100 books like Leisure and Ancient Rome

By J. P. Toner,

Here are 100 books that Leisure and Ancient Rome fans have personally recommended if you like Leisure and Ancient Rome. 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 Travel in the Ancient World

Maggie L. Popkin Author Of Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love exploring new places, buildings, and artworks. Luckily, my job, as a professor of ancient Roman art history at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, allows me to do so! I am fascinated by the material culture of the Roman Empire and the ways in which buildings and objects—whether grand monuments like the Pantheon in Rome or humbler items like a terracotta figurine of a gladiator—shape how we experience the world and relate to other people. Whether I am living in Paris or Rome, excavating in Greece or Italy, or traveling elsewhere in the former lands of the Roman Empire, these topics are never far from my mind.

Maggie's book list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

Anybody who studies travel in ancient Rome knows the name of Lionel Casson, and after reading his magnum opus, you will understand why. Reading his book makes me feel that I am taking a tour of the Roman world in all its glory: its diversity, its impressive infrastructure, its cultural highlights, and its religious pilgrimage sites. Travel could be exciting or dangerous, luxurious or barebones, for business or for pleasure. In Casson’s engaging and accessible prose, however, it is always a revelatory window into Roman culture and history. Casson’s book helped me understand the personal, emotional aspects of travel in ancient Rome and, consequently, made me feel closer to ancient Romans themselves.

By Lionel Casson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The only book of its kind in any language, Travel in the Ancient World offers a lively, comprehensive history of ancient travel, from the first Egyptian voyages recorded in Old Kingdom inscriptions through Greek and Roman times to the Christian pilgrimages of the fourth and sixth centuries. Rich in anecdote and colorful detail, it now returns to print in paperback with a new preface by the author.


Book cover of Theater and Spectacle in the Art of the Roman Empire

Maggie L. Popkin Author Of Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love exploring new places, buildings, and artworks. Luckily, my job, as a professor of ancient Roman art history at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, allows me to do so! I am fascinated by the material culture of the Roman Empire and the ways in which buildings and objects—whether grand monuments like the Pantheon in Rome or humbler items like a terracotta figurine of a gladiator—shape how we experience the world and relate to other people. Whether I am living in Paris or Rome, excavating in Greece or Italy, or traveling elsewhere in the former lands of the Roman Empire, these topics are never far from my mind.

Maggie's book list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

This lavishly illustrated book offers a visually stunning and information-packed tour of ancient Rome’s most popular forms of entertainment: chariot racing, gladiatorial combats, and theater performances. I was astonished by the sheer range and creativity of Roman spectacles and their material commemorations, from action figures of gladiators with removable helmets, piggy banks with pictures of lucky winning charioteers, and mosaic puzzles that challenged viewers to guess the names of famous racehorses based on visual clues. As an art historian, I particularly love the beautiful color illustrations; my own copy of this book is dog-eared because I am constantly returning to look at the fascinating objects she discusses. For me, this book about spectacles is spectacular in its own right. 

By Katherine M. D. Dunbabin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Theater and Spectacle in the Art of the Roman Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Theater, spectacle, and performance played significant roles in the political and social structure of the Roman Empire, which was diverse in population and language. A wide and varied range of entertainment was available to a Roman audience: the traditional festivals with their athletic contests and dramatic performances, pantomime and mime, the chariot races of the circus, and the gladiatorial shows and wild beast hunts of the arena. In Theater and Spectacle in the Art of the Roman Empire, which is richly illustrated in color throughout, Katherine M. D. Dunbabin emphasizes the visual evidence for these events.Images of spectacle appear in…


Book cover of Destinations in Mind: Portraying Places on the Roman Empire's Souvenirs

Maggie L. Popkin Author Of Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love exploring new places, buildings, and artworks. Luckily, my job, as a professor of ancient Roman art history at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, allows me to do so! I am fascinated by the material culture of the Roman Empire and the ways in which buildings and objects—whether grand monuments like the Pantheon in Rome or humbler items like a terracotta figurine of a gladiator—shape how we experience the world and relate to other people. Whether I am living in Paris or Rome, excavating in Greece or Italy, or traveling elsewhere in the former lands of the Roman Empire, these topics are never far from my mind.

