The most recommended books on Emperor Hadrian

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19 authors created a book list connected to Emperor Hadrian, and here are their favorite Emperor Hadrian books.
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Beloved and God

By Royston Lambert,

Book cover of Beloved and God: Story of Hadrian and Antinous

Andrew Chugg Author Of Alexander's Lovers

From the list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity.

Who am I?

When I voyaged into the ancient world in the readings of my youth, it led me to realize that the gay-straight divide in modern perceptions of sexuality and relationships is an artifice. It was constructed by the conceit of the ascetic religions that the only legitimate purpose of sex is the production of children within a sanctified marital relationship. In Antiquity, the divide followed a more natural course between the groups who were the sexually active partners (mainly adult men) and those who were sexually passive (mainly women, youths, and eunuchs). My hope is to disperse some of the confusion that the obscuration of this historical reality has caused.

Andrew's book list on sexual relationships in Greek and Roman antiquity

Why did Andrew love this book?

This book is about the sublimation of an erotic relationship between a teenage boy and the emperor Hadrian that led to the creation of the last classical religious movement of Antiquity. The murky sacrificial drowning of Antinous in the River Nile prompted the emperor in his role as chief priest of Rome to deify the youth, setting up temples in his name and going so far as to define a celestial constellation in his image. Lambert’s posthumously published investigation rigorously rakes through the still glowing embers of this affair to define how it was ignited.

By Royston Lambert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who was Antonius? Why did he become a God? in Beloved and God, Royston Lambert tackles all the mysteries the story presents. With many illustations of the people and places concerned in the affair and of the splendid and fascinating artefacts which it produced, this account, based on thorough research, is a compelling read.


Hadrian's Wall

By Brian Dobson, David J Breeze,

Book cover of Hadrian's Wall

Douglas Jackson Author Of Hero of Rome

From the list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it.

Who am I?

Douglas Jackson is the author of eleven historical novels, including the 9-book Valerius Verrens series, which involves his Hero of Rome in conspiracies, battles, and intrigues from the Boudiccan rebellion in 60AD to the battle of Mons Graupius in 84AD. His next book, appropriately titled The Wall, will be published in 2022. His first job when he left school at sixteen was helping to restore one of Julius Agricola’s marching camps in the Cheviot Hills. The Romans have fascinated him ever since, to the point where he's managed to make a living out of writing about them. With Hadrian’s Wall almost on his doorstep, there was never any doubt he'd set a book there.

Douglas' book list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it

Why did Douglas love this book?

When I’m researching a historical novel, I always find that I have what I think of as my ‘bible’, the go-to book I turn to when I am stuck for the kind of detail that gives a book layers and makes people think, or even for inspiration. Breeze and Dobson were my go-to experts when I was writing The Wall, which is set in the twilight years of a dying Roman Britain. Hadrian’s Wall places these island’s greatest and most fascinating Roman monument in the context of the Empire and examines in forensic detail its construction, development, function and decline over a period of almost three hundred years, introducing along the way the men who built it and garrisoned it. The Wall as we know it is very different from that originally envisaged by Hadrian and we know, from the alterations that took place over the centuries, that its purpose…

By Brian Dobson, David J Breeze,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A penetrating and lucid history of the best-known and most spectacular monument to the Roman Empire in Britain. Taking into account new research findings about the building of the Wall, Breeze and Dobson include fascinating details about the Roman army, its religion and daily bureaucratic life. A selection of photos, maps and diagrams help make this a book for both the expert and the layman, being simultaneously erudite and unusually accessible.


Theft of Swords

By Michael J. Sullivan,

Book cover of Theft of Swords

Cheryl Dyson Author Of The Gauntlet Thrown

From the list on epic fantasies with epic bromances.

Who am I?

