The most recommended ancient history books

Who picked these books? Meet our 22 experts.

22 authors created a book list connected to ancient history, and here are their favorite ancient history books.
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What type of ancient history book?


The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield)

By Herodotus, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield)

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From the list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

Why did David love this book?

If one wanted to understand the study of the galaxy, they might start with Galileo. Something similar could be said about starting with the historian Herodotus to understand ancient peoples (and the study of them). Was he serious about his craft? Yes. Was he a product of his time? Yes. Should you take everything he writes as fact? Absolutely not. So why read Herodotus? Because he was the first person (as far as I know) to study the Scythians for the purpose of scholarship. Moreover, his work contains many of the stories that scholars since his time have tried to prove, disprove, or reinterpret. In short, if you want to join a conversation, it can be helpful to know how it began.

By Herodotus, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Herodotus is not only known as the `father of history', as Cicero called him, but also the father of ethnography; as well as charting the historical background to the Persian Wars, his curiosity also prompts frequent digression on the cultures of the peoples he introduces. While much of the information he gives has proved to be astonishingly accurate, he also entertains us with delightful tales of one-eyed men and gold-digging ants. This readable new translation is
supplemented with expansive notes that provide readers the background that they need to appreciate the book in depth.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100…

Book cover of Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past

L.S. Berthelsen Author Of The Haling and the Scottish Templars

From the list on navigating ancient wisdom traditions and the cosmos.

Who am I?

I am a Templar history enthusiast with a penchant for spiritual surprises hiding in plain sight. I believe words are vessels of spirit and that writing opens a channel of communication for manifesting thoughts into reality. Traveling throughout Europe, Scotland, and England has deepened my confidence that there was so much more to the Middle Ages than crusades and feudalism. The Templars facilitated many societal transformations, including a flowering of mysticism under their guardianship. The mystery is… why have we not connected these dots before? And I suspect there’s much more to discover! My books gather research threads from seemingly isolated historic characters, places, and events into cohesive, inspired, and vibrant stories.

L.S.'s book list on navigating ancient wisdom traditions and the cosmos

Why did L.S. love this book?

Of all Silva’s books, I am most excited about this one, because of his groundbreaking discoveries. I admire his relentless tenacity for research, while sniffing out enigmatic information. My love of Scottish history often leaves me feeling lost regarding its ancient history. But I also am super careful to take many extrapolations on ancient history with a grain of salt. Silva’s writings are refreshing and his sense of humor is delightful. So, if you want to learn more about your Scottish roots from before Christianity arrived, then take a stroll through ancient circles aligned with the constellation Orion. Home may not be where you think it is!

By Freddy Silva,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Scotland's Hidden Sacred Past as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Around 6000 BC a revolution took place on Orkney and the Western Isles of Scotland. An outstanding collection of stone circles, standing stones, round towers and passage mounds appeared seemingly out of nowhere. And yet many such monuments were not indigenous to Britain, but to regions of the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean.
Their creators were equally mysterious. Traditions tell of the Papae and Peti, 'strangers from afar' who were physically different, dressed in white tunics and lived aside from the regular population. They were regarded as master astronomers with an uncanny ability to work with enormous stones. But where…

Mari and Karana

By Stephanie Dalley,

Book cover of Mari and Karana: Two Old Babylonian Cities

Amanda H. Podany Author Of Weavers, Scribes, and Kings: A New History of the Ancient Near East

From the list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and professor of ancient Mesopotamia. I was born in the UK but have lived in the US for decades, and from childhood I loved ancient history and archaeology (even through a five-year stint as a bass player before and during college). No matter how long the human race exists in future, we have only one shared ancient global past, the remains of which represent a completely non-renewable resource and source of inspiration. There is plenty left to discover, with much evidence already excavated and awaiting interpretation. It’s a joy to analyze and share the words and life-stories of Mesopotamians in my books—in a conversation that stretches across millennia.

