100 books like The Venus Throw

By Steven Saylor,

Here are 100 books that The Venus Throw fans have personally recommended if you like The Venus Throw. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Golden Ass

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 narrator is turned into a donkey and undergoes various tribulations before recovering his human form. The only Latin novel to survive complete, it is a unique curiosity shop of diverse treasures: fantastical, comic, bawdy, beautiful, violent, and finally—biggest surprise of alldevoutly religious. "It smells of incense and urine," Flaubert said. Much of the work consists of tales related by the characters whom the donkey comes across, of which the longest is Cupid and Psyche, a fabulously rococo display of exquisite and enchanted storytelling. The virtuoso beauty of the description of Cupid’s wings is unbeatable. "Reader, listen up: you’ll love it," says the narrator at the start. You will. Again, go for Ruden’s translation.

By Apuleius, Sarah Ruden (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Acclaimed poet and translator Sarah Ruden brilliantly brings Apuleius's comic tale to life

"A rollicking ride well worth the fare, . . . marvelously, sidesplittingly ridiculous. . . . It's a story, not a homily, and Sarah Ruden has re-bestowed it with artful aplomb."-Tracy Lee Simmons, National Review

"A cause for celebration. . . . We owe Sarah Ruden a great debt of thanks for [this] English translation that is no less inventive, varied, and surprising than the original."-G. W. Bowersock, New York Review of Books

With accuracy, wit, and intelligence, this remarkable new translation of The Golden Ass breathes…


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 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.


Poetic Justice

By Fiona Forsyth,

Book cover of Poetic Justice

Fiona Forsyth Author Of Blood and Shadows

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Rome nerd Teacher Notebook hoarder Thwarted thespian

Fiona's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In the first century, Rome’s celebrated love poet Ovid finds himself in exile, courtesy of an irate Emperor, in the far-flung town of Tomis. Appalled at being banished to a barbarous region at the very edge of the Empire, Ovid soon discovers that he has a far more urgent - and potentially perilous - issue to address. A killer is at large in Tomis.

Somebody is slaughtering animals in a parody of ritual, and the Governor’s advisor Marcus Avitius is under pressure to apprehend the perpetrator. When the killer progresses from animal to human victims, Avitius reluctantly allies himself to the mercurial, tipsy Ovid.

Poetic Justice

By Fiona Forsyth,

What is this book about?

‘Poetic and haunting: Forsyth provides a captivating glimpse into the life of one of Ancient Rome's greatest writers.’ Steven Veerapen, author of the Simon Danforth Mysteries

9 CE.

Rome’s celebrated love poet Ovid finds himself in exile, courtesy of an irate Emperor, in the far-flung town of Tomis.

Appalled at being banished to a barbarous region at the very edge of the Empire, Ovid soon discovers that he has a far more urgent - and potentially perilous - issue to address. A killer is at large in Tomis.

Somebody is slaughtering animals in a parody of ritual, and the Governor’s…


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 Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

Cass Morris Author Of From Unseen Fire

From my list on ancient Roman society.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and educator working in central Virginia, and I’ve been in love with the ancient world since my first Latin class back in the seventh grade. I’ve always been interested in social history more than just the chronology of battles and the deeds of famous men, so my research looks for sources that can illuminate daily life and the viewpoints of marginalized populations. I hold a BA in English and History from the College of William and Mary and an MLitt from Mary Baldwin University.

Cass' book list on ancient Roman society

Cass Morris Why did Cass love this book?

Duncan walks the reader through the generations leading up to the fall of the Republic, examining the political, economic, and social conditions that led to civil war and, eventually, the transition to Empire. While Duncan provides biographies of key figures like the Gracchi brothers, he also sets them in the context of their world: its constraints, its faith, its competing pressures. The Storm Before the Storm opens a window into an under-examined period of history, one which has echoes in modern-day politics.

By Mike Duncan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome's model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable and unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled:…


Book cover of Imperium

Fiona Forsyth Author Of Rome's End

From my list on political shenanigans in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

Ever since I stumbled through the “Early Roman Empire” paper in Finals using I, Claudius by Robert Graves, I have held a deep admiration of those authors who can portray the complex world of Rome with such authority. I went on to teach the Greeks and Romans for 25 years, so I have grown to love these characters—Caesar is a philandering schemer, Augustus has ice for blood, Livia is a skilled practitioner of poisons… How can one resist such entertaining people who operate in a system where the upper classes must compete through bribery, intrigue and occasional revolutions? 

Fiona's book list on political shenanigans in ancient Rome

Fiona Forsyth Why did Fiona love this book?

Harris is of course already a world-famous thriller writer and his technique is impeccable. He brings two great things to this account of the rise of Cicerofirstly, the narrator is Cicero’s slave-secretary, Tiro, and secondly, Harris sees the campaign trail with the eye of someone who was a notable political journalist and observer. He brings this expertise to a dissection of Roman elections that I found breath-taking and utterly convincing. Tiro was a brilliant choice of narrator as wellintimately involved in the action, but a slave, he constantly reminds us of a very unpleasant side of life in Rome. 

