100 books like The Later Roman Empire 284-602

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Here are 100 books that The Later Roman Empire 284-602 fans have personally recommended if you like The Later Roman Empire 284-602. 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 Last Great War of Antiquity

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

David Alan Parnell Why did David love this book?

Between 602 and 628 AD, the Byzantine Empire fought a long and grueling war with their neighbors and rivals to the east, the Sassanian Persian Empire.

The Byzantines were on the back foot for most of the war and lost a majority of their territory to the Persian onslaught. But at the eleventh hour, the emperor Heraclius led a daring counterattack deep into the Persian heartland. This is the best and most comprehensive account of one of the most dramatic wars of the entire early Byzantine period.

Howard-Johnston makes brilliant use of difficult and scattered sources to tell the story. His account of the war showcases the resilience of Byzantine institutions. I couldn’t put it down.

By James Howard-Johnston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The last and longest war of classical antiquity was fought in the early seventh century. It was ideologically charged and fought along the full length of the Persian-Roman frontier, drawing in all the available resources and great powers of the steppe world. The conflict raged on an unprecedented scale, and its end brought the classical phase of history to a close. Despite all this, it has left a conspicuous gap in the history of warfare. This book aims to finally
fill that gap.

The war opened in summer 603 when Persian armies launched co-ordinated attacks across the Roman frontier. Twenty-five…


Book cover of Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

David Alan Parnell Why did David love this book?

The city of Ravenna in northeastern Italy saw many important developments, serving as a capital of Roman emperors, then of Ostrogothic kings, and finally of the governors dispatched by the medieval Roman or Byzantine emperors in Constantinople.

This book is a brilliantly crafted and lavishly illustrated history of the city. It also contains a series of vivid micro-biographies of bishops and governors. My favorite feature of the book is that it offers insight into the lives of ordinary citizens via archival records. These are in sections with titles that begin “Living in Ravenna” and provide important waypoints to guide the reader through the history of the city.

By Judith Herrin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A riveting history of the city that led the West out of the ruins of the Roman Empire

At the end of the fourth century, as the power of Rome faded and Constantinople became the seat of empire, a new capital city was rising in the West. Here, in Ravenna on the coast of Italy, Arian Goths and Catholic Romans competed to produce an unrivaled concentration of buildings and astonishing mosaics. For three centuries, the city attracted scholars, lawyers, craftsmen, and religious luminaries, becoming a true cultural and political capital. Bringing this extraordinary history marvelously to life, Judith Herrin rewrites…


Book cover of Justinian

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

David Alan Parnell Why did David love this book?

This work of historical fiction attracted me to the study of the Byzantine Empire.

I read it as a first-year university student and was astonished at its story of intrigue, mutilation, and murder in a medieval, Christian Roman Empire. Fans of medieval fantasy such as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series might be drawn to this riveting and dramatic tale.

This story of the life of the volcanic and unpredictable emperor Justinian II (r. 685-695 and 705-711 A.D.) welcomed me to the Byzantine world, and perhaps it will do the same for you!

By H. N. Turteltaub,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Hugo Award-winner offers a fictional account of the violent reign of seventh-century Roman Emperor Justinian II, capturing the drama of his youthful rise to the throne, his expansion of Roman rule, and his eventual overthrow. Reprint.


Book cover of Justinian II of Byzantium

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

David Alan Parnell Why did David love this book?

After reading Turteltaub’s Justinian, I was determined to discover whether the details of the life of Justinian II which were included in that work of historical fiction were history or fiction.

This book, the first full treatment of the emperor’s life in English by a modern historian, was where I turned. The book is short and engaging and is an excellent example of rehabilitation.

Justinian II received a bad reputation from his contemporaries and successors, and Head shows how they had incentive to portray the emperor in this way and offers a more sympathetic take on his life. This is a classic example of the difficulties modern historians face in trying to evaluate the sources we have for the Byzantine Empire. 

By Constance Head,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the first complete book on the Emperor Justinian II, who despite having had one of the most colorful and tempestuous careers of any historical figure, remains largely enigmatic. Ruler of the great Byzantine Empire from 685 to 695, Justinian was deposed by the usurper Leontios, who severed the emperor's nose in a brutal warning to him never again to return to Constantinople. Defeated, disfigured, and alone, Justinian wandered among barbarian tribes beyond the far borders of the Empire. Finally, after 10 years in exile he gathered together an army of Bulgar mercenaries and returned victorious to Constantinople where…


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

Lilith Saintcrow Author Of A Flame in the North

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Lilith Saintcrow Why did Lilith love this book?

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

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

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

By Edward Gibbon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Book cover of Failure of Empire: Valens and the Roman State in the Fourth Century A.D.

Charles Matson Odahl Author Of Constantine and the Christian Empire

From my list on the 4th century Roman world.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Charles' book list on the 4th century Roman world

Charles Matson Odahl Why did Charles love this book?

Dr. Lenski, an accomplished Late Antiquity scholar, provides a comprehensive biography of the emperor Valens and his troubled reign (A.D. 365-378). He surveys his political, military, economic, and religious policies in the eastern Roman world racked by religious divisions and barbarian invasions. Thorough and carefully argued.

By Noel Lenski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Failure of Empire is the first comprehensive biography of the Roman emperor Valens and his troubled reign (A.D. 364-78). Valens will always be remembered for his spectacular defeat and death at the hands of the Goths in the Battle of Adrianople. This singular misfortune won him a front-row seat among history's great losers. By the time he was killed, his empire had been coming unglued for several years: the Goths had overrun the Balkans; Persians, Isaurians, and Saracens were threatening the east; the economy was in disarray; and pagans and Christians alike had been exiled, tortured, and executed in his…


Book cover of Byzantium: The Empire of New Rome

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

From my list on understanding the Byzantine empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Warren's book list on understanding the Byzantine empire

Warren Treadgold Why did Warren love this book?

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

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

By Cyril Mango,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Book cover of Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Denny Sissom Why did Denny love this book?

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

By Lesley Adkins, Roy Adkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


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

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Faith L. Justice Why did Faith love this book?

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

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

By Kenneth G. Holum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Book cover of Fourteen Byzantine Rulers: The Chronographia of Michael Psellus

Jonathan Harris Author Of Byzantium and the Crusades

From my list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Jonathan's book list on Byzantium from superpower to downfall

Jonathan Harris Why did Jonathan love this book?

I love this book because it is the personal memoirs of a Byzantine statesman, Michael Psellus (c.1022-c.1080), who lived through the dramatic reversal of fortune of the mid-eleventh century. He tells the story through the lives of the emperors and empresses who ruled during his lifetime. To appreciate Psellus’ work, it is better to skip the first two biographies which are largely based on hearsay, and to start with the account of Romanos III (1028-1034). As the author himself says ‘I both saw Romanos and on one occasion actually talked to him.’

As Psellus rose through the ranks of the palace bureaucracy, he became the secretary and close adviser to one emperor after another. He describes events as he himself witnessed them, recording conversations and anecdotes, often illuminating the personal qualities and failings of the imperial incumbents. The work tails off at the end as Psellus reaches the time of…

By Michael Psellus, E.R.A. Sewter (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fourteen Byzantine Rulers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This chronicle of the Byzantine Empire, beginning in 1025, shows a profound understanding of the power politics that characterized the empire and led to its decline.


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