Amanda's book list on the lives of real people in ancient Mesopotamia

Why did Amanda love this book?

When this book first came out, I was just beginning work on my Ph.D. dissertation and it had a big influence on me. Stephanie Dalley writes in a wonderfully accessible style for general readers about the people of the 18th century BCE cities of Mari and Tell al Rimah, and throughout the book she quotes from the personal letters found there. She overcomes a common perception that the ancient world can seem removed and remote, by letting the ancient people speak directly to the reader. All the while, she also makes fascinating observations about what the documents reveal, and also includes discussions of archaeological evidence (such as culinary molds that were used to make fish-shaped bread, in the section on food preparation!).

By Stephanie Dalley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A study on the social aspects of Mari and Karana, this book provides an account of life in the nineteenth century BCE. Illustrations with photographs and drawings of objects uncovered during excavations provide a lively counterpart to the texts themselves, many of which are quoted in translation.


By Jim Crace,

Book cover of Quarantine

Jonathan Trigell Author Of The Tongues of Men or Angels

From the list on fiction with Jesus as a character.

Who am I?

I’m the author of five extremely different novels: Boy A (which was made into an award-winning film), Cham, Genus, The Tongues of Men or Angels, and Under Country. They share almost nothing in subject or setting. Ranging from first-century Judaea to a future London. From ski resort workers in France to young offender prisons in Britain. My latest work - Under Country - is about the 1984 Miners’ Strike and its still lingering scars in the North East pit villages. Yet, I suppose, if there were a unifying theme between them, it would be that each, in its own way, is influenced by and fascinated with Christianity.

Jonathan's book list on fiction with Jesus as a character

Why did Jonathan love this book?

Written long before quarantines became so fashionable, Jesus in Jim Crace’s novel is an almost peripheral player, because set during Christ’s forty days in the wilderness six other people share in the inhospitable desert caves, miracles, and hallucinations. Each character has their own troubles and trials; their own battles with demons to resolve; which they hope isolation and fasting will accomplish. And for each, in ingenious ways, it does… I am a big fan of Crace’s style, rhythm, and invention, and this is one of his finest works.

By Jim Crace,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Stuart Evers

So this is happiness, she thought. Or this, at least, is what adds up to happiness. The prospect of never running after men and camels any more, of being Miri without shame or hesitation, of letting drop her headscarf for a change so that nothing intervened between her and the sky.

Five travellers venture into the Judean wilderness in search of redemption. Instead, amidst the barren rocks, they are met by a dangerous man, Musa, and fall under his dark influence. As the unforgiving days and bitter nights erode their resolve, it becomes clear…

Understanding Collapse

By Guy D. Middleton,

Book cover of Understanding Collapse: Ancient History and Modern Myths

John F. Haldon Author Of The Empire That Would Not Die: The Paradox of Eastern Roman Survival, 640-740

From the list on premodern societies, climate, and environment.

Who am I?

History has always fascinated me because it offered ways through which I could begin to make sense of the present. History is about how and why things change over time, above all about the causal dynamics underlying how societies, economies, and cultures work and transform. The history of Byzantium is a perfect example, offering many challenges of understanding and interpretation of its own, yet at the same time opening up a whole world of medieval societies and cultures around it, helping to illuminate not just the history of the immediate regions concerned – the eastern Mediterranean and Balkans – but of the world beyond.  

John's book list on premodern societies, climate, and environment

Why did John love this book?

“Collapse” is a term frequently bandied about in the press and popular as well as academic historical writing. Middleton’s book, well-informed by the palaeoenvironmental, archaeological, and documentary evidence shines a powerful light on some of the pervasive myths about supposed historical collapses, many of which were not at all what the term might suggest. He challenges us to think carefully and critically about what we really know about a past civilisation before we rush into easy judgements. His book made me rethink many of my own assumptions on the subject and undoubtedly influenced my own work.