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Tiro, the confidential secretary of a Roman senator, opens the door to a terrified stranger on a cold November morning, he sets in motion a chain of events which will eventually propel his master into one of the most famous courtroom dramas in history.

The stranger is a Sicilian, a victim of the island's corrupt Roman governor, Verres. The senator is Cicero, a brilliant young lawyer and spellbinding orator, determined to attain imperium - supreme power in the state.

This is the starting-point of Robert Harris's most accomplished novel to date. Compellingly written in Tiro's voice, it takes us…


Book cover of The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction

Jeremiah McCall Author Of Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

From my list on exploring the Roman Republic and its collapse.

Who am I?

I am a historian and history teacher in Ohio with a passion for studying the endlessly fascinating Roman Republic. It was a time when many believed the gods walked the earth, when legend and reality mixed. The resulting stories lure us with their strangeness while reminding us of our modern world. For me, no topic in the Republic captures this paradox of strangeness and familiarity more than the political systems of the Republic. Our very ideas about representative democracy come from the Romans. But the legacy is deeper. In Roman politicians’ thirst for votes and victory, their bitter rivalries we can, perhaps, see the dangers of excessive political competition today.

Jeremiah's book list on exploring the Roman Republic and its collapse

Jeremiah McCall Why did Jeremiah love this book?

I’ve used this text a number of times teaching courses on the Republic and it is a terrific overview that will expand on many areas. Short, informative, packed with anecdotes and examples and surveying the whole of the Republic. For those interested in a more academic survey, while still very approachable, text on the period of the Republic, Gwynn’s work offers just the right balance of depth and briskness. 

By David M. Gwynn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The rise and fall of the Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilization. From humble beginnings on the seven hills beside the Tiber, the city of Rome grew to dominate the ancient Mediterranean. Led by her senatorial aristocracy, Republican armies defeated Carthage and the successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great, and brought the surrounding peoples to east and west into the Roman sphere. Yet the triumph of the Republic was also its
tragedy.

In this Very Short Introduction, David M. Gwynn provides a fascinating introduction to the history of the Roman Republic and its literary…


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.

Who am I?

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 Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic

Alex Gough Author Of Caesar’s Soldier

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

Who am I?

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?

Most Ancient Roman biographies are about men.

This is mainly because there is much less information about Roman women than men. As in many ancient societies, Roman women were not considered equal to men, and did not hold positions of power or authority.

Writing by Roman women themselves is also rare. But modern biographers and historians are attempting to redress the balance. This book is part of the Women in Antiquity series, and tells the life story, as much as can be known, of a formidable woman.

Fulvia was married to and widowed by two powerful Romans before her third marriage to Mark Antony. She was a huge influence on him, and a power in Rome in her own right, wielding authority in Antony’s name, even when he was in the east, gallivanting with Cleopatra.

Another vital source for my Mark Antony series, this book is a great read about…

By Celia E. Schultz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fulvia is the first full-length biography in English focused solely on Fulvia, who is best known as the wife of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony). Born into a less prestigious branch of an aristocratic Roman clan in the last decades of the Roman Republic, Fulvia first rose to prominence as the wife of P. Clodius Pulcher, scion of one of the city's most powerful families and one of its most infamous and scandalous politicians. In the aftermath of his murder,
Fulvia refused to shrink from the glare of public scrutiny and helped to prosecute the man responsible.

Later, as the wife…


Book cover of The Cicero Trilogy

Damian Dibben Author Of The Colour Storm

From my list on that bring history to life.

Who am I?

The mission I have set myself as a novelist is to bring the past alive in the most engaging way; to try to tell some of the great tales of history as current, prescient stories. I want to open a reader’s mind, but also offer an escape, to fantastical places. My first novel for adults, Tomorrow, is told through the eyes of a dog who doesn’t die, whose quest for his similarly immortal master takes him through the wars of the 17th and 18th Centuries, and through every tottering court of Europe. My second, The Colour Storm, out in June 2022, is set in the art world of the Renaissance and is about the search for a new colour. The pigment has arrived in Venice and every artist of the day, from Leonardo to Michelangelo, is in fierce - perhaps murderous - competition to find it first.

Damian's book list on that bring history to life

Damian Dibben Why did Damian love this book?

Imperium, Lustrum, and Dictator chart the disintegration of Rome’s republic and the inexorable rise, then sudden fall, of Julius Caesar. Told from the vantage point of Cicero, the most persuasive speaker of the age, it’s thrilling from the outset, an epic political thriller that seems to foreshadow the beginning of the modern world. The events are so incredible, so momentous, you have to keep reminding yourself they’re true.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

______________________________
'One of the great triumphs of contemporary historical literature.' The Times

______________________________
WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY THE AUTHOR

'Laws are silent in times of war.' Cicero

One of the great epics of political and historical fiction, The Cicero Trilogy charts the career of the Roman statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero from his mid-twenties as an ambitious young lawyer to his dramatic death more than thirty years later, pursued by an assassination squad on a cliff-top path.

The extraordinary life that unfolds between these two episodes is recounted by Cicero's private secretary, Tiro: the law cases and the speeches that…


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