100 books like Hellenism and Empire

By Simon Swain,

Here are 100 books that Hellenism and Empire fans have personally recommended if you like Hellenism and 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 The World of Late Antiquity

Michael Kulikowski Author Of The Tragedy of Empire: From Constantine to the Destruction of Roman Italy

From my list on Rome in the third century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up playing with toy Roman legionaries, marveling at Roman coins, and poring over diagrams of Roman military equipment and their astonishing feats of engineering, went back and forth between wanting to be a medievalist or a Classicist and ended up settling into the study of the late Roman empire and the way it completely transformed its Classical heritage. Along with writing books on that period, I love writing on much wider ancient and medieval themes in the London Review of Books and the TLS.

Michael's book list on Rome in the third century

Michael Kulikowski Why did Michael love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph

Michael Kulikowski Author Of The Tragedy of Empire: From Constantine to the Destruction of Roman Italy

From my list on Rome in the third century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up playing with toy Roman legionaries, marveling at Roman coins, and poring over diagrams of Roman military equipment and their astonishing feats of engineering, went back and forth between wanting to be a medievalist or a Classicist and ended up settling into the study of the late Roman empire and the way it completely transformed its Classical heritage. Along with writing books on that period, I love writing on much wider ancient and medieval themes in the London Review of Books and the TLS.

Michael's book list on Rome in the third century

Michael Kulikowski Why did Michael love this book?

Very few books put the history in art history with as much success as this one does. Instead of telling a linear story, in which the third century is a precipice over which Classical art falls into decline, Elsner picks out the many different strands and streams of artistic production that run in parallel with one another, and gets you to think about how they interact with contemporary social developments.

By Jas Elsner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Western culture saw some of the most significant and innovative developments take place during the passage from antiquity to the middle ages. This stimulating new book investigates the role of the visual arts as both reflections and agents of those changes. It tackles two inter-related periods of internal transformation within the Roman Empire: the phenomenon known as the 'Second Sophistic' (c. ad 100300)two centuries of self-conscious and enthusiastic hellenism, and the era of late antiquity (c. ad 250450) when the empire underwent a religious conversion to Christianity. Vases, murals, statues, and masonry are explored in relation to such issues as…


Book cover of Emperors and Biography

Michael Kulikowski Author Of The Tragedy of Empire: From Constantine to the Destruction of Roman Italy

From my list on Rome in the third century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up playing with toy Roman legionaries, marveling at Roman coins, and poring over diagrams of Roman military equipment and their astonishing feats of engineering, went back and forth between wanting to be a medievalist or a Classicist and ended up settling into the study of the late Roman empire and the way it completely transformed its Classical heritage. Along with writing books on that period, I love writing on much wider ancient and medieval themes in the London Review of Books and the TLS.

Michael's book list on Rome in the third century

Michael Kulikowski Why did Michael love this book?

Ronald Syme was one of the greatest historians of the twentieth century, and probably the greatest Roman historian. This may seem like one for specialists only, unlike his classic Roman Revolution, but it’s got his distinctive style – florid and lapidary all at once – and is a master class in how to wring valuable information out of poor and deceptive sources.

Book cover of Septimius Severus: The African Emperor

Michael Kulikowski Author Of The Tragedy of Empire: From Constantine to the Destruction of Roman Italy

From my list on Rome in the third century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up playing with toy Roman legionaries, marveling at Roman coins, and poring over diagrams of Roman military equipment and their astonishing feats of engineering, went back and forth between wanting to be a medievalist or a Classicist and ended up settling into the study of the late Roman empire and the way it completely transformed its Classical heritage. Along with writing books on that period, I love writing on much wider ancient and medieval themes in the London Review of Books and the TLS.

Michael's book list on Rome in the third century

Michael Kulikowski Why did Michael love this book?

Writing a good biography is very different from writing a narrative history – they’re different art forms. Septimius Severus is the last Roman emperor about whom we can build up a fully rounded biographical portrait until Julian the Apostate, a century and a half later. In Birley’s meticulous telling, Severus comes across as a transformative political genius, a soldier of great skill -- and a monster of a human being.

By Anthony Birley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this, the only biography of Septimius Severus in English, Anthony R. Birley explors how 'Roman' or otherwise this man was and examines his remarkable background and career.
Severus was descended from Phoenician settlers in Tripolitania, and his reign, AD 193-211, represents a key point in Roman history. Birley explores what was African and what was Roman in Septimius' background, given that he came from an African city. He asks whether Septimius was a 'typical cosmopolitan bureaucrat', a 'new Hannibal on the throne of Caesar' or 'principle author of the decline of the Roman Empire'?


Book cover of Women in the Classical World

Robin Waterfield Author Of Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece

From my list on ancient Greek history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a British scholar – a former university lecturer, many moons ago – now living in rural southern Greece. In fact, I have Greek as well as UK citizenship, which really pleases me because I’ve loved Greece and things Greek since boyhood. I started to learn ancient Greek at the age of ten! I’ve written over fifty books, mostly on ancient Greek history and philosophy, including many volumes of translations from ancient Greek. But I’ve also written children’s fiction in the form of gamebooks, a biography, a book on hypnosis, a retelling of the Greek myths (with my wife Kathryn) ... I’ll stop there!

