96 books like The Golden Ass

By Apuleius, Sarah Ruden (translator),

Here are 96 books that The Golden Ass fans have personally recommended if you like The Golden Ass. 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 Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Who am I?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

Thucydides, along with Herodotus a generation earlier, created history as we know it. Herodotus added to narrative the analysis of cause: ‘why’ as well as ‘what’. Thucydides added different levels of causation: the immediate reasons for the war and the long-term causes. He studied how the dynamics of fear and power drive states into warfare. He took the gods out of history (it is hard to remember how radical that was). He studied the corruption of moral language and behaviour under the pressure of conflict. In Pericles’ Funeral Speech he set out the theory of Athenian democracy (Pericles would have denied that our own society was democratic—a challenging thought). Thucydides’ eye is not exactly cold, but it is unblinking: no historian seems so free of illusion.

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thucydides called his account of two decades of war between Athens and Sparta "a possession for all time," and indeed it is the first and still the most famous work in the Western historical tradition.

Considered essential reading for generals, statesmen, and liberally educated citizens for more than 2,000 years, The Peloponnesian War is a mine of military, moral, political, and philosophical wisdom.

However, this classic book has long presented obstacles to the uninitiated reader. Written centuries before the rise of modern historiography, Thucydides' narrative is not continuous or linear. His authoritative chronicle of what he considered the greatest war…


Book cover of The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe

Bryan Le Beau Author Of The Story of the Salem Witch Trials

From my list on the story behind the Salem Witch Trials.

Who am I?

A native of Massachusetts and married to a descendent of two of the accused, the Salem witch trials have long fascinated me. Armed with a Ph.D. in American studies from New York University – focused on American history, literature, and religion – a significant portion of my academic career has been devoted to research, publications, classes, and public lectures on the Salem witch trials, reflected in the third edition of my book, The Story of the Salem Witch Trials. The book is only one of several books and many articles I have published on various aspects of American cultural history, many of which relate in some way to what happened in Salem in 1692.  

Bryan's book list on the story behind the Salem Witch Trials

Bryan Le Beau Why did Bryan love this book?

Brian Levack is the leading authority on the history of witch-hunts in Europe.

Anyone seeking to fully understand the events of 1692 in Salem, needs to begin with a study of the 250 years of witch-hunts in Europe that preceded the outbreak in New England, which came late in the game but followed what occurred in many ways what preceded it. 

Levack’s book, now in its fourth edition, is the best source on this subject.  It includes information on the Salem witch trials in context of what happened in Europe. 

By Brian P. Levack,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, now in its fourth edition, is the perfect resource for both students and scholars of the witch-hunts written by one of the leading names in the field. For those starting out in their studies of witch-beliefs and witchcraft trials, Brian Levack provides a concise survey of this complex and fascinating topic, while for more seasoned scholars the scholarship is brought right up to date. This new edition includes the most recent research on children, gender, male witches and demonic possession as well as broadening the exploration of the geographical distribution of witch prosecutions to…


Book cover of Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Martha Rampton Author Of Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000

From my list on the history of European magic and witchcraft.

Who am I?

I’m a scholar, a teacher, and an activist for gender equity. I earned my Ph.D. in medieval history at the University of Virginia. Since then, I've taught at small liberal arts colleges where I’ve had the flexibility to diversify the courses I teach. Among those courses are ancient, medieval, and Islamic history, the History of Magic and Witchcraft, Latin, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. My current gig is at Pacific University Oregon where I established a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, founded the Center for Gender Equity, and developed an exchange program with Lady Doak college in India for exploring issues regarding gender. I've recently published two books on the intersection of magic, gender, and ritual.

Martha's book list on the history of European magic and witchcraft

Martha Rampton Why did Martha love this book?