By Guy D. Middleton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Understanding Collapse explores the collapse of ancient civilisations, such as the Roman Empire, the Maya, and Easter Island. In this lively survey, Guy D. Middleton critically examines our ideas about collapse - how we explain it and how we have constructed potentially misleading myths around collapses - showing how and why collapse of societies was a much more complex phenomenon than is often admitted. Rather than positing a single explanatory model of collapse - economic, social, or environmental - Middleton gives full consideration to the overlooked resilience in communities of ancient peoples and the choices that they made. He offers…

Bird in a Snare

By N. L. Holmes,

Book cover of Bird in a Snare

Jessica Dall Author Of The Stars of Heaven

From the list on historical fiction in lesser-known settings.

Who am I?

I’ve been a history nerd all my life. Historical fiction chap books were my entrance to reading, and my copy of Little Women fell apart from excessive re-reads. (It also taught me the word “abridged.” I was very upset to find out I hadn’t been given the full book!) I love how novels can pull you into a time on such a personal level. That immersion is part of what made me so interested in books set in lesser-known eras. I mean, I love a good Tudor court drama or WWII novel as much as the next reader. There is just something extra special about learning about a brand-new time. 

Jessica's book list on historical fiction in lesser-known settings

Why did Jessica love this book?

N. L. Holmes is my absolute favorite “under the radar” historical fiction author writing today. She has a number of wonderful books out there, but if I had to suggest one to new readers, I would pick Bird in a Snare, the first book of the Lord Hani Mystery series. Set in Ancient Egypt under the reign of Akhenaten, the series is an amazing insight into a tumultuous part of ancient history I knew next to nothing about when I first picked up the book and a great mystery series. Throw in awesome prose and a wonderful cast of characters, and I recommend this one whenever I get the chance.

By N. L. Holmes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Hani, an Egyptian diplomat under Akhenaten, is sent to investigate the murder of a useful bandit leader in Syria, he encounters corruption, tangled relationships, and yet more murder. His investigation is complicated by the new king’s religious reforms, which have struck Hani’s own family to the core. Hani’s mission is to amass enough evidence for his superiors to prosecute the wrongdoers despite the king’s protection—but not just every superior can be trusted. And maybe not even the king!

Book cover of Power, Piety, and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship: Maria de Luna

Zita Eva Rohr Author Of Yolande of Aragon (1381-1442) Family and Power: The Reverse of the Tapestry

From the list on premodern women of power and influence.

Who am I?

When I was a child, I was forever drawing pictures of princesses in elaborate medieval and early modern dress. I devoured history books—especially those containing artworks that helped me visualize the people whose names rang out from their pages. Inexplicably, I was passionate about France and French language and culture from my primary school years. Then, in my early twenties, I stumbled onto Umberto Eco’s, The Name of the Rose, which appeared in English translation around 1983. History has been, and remains, my passion (as do whodunits). I have been passionately obsessed with in my research for over two decades—uncovering the truth that lies beneath the spin and the ashes.  

Zita's book list on premodern women of power and influence

Why did Zita love this book?

This book appeared just as I was on the point of completing my doctoral thesis. It helped me to understand the importance of examining a queen and/or elite premodern woman’s networks—familial, political, diplomatic, friendship and how these networks underpinned her use of both soft and indeed hard power. When the document trail goes cold in the archives, looking more closely at female networks and how they played out is a great way of overcoming gaps and erasures—both deliberate and accidental. It remains a durable and very influential study and a bonus for non-Ibericists as it is in English.

By Nuria Silleras-Fernandez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Power, Piety, and Patronage in Late Medieval Queenship as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on an exhaustive and varied study of predominantly unpublished archival material as well as a variety of literary and non-literary sources, this book investigates the relation between patronage, piety and politics in the life and career of one Late Medieval Spain's most intriguing female personalities, Maria De Luna.

The Prince of Medicine

By Susan P. Mattern,

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 the 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

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…

The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland)

By Herodotus, Tom Holland (translator),

Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland)

Steve P. Kershaw Author Of The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato's Ideal State

From the list on Ancient Greece by Ancient Greeks.