Robin's book list on ancient Greek history

Robin Waterfield Why did Robin love this book?

A team of experts got together to create this wonderful book. It is well illustrated, clearly written throughout, and firmly based on textual and other evidence. That is, the authors typically start with a general statement such as “There were increased opportunities for women to be educated in the Hellenistic world,” and then go on for a few pages to show how this came about by translating and commenting on the relevant texts, and showing the relevant vase paintings. Ancient Greek history tends to be very male-oriented – almost all ancient Greek writing was done by men, for instance – so this book is a much-needed antidote.

By Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Sarah B. Pomeroy , H.A. Shapiro , Natalie Boymel Kampen

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women in the Classical World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BL The only study to integrate such a wide range of materials on the women of ancient Greece and Rome into one accessible volume BL Written by a team of distinguished classical scholars and art historians Women in the Classical World gathers the most important primary written and visual sources on the lives of ancient women and presents them in a chronological sequence, within their historical and cultural contexts.


Book cover of The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times

Stephen R. Wilk Author Of Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon

From my list on the unexpected truths behind myths.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scientist, engineer, and writer who has written on a wide range of topics. I’ve been fascinated by mythology my entire life, and I spent over a decade gathering background material on the myth of Perseus and Medusa, and came away with a new angle on the origin and meaning of the myth and what inspired it. I was unable to present this in a brief letter or article, and so decided to turn my arguments into a book. The book is still in print, and has been cited numerous times by scholarly journals and books. It formed the basis for the History Channel series Clash of the Gods (in which I appear).

Stephen's book list on the unexpected truths behind myths

Stephen R. Wilk Why did Stephen love this book?

Adrienne Mayor, a historian of ancient science and folklorist at Princeton University, looks at classical myths that ultimately owe their inspiration to fossils found and interpreted by the Greeks and Romans.

Stories of Giants and Monsters grew up around the giant and mysterious fossil bones that resembled nothing they knew. In particular, she relates the image and stories of griffins to ceratopsian fossils, like those of Protoceratops and Psitticasaurus.

She also shows how dwarf elephant fossils may have inspired the myth of the Cyclops. An excellent read.

By Adrienne Mayor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Griffins, Cyclopes, Monsters, and Giants--these fabulous creatures of classical mythology continue to live in the modern imagination through the vivid accounts that have come down to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans. But what if these beings were more than merely fictions? What if monstrous creatures once roamed the earth in the very places where their legends first arose? This is the arresting and original thesis that Adrienne Mayor explores in The First Fossil Hunters. Through careful research and meticulous documentation, she convincingly shows that many of the giants and monsters of myth did have a basis in fact--in…


Book cover of The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian

Nigel Rodgers Author Of The Colosseum From AD80 To The Present Day

From my list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by ancient Greece and Rome since I first saw Italy and Greece as a teenager, revisiting them whenever I can. I studied ancient history at Cambridge University and have written eight books about it, most recently The Colosseum. After living in Paris, Rome, and London, I am now based in Wiltshire in southwest England, almost within sight of Stonehenge. There is a small megalith outside my own house.

Nigel's book list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome

Nigel Rodgers Why did Nigel love this book?

Robin Lane Fox, best known for his books on Alexander the Great, has produced a superb overview of ancient history, from the emergence of Greece c.776BC to the Roman empire’s zenith under the emperor Hadrian (reigned  AD117-138).  He takes a firmly narrative approach, which makes for a thrilling read. His focus is on the lives of great men such as Pericles, Alexander, and Julius Caesar and on key political and military events rather than on cultural and social factors. While his epic approach may not impress all academics, it will probably still be read with enthusiasm long after more specialist works have been forgotten. Lots of illustrations, some in colour. Ideal for the general reader.

By Robin Lane Fox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classical civilizations of Greece and Rome once dominated the world, and they continue to fascinate and inspire us. Classical art and architecture, drama and epic, philosophy and politics-these are the foundations of Western civilization. In The Classical World , eminent classicist Robin Lane Fox brilliantly chronicles this vast sweep of history from Homer to the reign of Hadrian. From the Peloponnesian War through the creation of Athenian democracy, from the turbulent empire of Alexander the Great to the creation of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Christianity, Fox serves as our witty and trenchant guide. He introduces us…


Book cover of Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words

Tim Birkhead Author Of Birds and Us: A 12,000 Year History, from Cave Art to Conservation

From my list on birds and ourselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fortunate to be able to turn my childhood birdwatching into a career in ornithology. Scientists are sometimes accused of being cold and heartless, but most of the ornithologists I know are driven by a passion to protect and understand birds. At school, I only really liked biology and art. I hated history, but later in life I discovered the vast riches embedded in the history of ornithology and I am fascinated by how we know what we know about birds. This in turn has sparked ideas that have allowed me to discover and explore new areas of bird study. Above all, I love telling people about birds.

