100 books like Theater and Spectacle in the Art of the Roman Empire

By Katherine M. D. Dunbabin,

Here are 100 books that Theater and Spectacle in the Art of the Roman Empire fans have personally recommended if you like Theater and Spectacle in the Art of the Roman Empire. 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 Leisure and Ancient Rome

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

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

Chariot racing. Gambling. Alcohol. Sex. If you’ve ever wondered what ancient Romans did for fun, look no further than Jerry Toner’s book. His book makes me laugh and learn in equal measure. Toner excels at revealing what is distinctive about ancient Roman practices (regularly bathing nude in public)—but also what feels startlingly modern (betting on horses and drinking with friends). From the wealthiest to the poorest of Romans, Toner shows just how serious the business of fun was in the Roman world. I love this book because it makes me think about quintessentially Roman topics from a bottom-up, rather than elite, perspective.

By J. P. Toner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What role did leisure play in the life of ancient Rome? For us in the modern world, leisure is secondary to work. But in ancient Rome leisure was central to social life and an integral part of its history. By exploring the nature and role of leisure, Toner offers a new way of looking at Roman society at all levels, not just among the elite. He examines the imperial games and the baths, as well as the forms of leisure associated with popular culture, such as gambling, the taverns, theatre and carnivals. He shows how these activities, while central to…


Book cover of Travel in the Ancient World

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

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

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

By Lionel Casson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


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

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

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

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

By Kimberly Cassibry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Book cover of Roman Sports and Spectacles: A Sourcebook

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

From my list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

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

Maggie L. Popkin Why did Maggie love this book?

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

By Anne Mahoney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

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


Book cover of Art Lover: A Biography of Peggy Guggenheim

Alvin Schnupp Author Of Goods & Effects

From my list on women artists and activists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by women who are artists and activists, such as Ivy Bottini, Käthe Kollwitz and Peggy Guggenheim. (All subjects of plays I wrote). They are convicted, unique, champions of justice, diversity and inclusion.

Alvin's book list on women artists and activists

Alvin Schnupp Why did Alvin love this book?

An insightful examination of art collector Peggy Guggenheim, a fascinating character, Ms. Guggenheim was friends with a vast assortment of American and European writers and artists. The reader gets to see the contradictory sides of this brilliant and unconventional woman. As a result of reading this book, I wrote a play about her entitled The Collection.

By Anton Gill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Mrs. Guggenheim, how many husbands have you had?" she was once asked. "D'you mean my own, or other people's?"

Peggy Guggenheim's tempestuous life (1898-1979) spanned the most exciting and volatile years of the twentieth century, and she lived it to the full. How she became one of the century's foremost collectors of modern art-and one of its most formidable lovers-is the subject of this lively and authoritative biography.

Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the Titanic en route home from installing the elevator machinery in the Eiffel Tower, and it was in Paris in the 1930s that the young…


Book cover of The Mystic in the Theatre: Eleonora Duse

Kerri Kochanski Author Of 1,001 People That Suck

From my list on stocking stuffers that’ll lead ‘em to success.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up with a lot of misconceptions. It wasn’t until I got out in the world and experienced life for myself that I began to see that I didn’t necessarily agree with what I’d been taught (or conditioned to believe). I learned that if I wanted to know the truth, I’d have to learn it for myself… These 5 books offered me a different perspective, and made me see things in a new light. They helped me succeed as a person, an artist, and as a human being… I hope they will help you and your loved ones, too. 

Kerri's book list on stocking stuffers that’ll lead ‘em to success

Kerri Kochanski Why did Kerri love this book?

This book shows how Eleonora Duse, a great theatre artist in the late 18th Century, supplanted her ego to improve her art. By stripping away all pretense, she was able to exist in her essence, and create the purest form of art. It is a must-read for any actor who wants to master their craft.     

Book cover of Run-Through: A Memoir

Robert Kaplow Author Of Me and Orson Welles

From my list on set in the world of the theater.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since adolescence I’ve written scripts, stories, and songs. For ten years I wrote songs and sketches for NPR’s Morning Edition  as “Moe Moskowitz and the Punsters.” Among my young-adult novels, my favorite remains Alex Icicle: A Romance in Ten Torrid Chapters, a literate howl of romantic obsession by an over-educated and under-loved madman. I think my funniest comedy novel is Who’s Killing the Great Writers of America? that not only kills off some famous writers, but simultaneously parodies their style. And, of course, Stephen King ends up solving the whole crazy conspiracy. I taught writing for many years, and I’m pleased to report that my students taught me more than anything I ever taught them.

Robert's book list on set in the world of the theater

Robert Kaplow Why did Robert love this book?

I read this biography in 1972 when it was first published; I was in high school. Twenty-two years later I would write my novel that was clearly inspired by Houseman’s detailed and absorbing account of his theatrical career—particularly his collaboration with the 21-year-old Orson Welles whom Houseman immediately recognized as a dangerous firestorm of talent. Their years together and the eventual destructive splintering of their partnership make for a story that will stay with you. It made this young person feel that with sufficient nerve, talent, and vision, I might accomplish anything—which is exactly what you should feel when you’re young.

By John Houseman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

John Houseman describes with extraordinary self-knowledge and grace a life full of fantastic episodes that took him from a bizarre childhood to a seemingly hopeless and conventional business career to his brilliant debut in the world of the theater.


