100 books like Failure of Empire

By Noel Lenski,

Here are 100 books that Failure of Empire fans have personally recommended if you like Failure of Empire. 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 Constantine: Roman Emperor, Christian Victor

Charles Matson Odahl Author Of Constantine and the Christian Empire

From my list on the 4th century Roman world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Charles M. Odahl earned a doctorate in Ancient and Medieval History and Classical Languages at the University of California, San Diego, with an emphasis on Roman imperial and early Christian studies. He has spent his life and career traveling, living, and researching at sites relevant to his interests, especially in Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey Israel, Egypt, and Tunisia. He has taught at universities in Britain, France, Idaho, and Oregon, and published 5 books and 50 articles and reviews on Roman and early Christian topics.

Charles' book list on the 4th century Roman world

Charles Matson Odahl Why did Charles love this book?

Dr. Stephenson, an excellent Byzantine historian, provides a thorough and well-written narrative of Constantine's life and career set accurately within the late 3rd and early 4th century Roman Empire (A.D. 273-337). He focuses on the military abilities and the religious beliefs of his subject and reveals how he changed the Roman Empire and Christian Church with his policies. A good read.

By Paul Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This “knowledgeable account” of the emperor who brought Christianity to Rome “provides valuable insight into Constantine’s era” (Kirkus Reviews).

“By this sign conquer.” So began the reign of Constantine. In 312 A.D. a cross appeared in the sky above his army as he marched on Rome. In answer, Constantine bade his soldiers to inscribe the cross on their shield, and so fortified, they drove their rivals into the Tiber and claimed Rome for themselves.

Constantine led Christianity and its adherents out of the shadow of persecution. He united the western and eastern halves of the Roman Empire, raising a new…


Book cover of Constantius II: Usurpers, Eunuchs and the Antichrist

Charles Matson Odahl Author Of Constantine and the Christian Empire

From my list on the 4th century Roman world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Charles M. Odahl earned a doctorate in Ancient and Medieval History and Classical Languages at the University of California, San Diego, with an emphasis on Roman imperial and early Christian studies. He has spent his life and career traveling, living, and researching at sites relevant to his interests, especially in Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey Israel, Egypt, and Tunisia. He has taught at universities in Britain, France, Idaho, and Oregon, and published 5 books and 50 articles and reviews on Roman and early Christian topics.

Charles' book list on the 4th century Roman world

Charles Matson Odahl Why did Charles love this book?

Dr. Crawford, a specialist in ancient history and religion, offers a detailed and readable account of the life and reign of Constantine's longest surviving son and successor in the mid-4th century (A.D. 324-361). Often criticized by ancient sources and modern scholars alike for not being as great a soldier as his father and for favoring Arian-leaning bishops, the author tries to rehabilitate the reputation of Constantius as a capable ruler in difficult times.

By Peter Crawford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The reign of Constantius II has been overshadowed by that of his titanic father, Constantine the Great, and his cousin and successor, the pagan Julian. However, as Peter Crawford shows, Constantius deserves to be remembered as a very capable ruler in dangerous, tumultuous times. When Constantine I died in in 337, the twenty-year-old Constantius and his two brothers, Constans and Constantine II, all recieved the title of Augustus to reign as equal co-emperors. In 340, however, Constantine II was killed in a fraternal civil war with Constans. The two remaining brothers shared the Empire for the next ten years, with…


Book cover of Theodosius and the Limits of Empire

Charles Matson Odahl Author Of Constantine and the Christian Empire

From my list on the 4th century Roman world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Charles M. Odahl earned a doctorate in Ancient and Medieval History and Classical Languages at the University of California, San Diego, with an emphasis on Roman imperial and early Christian studies. He has spent his life and career traveling, living, and researching at sites relevant to his interests, especially in Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey Israel, Egypt, and Tunisia. He has taught at universities in Britain, France, Idaho, and Oregon, and published 5 books and 50 articles and reviews on Roman and early Christian topics.

Charles' book list on the 4th century Roman world

Charles Matson Odahl Why did Charles love this book?