Maggie's book list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

Although we often dismiss souvenirs as kitsch, they can be deeply meaningful to people, both today and in antiquity. Taking a phenomenological approach to ancient Roman souvenirs of places, Kimberly Cassibry shows how people would have held, used, and interacted with small objects showing seaside resort towns on the Bay of Naples, the Circus Maximus in Rome, Hadrian’s Wall in Britain, and the western empire’s network of imperial roads. Her book taught me just how large makers and materials loom in how places came to be represented and conceptualized in Roman antiquity. I love that Cassibry forces me to think anew about my own travel souvenirs and how I interact with them to make meaning of places my loved ones or I have visited. 

By Kimberly Cassibry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Destinations in Mind, Kimberly Cassibry asks how objects depicting different sites helped Romans understand their vast empire. At a time when many cities were written about but only a few were represented in art, four distinct sets of artifacts circulated new information. Engraved silver cups list all the stops from Spanish Cadiz to Rome, while resembling the milestones that helped travelers track their progress. Vivid glass cups represent famous
charioteers and gladiators competing in circuses and amphitheaters, and offered virtual experiences of spectacles that were new to many regions. Bronze bowls commemorate forts along Hadrian's Wall with colorful enameling…


Book cover of Roman Sports and Spectacles: A Sourcebook

Maggie L. Popkin Author Of Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love exploring new places, buildings, and artworks. Luckily, my job, as a professor of ancient Roman art history at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, allows me to do so! I am fascinated by the material culture of the Roman Empire and the ways in which buildings and objects—whether grand monuments like the Pantheon in Rome or humbler items like a terracotta figurine of a gladiator—shape how we experience the world and relate to other people. Whether I am living in Paris or Rome, excavating in Greece or Italy, or traveling elsewhere in the former lands of the Roman Empire, these topics are never far from my mind.

Maggie's book list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

If you want to know what some Romans thought about sport and spectacle in their own words, turn to Anne Mahoney’s sourcebook, which offers translations of key literary passages and inscriptions. From Horace’s descriptions of unruly theater audiences to Ovid’s advice to young Roman men about how to pick up girls at the circus, this sourcebook brought the world of Roman spectacle to life for me. I love that she shows how the themes that make modern sport and fandom so complex—religion, gender, politics, and money—were just as relevant in ancient Rome. I always come away from reading the sources she compiles feeling that Roman sports fans are not so different from us today.

By Anne Mahoney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Roman Sports and Spectacles: A Sourcebook contains numerous translations from the Latin, including famous authors, such as Cicero, Seneca, Tertullian and Augustine, and the not so famous, including graffiti, advertisements and tombstones to paint a world view of what sports Romans played and what they thought of them. The world of Roman sports was similar in many ways to our own, but there were significant differences. For one thing Roman sports centered during religious festivals and the participants were most often slaves. Roman sports were not team sports, but individual competitions. And sports like chariot racing and gladiatorial competitions were…


Book cover of Running the Roman Home

Amanda Cockrell Author Of Shadow of the Eagle

From my list on life in the Roman Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

As Damion Hunter, I have written six novels set in the first and second centuries of the Roman Empire, for which I have done extensive research. My picks are all books that I have found most useful and accessible for the writer who wants to ground her fiction in accurate detail and for the reader who just wants to know the little stuff, which is always more interesting than the big stuff.

Amanda's book list on life in the Roman Empire

Amanda Cockrell Why did Amanda love this book?

This book has all the details of how to keep a Roman household going, from buying and cooking dinner to making lye for laundry to throwing out the trash. It describes in wonderful detail exactly how and with what they did it, including heating, lighting, bathing, and a fascinating section on the unlovely yet vital subject of sewage.