Who am I?

I was introduced to the fascinating world of the Ancient Greeks by an inspirational teacher at my Primary School when I was about 10 years old—he read us tales of gods and monsters and heroes and heroism, and I was entranced. My grandpa bought me a copy of The Iliad. I read it with my torch under the bedclothes and embarked on a magical journey that has seen me spend the greater part of my life travelling in the world of the Ancient Greeks, both physically and intellectually. Those characters, both real and mythical, have become my friends, enemies, warnings, and role-models ever since.

Steve's book list on Ancient Greece by Ancient Greeks

Why did Steve love this book?

Herodotus is a joy to read. In his Enquiries into the heroic struggle of Greece against the mighty Persian Empire, he wanted to preserve the memory of wondrous deeds. And he does it brilliantly. Along the way we discover how to catch a crocodile in Egypt, visit the walls of Babylon, and travel with the fearsome, gender-fluid, Scythian warriors. As the massed Persian armies with their arrogant and manipulative commanders bear down on the divided state of Greece, we are taken to battlefield of Marathon, witness the tenacious heroism of the 300 Spartans, and fight on the sea at the great Greek victory at Salamis. This epic conflict between the forces and ideals of East and West is rendered beautifully in Tom Holland’s fluent translation, which nimbly walks the line between accuracy and accessibility.

By Herodotus, Tom Holland (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Western history's greatest books springs to life in Tom Holland's vibrant new translation

Herodotus of Halicarnassus-who was hailed by Cicero as "the father of history"-wrote his histories around 440 BC. It is the earliest surviving work of nonfiction and a thrilling narrative account of (among other things) the war between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states in the fifth century BC.

With a wealth of information about ancient geography, ethnography, zoology, comparative anthropology, and much else, The Histories is also filled with bizarre and fanciful stories, which award-winning historian Tom Holland vividly captures in this major new…

Book cover of International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 BC

Alejandro Jiménez Serrano Author Of Descendants of a Lesser God: Regional Power in Old and Middle Kingdom Egypt

From the list on Ancient Egypt from a peripheral perspective.

Who am I?

The Egyptology permits me to make an approach to the human past. Although there were many different cultures from which the current society is heir, the survival of innumerable written documents from ancient Egypt together with the good conservation of the archaeological material, give us the possibility to feel closer to the humans who lived in the Nile Valley thousands of years ago.

Alejandro's book list on Ancient Egypt from a peripheral perspective

Why did Alejandro love this book?

I have chosen this work for the Egyptology list because Ancient Egypt must be ideally analyzed into a regional context, which overpasses its borders. In this sense, the present work is a magnificent example of how all the cultures of the Near East were integrated within a network of more or less fluid contacts.

Professor Liverani's work shows the mastery of the great scholar who knows all the sources and analyzes them from a new diplomatic, economic, anthropological, and political perspective.

By Mario Liverani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 BC as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ancient civilizations of the Near East - Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, the Hittites and Canaanites - constituted the first formalized international relations system in world history. Holy wars, peace treaties, border regulations, trade relations and the extradition of refugees were problems for contemporary ambassadors and diplomats as they are today. Mario Liverani reconstructs the procedures of international relations in the period c.1600-1100BC using historical semiotics, communication theory and economic and political anthropology.

Women's Work

By Elizabeth Wayland Barber,

Book cover of Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Cora Harrington Author Of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear, and Love Lingerie

From the list on the history of fashion.

Who am I?

Clothing is one of the most important aspects of our humanity, of the things which make us who we are. We use fashion to identify allies and enemies. To express our interests, politics, and belief systems. To make a statement about who we are to the outside world. To show our identity or ethnicity. Or to indicate our affiliation with certain groups. Fashion is everywhere, but compared to other disciplines, is very rarely talked about. Though I'm a lingerie expert, fashion in its totality interests me. I’m excited every time I learn something new, not just because I enjoy pretty garments, but because I also learn something about the nature of who we are.