For me, “bromance'' is simply two (or more) men having a bond that extends deeper than mere friendship. It is usually not romantic (sadly, in some cases), and is often between cousins or even brothers, but I absolutely love it when a hero is willing to die for his friend/soulmate/brother/mortal enemy. Men have been discouraged from saying the dreaded “I love you,” especially to other men, so they have been forced to disclose their feelings through action. I find a special delight in bonds that develop between two people who initially dislike one another; they must first reach “like” before they can achieve real emotional connection.

Cheryl's book list on epic fantasies with epic bromances

Why did Cheryl love this book?

The bromance in this series is between two longtime friends that are also independent thieves. A running joke between them is Hadrian’s insistence on constantly doing “good deeds” instead of simply taking jobs that pay well. Despite Royce’s complaints about Hadrian’s apparent charitable streak, it becomes clear that he also has a penchant for doing the right thing. The banter between them is fluid and speaks of a shared history that keeps me reading, hoping to dig more into their past and discover how they became such a strong team. I also adore books with humor in the midst of drama or stress and this book definitely delivers.

By Michael J. Sullivan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles-until they are hired to pilfer a famed sword. What appears to be just a simple job finds them framed for the murder of the king and trapped in a conspiracy that uncovers a plot far greater than the mere overthrow of a tiny kingdom.

Can a self-serving thief and an idealistic swordsman survive long enough to unravel the first part of an ancient mystery that has toppled kings and destroyed empires?

And so begins the first tale of…


The Twelve Caesars

By Suetonius, Robert Graves (translator),

Book cover of The Twelve Caesars

Alex Gough Author Of Caesar’s Soldier

From the 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

Why did Alex love this book?

Suetonius wrote his short biographies of Julius Caesar and the following eleven Roman Emperors sometime in the second century AD, probably during the reign of Hadrian.

Although it is biased in order to keep in the good books of the Emperor, it is a great source for the history of the early empire. More importantly though, it is a damned good read, full of gossip and scandal, murder and treachery, and it has delighted and horrified readers for nearly two thousand years.

Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans is also a good contemporary biographical source, but can’t compete with Suetonius for the level of juicy and sordid details that we all, secretly or not so secretly, love. 

By Suetonius, Robert Graves (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Twelve Caesars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Suetonius, in holding up a mirror to those Caesars of diverting legend, reflects not only them but ourselves: half-tempted creatures, whose great moral task is to hold in balance the angel and the monster within' GORE VIDAL

As private secretary to the Emperor Hadrian, the scholar Suetonius had access to the imperial archives and used them (along with eyewitness accounts) to produce one of the most colourful biographical works in history. The Twelve Caesars chronicles the public careers and private lives of the men who wielded absolute power over Rome, from the foundation of the empire under Julius Caesar and…


Book cover of An Archaeological Guide to Walking Hadrian's Wall from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend

Douglas Jackson Author Of Hero of Rome

From the list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it.

Who am I?

Douglas Jackson is the author of eleven historical novels, including the 9-book Valerius Verrens series, which involves his Hero of Rome in conspiracies, battles, and intrigues from the Boudiccan rebellion in 60AD to the battle of Mons Graupius in 84AD. His next book, appropriately titled The Wall, will be published in 2022. His first job when he left school at sixteen was helping to restore one of Julius Agricola’s marching camps in the Cheviot Hills. The Romans have fascinated him ever since, to the point where he's managed to make a living out of writing about them. With Hadrian’s Wall almost on his doorstep, there was never any doubt he'd set a book there.

Douglas' book list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it

Why did Douglas love this book?