By A. T. Croom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Running the Roman Home as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Running of the Roman Home explores the real 'every-day' life of the Romans and the effort required to run a Roman household. It considers the three elements of housework - supply, maintenance and disposal.

It is divided into sections on how the Romans collected water and fuel, milled flour and produced thread; how they cleaned the house, illuminated it, did the washing up, cleaned their clothes, got rid of waste water and sewage, and threw out their rubbish.

The evidence is taken from literary, archaeological and artistic sources, and often compared to historical or modern parallels from communities using the…


Book cover of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Steven D. Smith Author Of The Disintegrating Conscience and the Decline of Modernity

From my list on why Western civilization is falling apart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a misplaced law professor, you might say: I never wanted to be a lawyer; I went to law school almost by accident; and for four decades I’ve used law as a window into my deeper interests– religion, history, and philosophy. I couldn’t make myself write books unless the subjects were personally engaging; and in defiance of editors, I insist on writing readable prose. If this adds up to “dilettante,” so be it. My books, published by the university presses of Harvard, Oxford, Notre Dame, Duke, and NYU, as well as Eerdmans, have dealt with constitutional law; Roman, medieval, and modern history; legal philosophy; and religious freedom.

Steven's book list on why Western civilization is falling apart

Steven D. Smith Why did Steven love this book?

This book (actually, this series of volumes) is of course an epic and a classic. And deservedly so—even though most scholars no longer find Gibbon’s account of the causes of Rome’s fall persuasive. 

Right or wrong, the book is a model of a study that is both immersed (sometimes admiringly and sometimes caustically) in individual characters and episodes and yet also intensely interested in the big picture. And the elegant, witty prose makes the book a pleasure to read. 

Analyses of modern Western decline often look for parallels in ancient Rome, and Gibbon’s study is almost a mandatory point of departure.

By Edward Gibbon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked 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?

Edward Gibbon€™s classic timeless work of ancient Roman history in 6 volumes collected into 2 boxed sets, in beautiful, enduring hardcover editions with elegant cloth sewn bindings, gold stamped covers, and silk ribbon markers.


Book cover of Roman Passions: A History of Pleasure in Imperial Rome

Daisy Dunn Author Of Catullus' Bedspread: The Life of Rome's Most Erotic Poet

From my list on love and sex in ancient rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by the ancient world. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve trips to Roman villas in Britain, theatres in Sicily, and museums across Europe. After studying Classics at Oxford, I completed a Masters and then a Ph.D., eager to gain as strong a grounding in the ancient world as I could before pursuing a career as an author. Ancient history has a reputation for being complicated. When I write books, I strive not to simplify the past, but rather to provide an engaging, memorable, and above all enjoyable path into it. 

Daisy's book list on love and sex in ancient rome

Daisy Dunn Why did Daisy love this book?

Ray Laurence begins this wonderful book with the bold view that the passions of first-century Rome were more developed than those of earlier times. Examining the connections between pleasure and power in the imperial household; the role pleasure played in art and landscape; and what really went on in the Roman baths, the resulting account is as wide-ranging as it is surprising.

By Ray Laurence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Immerse yourself in the sensual delights of Rome in all their guises. By the time of the emperors, the Romans had created the world's first global empire, and plundered the provinces for produce to be eaten, planted or displayed as novelties. At the same time the aesthetics of the city of Rome was being transferred to the provinces, establishing towns with public buildings, baths and the Latin language. With these attributes of civilisation came other trappings of Roman culture: lavish entertainments, elaborate dinner parties and vice. The world of pleasure became a defining feature of the Romans, and this book…


Book cover of Roman Woman: Everyday Life in Hadrian's Britain

Amanda Cockrell Author Of Shadow of the Eagle

From my list on life in the Roman Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

As Damion Hunter, I have written six novels set in the first and second centuries of the Roman Empire, for which I have done extensive research. My picks are all books that I have found most useful and accessible for the writer who wants to ground her fiction in accurate detail and for the reader who just wants to know the little stuff, which is always more interesting than the big stuff.