Cora's book list on the history of fashion

Why did Cora love this book?

Women’s Work is considered a seminal text in the study of fashion - whether that’s costume history, the culture of fashion, the history of textiles, or even the intersection of labor and feminism. If you’re interested in the study of garments, in learning why thread and cloth and sewing were so important in the past as well as why it continues to be important today, there is no better place to get started. This book has been popular for decades for a reason. Women’s Work helps to restructure and reorient your thinking around what we wear, a necessary component to understanding fashion.

By Elizabeth Wayland Barber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Work as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New discoveries about the textile arts reveal women's unexpectedly influential role in ancient societies.

Twenty thousand years ago, women were making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibers. In fact, right up to the Industrial Revolution the fiber arts were an enormous economic force, belonging primarily to women.

Despite the great toil required in making cloth and clothing, most books on ancient history and economics have no information on them. Much of this gap results from the extreme perishability of what women produced, but it seems clear that until now descriptions of prehistoric and early historic cultures have…

Encyclopaedia Biblica

By John Sutherland Black, Thomas Kelly Cheyne,

Book cover of Encyclopaedia Biblica

Henry Davis Author Of Creating Christianity - A Weapon Of Ancient Rome

From the list on ancient history that challenge assumptions.

Who am I?

Henry Davis is an independent historical researcher who has been studying ancient history for over 20 years. Even though he wanted to embark on a formal education studying the Classics, he suffered from extreme anxiety and felt he could not do so. He resorted to self-study, with help from family and friends, who had degrees in Classical studies, and began reading the work of respected historians/scholars/classicists, Dame Mary Beard, Tom Holland, Sir Ronald Syme, Gavin Townend, and Anthony Birley, to name only a few.

Henry's book list on ancient history that challenge assumptions

Why did Henry love this book?

The official title of the book is ‘Encyclopedia Biblica: A Critical Dictionary of the Literary, Political and Religious History, the Archaeology, Geography, and Natural History of the Bible.' This work was produced by various professors of Oxford University and was a continual work from 1899-1903. It seems to be rarely mentioned by historians and Biblical scholars today, and I am recommending this work because there is a considerable wealth of information in it, and any student of history would find it incredibly useful. The Oxford professors critically examined ancient folklore and legends, without being swayed by traditional opinions of the time. For example, the origins of the people of Israel, and Egyptian and Hittite history are thoroughly examined, as is the Biblical literature. Interestingly, in this work, the professors doubted the existence of Nazareth, stating: ‘Was Nazareth originally the name of a town (or village) at all? There…

By John Sutherland Black, Thomas Kelly Cheyne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important, and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it. This work was reproduced from the original artifact, and remains as true to the original work as possible. Therefore, you will see the original copyright references, library stamps (as most of these works have been housed in our most important libraries around the world), and other notations in the work.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and…

Book cover of The Penguin Dictionary of Ancient History

Nigel Rodgers Author Of The Colosseum From AD80 To The Present Day

From the list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by ancient Greece and Rome since I first saw Italy and Greece as a teenager, revisiting them whenever I can. I studied ancient history at Cambridge University and have written eight books about it, most recently The Colosseum. After living in Paris, Rome, and London, I am now based in Wiltshire in southwest England, almost within sight of Stonehenge. There is a small megalith outside my own house.

Nigel's book list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome

Why did Nigel love this book?

Dictionaries are not usually meant to be fun but this fact-packed book is so well-written that it is a joy to read. Wonder who on earth was Cicero? What the Punic wars were all about? How the Greeks defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis? What was so special about Greek theatre? And why  Rome conquered Britain? You will find all the answers here. Besides military and political events, it covers literature, philosophy, art, religion, sport, and society, all the way from 776BC and the first Olympic Games to the end of the Roman Empire in the west in AD476.

