100 books like Nero

By Anthony Everitt, Roddy Ashworth,

Here are 100 books that Nero fans have personally recommended if you like Nero. 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 SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Paul Hay Author Of Saeculum: Defining Historical Eras in Ancient Roman Thought

From my list on for aspiring Roman history buffs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of Roman history who teaches and writes about the social world of the ancient Romans. I’m drawn to the topic of ancient Rome because it seems simultaneously familiar and alien: the people always “feel real” to me, but the many cultural differences between Rome and modern America prod me to contemplate those aspects and values of my own world that I take for granted. I enjoy the high moral stakes of the political machinations as well as the aesthetic beauty of the artistic creations of Rome. And the shadow of Rome still looms large in American culture, so I find the study of antiquity endlessly instructive.

Paul's book list on for aspiring Roman history buffs

Paul Hay Why did Paul love this book?

Perhaps the best place to start for a novice looking to learn about Roman history. I have had students, friends, and family all tell me that this was the book that really got them excited about ancient Rome.

Beard is a very witty, engaging writer who is able to combine major historical moments with obscure but revealing anecdotes to tell a coherent narrative of Roman history. She also demonstrates, such as in her introductory chapter’s discussion of modern references to the ancient conflict between Cicero and Catiline, the continuing relevance of Roman history to our understanding of politics today.

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome "with passion and without technical jargon" and demonstrates how "a slightly shabby Iron Age village" rose to become the "undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean" (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating "the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life" (Economist) in a way that makes "your hair stand on end" (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this "highly informative, highly readable" (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but…


Book cover of The First Man in Rome

Jennifer Burke Author Of Sub Rosa: A Valerius Mystery

From my list on bringing Ancient Rome alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved history ever since I was a kid when I first had the realisation that it was made up of stories. Ancient Rome has always fascinated me, not the battles or the emperors or the big picture stuff, but the daily lives of the ordinary people. You only need to read some of the rude graffiti from Pompeii to realise that people have never really changed where it counts! I studied English and History at university, neither of them as thoroughly as I could have, but at least now when people ask me what I’d ever use an Arts degree for, I can point to my book. 

Jennifer's book list on bringing Ancient Rome alive

Jennifer Burke Why did Jennifer love this book?

Just like the Falco mysteries showed me that you could have fun with your historical detectives, this book showed me that there’s more drama in Ancient Roman history than in any daytime soap opera, and this novelisation of Marius and Sulla packs a lot more of an emotional punch than any textbook ever could. 

I don’t know enough about Marius and Sulla to say how much poetic license the author took, but this really does read as a seamless and in-depth exploration of the bloody power struggles between two very different but equally ambitious men in the time of the Roman Republic.   

The whole series is fantastic!

By Colleen McCullough,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The First Man in Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With extraordinary narrative power, New York Times bestselling author Colleen McCullough sweeps the reader into a whirlpool of pageantry and passion, bringing to vivid life the most glorious epoch in human history.

When the world cowered before the legions of Rome, two extraordinary men dreamed of personal glory: the military genius and wealthy rural "upstart" Marius, and Sulla, penniless and debauched but of aristocratic birth. Men of exceptional vision, courage, cunning, and ruthless ambition, separately they faced the insurmountable opposition of powerful, vindictive foes. Yet allied they could answer the treachery of rivals, lovers, enemy generals, and senatorial vipers with…


Book cover of The Silver Pigs: A Marcus Didius Falco Mystery

Hannah Cornwell Author Of Pax and the Politics of Peace: Republic to Principate

From my list on ancient Rome and its empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Roman historian (associate professor at the University of Birmingham, UK), who’s particularly interested in understanding the nature of Roman power and how Rome’s presence and impact within the Mediterranean changed over time. I’m dyslexic and I think this, in part, might explain why I am quite a visual learner and find material culture a really valuable way to engage with the past, just as much as through written sources.  I really hope that my selection of books offers you various different (and perhaps new) ways to think about ancient Rome!

Hannah's book list on ancient Rome and its empire

Hannah Cornwell Why did Hannah love this book?