Dr. Hebblewhite, a specialist in late antique military history, provides a new biographical narrative on the life and reign of the Christian emperor Theodosius the Great (A.D. 347-395). He covers the emperor's struggles against the Gothic barbarians, his attempts to unify Christians around the orthodox Nicene Creed, and his outlawing of paganism and establishment of Catholic Christianity as the official religion of the late Roman Empire. Solid and readable.

By Mark Hebblewhite,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Theodosius and the Limits of Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The emperor Theodosius I (AD 379-395) was one of the most remarkable figures of the late antique period. In the face of religious schism, political turmoil, and barbarian threats he managed to maintain imperial power and forge a political dynasty that would dominate both east and west for over half a century. This study, the first English language biography in over twenty years, traces his rise to power and tumultuous reign, and examines his indelible impact on a rapidly changing empire.


Book cover of The Final Pagan Generation: Rome's Unexpected Path to Christianity

Charles Matson Odahl Author Of Constantine and the Christian Empire

From my list on the 4th century Roman world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Charles M. Odahl earned a doctorate in Ancient and Medieval History and Classical Languages at the University of California, San Diego, with an emphasis on Roman imperial and early Christian studies. He has spent his life and career traveling, living, and researching at sites relevant to his interests, especially in Britain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey Israel, Egypt, and Tunisia. He has taught at universities in Britain, France, Idaho, and Oregon, and published 5 books and 50 articles and reviews on Roman and early Christian topics.

Charles' book list on the 4th century Roman world

Charles Matson Odahl Why did Charles love this book?

Dr. Watts, a prolific author on Roman history, gives a detailed survey of the lives and careers of some of the last prominent pagan intellectuals who lived from the time of Constantine's conversion to Christianity to Theodosius' outlawing of paganism. He shows the intellectual, social, and religious changes in the fourth century as the Roman world was transformed from a pagan to a Christian society. A fascinating story brilliantly told.

By Edward J. Watts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A compelling history of radical transformation in the fourth-century--when Christianity decimated the practices of traditional pagan religion in the Roman Empire.

The Final Pagan Generation recounts the fascinating story of the lives and fortunes of the last Romans born before the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. Edward J. Watts traces their experiences of living through the fourth century's dramatic religious and political changes, when heated confrontations saw the Christian establishment legislate against pagan practices as mobs attacked pagan holy sites and temples. The emperors who issued these laws, the imperial officials charged with implementing them, and the Christian perpetrators of…


Book cover of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Lilith Saintcrow Author Of A Flame in the North

From my list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like any writer, I’m fascinated with what makes people tick and why they act the way they do. Naturally, this means I read a lot of history. I love reference reading; I love researching arcane questions for a tiny detail that will bring a character or their world to life. Creating epic fantasy is an extension of both my drives as a reader and a writer. Pouring myself into characters who inhabit different settings is a deeply satisfying exercise in both craft and empathy, and each history book has some small bit I can use to make my settings more compelling, more enjoyable for readers, and more real.

Lilith's book list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy

Lilith Saintcrow Why did Lilith love this book?

I was in love the moment I opened an abridged version of Gibbon’s magnum opus as a young history buff, and was even more delighted when I sought out the multivolume full experience.

Gibbon’s view of the Roman Empire is magisterial and his footnotes are a cranky delight; he’s up-front when his sources have axes to grind and sourly suspicious of his own motivations.

Sure, he’s an 18th-century British colonialist with all that entails. He’s also deliciously ironic, hilariously sardonic, and does his mightiest justice when he’s skewering folly and tyranny of any stripe.

By Edward Gibbon,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spanning thirteen centuries from the age of Trajan to the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, DECLINE & FALL is one of the greatest narratives in European Literature. David Womersley's masterly selection and bridging commentary enables the readerto acquire a general sense of the progress and argument of the whole work and displays the full variety of Gibbon's achievement.


