruction by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. The lives lived here tend towards the gritty, workaday world with studies of women in business and trade, although elite women, public priestesses, also make an appearance. Two that feature women's names scratched on walls (graffiti) and drawings of women etched in or painted on Pompeian walls (by Erika Zimmermann Damer and Margaret L. Laird) argue for women's (partial) literacy and their greater visibility. These essays do much to make the fascinating archaeological material accessible.

By Brenda Longfellow (editor), Molly Swetnam-Burland (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Lives, Women's Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Literary evidence is often silent about the lives of women in antiquity, particularly those from the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Even when women are considered, they are often seen through the lens of their male counterparts. In this collection, Brenda Longfellow and Molly Swetnam-Burland have gathered an outstanding group of scholars to give voice to both the elite and ordinary women living on the Bay of Naples before the eruption of Vesuvius.

Using visual, architectural, archaeological, and epigraphic evidence, the authors consider how women in the region interacted with their communities through family relationships, businesses, and religious practices,…


Book cover of The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind the Caesars

Catharine Edwards Author Of Lives of the Caesars

From my list on Roman emperors behaving badly.

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient Romans and particularly by the ways they wrote about themselves. A Professor of Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London since 2005, I regularly take part in BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, discussing topics such as Roman decadence. Later generations look back on ancient Rome as mired in luxury and sexual misbehaviour—but that’s because the Romans themselves were constantly accusing one another of terrible vices. What can these claims tell us about Roman society? That’s a question that I’ve often returned to in many years of university teaching—and writing books, such as The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome.  

Catharine's book list on Roman emperors behaving badly

Catharine Edwards Why did Catharine love this book?

The shift to one-man rule in ancient Rome meant the ruler’s family, including his female relatives, was now centre-stage. Ancient Roman writers are generally dismissive or highly critical of the women who were part of the Roman imperial family. They are accused of arrogance, manipulation, adultery, incest—and poisoning. This engaging and well-researched book shines a spotlight on women such as Livia (Augustus’ wife), Julia (Augustus’ daughter), and Agrippina (Nero’s mother) and explores what influence they had, what they were able to achieve—and why they came in for so much, often sensationalist, criticism.

By Annelise Freisenbruch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Like their modern counterparts, the 'first ladies' of Rome were moulded to meet the political requirements of their emperors, be they fathers, husbands, brothers or lovers. But the women proved to be liabilities as well as assets - Augustus' daughter Julia was accused of affairs with at least five men, Claudius' wife Messalina was a murderous tease who cuckolded and humiliated her elderly husband, while Fausta tried to seduce her own stepson and engineered his execution before boiled to death as a punishment.

In The First Ladies of Rome Annelise Freisenbruch unveils the characters whose identities were to reverberate through…


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