By Graham Speake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ranging from the year of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC to the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476, this dictionary contains over 2000 entries providing a reference guide to the ancient Greco-Roman world. It includes entries on personalities, events, politics, literature, art and society.

Book cover of Travel in the Ancient World

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

From the list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

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

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.

The Landmark Herodotus

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Book cover of The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

David Stuttard Author Of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

From the list on understanding classical Greece.

Who am I?

Ever since my father introduced me to the Greeks, I’ve been passionate about the ancient world and bringing it alive. I read Classics at university and taught for eleven years, during which time I founded the award-winning theatre company, Actors of Dionysus, dedicated to performing Greek drama in translation. A highlight was staging my adaptation of Trojan Women not just in Ephesus Theatre but besides the walls of Troy. From 2010, I’ve divided my time between writing books and articles on wide-ranging classical subjects, editing Bloomsbury Academic Press’ ‘Looking at…’ series on Greek drama (which include my translations), book-reviewing, lecturing, and directing theatrical performances (most recently with Dame Sian Phillips).

David's book list on understanding classical Greece

Why did David love this book?

For anyone wanting to find out not just what happened in the Graeco-Persian Wars (490–479 BC) but how their participants viewed the world, Herodotus’ Histories are a treasure trove. Writing a generation after the event, Herodotus travelled widely, interviewing as many people as he could from veterans to Egyptian priests. But readers must be wary: Herodotus wasn’t writing history as we understand it. Instead, he blended fact, anecdote, and moralizing to demonstrate why in his view the Greek way of life (especially Athenian democracy) was superior to Persian totalitarianism, and why Persian hubris merited divine punishment. While the Landmark edition’s translation of Herodotus’ seductive prose may not be the best (Tom Holland’s, for example, is better), the number and clarity of its maps make it invaluable.

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the 5th century BC an adventurous Ionian Greek, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, journeyed extensively through the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, from Egypt to Asia Minor, collecting tales of the upheavals that had afflicted the region in the earlier part of the century. The fruits of his wanderings were The Histories, in which he used his narrative gifts not only to chronicle the rise of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and its war with the Greek city-states, but also to recount his experiences with the varied peoples and cultures he had encountered during his journey.
Herodotus earned the nickname 'the father…


By Michael Scott,

Book cover of Delphi: A History of the Center of the Ancient World

Julie Anderson Author Of Oracle

From the list on Delphi and its oracle.

Who am I?

I'm a crime writer and my latest novel is set in Delphi, Greece at the Temple of Apollo: it interweaves a modern murder mystery with perennial themes like justice, retribution and law so the cradle of law and democracy was an ideal setting, especially Delphi, which the Greeks believed to be the centre of the world. I visited there at the turn of the millennium and it has always stayed with me. Since childhood, I have been fascinated, like many, with the stories of ancient Greece, its gods, myths, and legends, and the genesis of so many of the ideas which underpin western society and thought. I've taught Classics in the past, but these books will give the reader joy as well as improving their knowledge.

Julie's book list on Delphi and its oracle

Why did Julie love this book?

Scott is an associate professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Warwick and his erudition shines through this comprehensive study of Delphi and, at its heart, the Oracle and Temple of Apollo. Yet this is never a dull, academic book, Scott's obvious love for the place and its history prevents that, as he chronicles the wars and disputes, the judgements and prophesies, as well as how the Oracle, the female Pythia, was set at the very centre of the ancient world. He evokes the place brilliantly, with its spectacular setting, and brings the history up to date with the rediscovery of the ancient site and its re-emergence from the mountainside. It was inestimably useful to me when I wrote Oracle, but it also reinforced my desire to return to what is a very special place.