In 1575, the Roman Inquisition came across some disturbing rumors of villagers who called themselves benandanti, meaning “good walkers.” These men and women of the agrarian district of the Friuli in northeastern Italy were thought to be special because, as the folk narrative goes, they were born with the amniotic membrane (or the “caul”) covering their heads. When the individuals reached adulthood, on certain Thursday nights of the year, an angel summoned them from sleep, and, travelling out of their bodies in the form of mice, cats, and other small animals, they flew into the clouds to fight malevolent witches (malandanti). The benandanti fought with bundles of fennel while the witches wielded sorghum stocks. If the “good walkers” were successful in defending the crops, it would be a good year; if the witches won, the harvest would be abysmal and the witchy “evil walkers” would destroy the wine,…

By Carlo Ginzburg, John Tedeschi (translator), Anne C. Tedeschi (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on research in the Inquisitorial archives of Northern Italy, The Night Battles recounts the story of a peasant fertility cult centered on the benandanti, literally, "good walkers." These men and women described fighting extraordinary ritual battles against witches and wizards in order to protect their harvests. While their bodies slept, the souls of the benandanti were able to fly into the night sky to engage in epic spiritual combat for the good of the village. Carlo Ginzburg looks at how the Inquisition's officers interpreted these tales to support their world view that the peasants were in fact practicing sorcery.…


Book cover of The Saga of the Volsungs

Martha Rampton Author Of Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000

From my list on the history of European magic and witchcraft.

Who am I?

I’m a scholar, a teacher, and an activist for gender equity. I earned my Ph.D. in medieval history at the University of Virginia. Since then, I've taught at small liberal arts colleges where I’ve had the flexibility to diversify the courses I teach. Among those courses are ancient, medieval, and Islamic history, the History of Magic and Witchcraft, Latin, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. My current gig is at Pacific University Oregon where I established a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, founded the Center for Gender Equity, and developed an exchange program with Lady Doak college in India for exploring issues regarding gender. I've recently published two books on the intersection of magic, gender, and ritual.

Martha's book list on the history of European magic and witchcraft

Martha Rampton Why did Martha love this book?

The Volsung saga is a heroic Old Norse tale about the origins and decline of the royal clan of the Volsungs and the fantastic deeds of Sigurd the dragon-slayer. Snorri Sturluson, an Icelandic poet and historian, recorded the story around 1220, but the material dates to events that took place centuries before. The saga is full of beings and happenings that would have been considered demonic in Christianized Europe, such as giants, werewolves, sorcery, magic wolf skins, and the consumption of dragons' blood to learn the language of birds. However, within the mythic Norse world, these things were otherworldly and magical, but not necessarily malevolent. The saga was a source for J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings—right down to the dwarfs, a cursed magical ring, and a treasure-guarding dragon—and an inspiration for Richard Wagner's epic music drama, the Ring Cycle. Also, the story of the…

By Anonymous, Jesse L. Byock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The epic Viking Age stories that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien and Wagner's Ring cycle

Written in thirteenth-century Iceland but based on ancient Norse poetry cycles, The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend and sheer human drama. It tells of the cursed treasure of the Rhine, a sword reforged and a magic ring of power, and at its heart are the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires magical knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries. One of the great books of world literature, the saga is an unforgettable tale of princely jealousy, unrequited love, greed, vengeance and…


Book cover of The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250

Martha Rampton Author Of Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000

From my list on the history of European magic and witchcraft.

Who am I?

I’m a scholar, a teacher, and an activist for gender equity. I earned my Ph.D. in medieval history at the University of Virginia. Since then, I've taught at small liberal arts colleges where I’ve had the flexibility to diversify the courses I teach. Among those courses are ancient, medieval, and Islamic history, the History of Magic and Witchcraft, Latin, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. My current gig is at Pacific University Oregon where I established a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, founded the Center for Gender Equity, and developed an exchange program with Lady Doak college in India for exploring issues regarding gender. I've recently published two books on the intersection of magic, gender, and ritual.

Martha's book list on the history of European magic and witchcraft

Martha Rampton Why did Martha love this book?

Robert Moore’s history of the growth of institutional persecution in the tenth through thirteen centuries is a classic in medieval history. Moore demonstrates that the oppression of various “undesirables” in society, such as Jews, heretics, lepers, and homosexuals, fits into a pattern of state-building. Particular groups were not targeted for harassment, expropriation, segregation, expulsion, and mass execution because they caused a real threat. On the contrary, they were defenseless, and by playing on common people’s ignorance and stirring up fear, the centralized powers of state and church were able to scapegoat those groups as polluted, deviant, and dangerous.

