The best books on Roman Britain

5 authors have picked their favorite books about Roman Britain and why they recommend each book.

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The Thetford Treasure

By Catherine Johns, Timothy Potter,

Book cover of The Thetford Treasure: Roman Jewellery and Silver

In 1979 a magnificent hoard of late Romano-British gold and silver objects was discovered at Thetford, Norfolk. This is an incredibly important archaeological find, partly for the beauty and superb workmanship of the treasure but also for the information its presence provides concerning what was going on in the late Roman period in Britain. The hoard dates from the early 4th century AD, and its place of burial is at almost exactly the same location as, three centuries earlier, the tribe of the Iceni built a huge sacred timber structure, at the time of the Boudican rebellion in AD60. This was also a place of tribal assembly and after the Romans defeated Boudica, their army deliberately dismantled it as though it had never been, so as to erase their near-defeat by a British queen. The treasure itself is fascninating: for me the most intriguing objects were the more than thirty…

The Thetford Treasure

By Catherine Johns, Timothy Potter,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I am an Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University. I have been writing books on later prehistoric and Romano-British and Roman provincial cults and customs since the 1980s, and my fascination with this subject remains undimmed. I have travelled all over the world as a visiting lecturer and in 2015 my book Bog Bodies Uncovered won two US Books of the Year awards. I have always been of the view that research is pointless unless it is shared and easily communicated, and so I try to avoid academic jargon and to present my publications both as accessible to general readers and as relevant to people at the cutting edge of their own research.


I wrote...

Sacred Britannia: The Gods and Rituals of Roman Britain

By Miranda Aldhouse-Green,

Book cover of Sacred Britannia: The Gods and Rituals of Roman Britain

What is my book about?

Two thousand years ago, the Romans sought to absorb into their empire what they regarded as a remote, almost mythical island on the very edge of the known world--Britain. The expeditions of Julius Caesar and the Claudian invasion of 43 AD, up to the traditional end of Roman Britain in the fifth century AD, brought fundamental and lasting changes to the island. Not least among these was a pantheon of new classical deities and religious systems, along with a clutch of exotic eastern cults, including Christianity. But what homegrown deities, cults, and cosmologies did the Romans encounter in Britain, and how did the British react to the changes? Under Roman rule, the old gods and their adherents were challenged, adopted, adapted, absorbed, and reconfigured.

Roman Britain

By Patricia Southern,

Book cover of Roman Britain: A New History 55 BC-AD 450

Many narratives on the history of the Roman presence in Britain focus on the political, economic or social aspects of the story. However, here Patricia Southern focuses particularly on the human experience, giving real insight into the lives of the individuals who lived through the Roman occupation.  

Roman Britain

By Patricia Southern,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For nearly four centuries, from AD 43 to 410, Britain was a small province on the north-western edge of the vast Roman Empire. Though it was small, it was not insignificant. There were more Roman soldiers in Britain than there were in the provinces of North Africa, and the governors who were appointed by the Emperor were among the most prominent men of their day, at the peak of their careers. People from all classes of Roman Britain's multi-cultural and varied society can still speak to us, indirectly via the works of ancient historians, annalists and biographers, and directly from…

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. 


I wrote...

Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

By Simon Elliott, Simon Elliott,

Book cover of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

What is my book about?

Legio IX Hispana had a long and active history, later in its career founding both Lincoln and York in Britain, from where it guarded the northern frontiers in the Roman province. However, it is last mentioned in history in AD 82 and epigraphy in AD 108, after which it completely disappears. The mystery of its disappearance has inspired debate and imagination for centuries. In his new best-selling work, Dr. Simon Elliott analyses whether it was most likely lost in the north of Britain, in the south here, on the Rhine or Danube, or in the east.

Book cover of A History of Roman Coinage in Britain

Numismatics has a huge role to play in helping tell the story of Roman Britain, not only from a chronological perspective, but also because the types and quality of the coinage tells us much about the nature of the province and empire in a given period. Here the British Museum’s Sam Moorhead has written a masterful account of this key aspect of the archaeology of Roman Britain. 

A History of Roman Coinage in Britain

By Sam Moorhead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of Roman Coinage in Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


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. 


I wrote...

Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

By Simon Elliott, Simon Elliott,

Book cover of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

What is my book about?

Legio IX Hispana had a long and active history, later in its career founding both Lincoln and York in Britain, from where it guarded the northern frontiers in the Roman province. However, it is last mentioned in history in AD 82 and epigraphy in AD 108, after which it completely disappears. The mystery of its disappearance has inspired debate and imagination for centuries. In his new best-selling work, Dr. Simon Elliott analyses whether it was most likely lost in the north of Britain, in the south here, on the Rhine or Danube, or in the east.