The only way to see Hadrian’s Wall properly is to visit it on foot. Only then can you experience it as the Roman soldiers who garrisoned it between 122AD and 410AD experienced it, especially when the freezing hail comes howling in from the north. If Breeze and Dobson have written the definitive book on Hadrian’s Wall, Mike Bishop, who has walked, cycled, driven and flown along the Wall, is undoubtedly the font of all knowledge, immersed in every detail. Backed by a lifetime of archaeological experience, this guide allows you to see the monument through his eyes, with a host of historical and physical detail that most people miss. It follows the Hadrian’s Wall Trail, which Mike was involved in from the start, but where the path deviates from the Wall, this account stays with it, allowing the reader to experience and examine remains most other walkers don’t. I was…

By M.C. Bishop,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked An Archaeological Guide to Walking Hadrian's Wall from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an informative (yet informal) description of the route of Hadrian's Wall and all the remains that can still be seen. For most of the route from east to west, it follows the Hadrian's Wall National Trail Footpath, but with an important difference: where the path veers off the line of the Wall, this account stays with it and allows you to examine the remains most other walkers do not see (and most other guidebooks do not describe). Profusely illustrated with more than 100 photographs and plans, it is the perfect archaeological companion to your walk along Hadrian's Wall,…


Roman Woman

By Lindsay Allason-Jones,

Book cover of Roman Woman: Everyday Life in Hadrian's Britain

Amanda Cockrell Author Of Shadow of the Eagle

From the list on life in the Roman Empire.

Who am I?

As Damion Hunter, I have written six novels set in the first and second centuries of the Roman Empire, for which I have done extensive research. My picks are all books that I have found most useful and accessible for the writer who wants to ground her fiction in accurate detail and for the reader who just wants to know the little stuff, which is always more interesting than the big stuff.

Amanda's book list on life in the Roman Empire

Why did Amanda love this book?

This follows a British woman who has married a Roman army veteran through a year in Britain during the reign of Hadrian. It is filled with tons of accurate detail about every aspect of daily life. It is written as a novel but because the author is a scholar of Roman British history and archaeology, you can count on her accuracy in a way that I ordinarily don’t rely on with novels.

By Lindsay Allason-Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Roman Britain is vividly portrayed in this fascinating and authentically detailed story about a year in the life of an ordinary woman and her family.

The year is AD 133. Hadrian is Emperor of Rome and all its vast empire, including Britannia. The greater part of that island has long been under imperial rule and the Roman legions control most of the land, quelling uprisings and building new forts and towns. Around the fortress of Eboracum (now known as York), a bustling garrison settlement is developing, while along the north-west frontier of Hadrian's empire, the legions are completing the construction…


Semper Fidelis

By Ruth Downie,

Book cover of Semper Fidelis

Theodore Irvin Silar Author Of Ashes I: A Novel of the Poor of Ancient Rome

From the list on fiction set in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

Ever since I spent a day wandering the Roman forum, imagining Caesar’s funeral at the site of his pyre, standing on the Palatine imagining living in palatial Palatine splendor, and looking down on Senators, plebeians, public baths, the Colisseum, temples, statues, basilicae, patricians, slaves, street vendors, centurions, courtesans, ladies, gladiators, urchins, schoolboys, pickpockets, and priests, I knew I wanted to write about it. I have done intensive research, with skills honed earning a Ph.D. in English from Lehigh University (specialty: literary-historical). I seek out literary historical novels, novels with distinctive style, artful plotting, engaging characterization, and historical fidelity. 

Theodore's book list on fiction set in ancient Rome

Why did Theodore love this book?

In an ancient Roman Britain garrison town, Roman army physician, Ruso, and his native wife, Tilla, investigate a series of murders. Worse, Emperor Hadrian is coming. Ratcheting tension. The central issue in Semper Fidelis is the rivalry between Roman legionaries and Briton conscripts. The crime is solved, but the story doesn’t end. Briton conscripts riot, and, Hadrian absent, his empress, Sabina, must intercede.

The empress Vibia Sabina (posthumously deified), is my favorite character. Neglected, bored, sarcastic, calculating, duplicitous, funny, she is the perfect spoiled patrician matron.  What I like best is how everybody lies to everybody in Semper Fidelis, a tour-de-force of mendacity. An interesting, different, more-than-just-murder-mystery historical novel.