Having established the powerless as the “other,” the ruling elite were then able to bring them down and appear to be the saviors of the Christian social order. This book does not focus on witches per se, but it explains how in the central Middle Ages governing mechanisms and bureaucratic procedures created…

By Robert I. Moore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Formation of a Persecuting Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The tenth to the thirteenth centuries in Europe saw the appearance of popular heresy and the establishment of the Inquisition, the expropriation and mass murder of Jews, and the propagation of elaborate measures to segregate lepers from the healthy and curtail their civil rights. These were traditionally seen as distinct and separate developments, and explained in terms of the problems which their victims presented to medieval society. In this stimulating book, first published in 1987 and now widely regarded as a a classic in medieval history, R. I. Moore argues that the coincidences in the treatment of these and other…


Book cover of The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found

Josiah Osgood Author Of Rome and the Making of a World State, 150 BCE–20 CE

From my list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome.

Who am I?

I am a historian of ancient Rome. My interest was sparked in my high school Latin classes. On my first trip to Rome, several years later, I truly fell in love. I could see the famed orator delivering his fierce attacks against Catiline amid the grand temples of the Forum and its surrounding hills. I could imagine myself standing in a crowd, listening. In Washington DC, where I now live and teach at Georgetown University, there are classical buildings all around to keep me inspired. I have written a number of books about Roman political history and have also translated the biographer Suetonius and the historian Sallust.

Josiah's book list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome

Josiah Osgood Why did Josiah love this book?

No city of the Roman world survives more fully than Pompeii in southern Italy. Baths, bars, houses, and temples have been recovered, along with pots and pans, foodstuffs, medical instruments, and skeletons with evidence of an appallingly high rate of disease. For a knowledgeable and witty guide to the city you can’t beat Mary Beard, who helps us see it was not all marble columns and pretty paintings. I especially love her description of the House of the Tragic Poet, in which Edward Bulwer-Lytton set an early scene of his novel The Last Days of Pompeii, a dinner party hosted by the character Glaucus. Beard reveals that just behind this house was a cloth-processing workshop in which the main agent used would have been human urine. “In the background to Glaucus’ elegant dinner party,” writes Beard, “there must have been a distinctly nasty odor.”        

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pompeii is the most famous archaeological site in the world, visited by more than two million people each year. Yet it is also one of the most puzzling, with an intriguing and sometimes violent history, from the sixth century BCE to the present day.

Destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 CE, the ruins of Pompeii offer the best evidence we have of life in the Roman Empire. But the eruptions are only part of the story. In The Fires of Vesuvius, acclaimed historian Mary Beard makes sense of the remains. She explores what kind of town it was-more like Calcutta or…


Book cover of The Venus Throw

Josiah Osgood Author Of Rome and the Making of a World State, 150 BCE–20 CE

From my list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome.

Who am I?

I am a historian of ancient Rome. My interest was sparked in my high school Latin classes. On my first trip to Rome, several years later, I truly fell in love. I could see the famed orator delivering his fierce attacks against Catiline amid the grand temples of the Forum and its surrounding hills. I could imagine myself standing in a crowd, listening. In Washington DC, where I now live and teach at Georgetown University, there are classical buildings all around to keep me inspired. I have written a number of books about Roman political history and have also translated the biographer Suetonius and the historian Sallust.

Josiah's book list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome

Josiah Osgood Why did Josiah love this book?

Mystery writer Steven Saylor’s recreations of late Republican Rome are the best out there. The Venus Throw finds Saylor’s detective, Gordianus the Finder, investigating the death of an Egyptian ambassador visiting the city. Through Gordianus’ search we meet a range of Romans known from historical sources including a noble woman, a love poet, and a eunuch priest of the eastern goddess Cybele. Saylor captures the variety of the city’s inhabitants and its places. You step into elegant houses, a dive bar with sour wine, and public baths where the floor is “heated to just the right temperature by the hot-water pipes underneath.” The Venus Throw is not the first entry in the Gordianus series but you can start with it, as I did, and then read all the others. One of these books’ many strengths is attention to the lives of slaves.

