The most recommended books about gladiators

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to gladiators, and here are their favorite gladiator books.
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Book cover of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

Steven A. McKay Author Of The Druid

From my list on what you should read after Steven A. McKay's The Druid.

Who am I?

I was born in Scotland in 1977 and always enjoyed studying history – well, the interesting bits, not so much what they taught us in school. My first book in the Forest Lord series, Wolf’s Head, was set in medieval England and it’s a fast-paced, violent retelling of the Robin Hood legends. I’ve since sold over 130,000 books in the past few years. As a working class man from a little village in Scotland, I’m honestly amazed at how many people enjoy my writing.

Steven's book list on what you should read after Steven A. McKay's The Druid

Steven A. McKay Why did Steven love this book?

A collection of interlinked short stories about the volcanic destruction of Pompeii which works better than I thought it would. A lot better, as this is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read, bringing me to tears in places. Six authors, all looking at the doom of quite different characters, from gladiators to senators to a pregnant woman and more, you expect the whole thing to be utterly depressing but, somehow, it isn’t. I must admit I read this when I was in a very fragile state of mind having just suffered a terrible tragedy of my own, so it’s possible that affected my reading of A Day of Fire and how I responded to it, but I know it was extremely well written and I was so glad to have read it. I think you should too.

By Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, Sophie Perinot , Vicky Alvear Shecter , Kate Quinn , E. Knight

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . . and these are their stories: A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets. An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire. An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished. A crippled senator welcomes death, until…


Book cover of Ancient Rome

Suzanne Tyrpak Author Of Vestal Virgin: Suspense in Ancient Rome

From my list on ancient Rome at the time of Nero.

Who am I?

Having been an actor and a dancer, in college I became interested in the origins of those arts. Curiosity led me to study Greek theater and ancient religions. In the early 2000s, I traveled to Rome with a group of writers, including Terry Brooks, Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Engstrom, and John Saul. As soon as I set foot in Rome, I fell in love with that magnificent city’s history—in particular Vestal Virgins, the most powerful women in the ancient world. That trip inspired me to write Vestal Virgin—suspense in ancient Rome, a bestseller in many categories on Amazon.

Suzanne's book list on ancient Rome at the time of Nero

Suzanne Tyrpak Why did Suzanne love this book?

Found in the children’s section, I depend Eyewitness Books. I’ve collected a number of them and find them extremely useful for quick reference. Loaded with photographs and snippets of well researched information, they are enjoyable for readers of all ages. Topics in this book include: Family life, the bloody arena, a trip to the baths, worship and sacrifice, a dinner party, and much more. Ancient Rome is brought to life.

By Dorling Kindersley, Simon James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

From Roman emperors and gods and goddesses to soldiers and gladiators, step into the exciting world of ancient Rome.

Who were Rome's most famous emperors? What was everyday life like for a soldier in the Roman army? How did the citizens of ancient Rome live? Did gladiators really fight to the death in the mighty Colosseum? Find out the answers to all these questions, and many more, in Eyewitness: Ancient Rome.

Photographs of real artifacts and detailed illustrations will help you to learn all about the time of ancient Rome, from a small city-state ruled by kings to one of…


Book cover of Love and Vengenace

Nancy Kimball Author Of Unseen Love

From my list on that put the Roman in romance.

Who am I?

When I watched the Ridley Scott film Gladiator for the first time, I knew then my heart belonged in Ancient Rome. Countless books, films, research papers, museums, and shenanigans later, that is still true. I was a master of make-believe by age ten, and when the time was right, both passions fused into my debut novel, also set in Ancient Rome. I don’t want to just read or write a good book. I want to experience Ancient Rome vicariously through powerful characters that linger in my memory long after the last page. If that’s you too, give these a try. 

Nancy's book list on that put the Roman in romance

Nancy Kimball Why did Nancy love this book?

If Game of Thrones and the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand had a baby, it would be this novel. I know that’s a Greek Spartan on the cover, but if you can overlook that, there’s a very good story weaving through the horrible fates being thrown at Marcus and Gustina. And I mean seriously horrible. What this story lacks in deep point of view, and strong characterization, it makes up for with well-written, albeit very, very graphic, sex and violence. Part of me died when Andy Whitfield did, so this story in its own way is a road back to what was the absolute best, and worst, depending on your perspective, of the decadence and brutality that was Ancient Rome.

By Gina Danna,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Under the heel of Mighty Rome, this gladiator must win this battle over love and vengeance!

Rome 108 A.D., under the Emperor Trajan, is the center of the civilized world. It is a time of sophistication and decadence, a brutal world to their conquered.

Marcus, a Roman citizen sentenced to die as a gladiator, accused by his wife and brother for a crime he did not commit. Yet death eludes him and he rises to become champion of the sands. The title he does not want. He seeks revenge but his victories in the Colosseum bestow monetary rewards he can…


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

D.J. Butler 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…


Book cover of Daily Life in Late Antiquity

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From my list on thinking about history in a different way.