By Ruth Downie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Ruso rejoins his unit in the remote outpost of the Roman Empire known as Britannia, he finds that all is not well with the Twentieth Legion. As they keep a suspicious eye on the barbarians to the north, the legionaries appear to have found trouble even closer to home-among the native recruits to Britannia's imperial army.

A young soldier has jumped off a roof, killing himself. Why? Mysterious injuries, and even deaths, begin to pile up in Ruso's medical ledgers, and it soon becomes clear that this suicide is not an isolated incident. Can the men really be under…


Hadrian's Wall

By Matthew Symonds,

Book cover of Hadrian's Wall: Creating Division

Simon Elliott Author Of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

From the list on Roman Britain.

Who am I?

Dr. Simon Elliott is an award-winning and best-selling historian, archaeologist, author, broadcaster, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent, Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology, Ambassador for Museum of London Archaeology, Guide Lecturer for Andante Travels, and President of the Society of Ancients. He frequently appears on broadcast and social media as a presenter and expert regarding the ancient world, and currently has 12 books on sale on similar themes, with three more due later this year. He is also a PR Week award-winning, highly experienced communications practitioner who has advised a wide variety of clients at a senior level on their interaction with the world of the media and politics. 

Simon's book list on Roman Britain

Why did Simon love this book?

The northern border of Roman Britain came to define much of the occupation in the province, given the far north of the main island of Britain was never fully conquered. This meant the north and west of the province featured an exceptionally large military presence, with the whole local economy there bent on maintaining it. By far the most enigmatic manifestation of this is Hadrian’s Wall, the physical northern frontier for much of the Roman period. In this brand new work, featuring much new research, Matthew Symonds of Current Publishing goes into great detail about the history of the fortification, its purpose, and the impact it has had on British history following Rome’s departure. 

By Matthew Symonds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Over its venerable history, Hadrian's Wall has had an undeniable influence in shaping the British landscape, both literally and figuratively. Once thought to be a soft border, recent research has implicated it in the collapse of a farming civilisation centuries in the making, and in fuelling an insurgency characterised by violent upheaval. Examining the everyday impact of the Wall over the three centuries it was in operation, Matthew Symonds sheds new light on its underexplored human story by discussing how the evidence speaks of a hard border scything through a previously open landscape and bringing dramatic change in its wake.…


Pax

By Tom Holland,

Book cover of Pax: War and Peace in Rome's Golden Age

Ian J. Miller Author Of Spoliation

From Ian's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Research scientist Composer Retired Theoretician

Ian's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Ian love this book?

This is non-fiction, essentially a history of the Flavian Imperators. It starts with the death of Nero, and the chaos that followed in the year of the four Emperors. It covers Vespasian, Titus, Nerva, Trajan and Hadrian, the Roman empire essentially over-reaching itself under Trajan, and pulled back by Hadrian.

Two of my novels are set during the times of Tiberius, Caligulae and Claudius, and having carried out the research into those times I found it fascinating to see what had changed in the way Romans behaved and what had not.

The book is very well-written, and shows how Rome held on, even though only just at times, while the indications of future problems are there.

By Tom Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive history of Rome's golden age - antiquity's ultimate superpower at the pinnacle of its greatness

The Pax Romana has long been revered as a golden age. At its peak, the Roman Empire stretched from Scotland to Arabia, and contained perhaps a quarter of humanity. It was the wealthiest and most formidable state the world had yet seen.

Beginning in 69AD, a year that saw four Caesars in succession rule the empire, and ending some seven decades later with the death of Hadrian, Pax presents a dazzling history of Rome at the height of its power. From the gilded…


Cloaked in Shadow

By Ben Alderson,

Book cover of Cloaked in Shadow

Lori Powell Author Of The Hunter's Companion

From the list on British YA fantasy with characters to love.

Who am I?

I love fantasy books and I love the wonderful array of British authors out there, so I wanted to showcase some of them in my small selection of books. Some are well known, some less so but all have their own unique and fascinating way of creating fantasy worlds. There are so many good books to choose from but these five are real must-reads as far as I’m concerned.