By Michael Scott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The oracle and sanctuary of the Greek god Apollo at Delphi were known as the "omphalos"--the "center" or "navel"--of the ancient world for more than 1000 years. Individuals, city leaders, and kings came from all over the Mediterranean and beyond to consult Delphi's oracular priestess; to set up monuments to the gods; and to take part in competitions. In this richly illustrated account, Michael Scott covers the history and nature of Delphi, from the literary and archaeological evidence surrounding the site, to its rise as a center of worship, to the constant appeal of the oracle despite her cryptic prophecies.…

The Epic of Man

By Life Magazine (editor),

Book cover of The Epic of Man

Jeffrey Peter Clarke Author Of The Man Who Sought Eternity

From the list on the time of Gilgamesh.

Who am I?

I am Jeff Clarke, author and graphic designer. I have always been interested in origins and beginnings, whether it be the universe, life on Earth, military aviation and ancient societies. I possess a valuable private library of my own and generally prefer to use this rather than on-line sources as the authors’ qualifications are more easily ascertainable. I design the covers for all my novels.

Jeffrey's book list on the time of Gilgamesh

Why did Jeffrey love this book?

This large and sumptuous volume, published in 1962, is the oldest of my references for ancient history.

Although over sixty years old its text, compiled by numerous specialists in their day, is still largely authoritative.

Where it excels, however, is in a cover to cover wealth of detailed pictures showing people, activities, situations, and places from ancient times in numerous parts of the world.

I have found this book an invaluable source, particularly regarding fashion and dress, for the book featured here as well as for Mycenaean period novels I’ve also published.     

By Life Magazine (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Oversized coffee-table book based on a series of articles entitled The Epic of Man which appeared in LIFE magazine from 1955 to 1957. They were prepared under the direction of Senior Editor Kenneth MacLeish and Art Director Charles Tudor and were written by Lincoln Barnett. Much new material has been added, and many of the illustrations and photographs are published here for the first time.

Women in Antiquity

By Stephanie Lynn Budin (editor), Jean Macintosh Turfa (editor),

Book cover of Women in Antiquity: Real Women across the Ancient World

Guy D. Middleton Author Of Women in the Ancient Mediterranean World: From the Palaeolithic to the Byzantines

From the list on real women in the ancient Mediterranean.

Who am I?

I wrote Women in the Ancient Mediterranean World: From the Palaeolithic to the Byzantines when my partner and I found out that we were having a daughter. I finished it just as daughter number two appeared! I wanted to write something they could connect with easily as young women to share my lifelong passion for Mediterranean history. I grew up inspired by my local landscape of castles and ruins, trips to Greece, Michael Wood documentaries, and lots of books. I studied ancient history and archaeology at Newcastle University and later got my PhD from Durham University. I’ve written on various aspects of the ancient world in journals, magazines, websites, and my previous books.

Guy's book list on real women in the ancient Mediterranean

Why did Guy love this book?

I came across this book in the early days of writing my own – and it was inspirational.

It’s massive, with 74 chapters, but taken individually these are not in themselves long or difficult reads. We find women of all stations from prostitutes to queens, wet nurses to dancers, and female gladiators introduced, and range in time from the Bronze Age to the Romans.

The authors draw inclusively on multiple approaches and types of evidence, bodies, material culture, iconography, texts, and more. Apart from the vast coverage, the philosophy of the volume as set out by the editors was compelling: to look at ‘real women’ themselves, not mythical women or goddesses, and to emphasize their bodies and names.

It’s a treasure trove for anyone interested in women in the ancient world.

By Stephanie Lynn Budin (editor), Jean Macintosh Turfa (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This volume gathers brand new essays from some of the most respected scholars of ancient history, archaeology, and physical anthropology to create an engaging overview of the lives of women in antiquity. The book is divided into ten sections, nine focusing on a particular area, and also includes almost 200 images, maps, and charts. The sections cover Mesopotamia, Egypt, Anatolia, Cyprus, the Levant, the Aegean, Italy, and Western Europe, and include many lesser-known cultures such as the Celts, Iberia, Carthage, the Black Sea region, and Scandinavia. Women's experiences are explored, from ordinary daily life to religious ritual and practice, to…