Book cover of The Later Roman Empire 284-602: A Social Economic and Administrative Survey (Volumes 1 and 2)

David Alan Parnell Author Of Belisarius & Antonina: Love and War in the Age of Justinian

From my list on introducing yourself to the early Byzantine Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many students are still taught that the Roman Empire ended in 476 AD. To the contrary, the Roman Empire survived and flourished through the Middle Ages up to the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Roman state was incredibly long-lived and resilient. Modern historians often call its medieval incarnation the Byzantine Empire. I have devoted my professional life to studying these medieval Romans (or Byzantines) and to telling others about them. I teach courses at my university, write books, consult for documentaries, appear on podcasts, and engage on Twitter. The early Byzantine period was a time of both continuity and immense change and I find it endlessly fascinating.

David's book list on introducing yourself to the early Byzantine Empire

David Alan Parnell Why did David love this book?

After reading about fascinating emperors, cities, and wars, one might begin to ponder larger questions like how the late Roman (early Byzantine) government functioned and what its society was like. This book is a detailed analysis of these issues.

To my mind, it is one of the best history books ever written about the early Byzantine Empire. It can be approached as a reference work, and one can seek out sections that seem interesting such as the conditions of service in the army, the social origins of the clergy, the taxation system, or the powers behind the throne.

The breadth and depth of Jones’ learning is impressive and on full display in this classic.

Book cover of Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome

Warren Treadgold Author Of A History of the Byzantine State and Society

From my list on understanding the Byzantine empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became interested in Byzantium in high school, when I read Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and I’ve been interested in Byzantine subjects ever since. I’ve traveled to almost every country that was once part of the Byzantine Empire, all around the Mediterranean seaboard. I’ve written ten books and many articles on Byzantine politics, Byzantine scholarship, Byzantine literature, the Byzantine economy, the Byzantine army, Byzantine religion, and Byzantine art (with my wife, a Byzantine art historian). It’s such an enormous field, spanning thirteen centuries, three continents, and Greek, Roman, Christian, and many other cultures, that there’s always something new, surprising, and marvelous to discover.

Warren's book list on understanding the Byzantine empire

Warren Treadgold Why did Warren love this book?

The best survey of Byzantine civilization by the best Byzantinist of recent times, this book covers all the main features of Byzantine life, thought, and culture with profound but unobtrusive learning, including many interesting details and covering ethnography, religion, literature, art, and architecture.

Mango’s penetrating analysis often reveals defects of the Byzantines and their empire that other scholars usually overlook, and his overall evaluation of Byzantium is more negative than my own, but his writing is lucid, brilliant, and always worth reading. I particularly recommend this book as an introduction for readers who know little if anything about the Byzantines and their empire.

By Cyril Mango,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Examining Byzantine life from the point of view of the average citizen, a noted historian deals with language, social and economic conditions, the disappearance and revival of cities, education, monasticism, and the Byzantine literary, artistic, and architectural legacy


Book cover of Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome

Denny Sissom Author Of The Bridge to the New Testament: A Comprehensive Guide to the Forgotten Years of the Inter-Testament Period

From my list on the inter-testament period and the New Testament.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since I sought material to teach a class on the inter-testament period back in 1994, I discovered there was not much written on the subject. So, I decided to change that. From the creation of the world to the rebuilding of the Temple by Zerubbabel and reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem by Nehemiah, nothing has piqued my interest as much as what happened after these events. The study of inter-testament history is fascinating, important, and lacking in most Christian educations. Through our learning of the inter-testament, we can better understand the people, politics, and history of the New Testament.  

Denny's book list on the inter-testament period and the New Testament

Denny Sissom Why did Denny love this book?

Although not a history of Rome, per se, in this topically-arranged book, it covers a vast amount of Roman history. This is an outstanding book into the details of Rome’s religion, geography, administration, travel, and economy. It gives deep insight into what it was like to be a Roman citizen, whether one was a pleb or a member of the aristocracy. It presents the government of Rome, from the consuls and emperors down to the level of magistrates and civil servants. Many aspects of the history and structure of Rome’s military are covered in detail, and the book shows how it transformed and adapted over the years of the republic and empire. For any questions on Roman society, this book likely covers it.