Lori's book list on British YA fantasy with characters to love

Why did Lori love this book?

This has a quite classic theme of good versus bad. I was really rooting for Zacriah from the start. He was more of your “has hidden magic” hero, but he came from humble beginnings. I do like an underdog, but more than that I like everyday people (or elves!) and seeing how they rise against adversity. Maybe because, especially in the current climate, it feels like we need to do this more and more. Zacriah is an everyday hero. Hadrian, the other protagonist is, however, a prince. The writing is such though that I was rooting for him too. Maybe because it was obvious that he cared for Zac from the start and I’m a sucker for a love story. 

By Ben Alderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A M/M Dragon Shifter Romance with powerful magic, an kingdom in danger and creatures beyond your imagination.

Zacriah Trovirn is concerned with two things in life: hunting and dodging Petrer, the boy who broke his heart.

Heartbreak becomes a distant concern when Zacriah is taken to the Elven capital of Thessolina, where he is forced into King Dalior’s new legion of shapeshifters. But Zacriah isn’t a shapeshifter. In truth, he doesn't know what he is.

Zacriah joins forces with new friends and they soon find themselves embroiled in a clash between the three Elven continents. With war on the horizon,…


The Quest for Corvo

By A.J.A. Symons,

Book cover of The Quest for Corvo

R. A. Sinn Author Of Unspeakable: A Life Beyond Sexual Morality

From the list on reimagining biography.

Who am I?

I am a historian of sexuality who is fascinated by unknown stories that reveal the past to be way more complicated than we expect. I’ve written about same-sex marriage in early America, a teenage female poet of the American Revolution, a masculine woman who founded her own college, and a notorious British pederast. Now I’m working on the tale of a forgotten American sexual adventuress and jewel thief. I also have a longstanding research project about the history of food and sex from the eighteenth century to the present day.

R. A.'s book list on reimagining biography

Why did R. A. love this book?

Before Symons published The Quest for Corvo in 1934, many biographies were little more than hagiographies, or boring tomes about unblemished saints. Symons redefined biography by writing a mystery story, featuring himself as a historical detective seeking to understand how a character as disagreeable as Frederick Rolfe, a.k.a. Baron Corvo, could have authored beautiful novels like Hadrian the Seventh.

By A.J.A. Symons,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One day in 1925 a friend asked A. J. A. Symons if he had read Fr. Rolfe's Hadrian the Seventh. He hadn't, but soon did, and found himself entranced by the novel -- "a masterpiece"-- and no less fascinated by the mysterious person of its all-but-forgotten creator. The Quest for Corvo is a hilarious and heartbreaking portrait of the strange Frederick Rolfe, self-appointed Baron Corvo, an artist, writer, and frustrated aspirant to the priesthood with a bottomless talent for self-destruction. But this singular work, subtitled "an experiment in biography," is also a remarkable self-portrait, a study of the obsession and…


Vindolanda

By Adrian Goldsworthy,

Book cover of Vindolanda

Duncan Lay Author Of Bridge of Swords

From the list on rampaging Romans bathed in barbarian blood.

Who am I?

I have a fascination for Roman history, having been born in the UK, and visiting Hadrian’s Wall. I have read many, many works of both history and historical fiction about Rome. To me, these five are the most memorable. Obviously the story has to be fantastic but it's important to be accurate. The opening battle in Gladiator annoyed me because the Romans never broke lines to fight man to man with barbarians. The concept of the Celts living among the rubble of the Empire, of being surrounded by things they cannot understand helped inspire my Empire Of Bones series. I even have a gladius sword and use it to inspire my own battle scenes. 

Duncan's book list on rampaging Romans bathed in barbarian blood

Why did Duncan love this book?

Flavius Ferox is kind of like a Roman sheriff looking after tribal lands in northern England. What looks like a simple raid soon turns into something much more. Ferox is a fantastic character and there’s some subtle humour in with the bloodshed. The start of an excellent trilogy, this gets you in from the start.