I love historical detective novels, and this one, set in AD 70, is a great way to immerse yourself in the Roman world. Lindsey Davis does her research, creating a real, lived-in space that makes the ancient past feel alive and present.

Another big plus is that it’s hilariously entertaining: I’m regularly guffawing out loud while reading it. Best of all? It’s the first book in a fantastic series, and I’ve enjoyed following private instigator Marcus Didius Falco, and then later his daughter, Flavia Alba, over a number of adventures across the city of Rome and the wider Empire.

By Lindsey Davis,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Silver Pigs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rome. AD 70. Private eye Marcus Didius Falco knows his way round the eternal city. He can handle the muggers, the police and most of the girls. But one fresh 16 year old, Sosia Camillina, finds him a case no Roman should be getting his nose into . . . Sosia's uncle is a Senator with suspicions. Some friends, Romans and countryment are doing a highly profitable, if highly illegal, trade in silver ingots or pigs. For Falco it's the start of a murderous trail that leads far beyond the seven hills. To a godforsaken land called Britain, to Emperor…


Book cover of The Landmark Julius Caesar: The Complete Works: Gallic War, Civil War, Alexandrian War, African War, and Spanish War

Paul Hay Author Of Saeculum: Defining Historical Eras in Ancient Roman Thought

From my list on for aspiring Roman history buffs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of Roman history who teaches and writes about the social world of the ancient Romans. I’m drawn to the topic of ancient Rome because it seems simultaneously familiar and alien: the people always “feel real” to me, but the many cultural differences between Rome and modern America prod me to contemplate those aspects and values of my own world that I take for granted. I enjoy the high moral stakes of the political machinations as well as the aesthetic beauty of the artistic creations of Rome. And the shadow of Rome still looms large in American culture, so I find the study of antiquity endlessly instructive.

Paul's book list on for aspiring Roman history buffs

Paul Hay Why did Paul love this book?

I think this is the single best edition of Julius Caesar’s original compositions: the footnotes, maps, battle diagrams, and appendices offer a treasure trove of information for the Roman history buff without overwhelming the casual reader.

(I had a particular interest in Appendix C, on “Roman Calendars, Dates, and Time,” where I learned that the main reason winter operations rarely occurred in ancient warfare was the inability to feed their animals.)

The translations struck me as contemporary sounding yet never sacrifice accuracy for clarity. I recommend this book as a perfect gateway for the fan of ancient Rome to enter the realm of authentic ancient Roman literature.

By Kurt A. Raaflaub (editor), Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Landmark Julius Caesar is the definitive edition of the five works that chronicle the mil­itary campaigns of Julius Caesar. Together, these five narratives present a comprehensive picture of military and political developments leading to the collapse of the Roman republic and the advent of the Roman Empire.
 
The Gallic War is Caesar’s own account of his two invasions of Britain and of conquering most of what is today France, Belgium, and Switzerland. The Civil War describes the conflict in the following year which, after the death of his chief rival, Pompey, and the defeat of Pompey’s heirs and supporters,…


Book cover of The Spartacus War

Paul Hay Author Of Saeculum: Defining Historical Eras in Ancient Roman Thought

From my list on for aspiring Roman history buffs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of Roman history who teaches and writes about the social world of the ancient Romans. I’m drawn to the topic of ancient Rome because it seems simultaneously familiar and alien: the people always “feel real” to me, but the many cultural differences between Rome and modern America prod me to contemplate those aspects and values of my own world that I take for granted. I enjoy the high moral stakes of the political machinations as well as the aesthetic beauty of the artistic creations of Rome. And the shadow of Rome still looms large in American culture, so I find the study of antiquity endlessly instructive.

Paul's book list on for aspiring Roman history buffs

Paul Hay Why did Paul love this book?

Like many others, I have long been fascinated by the story of Spartacus and his fight for freedom (a story that has resonated with many activists and advocates around the world).

Strauss has a wonderful prose style that balances scholarly rigor with clarity for a popular audience. I still picture Kirk Douglas in my mind when I think about Spartacus, but reading this book also gave me a much fuller understanding of the sociopolitical context of this slave revolt.

