The best books about gladiators

1 authors have picked their favorite books about gladiators and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of The Gladiator (The Romans, Book 1)

This novel was one of my comps when marketing my own book to publishers, and I love, love, love how salty the heroine Pelonia could be at times. Caros, the hero (because can we please name the heroes something other than Marcus now and then, ya’ll?) sorry, not sorry, but Caros gets a surprising amount of depth for a shorter read. He loves his freedom, his pet tiger, and the peace he’s earned as a retired gladiator, all of which Pelonia basically wrecks in pretty short order. This is a Love Inspired Historical, so readers looking to avoid explicit content can do so with a very satisfying love story with this Roman and his lady—if they don’t kill each other first, LOL.  

The Gladiator (The Romans, Book 1)

By Carla Capshaw,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gladiator (The Romans, Book 1) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

He won his fame—and his freedom—in the gory pits of Rome's Colosseum. Yet the greatest challenge for once-legendary gladiator Caros Viriathos comes to him through a slave. His slave, the beautiful and mysterious Pelonia Valeria. Her secret brings danger to his household but offers Caros a love like he's never known….

Should anyone learn she is a Christian, Pelonia will be executed. Her faith threatens not only herself, but her master. Can she convince a man who found fame through unforgiving brutality to show mercy? And when she's ultimately given the choice, will Pelonia choose freedom or the love of…


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. 


I wrote...

Unseen Love

By Nancy Kimball,

Book cover of Unseen Love

What is my book about?

In the shadows of pagan Rome, Laelia Ricarri’s recent blindness destroys her hopes of a betrothal to escape her abusive father. For Drusus, his new mistress is more capable, and beautiful, than she knows. She has an uncertain future. He has a hidden past. Can a forbidden romance set them free?

A literary agent told me in a face-to-face conversation this novel would never sell because “if your heroine is blind, there can never be a happy ending.” Full stop. Yeah, I know. I was pissed off too. However, the readers and reviewers of Unseen Love continue to answer for me that not only did this incredible love story deserve a place at the table, but also on the keeper shelf.

The Mark of the Horse Lord

By Rosemary Sutcliff,

Book cover of The Mark of the Horse Lord

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. 

The Mark of the Horse Lord

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.

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 . . .


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.


I wrote...

The Light in the Labyrinth: The Last Days of Anne Boleyn.

By Wendy J. Dunn,

Book cover of The Light in the Labyrinth: The Last Days of Anne Boleyn.

What is my book about?

In the winter of 1535, young Kate Carey lives with her mother and her new family, far from the royal court. Unhappy with her life and wishing to escape her home, she accepts the invitation of Anne Boleyn, the aunt she idolises, to join her household in London.

But the dark, dangerous labyrinth of Henry VIII’s court forces Kate to grow up fast as she witnesses her aunt’s final tragic days — and when she discovers a secret that changes her life forever. All things must end—all things but love.

Mistress of Rome

By Kate Quinn,

Book cover of Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome was the first book I ever read by Kate Quinn, but it wasn’t my last. Frankly, I fell in love with Thea, a slave in ancient Rome. Ms. Quinn never shied away from the hard stuff. The reality was Thea was a slave and, as a slave, had very limited choices in her life. Ms. Quinn crafted a novel full of rich characters who sometimes made poor choices, or had their choices made for them all the while set against the beautiful background of ancient Rome, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a novel.

Mistress of Rome

By Kate Quinn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The first in an unforgettable historical saga from the New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Diamond Eye.

"So gripping, your hands are glued to the book, and so vivid it burns itself into your mind's eye and stays with you long after you turn the final page."-Diana Gabaldon, #1 New York Times bestselling author

First-century Rome: One young woman will hold the fate of an empire in her hands.

Thea, a captive from Judaea, is a clever and determined survivor hiding behind a slave's docile mask. Purchased as a toy for the spoiled heiress Lepida…


Who am I?

I’ve been reading romance since before dirt was old—(okay, I’m not actually that old, but some days I feel like it)—and I have a deep belief that romances can be our shining light in a sometimes very dark world. Which is why when I wrote my own stories, my very first editorial letter started out with, “Wow, you really like to torture your characters.” I wanted to create genuine characters that make mistakes, mess up, and sometimes are their own worst enemy but you still want to root for them. My list of books on Heroines That Won’t Get Nominated For Sainthood will take you on a journey far more interesting than sainthood—the human experience.