Tim's book list on birds and ourselves

Tim Birkhead Why did Tim love this book?

The history of ornithology is an extraordinarily rich topic and one full of interest and rewards. This book is a celebration of the beginnings of our ornithological knowledge. A classics scholar and ornithologist, Jeremy Mynott has translated all the numerous texts here himself, and in so doing providing a consistent, knowledgeable, highly readable text. One of the things that comes across so vividly in this book is how much of our knowledge about birds — including, for example, the fact that young birds, like the nightingale, acquire their song by listening to their father — were so well established so long ago! 

By Jeremy Mynott, Jeremy Mynott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Birds in the Ancient World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Birds pervaded the ancient world. They impressed their physical presence on the daily experience and imaginations of ordinary people in town and country alike, and figured prominently in literature and art. They also provided a fertile source of symbols and stories in their myths and folklore, and were central to the ancient rituals of augury and divination. Jeremy Mynott's Birds in the Ancient World: Winged Words brings together all this rich and
fascinating material for the modern reader.

Using quotations from well over a hundred classical Greek and Roman authors, all of them translated freshly into English, and nearly a…


Book cover of Age of Conquests: The Greek World from Alexander to Hadrian

Kathryn Lomas Author Of The Rise of Rome: From the Iron Age to the Punic Wars

From my list on the ancient Mediterranean.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a lifelong fascination for history and archaeology. Following a degree in Ancient History and Archaeology (University of Edinburgh), and a brief period as a field archaeologist, I undertook a PhD (University of Newcastle) researching the history of Greek settlement in southern Italy. My subsequent career has been devoted to the study of ancient Italy and Sicily, with a specific focus on the development of ethnic and cultural identities, and the formation of urban societies. I have held posts at several UK universities, including research fellowships at UCL, a lectureship at the University of Newcastle, and I am currently a part-time lecturer and Honorary Fellow at the University of Durham.

Kathryn's book list on the ancient Mediterranean

Kathryn Lomas Why did Kathryn love this book?

The later period of Greek history, after the conquests of Alexander the Great, is considerably less well known that the history of Classical Greece, but it was a fascinating period that radically changed the society and culture of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. This book covers the period of Alexander's conquests, the fragmentation of his empire into multiple kingdoms after his death, and the Roman conquest and domination of the Greek world.

It outlines the rise and fall of dynasties and kingdoms, the Roman conquest, and the transformation of the region, firstly by the Greek culture promoted by Alexander and his successors, and then by Roman rule. It provides an accessible and informative narrative of a period in which the Middle East and Greek world underwent transformational changes.

By Angelos Chaniotis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The world that Alexander remade in his lifetime was transformed once more by his death in 323 BCE. His successors reorganized Persian lands to create a new empire stretching from the eastern Mediterranean as far as present-day Afghanistan, while in Greece and Macedonia a fragile balance of power repeatedly dissolved into war. Then, from the late third century BCE to the end of the first, Rome's military and diplomatic might successively dismantled these post-Alexandrian political structures, one by one.

During the Hellenistic period (c. 323-30 BCE), small polities struggled to retain the illusion of their identity and independence, in the…


Book cover of Greece and Rome at War

Lindsay Powell Author Of Augustus at War: The Struggle for the Pax Augusta

From my list on the Roman Army from a military historian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been fascinated by the commanders, campaigns, and capabilities of the Roman Army since I studied Latin at school and watched the Hollywood epic Spartacus. At that time, my parents bought me a copy of Peter Connolly’s Roman Army for Christmas, but I discovered where they had hidden it and I secretly read it before Christmas Day. I have retained that passion with a library of books collected over a lifetime to prove it. Now, as a historian and the author of eight books of my own, and as the news editor of Ancient History and Ancient Warfare magazines, I eagerly share the latest discoveries and insights with my readers. 

Lindsay's book list on the Roman Army from a military historian

Lindsay Powell Why did Lindsay love this book?

It was this book that sparked my interest in the Roman Army—and I know from talking with others that it has created a host of other Roman military history buffs since its original publication.

The second and third parts of the book detail the evolution of the Roman army from its origins as a city-state militia, transforming from a legion based on maniples into one based on cohorts, and finally becoming the professional army and navy of the Caesars. 

Peter Connolly both wrote and illustrated the text. Using archaeological and epigraphic evidence he produced exquisite, painstakingly detailed paintings of arms and armour of infantry and cavalry, siege weapons, and warships. As an introduction to the subject, it has never been bettered.

Connolly was the honourary patron of The Ermine Street Guard reenactment society in which I served honourably for ten years.

By Peter Connolly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this sumptuous guide to twelve centuries of military development, Peter Connolly combines a detailed account of the arms and armies of Greece and Rome with his superb full-colour artwork. Making use of fresh archaeological evidence and new material on the manufacture and use of the weapons of the period, the author presents an attractive and impressive volume that is both scholarly and beautifully presented with illustrations that are, quite rightly, recognised as being the best and most accurate representation of how the soldiers from these formidable military empires appeared. Greece and Rome at War lucidly demonstrates the face of…


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