Who am I?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Andy Merrills Why did Andy love this book?

This is the only book on the list that relates directly to my main topic of research, but that is a strong recommendation in itself. In truth, there are lots of books about ‘late antiquity’ (or ‘the later Roman Empire’), and many of them are very good indeed. But they also tell a familiar story in familiar ways: they discuss politics, military actions, transforming towns, and (increasingly) plague and climate change. Sessa’s book deals with all of these themes in some way, but flips the whole thing on its head. This book looks at the period from the bottom up, thinking about the lived experiences of women and children, of country-dwellers, and those who inhabited the less glamorous corners of the empire. Reading this made me think again about lots of topics that I thought I knew well. It is also accessibly written and introduces a sometimes complex period very…

By Kristina Sessa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Daily Life in Late Antiquity is the first comprehensive study of lived experience in the Late Roman Empire, from c.250-600 CE. Each of the six topical chapters highlight historical 'everyday' people, spaces, and objects, whose lives operate as windows into the late ancient economy, social relations, military service, religious systems, cultural habits, and the material environment. However, it is nevertheless grounded in late ancient primary sources - many of which are available in accessible English translations - and the most recent, cutting-edge scholarship by specialists in fields such as archaeology, social history, religious studies, and environmental history. From Manichean rituals…


Book cover of 24 Hours in Ancient Rome: A Day in the Life of the People Who Lived There

Melissa Addey Author Of From the Ashes

From my list on non-fiction to immerse yourself in Ancient Rome.

Who am I?

Curious about Ancient Rome and especially about gladiators, I asked myself, who were the backstage team of the Colosseum? The more I searched for the team, the more I realised there was hardly any mention of them. If there were hundreds of animals, dancers, singers, gladiators, criminals, and more about to be shown off to an audience of 60,000, who was planning and managing it all? And so I created the Colosseum’s backstage team – a retired centurion called Marcus and his scribe Althea, along with a motley crew of slaves, a prostitute, a street boy, even a retired Vestal Virgin… they came alive for me while researching and I eventually created a four-book series.

Melissa's book list on non-fiction to immerse yourself in Ancient Rome

Melissa Addey Why did Melissa love this book?

Hour by hour, we follow various Romans as they go about their day, seeing many different jobs and possible fates ahead for a whole cast of characters. Engagingly written, it smoothly shares a real wealth of knowledge and detail about Ancient Rome without falling into the trap of ‘info-dumping’. I really liked that it mainly follows plebians, not the ruling class: no villas and togas here, rather blocks of flats and plain tunics. A great read.

By Philip Matyszak,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked 24 Hours in Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Walk a day in a Roman's sandals ... What was it like to live in one of the ancient world's most powerful and bustling cities - one that was eight times more densely populated than modern day New York?

In this entertaining and enlightening guide, bestselling historian Philip Matyszak introduces us to 24 characters who lived and worked there. In each hour of the day we meet a new character - from a senator to a slave girl, a gladiator to an astrologer, watchmen to washerwomen - and discover the fascinating details of their daily lives.


Book cover of Enslaved: An Ancient Rome Romance

Nancy Kimball Author Of Unseen Love

From my list on that put the Roman in romance.

Who am I?

When I watched the Ridley Scott film Gladiator for the first time, I knew then my heart belonged in Ancient Rome. Countless books, films, research papers, museums, and shenanigans later, that is still true. I was a master of make-believe by age ten, and when the time was right, both passions fused into my debut novel, also set in Ancient Rome. I don’t want to just read or write a good book. I want to experience Ancient Rome vicariously through powerful characters that linger in my memory long after the last page. If that’s you too, give these a try. 

Nancy's book list on that put the Roman in romance

Nancy Kimball Why did Nancy love this book?

I am so thrilled this author is rereleasing this novel and am stoked to revisit Lucia and Marcus’s story. When I first agreed to participate with this list, it was the first book that came to mind. Dean’s storytelling is so powerful. She plays to the history of Rome, and the conflict and dynamics unique to the time period so well as you journey through an impossible romance that refuses to die, much like its hero and heroine. What I appreciated most about this novel is how Marcus is allowed to be more than a slave and gladiator and how Lucia does what she must to survive her situation while always holding fast to the defiance and strength she shared with Marcus in their early days.  

By Cassandra Dean,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A tale of breathless passion, constant devotion, and all-consuming love from Award Winning Australian Author Cassandra Dean

I was to teach a slave.

Marcus, a gladiator in my father’s ludus, was compelled to my presence to learn of Rome’s gods, her legends. When first he came, fear consumed me – fear of this silent, resentful slave who burned with his anger.

Time, though, changes much. Marcus softened and I grew unafraid. As we became closer, I grew more than merely unafraid – I grew to love him. Never did I think we would be separated.