I wrote...

Mi Familia: Part 1

By K.C. Klein,

Book cover of Mi Familia: Part 1

What is my book about?

My life could be every episode of Cops. Kicked out of the trailer by my stripper mother with an angry drug dealer hot on my trail. I’m outta gas and outta money and stuck in a crap-hole bar too close to the Mexican border. Yeah, nothing could go wrong with this picture. But I’ve gotta plan—hustle money out of the losers at the pool tables or five-finger discount some fat wallets, and then back on the road before anything else in my life implodes.

Too late. Meet Jack. Designer jeans. Bulging wallet. Perfect pick-pocket material. Until I follow him into the men’s bathroom and learn he’s playing his own game. Dark, dangerous, and involved with the mob, Jack’s everything I hate...and in this family, I’m the weakness he can’t afford to have. 

24 Hours in Ancient Rome

By Philip Matyszak,

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

Matyszak is one of the most knowledgeable and most entertaining authors on the subject of the Roman world. His guides to legionaries and gladiators and so on are both fun to read and highly educational. He is extremely accurate in his detail, yet provides that detail in such a way as to be highly enjoyable. 24 Hours in Ancient Rome is a unique book. It takes us through everyday life in the ancient city through the eyes of its people, almost like a reality TV show, hour by hour from the bakers in the middle of the night to the tavern owners at lunchtime, twenty-four guides to the city giving you twenty-four wonderful angles of Rome.

24 Hours in Ancient Rome

By Philip Matyszak,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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.


Who am I?

Simon has been a student and historian of ancient Rome for most of his life, and has authored one non-fiction work and numerous historical novels set in the era, a number of them set in the ancient city itself. He has spent time in Rome over the decades, hunting down traces of the ancient city and studying architecture and finds, ever deepening his understanding of the place, how it worked, what it looked like, and its place in the world. Rome is the core of three decades of research for Simon.


I wrote...

Commodus

By Simon Turney,

Book cover of Commodus

What is my book about?

Rome is enjoying a period of stability and prosperity. The Empire's borders are growing, and there are two sons in the imperial succession for the first time in Rome's history. But all is not as it appears. Cracks are beginning to show. Two decades of war have taken their toll, and there are whispers of a sickness in the East. The Empire stands on the brink of true disaster, an age of gold giving way to one of iron and rust, a time of reason and strength sliding into hunger and pain. The decline may yet be halted, though. One man tries to hold the fracturing empire together. To Rome, he is their emperor, their Hercules, their Commodus.

Space Opera

By Catherynne M. Valente,

Book cover of Space Opera

Oh. My. Flipping gods turning cartwheels. This is my book.

Oookay, now I got that out of my system, the world. Or rather, the universe. All of it. In this universe, all intelligent life very nearly wiped itself out. In the smoking rubble of the universe, everyone decided that the best way to answer the question 'who is people, and who is meat?' with music. In this universe, teeth and claws and big, big guns aren't the only answer to survival. Sometimes, being unbearably cute and fragile and setting off every maternal instinct in every species is the answer. Or being made out of stuff so inedible that nobody bothers is. Or, in the case of humanity, being very, very odd is.

And we are odd. And beautiful. And stupid. And so is the universe.

The plot is direct: sing, or die. But in that simple arc is packed a…

Space Opera

By Catherynne M. Valente,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

FINALIST FOR HUGO AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL 2019
FINALIST FOR LOCUS AWARD FOR BEST SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL 2019

IN SPACE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU SING

A century ago, intelligent space-faring life was nearly destroyed during the Sentience Wars. To bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity and understanding, the Metagalactic Grand Prix was created. Part concert, part contest, all extravaganza, species far and wide gather to compete in feats of song, dance and/or whatever facsimile of these can be performed by various creatures who may or may not possess, in the traditional sense, feet, mouths, larynxes…


Who am I?

I come from a reservation town in Wisconsin, and make my livelihood as a horticulturist in the water-strapped state of Colorado. I’m mix-race and LGBT. These influences have shaped what I look for in stories. I write and seek to read about communities in which the person creating medicine and the person growing food is just as important as the fighter, because let me tell you: if you don’t have the means to make food and heal wounds, all the guns in the world won’t save you. I particularly appreciate stories that explore ecology, agriculture, and plant science in innovative ways. These make my little horticulture-geek heart sing.


I wrote...

