10 books like Daily Life in Late Antiquity

By Kristina Sessa,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Daily Life in Late Antiquity. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Danube

By Claudio Magris, Patrick Creagh (translator),

Book cover of Danube: A Sentimental Journey from the Source to the Black Sea

On the face of it, this seems like a straightforward book. Magris traces the geography of the Danube from Furtwangen or Donauschingen in southern Germany to the Black Sea, and in so doing surveys the history of the regions through which it passes. That would be a bold enough project in its own right, but the book itself is so much more than this and is one that I’ve returned to many times since I first stumbled across it fifteen years ago. The riverine structure of the book sweeps the reader from prehistory to the twentieth century and back again, individual eddies linger on intriguing episodes – the building of the cathedral tower at Ulm, the significance of the Iron Gates – and then we’re off again on another evocative description of the river or aside on the forgotten history of Mitteleuropa. A terrific read.

Danube

By Claudio Magris, Patrick Creagh (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A journey along this famous river described by the author, Claudio Magris, who unravels the amazing history of the many towns along its banks.


Cultural Amnesia

By Clive James,

Book cover of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Clive James will probably be remembered in this country for his moving poem Red Maple, and for a decade’s worth of wry commentary talking about the Japanese Gameshow, ‘Endurance’ on TV, but his essays and literary criticism were every bit as significant (and often just as funny). Cultural Amnesia is a peculiar collection of short essays on important literary, cultural, and historical figures of the past, which James compiled over the course of his life. Many of the subjects will be familiar to everyone: Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel, Adolf Hitler, but many will not (but should be): Egon Friedell was an extraordinary man of letters who encapsulated Vienna at its most sparkling, but who killed himself when the Nazis arrived; Ricarda Huch was a brilliant historian of Germany who went into voluntary exile at around the same time. As these examples suggest, the struggle between cultural and totalitarianism is…

Cultural Amnesia

By Clive James,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This international bestseller is an encyclopedic A-Z masterpiece-the perfect introduction to the very core of Western humanism. Clive James rescues, or occasionally destroys, the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost.


Beards

By Reginald Reynolds,

Book cover of Beards

I came across this book unexpectedly in an American bookstore, and have since given it as a gift countless times. In essence, Reynolds provides a survey of human history through facial hair, creating a rambling, eccentric overview and proposing all sorts of improbable theories, many of which are probably right. The bookseller’s note on the back cover of my copy lists it as ‘History (?)’, which seems about right, but it has definitely made me think about history in a different way. I also now have a beard of my own (not connected).

Reynolds also wrote a similarly inspiring book about toilets.  

Beards

By Reginald Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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


Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

By James Agee, Walker Evans,

Book cover of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families

This isn’t really a history book, but it made me think about many aspects of society and writing in a wholly new way. In 1936, Fortune Magazine commissioned the writer James Agee and the photographer Walker Evans to produce an extended article on families in Alabama during the tail end of the Great Depression. The task proved to be impossible, not just because the topic was too vast to fit into a single article, but also because of the complex responses that both men felt towards the task at hand and the families with whom they worked. The result was the long study Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which is made up of Agee’s thoughts and reflections, and of Evans’s justly famous images. This is a tough read: not because the language is difficult (it isn’t), but because of the challenges of the theme, and of Agee’s struggles…

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

By James Agee, Walker Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let Us Now Praise Famous Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1936, Agee and Evans set out on assignement for Fortune magazine to explore the daily lives of sharecroppers in the South. Their journey would prove an extraordinary collaboration and a watershed literary event when in 1941 Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was first published to enourmous critical acclaim. This unspairing record of place, of the people who shaped the land, and of the rhythm of their lives today stands as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.


A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome

By Alberto Angela, Gregory Conti (translator),

Book cover of A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities

This book provides an exemplary hour-by-hour guide to what life was like for a citizen of Rome at the height of its power. I love that Angela not only gives us the high-society angle, bringing us into the lush gardens and sumptuous homes of Rome’s wealthy and powerful, but also the crowded apartments and streets that were home to the vast majority of the ancient city’s citizens. You walk alongside them, getting a ground-level view of the patterns of a normal day in all its mundane details, from clothing to food to labor to entertainment, rendered in fascinating prose.

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome

By Alberto Angela, Gregory Conti (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The wondrous extravagance of banquets where flamingos are roasted whole and wine flows like rivers. The roar of frenzied spectators inside the Colosseum during a battle between gladiators. A crowd of onlookers gathered at a slave auction. The silent baths and the boisterous taverns...Many books have dealt with the history of ancient Rome, but none has been able to so engage its readers in the daily life of the Imperial capital.

This extraordinary armchair tour, guided by Alberto Angela with the charm of a born storyteller, lasts twenty-four hours, beginning at dawn on an ordinary day in the year 115…


A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities

By J.C. McKeown,

Book cover of A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

The author is a scholar, a professor of Classics, so he knows his stuff. He is also a wonderful writer. This is a collection of small and fascinating facts about Rome and the ancient world. A sampling of entries includes notes on Hannibal’s reputed use of jars of poisonous snakes as catapult ammunition, Roman fly fishing, window glass, and the mechanics of Nero’s revolving dining room.