By Barry Strauss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of the most famous revolt of the ancient world, and its legendary leader, Spartacus the Gladiator.

Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who started a prison breakout with 74 men, armed with kitchen knives. It grew into a full scale rebellion against Rome, the most famous slave revolt in history. With an army of gladiators, ex-slaves and other desperadoes, he managed to defeat a succession of Roman armies and bring the Republic to its knees.


Book cover of Mosaics of Knowledge: Representing Information in the Roman World

Paul Hay Author Of Saeculum: Defining Historical Eras in Ancient Roman Thought

From my list on for aspiring Roman history buffs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of Roman history who teaches and writes about the social world of the ancient Romans. I’m drawn to the topic of ancient Rome because it seems simultaneously familiar and alien: the people always “feel real” to me, but the many cultural differences between Rome and modern America prod me to contemplate those aspects and values of my own world that I take for granted. I enjoy the high moral stakes of the political machinations as well as the aesthetic beauty of the artistic creations of Rome. And the shadow of Rome still looms large in American culture, so I find the study of antiquity endlessly instructive.

Paul's book list on for aspiring Roman history buffs

Paul Hay Why did Paul love this book?

One of my areas of scholarly interest is Roman intellectual history; I am curious about how Romans thought about their world and how this thinking changed over time (often through the introduction of new concepts or terms).

This interest allows me to examine the ways in which the Romans, at a cognitive level, simply understood information differently from how we do today. Riggsby analyzes various forms of information technology (maps, lists, tables, etc.) that seem basic and obvious, yet he reveals how rare it was for the Romans to deploy them (and usually in quite context-specific ways, such as military duty rosters).

This book really helped me question my assumptions about information literacy and how minds organize data, so that I am more aware of the cultural factors at work.

By Andrew Riggsby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today's information technology often seems to take on a life of its own, spreading into every part of our lives. In the Roman world things were different. Technologies were limited to small, scattered social groups.

By examining five technologies-lists, tables, weights and measures, artistic perspective, and mapping-Mosaics of Knowledge demonstrates how the Romans broke up a world we might have imagined them to unite. That is, the recording, storage, and recall of information in physical media might be expected to bind together persons distant in time and space. More often than not, however, Roman instances serve to create or reinforce…


Book cover of Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day

Jennifer Burke Author Of Sub Rosa: A Valerius Mystery

From my list on bringing Ancient Rome alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved history ever since I was a kid when I first had the realisation that it was made up of stories. Ancient Rome has always fascinated me, not the battles or the emperors or the big picture stuff, but the daily lives of the ordinary people. You only need to read some of the rude graffiti from Pompeii to realise that people have never really changed where it counts! I studied English and History at university, neither of them as thoroughly as I could have, but at least now when people ask me what I’d ever use an Arts degree for, I can point to my book. 

Jennifer's book list on bringing Ancient Rome alive

Jennifer Burke Why did Jennifer love this book?

There are, of course, lots of amazing non-fiction resources on Ancient Rome, but I love the way this one is written as a travel guide, as though you’re a tourist clutching a copy of Lonely Planet.

This is a fun and accessible book, easy to dip in and out of, but also great to read in one hit. There aren’t any emperors or empire-defining battles in this one, just walking tours of the city, tips on where to eat and what to see, and where to go for shopping and entertainment.

The only disappointing thing about this book is the realisation that time travel isn’t actually a thing. 

Book cover of Cooking Apicius: Roman Recipes for Today

Jennifer Burke Author Of Sub Rosa: A Valerius Mystery

From my list on bringing Ancient Rome alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved history ever since I was a kid when I first had the realisation that it was made up of stories. Ancient Rome has always fascinated me, not the battles or the emperors or the big picture stuff, but the daily lives of the ordinary people. You only need to read some of the rude graffiti from Pompeii to realise that people have never really changed where it counts! I studied English and History at university, neither of them as thoroughly as I could have, but at least now when people ask me what I’d ever use an Arts degree for, I can point to my book. 

Jennifer's book list on bringing Ancient Rome alive

Jennifer Burke Why did Jennifer love this book?

If you want to know how the Ancient Romans lived, what better way to do it than eat the same food?