By Lesley Adkins, Roy Adkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This handy reference provides full access to the 1,200 years of Roman rule from the 8th century BC to the 5th century AD, including information that is hard to find and even harder to decipher. Clear, authoritative, and highly organized, Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome provides a unique look at a civilization whose art, literature, law, and engineering influenced the whole of Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and beyond.
The myriad topics covered include rulers; the legal and governmental system; architectural feats such as the famous Roman roads and aqueducts; the many Roman religions and festivals;…


Book cover of Theodosian Empresses: Women and Imperial Dominion in Late Antiquity

Faith L. Justice Author Of Twilight Empress: A Novel of Imperial Rome

From my list on awesome women you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved history since my grandfather told me tales about my ancestors and their exploits. I haunted libraries, reading up on whatever current era I had a passion for: Roman, medieval England, American Civil War, etc. but I was always disappointed that little or no space was given to women’s stories. They had to have existed or all those famous men wouldn’t have been born. It took some digging and a feminist revolution, but finally remarkable women’s lives began to surface in academia and I now turn their stories into popular fiction. I hope these recommendations help readers learn about awesome women who didn’t make it into the history books. Enjoy!

Faith's book list on awesome women you’ve never heard of

Faith L. Justice Why did Faith love this book?

Who knew that women were such powerful figures during the transition from the Roman Empire to the Byzantine era? Hollum did. He chronicles the lives and contributions of three generations of Theodosian empresses. This book was the major source of information on the main characters in the second and third books in my Theodosian Women series.

Read about the remarkable Empress Pulcheria. Granddaughter of Theodosian the Great, she outwitted a whole court of experienced men to become Augusta and Regent for her minor brother at the age of fifteen! She ruled by his side for most of his life and laid the foundations for the dawn of the Byzantine Empire. What had you accomplished by age fifteen?

By Kenneth G. Holum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Theodosian Empresses sets a series of compelling women on the stage of history and offers new insights into the eastern court in the fifth century.


Book cover of Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood: The Rise and Fall of Byzantine, 955 A.D. to the First Crusade

Jonathan Harris Author Of Byzantium and the Crusades

From my list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first came across Byzantium when I read Robert Graves' Count Belisarius and studied as much of its history as I could while at King's College London. Later I taught English in Turkey and was able to visit the Byzantine sites of Istanbul, Iznik, and Cappadocia. I now teach medieval and Byzantine history at Royal Holloway, University of London. For those living outside eastern Europe and Russia, Byzantium may appear to be rather remote and exotic: that is part of its appeal! But just because it is strange and different does not mean that we should not try to understand it on its own terms. That is what I have tried to do in my books and teaching.

Jonathan's book list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall

Jonathan Harris Why did Jonathan love this book?

Both readable and minutely researched, this book analyses the reasons behind Byzantium’s sudden collapse in the mid-eleventh century. Kaldellis offers a refreshing alternative to the prevalent narrative of the achievements of Basil II being squandered by the feeble emperors who came after him. Instead, stress is laid on the problems to which the expanded borders gave rise after 1025 and the very reasonable steps taken by Basil’s successors to deal with them. He even comes to the rescue of the much-maligned Constantine IX (1042-1055), an emperor whom Psellus presents as affable and likable but a completely incompetent ruler.

Kaldellis points out how Constantine secured the frontier in Northern Syria through his treaty with the Fatimid caliph of Egypt and how his administrative reforms would have seemed sensible at the time. He drives home the lesson that it is never satisfactory to single out a few individuals to blame for a…

By Anthony Kaldellis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Streams of Gold, Rivers of Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the second half of the tenth century, Byzantium embarked on a series of spectacular conquests: first in the southeast against the Arabs, then in Bulgaria, and finally in the Georgian and Armenian lands. By the early eleventh century, the empire was the most powerful state in the Mediterranean. It was also expanding economically, demographically, and, in time, intellectually as well. Yet this imperial project came to a crashing collapse fifty years later, when
political disunity, fiscal mismanagement, and defeat at the hands of the Seljuks in the east and the Normans in the west brought an end to Byzantine…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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