Yes, technically Flavius Ferox isn't a Roman as he was born a Silurian (a very warlike tribe of Wales) but he fights for the Romans and he has no problems at all in being bathed in barbarian blood at the end of a battle. That makes him a more than worthy addition to this list.

By Adrian Goldsworthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gripping, authentic novel set in Roman Britain from bestselling historian, Adrian Goldsworthy.

AD 98: VINDOLANDA.
A FORT ON THE EDGE OF THE ROMAN WORLD.

The bustling army base at Vindolanda lies on the northern frontier of Britannia and the entire Roman world. In just over twenty years time, the Emperor Hadrian will build his famous wall. But for now defences are weak as tribes rebel against Rome, and local druids preach the fiery destruction of the invaders.

It falls to Flavius Ferox, Briton and Roman centurion, to keep the peace. But it will take more than just a soldier's courage…


Empire of Silence

By Christopher Ruocchio,

Book cover of Empire of Silence

D.J. Butler Author Of Witchy Eye

From D.J.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Novelist Gamer Teacher Dad Learner

D.J.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did D.J. love this book?

Empire of Silence kicks off an epic space fantasy in the style of Gene Wolfe or Frank Herbert.

If you think Dune started well but went off the rails, try Empire of Silence. If you think the Book of the New Sun needed more sword duels and ship to ship space combat, try Empire of Silence. If you think Star Wars was pretty good, but that maybe Darth Vader is the unappreciated hero… Empire of Silence is the book for you.

By Christopher Ruocchio,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy.

It was not his war.

On the wrong planet, at the right time, for the best reasons, Hadrian Marlowe started down a path that could only end in fire. The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remember him as a monster: the devil who destroyed a sun, casually annihilating four billion human lives--even the…


The Wall

By Alistair Moffat,

Book cover of The Wall: Rome's Greatest Frontier

Douglas Jackson Author Of Hero of Rome

From the list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it.

Who am I?

Douglas Jackson is the author of eleven historical novels, including the 9-book Valerius Verrens series, which involves his Hero of Rome in conspiracies, battles, and intrigues from the Boudiccan rebellion in 60AD to the battle of Mons Graupius in 84AD. His next book, appropriately titled The Wall, will be published in 2022. His first job when he left school at sixteen was helping to restore one of Julius Agricola’s marching camps in the Cheviot Hills. The Romans have fascinated him ever since, to the point where he's managed to make a living out of writing about them. With Hadrian’s Wall almost on his doorstep, there was never any doubt he'd set a book there.

Douglas' book list on Hadrian’s Wall and the soldiers who manned it

Why did Douglas love this book?

A non-fiction book with the same title as my novel, well why not? Alistair Moffat is an old friend and fellow Borderer who grew up not so far north of Hadrian’s Wall and has an abiding passion for history, language and place. What I love about The Wall is the way it manages to encompass the grand theme of the Romans in Britain and at the same time shine a spotlight on the fascinating minutiae of life in those ancient times. Thus we learn about the games the Roman soldiers played, the food they consumed and the building techniques they used to construct the Wall. Fair enough, you say, but … where else would we discover that the historian Suetonius, whose Life of the Twelve Caesars helped inform several of my earlier novels, was sacked by the Emperor Hadrian. That WH Auden wrote a poem called ‘Roman Wall Blues’. Or…

By Alistair Moffat,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hadrian's Wall is the largest, most spectacular and one of the most enigmatic historical monument in Britain. Nothing else approaches its vast scale: a land wall running 73 miles from east to west and a sea wall stretching at least 26 miles down the Cumbrian coast. Many of its forts are as large as Britain's most formidable medieval castles, and the wide ditch dug to the south of the Wall, the vallum, is larger than any surviving prehistoric earthwork. Built in a ten-year period by more than 30,000 soldiers and labourers at the behest of an extraordinary emperor, the Wall…


Memoirs of Hadrian

By Marguerite Yourcenar, Grace Frick,

Book cover of Memoirs of Hadrian

Larry Mellman Author Of The Man With Sapphire Eyes

From the list on historical fiction with a twist.