This is a great little recipe book. Sally Grainger has taken a bunch of Apicius’s Ancient Roman recipes, which are notoriously vague when it comes to actual instructions, and put them together so that you can recreate Roman cuisine in your own kitchen.

I’m not brave enough to have tried some recipes, and there are others I’m still not sure about (looking at you, garum sauce!), but the deep-fried honey fritters are amazing! 

By Sally Grainger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sally Grainger has gathered, in one convenient volume, her modern interpretations of 64 of the recipes in the original text. This is not ‘recipes inspired by the old Romans’ but rather a serious effort to convert the extremely gnomic instructions in the Latin into something that can be reproduced in the modern kitchen which actually gives some idea of what the Romans might have eaten. Sally Grainger, therefore, has taken great pains to suggest means of replicating the particular Roman taste for fermented fish sauce. It may sound unpleasant, but actually is not too far removed from the fish sauces…


Book cover of Nero: The Man Behind the Myth

Humphry Knipe Author Of The Nero Prediction

From my list on Nero (the man and the myth).

Why am I passionate about this?

The deeper I looked into Nero’s history the more references I found to astrology about which I knew nothing except that it was a “pseudo science”. Then an idea hit me like the proverbial lightning bolt. It didn’t matter that astrology was mere superstition. All that mattered was that Nero and his contemporaries believed in it. Nero’s birthday and time are known so it must be possible to re-create his horoscope. With this mysterious wheel in hand, anyone familiar with ancient astrological lore should be able to make some very intelligent guesses about what Nero’s astrologer would have been advising his imperial client on perhaps a daily basis.

Humphry's book list on Nero (the man and the myth)

Humphry Knipe Why did Humphry love this book?

Written by a veteran London Times journalist this exciting book reads like a fast paced thriller. What I found most interesting is his detailed description of Nero’s most notorious action, the murder of his mother. He writes “It is in the realm of abnormal psychology that an explanation may lie.” He is clearly unaware that what best explains the spooky full moon melodrama played out on a cosmic stage was the blind faith both Nero and his mother had in astrology (see Nero's astrology chart here). 

By Richard Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Richard Holland's biography looks at Nero from a different perspective and encourages readers to see the man rather than the monster.


Book cover of Caracalla: A Military Biography

Alex Gough Author Of Caesar’s Soldier

From my list on biographies of powerful and important Ancient Romans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've had a passion for all things Roman since visiting various ancient Roman sites around Britain as a child with school and with my dad. Over the last fifteen years I've been writing novels set in Ancient Rome. I now have ten published Roman historical fiction novels to my name spanning three series, as well as a short story collection and a novella. My Carbo of Rome series, set in the reign of Tiberius, follows a traumatised veteran of the legion as he tries to retire in peace in Rome, but is constantly dragged into the criminal underworld of the poorest parts of the city.

Alex's book list on biographies of powerful and important Ancient Romans

Alex Gough Why did Alex love this book?

Caracalla was described by Gibbon in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as the “Common Enemy of Mankind.”

But much of what is known about this third-century Emperor was written by Cassius Dio, a Senator who served under him, and hated him. Caracalla certainly committed his fair share of evil deeds, but arguably not to any greater extent than some Emperors who are lauded today such as Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, and Constantine.

Ilkka Syvanne, a Finnish history professor, attempts to rehabilitate Caracalla’s reputation, with mixed success. You may not agree with all his arguments and conclusions, but you will learn a lot about a fascinating Emperor.

My own copy is covered with notes and highlights as a vital source for my Imperial Assassin series. 

By Ilkka Syvanne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Caracalla has one of the worst reputations of any Roman Emperor. Many ancient historians were very hostile and Edward Gibbon later dubbed him 'the common enemy of mankind'. Yet his reign was considered by at least one Roman author to be the apogee of the Roman Empire. Guilty of many murders and massacres (including his own brother, ex-wife and daughter) he was, however, popular with the army, improving their pay and cultivating the image of sharing their hardships. Surprisingly this is the first full-length biography of this colourful character in English. Ilkka Syvanne explains how the biased ancient sources in…


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