I was wrong.

I forced…


Book cover of Chain-Gang All-Stars

Chris McKinney Author Of Midnight, Water City

From Chris' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Novelist Genre-bender Cross-cultural

Chris' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Chris McKinney Why did Chris love this book?

Chain Gang All Stars is the kind of book you read and you wish you wrote.

From its concept (a dystopian future in which corporate prisons coerce inmates to fight to the death in front of both live and televised audiences) to its larger-than-life characters (the indomitable Loretta Thurwar and the lightning-quick Hurricane Staxxx), the novel is all at once horrifying, darkly comic, and heartbreaking.

It’s one of those books with everything. Biting social commentary? Check. A complicated love story? Check. Longlisted for a National Book Award, I’d put my money on this novel to win.

By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Chain-Gang All-Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

She felt their eyes, all those executioners...

Enter a world where, watched by millions, prisoners fight like gladiators for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

'You cannot applaud [this] novel without getting blood on your hands...' NEW YORK TIMES

'A dystopian vision so...illuminating that it should permanently shift our understanding of who we are and what we're capable of doing' WASHINGTON POST

'Electrifying' GEORGE SAUNDERS

Welcome to Chain-Gang All-Stars, the popular and highly controversial programme inside America's private prison system. In packed arenas, live-streamed by millions, prisoners compete as gladiators for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

Fan favourites Loretta Thurwar and…


Book cover of Invictus

Katie Kennedy Author Of What Goes Up

From my list on with parallel worlds.

Who am I?

I’m a history instructor and often think about alternate historical outcomes, but you don’t get to choose those. Wish the Spanish Armada hadn’t sunk? Tough luck. But you can take a novel in any direction—kill a character, bring them back, let them fall in love, make them eat an egg salad sandwich… When the book itself is about parallel worlds, it increases those possibilities exponentially. In What Goes Up, Rosa and Eddie have very different backgrounds—Earth is two different worlds for them. What happens when there’s another world out there and they meet themselves in a different place? As one character asks, how much do you trust yourself?

Katie's book list on with parallel worlds

Katie Kennedy Why did Katie love this book?

I enjoy a good adventure, and Graudin delivers here. This book starts with time travel and shifts to parallel worlds. (The main character was born outside of time, but I won’t explain that so I don’t spoil things.) He captains a crew of merry thieves who travel back to save important relics that are about to be lost in historic disasters like the sinking of the Titanic. This is a smart, quick read–and a fun one.

By Ryan Graudin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Invictus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

A heart-stopping adventure that defies time and space--New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu calls it "an incredibly intricate, brilliantly paced, masterfully written journey."
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time traveler from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in ancient Rome, Far's very existence defies the laws of nature. All he's ever wanted was to explore history for himself, but after failing his entrance exam into the government program, Far will have to settle for a position on the black market-captaining a time-traveling crew to steal valuables from the past.
During a routine…


Book cover of The Mark of the Horse Lord

Wendy J. Dunn Author Of The Light in the Labyrinth

From my list on Rosemary Sutcliff for history loving teenagers.

Who am I?

I’m an Australian author passionate about history. Alas, not Australian history. That would make my life so much easier. As a child, I loved tales of ancient Greece. That love took me in two directions—Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome—Ancient Rome introduced me to Roman Britain, and the Roman Britain novels of Rosemary Sutcliff. My love of history probably explains why a childhood friend gave me a child’s book of English history for my tenth birthday. One of the book’s chapters told the story of Elizabeth I. As she wont to do in her own times, Elizabeth hooked me, keeping me captured ever since, and enslaved to writing and learning more about Tudors.

Wendy's book list on Rosemary Sutcliff for history loving teenagers

Wendy J. Dunn Why did Wendy love this book?

This novel reminds the reader that humans have carried certain truths from the dawn of time. It tells the story of Phaedrus, a slave from birth. When he gains his wooden-foil of freedom in the gladiatorial arena, he finds his life suddenly empty, and without purpose. This results in him agreeing to assume another’s identity. Not simply ‘another’s identity’ but to become a ‘king’ of the Dal Riada people of Scotland. Phaedrus, to his surprise, discovers leadership gives his life true purpose, friendship, and love. But the time comes when he must show himself worthy of the Mark of the Horse Lord. Beautifully told, the novel speaks of how sacredness and self-sacrifice intertwine for those who truly rule. 

By Rosemary Sutcliff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Mark of the Horse Lord as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'Take my place, Phaedrus, and with it, take my vengeance . . .'

Phaedrus the gladiator wins his freedom after years of bloody battles in the arena. Soon he finds himself riding north towards the wilds of Caledonia on a strange mission. He is to assume the identity of Midir, Lord of the Horse People, to seek vengeance against the treacherous Liadhan, who has usurped the throne.

Ahead of him lies more adventure and more danger than he had ever known in the arena . . .