Who am I?

I have always loved historical fiction as a reader, but my passion to write it caught fire during the years I lived in Venice, Italy, when I discovered the curious institution of the ballot boy within the Byzantine complexities of the thousand-year Venetian Republic. Since ballot boys were randomly chosen over a period of six hundred years, choosing my particular Doge and ballot boy required a survey of the entire field before I circled in on Venice, 1368, IMHO the peak brilliance of that maritime empire. It is a peculiarity of history that the names of all 130 doges of Venice are recorded, but none of their ballot boys are mentioned. The challenge was irresistible. 

Larry's book list on historical fiction with a twist

Why did Larry love this book?

It’s not Hadrian’s love affair with the beautiful boy Antinous that swept me off my feet, nor the way Hadrian makes him a god after his mysterious death and builds a city dedicated to worshiping him.

That’s only a small part of a book overflowing with the emperor’s interior life, his fears and doubts and dreams. Yourcenar spent most of her life on and off writing this book, her life’s work. Filled with the exhilaration and perplexity of achieving absolute power and then holding onto it, we experience Hadrian as a profoundly paradoxical genius from the inside out. 

By Marguerite Yourcenar, Grace Frick,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Memoirs of Hadrian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Framed as a letter from the Roman Emperor Hadrian to his successor, Marcus Aurelius, Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian is translated from the French by Grace Frick with an introduction by Paul Bailey in Penguin Modern Classics.

In her magnificent novel, Marguerite Yourcenor recreates the life and death of one of the great rulers of the ancient world. The Emperor Hadrian, aware his demise is imminent, writes a long valedictory letter to Marcus Aurelius, his future successor. The Emperor meditates on his past, describing his accession, military triumphs, love of poetry and music, and the philosophy that informed his powerful…


Terra Incognita

By Ruth Downie,

Book cover of Terra Incognita

Lisa E. Betz Author Of Fountains and Secrets

From the list on historical mystery series with a touch of humor.

Who am I?

I enjoy authors who craft twisty mystery plots with vivid historical settings filled with memorable characters. I enjoy them even more when they make me laugh out loud. When I read for pleasure, I don’t want books filled with gritty realism or tragic stories. I want a bit of fun, but my dry sense of humor is left wanting by many novels purported to be funny. I often find their main characters either annoyingly frivolous or painfully cynical. Give me intelligent characters, stories filled with hope, and an occasional one-liner that tickles my funny bone. I hope this list has introduced you to authors who do just that.

Lisa's book list on historical mystery series with a touch of humor

Why did Lisa love this book?

An unlikely pair fight crime and corruption in second-century Britain. 

Meet Ruso and Tilla. He’s an educated, idealistic Roman serving as an army medic with the 20th Legion. She’s a feisty, pragmatic Briton and former slave. Together they fight injustice, solve murders, and share an endearing talent for getting themselves into awkward pickles by misconstruing each other’s intentions. 

In Terra Incognito, Ruso travels to the British frontier, where he is the outsider and Tilla the one who understands the rules. Can a tough Roman soldier learn to take advice from his barbarian housekeeper? Can he trust her not to betray him or run away to rejoin her people? Tilla proves trustworthy, and a great crime-fighting partnership is formed.

By Ruth Downie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is spring in the year of 118, and Hadrian has been Emperor of Rome for less than a year. After getting involved with the murders of local prostitutes in the town of Deva, Doctor Gaius Petreius Ruso needs to get out of town, so has volunteered for a posting with the Army on the volatile border where the Roman-controlled half of Britannia meets the independent tribes of the North. Not only is he going to the hinterlands of the hinterlands, but it his slave Tilla's homeland and she has some scores to settle there. Soon they find that Tilla's…