By Steven Saylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On a chill January evening in 56 B.C. , two strange visitors to Rome--an Egyptian ambassador and a eunuch priest--seek out Gordianus the Finder whose specialty is solving murders. But the ambassador, a philosopher named Dio, has come to ask for something Gordianus cannot give--help in staying alive. Before the night is out, he will be murdered.

Now Gordianus begins his most dangerous case. Hired to investigate Dio's death by a beautiful woman with a scandalous reputation, he will follow a trail of political intrigue into the highest circles of power and the city's most hidden arenas of debauchery. There…


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.

Who am I?

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 The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire

Josiah Osgood Author Of Rome and the Making of a World State, 150 BCE–20 CE

From my list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome.

Who am I?

I am a historian of ancient Rome. My interest was sparked in my high school Latin classes. On my first trip to Rome, several years later, I truly fell in love. I could see the famed orator delivering his fierce attacks against Catiline amid the grand temples of the Forum and its surrounding hills. I could imagine myself standing in a crowd, listening. In Washington DC, where I now live and teach at Georgetown University, there are classical buildings all around to keep me inspired. I have written a number of books about Roman political history and have also translated the biographer Suetonius and the historian Sallust.

Josiah's book list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome

Josiah Osgood Why did Josiah love this book?

This biography of the second century CE celebrity doctor Galen is one of the most surprising and revealing books I’ve ever read about Rome. A native of Asia Minor who got his start treating gladiators, Galen came to Rome and vied for prominence with the city’s intellectuals. By his own account, he wowed Romans with his skill in diagnosis and public vivisections of animals as gruesome as anything you’d see in the arena. Something like one-eighth of all surviving classical Greek literature is made up of Galen’s writings. Susan Mattern excavates this vast body of material to recover Galen’s own astonishing career, his interactions with his patients (including the emperor Marcus Aurelius), and his observations of terrible scenes of Roman life such as a dangerous copper mine, famine in the countryside, and a major fire in 192 that burned down much of the imperial capital.

By Susan P. Mattern,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Galen of Pergamum (A.D. 129 - ca. 216) began his remarkable career tending to wounded gladiators in provincial Asia Minor. Later in life he achieved great distinction as one of a small circle of court physicians to the family of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, at the very heart of Roman society. Susan Mattern's The Prince of Medicine offers the first authoritative biography in English of this brilliant, audacious, and profoundly influential figure.

Like many Greek intellectuals living in the high Roman Empire, Galen was a prodigious polymath, writing on subjects as varied as ethics and eczema, grammar and gout. Indeed, he…


Book cover of The Symposium

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Who am I?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

The participants at a drinking party disclose their ideas about love: a doctor is a bit pompous, Aristophanes tells a wacky pseudo-myth, Socrates unveils ‘the truth about love,’ which has supposedly been revealed to him by a priestess. "Plato was mad," an eminent scholar told me once. "But he was a genius." "Maybe, but a mad genius." Well, the Platonic theory of love does seem miles from our own experience, but there are extraordinary insights along the way—into the creative impulse, sexuality, and human psychology. It may have influenced Freud. It is also a literary treat, with details that you would expect more in a novel than a work of philosophy. And after Socrates seems to have wrapped things up, Alcibiades crashes in tipsy …

By Plato, Christopher Gill (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Perhaps the most entertaining work of philosophy ever written ... the first really systematic and serious attempt to say what love is' John Armstrong, Guardian

In the course of a lively drinking party, a group of Athenian intellectuals exchange views on eros, or desire. From their conversation emerges a series of subtle reflections on gender roles, sex in society and the sublimation of basic human instincts. The discussion culminates in a radical challenge to conventional views by Plato's mentor, Socrates, who advocates transcendence through spiritual love. The Symposium is a deft interweaving of different viewpoints and ideas about the nature…


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