A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities

By J.C. McKeown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ancient Romans have left us far more information about themselves than has any other Western society until much more recent times. But what we know about them is sometimes bizarre, and hardly fits the conventional view of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army and a very logical and well ordered language.

A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities is a serendipitous collection of odd facts and opinions, carefully gleaned from the wide body of evidence left to us by the Romans themselves. Each highlights a unique and curious feature of life in ancient Rome. Readers will…


What Life Was Like

By Time-Life Books,

Book cover of What Life Was Like: When Rome Ruled the World: The Roman Empire 100 BC-AD 200

Frequently, I write about everyday men and women. Consequently, I need to get a feel for what everyday life was like. What did people eat? How did they dress? Where did they work? I visit a lot of museums and have traveled extensively, but when I’m writing at home, I like books with lots of pictures, not only of historical sites, but photos of objects: cookware, weapons, clothing, jewelry, houses. This helps me bring the ancient world to life. This book is packed with pictures and well-researched information.

What Life Was Like

By Time-Life Books,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Life Was Like as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provides a look at the Roman empire, detailing its history, social customs, professions, class ranks, military, and religion


The Roman Way

By Edith Hamilton,

Book cover of The Roman Way

An oldie (first published in 1932) but a goodie. Hamilton's short essays on the classic Latin writers--from the first writers of Latin comedy through to the epic poets and historians who did so much to shape the language--aren't just a crash course on the Roman literary canon. They're an accessible introduction to Roman culture from the ground up.

The Roman Way

By Edith Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this informal history of Roman civilization, Edith Hamilton vividly depicts the Roman life and spirit as they are revealed in the greatest writers of the time. Among these literary guides are Cicero, who left an incomparable collection of letters; Catullus, the quintessential poet of love; Horace, the chronicler of a cruel and materialistic Rome; and the Romantics Virgil, Livy and Seneca. The story concludes with the stark contrast between high-minded Stoicism and the collapse of values witnessed by Tacitus and Juvenal.


The World of Late Antiquity

By Peter Brown,

Book cover of The World of Late Antiquity

The third century is the least known era of imperial Rome, but it’s also the hinge between a world that still had distant roots in the city-state that Rome was under the republic, and the world empire it had become. So many changes took place in the hundred or so years between Septimius Severus (r. 193-212) and Constantine (r. 306-337) that it’s impossible to understand later European, North African, and Middle Eastern history without considering them. Peter Brown was one of the first people to recognize that to understand the late Roman empire and early medieval Europe all the way up to Mohammad and Charlemagne, you had to understand the third century. This book inspired a generation of scholars to broaden their horizons to understand the Roman empire in all its colorful diversity.

The World of Late Antiquity

By Peter Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

These centuries, as the author demonstrates, were the era in which the most deeply rooted of ancient institutions disappeared for all time. By 476 the Roman empire had vanished from western Europe; by 655 the Persian empire had vanished from the Near East. Mr. Brown, Professor of History at Princeton University, examines these changes and men's reactions to them, but his account shows that the period was also one of outstanding new beginnings and defines the far-reaching impact both of Christianity on Europe and of Islam on the Near East. The result is a lucid answer to a crucial question…


Urban Space and Aristocratic Power in Late Antique Rome

By Carlos Machado,

Book cover of Urban Space and Aristocratic Power in Late Antique Rome: Ad 270-535

Many histories of Rome end in the second century that period in which Edward Gibbon judged “the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous”. But there is a great deal of Roman history after that. Rome survived a great military crisis in the third century. The next generation of emperors based themselves near the frontiers to ward off future attacks. Machado’s extraordinary book tells the story of the City of Rome after the emperors had gone, returned into the hands of an aristocracy fascinated by its past but also committed to Roma Aeterna (Eternal Rome). Using statues and inscriptions and archaeology and a mass of little read ancient literature, Machado paints a vivid picture. Far from the new centres of power, the Roman aristocracy rebuilt, repaired, and steered the city through religious transformations, barbarian sacks, and beyond the fall of the western empire.

Urban Space and Aristocratic Power in Late Antique Rome

By Carlos Machado,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Urban Space and Aristocratic Power in Late Antique Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 270 and 535 AD the city of Rome experienced dramatic changes. The once glorious imperial capital was transformed into the much humbler centre of western Christendom in a process that redefined its political importance, size, and identity. Urban Space and Aristocratic Power in Late Antique Rome examines these transformations by focusing on the city's powerful elite, the senatorial aristocracy, and exploring their involvement in a process of urban
change that would mark the end of the ancient world and the birth of the Middle Ages in the eyes of contemporaries and modern scholars. It argues that the late antique…


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