The Hands We're Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

By O.E. Tearmann,

Book cover of The Hands We're Given (Aces High, Jokers Wild)

What is my book about?

It's 2155, and seven corporations call the shots on the land that was the United States of America. Democracy is dead. The Corporations run the City Grids for a profit and own their worker's bodies and souls.

But there are people fighting for a change. There’s a unit in the resistance, nicknamed the Wildcards. Officially Democratic State Force Base 1407, the Wildcards are fighters in the war to bring democracy back. They're everything the Corporations despise: dreamers and fighters, punks and freaks and geeks who won't be told what to be or who to love. They've come up every walk of life to become the best unit the Democratic State Force has and the family every one of them needs. And they are taking the Corps down, one day at a time. Strap in for a series that's been called 'Firefly for the cyberpunk genre'. Hang on tight.

Venomous

By Penelope Fletcher,

Book cover of Venomous

I really enjoyed this book because it challenged my normal reading. I’m not a huge fan of reverse harem but with alien-looking aliens and a really tough heroine of color it was hard to pass up. The book is 700 plus pages and covers some of my favorite sci-fi romance tropes: alien abduction, space opera, and alien gladiator. 

Venomous

By Penelope Fletcher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"She is mine to protect, mine to shelter, mine to feed and mine to cover. When she is weak, I shall be her strength. She was stolen from her world by our captors. Now her survival is my responsibility. It is her duty to endure my lust, respect my nest mates and honour our union with offspring. I revere this giver of life, as is the way."~ Venomous One, formerly of Rök, enslaved gladiator

Abducted from Earth and transported to a slave planet in an unknown galaxy, Lumen finds herself, shackled, naked and put on display before an alien horde.…


Who am I?

As a woman of color, impassioned reader, and author to boot, I'm always advocating for inclusion in my romance reads. All of my romances feature a lead or leads of color and I'm particularly drawn to books where I can identify myself in the heroines. I like to provide other readers of color with the same experience through my books, while writing compelling romances that can be enjoyed by anyone. I have published 12 novels, with 4+ coming out in 2022. I've hit the bestseller charts on Amazon in SciFi romances and multicultural romances with every new release. You can expect my Xiveri Mates series in audio, French, and German as early as March 2022.  


I wrote...

Taken to Voraxia: a SciFi Alien Romance (Xiveri Mates Book 1)

By Elizabeth Stephens,

Book cover of Taken to Voraxia: a SciFi Alien Romance (Xiveri Mates Book 1)

What is my book about?

Miari, Blue skin. Seven feet. Strapped with corded muscle, the aliens have come again but this time, their king is here and he's watching me with hunger. A hybrid with red alien skin and brown human eyes, I've got no family and am not desired by colony men. I'm an inventor, a mechanic, a tinkerer. The alien king seeks to claim me, but he'll have to find me first. Raku, She is my Xiveri mate, yet she runs from me – straight into the horrors of her savage moon colony. Does she not know that I would slaughter in her defense? My brilliant hybrid thinks herself a slave – my slave – and in place of acceptance, offers me only pacts and bargains. Shamed by her pacts, I still take them all gluttonously, because she is mine.

From the Ashes

By Melissa Addey,

Book cover of From the Ashes

For as many fiction novels surrounding the Colosseum as I have read, this was the first one written from the stagehands, if you will, and I devoured it in a single sitting. I almost passed on it because the model on the cover is a stock photo that’s everywhere in the genre covers but I'm so glad I didn’t. Experience Pompeii’s destruction, and the building and inauguration of the Colosseum, like never before. Althea and Marcus will drag you through some of the most well-written world building and seamless research into these two events as you face calamity after calamity with them. This novel is both absolutely a romance, and barely a romance, which will make sense when you’re in the final pages of this unforgettable story.  

From the Ashes

By Melissa Addey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rome, 80AD. A gigantic new amphitheatre is being built. The Emperor has plans for gladiatorial Games on a scale no-one has ever seen before. But the Games don't just happen. They must be made. And Marcus, the man in charge of creating them, has just lost everything he held dear when Pompeii disappeared under the searing wrath of Vesuvius. Now it will fall to Althea, the slave woman who serves as his scribe, to ensure the Colosseum is inaugurated on time - and that Marcus makes his way out of the darkness that calls to him.

First in the Colosseum…


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. 


I wrote...

Unseen Love

By Nancy Kimball,

Book cover of Unseen Love

What is my book about?