Amanda's book list on life in the Roman Empire

Amanda Cockrell Why did Amanda love this book?

This follows a British woman who has married a Roman army veteran through a year in Britain during the reign of Hadrian. It is filled with tons of accurate detail about every aspect of daily life. It is written as a novel but because the author is a scholar of Roman British history and archaeology, you can count on her accuracy in a way that I ordinarily don’t rely on with novels.

By Lindsay Allason-Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Roman Britain is vividly portrayed in this fascinating and authentically detailed story about a year in the life of an ordinary woman and her family.

The year is AD 133. Hadrian is Emperor of Rome and all its vast empire, including Britannia. The greater part of that island has long been under imperial rule and the Roman legions control most of the land, quelling uprisings and building new forts and towns. Around the fortress of Eboracum (now known as York), a bustling garrison settlement is developing, while along the north-west frontier of Hadrian's empire, the legions are completing the construction…


Book cover of Beyond the Empire: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Scotland

Simon Elliott Author Of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

From my list on Roman Britain.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dr. Simon Elliott is an award-winning and best-selling historian, archaeologist, author, broadcaster, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent, Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology, Ambassador for Museum of London Archaeology, Guide Lecturer for Andante Travels, and President of the Society of Ancients. He frequently appears on broadcast and social media as a presenter and expert regarding the ancient world, and currently has 12 books on sale on similar themes, with three more due later this year. He is also a PR Week award-winning, highly experienced communications practitioner who has advised a wide variety of clients at a senior level on their interaction with the world of the media and politics. 

Simon's book list on Roman Britain

Simon Elliott Why did Simon love this book?

As detailed, the far north of Roman Britain was never fully conquered. Therefore it was the location of numerous Roman military campaigns, some of conquest and others to suppress aggression and dissent. Each Roman foray north of the border has left its footprint in the form of archaeology, and here Dr. Andrew Tibbs details each such site to enable the reader to visit and interpret them. Highly recommended.

By Andrew Tibbs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Though Scotland was never successfully conquered by the Roman Empire, the lands north of Hadrian's Wall nonetheless include many Roman sites that bear witness to Rome's attempts to impose her will over the whole of Britain. Beyond the Empire offers a complete listing of all 330 known Roman sites in Scotland, including location maps, details of notable archaeological finds, what is visible on the ground, and how to visit them.


Book cover of Child of the Sun

Andrew Chugg Author Of Alexander's Lovers

From my list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I voyaged into the ancient world in the readings of my youth, it led me to realize that the gay-straight divide in modern perceptions of sexuality and relationships is an artifice. It was constructed by the conceit of the ascetic religions that the only legitimate purpose of sex is the production of children within a sanctified marital relationship. In Antiquity, the divide followed a more natural course between the groups who were the sexually active partners (mainly adult men) and those who were sexually passive (mainly women, youths, and eunuchs). My hope is to disperse some of the confusion that the obscuration of this historical reality has caused.

Andrew's book list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity

Andrew Chugg Why did Andrew love this book?

What would happen if a randy teenage boy became Emperor of Rome after winning a pitched battle against a usurper? Would the magisterial traditions and decorum of the office triumph over adolescent hormones or vice versa? Actually, there is no need to speculate about the answer, because it happened in real life and was recorded in several ancient histories that have come down to us. This novel, though billed upon its publication as erotic, is quite closely based on those histories. Clue: the hormonal impulses of teenage boys are quite hard to suppress.

By Kyle Onstott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This brilliant and brutally intimate novel captures accurately the depravity and intrigue of Ancient Rome. CHILD OF THE SUN tells the story of the youth Varius Avitus Hassianus, destined to become Emperor of the Roman empire. Varius spurned women. His erotic longings searched out a very different kind of love. Whatever or whomever he fancied was quickly offered to him. And no man, be he soldier or citizen, dared refuse him. As his perverted passions grew more and more bizarre, even the voluptuaries of Rome recoiled in horror.


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