Book cover of Morality Play

Rosemary Poole-Carter Author Of Only Charlotte

From my list on readers who act out novels in their heads.

Why am I passionate about this?

Make-believe is my vocation, calling to me since earliest childhood. Not too surprising, for I was raised in a Southern Gothic household, simmering with mendacity and thwarted desires. Back then, I plotted stories for my dolls and scribbled plays of love and murder for backyard productions with the neighbor girls. Living and schooling were necessary preparation for the next story or play. To this day, while truly embracing my lived-life with passion and wonder, I still make sense of it, in part, through make-believe—an act that is both solitary and collaborative—writing dialogue for actors to interpret and novels for readers to perform in their own active imaginations.

Rosemary's book list on readers who act out novels in their heads

Rosemary Poole-Carter Why did Rosemary love this book?

In the plague years of 14th century England, a young runaway priest, Nicholas Barber, hides himself by joining a troupe of traveling players and thereby finds himself a new role in a wider world. Nicholas’s story begins at an inflection point, when the residents in a particular town are more interested in an actual crime of murder than in seeing yet another iteration of the traditional religious Morality play. To captivate and keep their audience, the actors—with Nicholas now one of them—create a play of real life about the town’s murder. Their drama evolves in a series of performances as they discover more details of the mystery, at last leading them to its resolution. A fascinating interplay of history, mystery, theater, and human nature! I love this book.

By Barry Unsworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book

In medieval England, a runaway scholar-priest named Nicholas Barber has joined a traveling theater troupe as they make their way toward their liege lord’s castle. In need of money, they decide to perform at a village en route. When their traditional morality plays fail to garner them an audience, they begin to stage the “the play of Thomas Wells”—their own depiction of the real-life drama unfolding within the village around the murder of a young boy. The villagers believe they have already identified the killer, and the troupe believes their play will be a…


Book cover of Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage: Mad World, Mad Kings

Carole Levin Author Of The Reign and Life of Queen Elizabeth I: Politics, Culture, and Society

From my list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare since I was a child and read a kid biography of the queen and saw a Shakespearean comedy. The two topics are completely intertwined—Elizabeth saw Shakespeare’s plays at court and the strong women in Shakespeare’s plays reflect the queen. Elizabeth and Shakespeare have been both my passion and my profession. I have loved teaching and writing about them. One of my favorite things to do is to go see Shakespeare plays and to see portraits of the queen at museums. This passion has so enriched my life. The queen and the playwright have been very good to me. 

Carole's book list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century

Carole Levin Why did Carole love this book?

Today concerns over madness and disability are very much with us, especially if they connect with issues of power and masculinity. This was also true in the age of Shakespeare. Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy’s collection of essays on the topic of mad kings on the Renaissance stage is very readable and interesting, and tie in with contemporary issues. The book is divided into three sections: distracted kingship, fractured masculinity, and performed madness. The plays under discussion include Shakespeare’s King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, Henry VI, and All’s Well That Ends Well. Gutierrez-Dennehy brilliantly and explicitly brings the topics raised in the collection into the twenty-first century

By Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides a fascinating study into the history of kingship, madness and masculinity that was acted out on the early modern stage. Providing students of early modern history, theatre and performance studies and disability studies with interesting case studies to inform their upper level seminars and research.

Throughout the volume the authors engage with the field of disability studies to show how disability and mental health were portrayed and what that tells us about the period and the people who lived in it. Showing students, a new dimension of early modern Europe.

The chapters uncover how, as the early…


Book cover of Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance

Helen Hackett Author Of The Elizabethan Mind: Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty

From my list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved all things Elizabethan, and I especially love spending time with books and manuscripts where voices from the period speak to us directly. Wanting to understand how Shakespeare and his contemporaries understood themselves led me to investigate their ideas about relations between mind and body, about emotions, about the imagination, and about the minds of women and those of other races. I’ve learned that the Elizabethans grappled with many conflicting ideas about the mind, from classical philosophies, medieval medicine, new theologies, and more – and that this intellectual turmoil was essential fuel for the extraordinary literary creativity of the period.

Helen's book list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind

Helen Hackett Why did Helen love this book?

A brilliantly researched and argued book that transformed the intellectual landscape.

In the 1980s and 1990s many writers on Shakespeare and his contemporaries asserted that when reading their works we had to put aside modern concepts of selfhood as anachronistic. To some extent they were right: Elizabethan and Jacobean ideas about the self were different from ours; but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

Maus shows that Elizabethan and Jacobean authors were obsessed with what they called ‘the inward self’ or ‘the inner man’, and that their drama was shaped by this preoccupation with disparities between a performed public self and a concealed inner self. There’s also a fascinating chapter, wittily called "A Womb of his Own", on how male writers appropriated childbirth metaphors to represent their intellectual creativity.

By Katharine Eisaman Maus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This text explores the preoccupation of many Renaissance writers' with the inwardness and invisibility of truth. The perceived discrepancy between a person's outward appearance and inward disposition, it argues, influenced the ways in which English Renaissance dramatists and poets conceived the theatre, imagined dramatic characters and reflected upon their own creativity. Reading works by Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson and Milton in conjuction with sectarian polemics, gynaecological treatises and accounts of criminal prosecutions, the author delineates unexplored connections among religious, legal, sexual and theatrical ideas of inward truth. She reveals what was at stake ethically, politically, epistemologically and theologically when a…


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