In the shadows of pagan Rome, Laelia Ricarri’s recent blindness destroys her hopes of a betrothal to escape her abusive father. For Drusus, his new mistress is more capable, and beautiful, than she knows. She has an uncertain future. He has a hidden past. Can a forbidden romance set them free?

A literary agent told me in a face-to-face conversation this novel would never sell because “if your heroine is blind, there can never be a happy ending.” Full stop. Yeah, I know. I was pissed off too. However, the readers and reviewers of Unseen Love continue to answer for me that not only did this incredible love story deserve a place at the table, but also on the keeper shelf.

A Day of Fire

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

Book cover of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

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.

A Day of Fire

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…


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.


I wrote...

The Druid

By Steven A. McKay,

Book cover of The Druid

What is my book about?

Set in northern Britain in AD430. This explores the rich folklore and culture of post-Roman Britain, where blood-sacrifice, superstition, and warfare were as much a part of everyday life as love, laughter, and song. In the aftermath of a surprise attack Dun Buic lies in smoking ruins and many innocent villagers are dead. As the survivors try to make sense of the night’s events the giant warrior-druid, Bellicus, is tasked with hunting down the raiders and thwarting their dark purpose.

Ancient Rome

By Dorling Kindersley, Simon James,

Book cover of Ancient Rome

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.

Ancient Rome

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.

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…


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.


I wrote...

Vestal Virgin: Suspense in Ancient Rome

By Suzanne Tyrpak,

Book cover of Vestal Virgin: Suspense in Ancient Rome

What is my book about?

Suspense in Ancient Rome Elissa Rubria Honoria is a Vestal Virgin--priestess of the sacred flame, a visionary, and one of the most powerful women in Rome. Vestals are sacrosanct, sworn to chastity on penalty of death, but the emperor, Nero, holds himself above the law. He pursues Elissa, engaging her in a deadly game of wits and sexuality. Or is Elissa really the pursuer? She stumbles on dark secrets. No longer trusting Roman gods, she follows a new god, Jesus of Nazareth, jeopardizing her life and the future of The Roman Empire.

Book cover of The Forgotten Legion

Ben instantly became one of my favourite authors after this. It’s not often you can feel an author’s passion for their work, but it shone from every page in this book. I was already hooked on ancient Rome, but I just found this stood out amongst its peers. Ben didn’t concentrate on the generals and senators that would write their names into history, but on the everyday soldiers that lived by the edge of their sword. It is a book I will certainly never forget

The Forgotten Legion

By Ben Kane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Forgotten Legion - fighting for honour, freedom and revenge

Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery after their mother is raped by a drunken nobleman. At thirteen years old they are sold - Romulus to gladiator school, Fabiola into prostitution, where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome. Tarquinius is an Etruscan, a warrior and soothsayer, born enemy of Rome, but doomed to fight for the Republic in the Forgotten Legion. Brennus is a Gaul, his entire family killed by the Romans, and he rises to become one of the most…


Who am I?

I first became obsessed with the ancient world at around seventeen, and have spent the subsequent years researching and gathering knowledge on all aspects of ancient life. It was through fiction that this love first blossomed and the yearning for books has not yet ceased. In 2015 I decided I didn’t want to just be a reader anymore, and I began work on what would in 2017 become my debut novel, The Centurion’s Son. I have no plans to stop any time soon.


I wrote...

The Centurion’s Son

By Adam Lofthouse,

Book cover of The Centurion’s Son

What is my book about?

Albinus, the son of a revered Roman veteran Silus, has always longed to be a farmer, not a soldier, and lives his days ploughing and reaping the harvests, with his bride-to-be, Licina. But Silus’ has darker ambitions, and wishes for Albinus to follow in his footsteps in the army. As the conflicts between father and son come to a head, a growing threat comes down from the vengeful Germanic tribes to the north. Just as Albinus and Licina are about to marry, their settlement is raided by barbarians and Silus and his veteran comrades are brutally killed, while Licina is kidnapped by the raiders and taken to their king as a gift.

Believing her to be alive, Albinus sets out on a quest to find Licina, finally fulfilling his father’s wishes. As the barbarian hordes gather and plan a major rebellion against the Romans, Albinus finds a new fighting spirit within him and grows in stature among the legionaries. Licina meanwhile has a fight of her own, to escape from slavery and find Albinus. Time is running out, as the northern tribes head for Rome, decimating everything in their path…

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