Roman Sussex

By Miles Russell,

Book cover of Roman Sussex

Absolutely invaluable and more narrowly focused, Miles Russell’s Roman Sussex. This one gives the reader great details of ruins and archaeological sites (there are scores of them -- villas and temples and city walls --to be found all around Sussex). I've visited many of these historical sites, both as a student and later. Some of these places are only just coming to light, often by accident as Fishbourne was revealed when a backhoe cutting a trench across an open field hit a section of Roman brickwork. There's also a good discussion here of the real Togidubnus, my protagonist, the Celtic king who was probably the first inhabitant of the enormous palace at Fishbourne.

Roman Sussex

By Miles Russell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Starting with the first named resident of the county, Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus, Great King of Britain (with his palace at Fishbourne) and friend of the Roman emperor Claudius, this book reassesses the story of the Roman invasion of Britain and looks in detail at the earliest examples of Roman culture in Britain.

Who am I?

Sheila Finch is best known as a Nebula-winning author of science fiction, but on a visit back to her first alma mater in Chichester, UK, she encountered a mystery that wouldn’t let her go. Who built the nearby magnificent Roman palace that was just now being excavated at Fishbourne, and why? Months of research later, she came up with a possible explanation that involved a sixteen-year-old Roman mother, a middle-aged Celtic king of a small tribe, and Emperor Nero’s secret plans:


I wrote...

A Villa Far From Rome

By Sheila Finch,

Book cover of A Villa Far From Rome

What is my book about?

A homesick, 16 year-old Roman girl and her illegitimate child, exiled by the Emperor Nero to Britannia. A middle-aged Celtic king of an insignificant tribe, trying to find middle ground between Celtic tradition and Roman rule and making enemies on both sides. The shadow of martyred Queen Boudicca like a curse on the land. An old Legionary willing to give his life for a friend, and a former Greek slave with a secret past who rescues him. And an overbearing Roman architect trying to build a copy of one of the most glorious palaces in Rome in a backwater of the Empire - What could go wrong?

The World of the Celts

By Simon James,

Book cover of The World of the Celts

The difference between an account of history and historical fiction is in the sensory images the writer conjures up for the reader --"You are there!" Searching for everyday details to “set the scene” for the novel, I found a wealth of material in this scholarly discussion of Celtic life, dwelling places and weaponry, clothing, technology, history and culture. Lots of useful illustrations here that brought family bonds and Celtic society to life for me.

The World of the Celts

By Simon James,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The full story of the Celts from the seventh century BC to the Celtic renaissance in post-Roman times

Who am I?

Sheila Finch is best known as a Nebula-winning author of science fiction, but on a visit back to her first alma mater in Chichester, UK, she encountered a mystery that wouldn’t let her go. Who built the nearby magnificent Roman palace that was just now being excavated at Fishbourne, and why? Months of research later, she came up with a possible explanation that involved a sixteen-year-old Roman mother, a middle-aged Celtic king of a small tribe, and Emperor Nero’s secret plans:


I wrote...

A Villa Far From Rome

By Sheila Finch,

Book cover of A Villa Far From Rome

What is my book about?

A homesick, 16 year-old Roman girl and her illegitimate child, exiled by the Emperor Nero to Britannia. A middle-aged Celtic king of an insignificant tribe, trying to find middle ground between Celtic tradition and Roman rule and making enemies on both sides. The shadow of martyred Queen Boudicca like a curse on the land. An old Legionary willing to give his life for a friend, and a former Greek slave with a secret past who rescues him. And an overbearing Roman architect trying to build a copy of one of the most glorious palaces in Rome in a backwater of the Empire - What could go wrong?

The Little Emperors

By Alfred Duggan,

Book cover of The Little Emperors

Alfred Duggan is one of those authors I stumbled across by accident (a random discovery at my local library) a man whose books I immediately started collecting once I’d finished his first. His novels are impeccably researched and he’s one of the few authors I know who seem to slip effortlessly into the minds of their characters, offering an authentic viewpoint of their world through their eyes. This novel is set in the dying days of Roman Britain and uses what few historical details are known of the period to give us a completely credible tale of the ‘little emperors’ of the Romano-British administration as they attempt to cling to power after the departure of the last legions to the Continent.

The Little Emperors

By Alfred Duggan,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

We know so little about early English history that it’s a period often ignored by novelists who prefer to set their tales in eras that are a little more fleshed out and familiar to their readerships. This is a shame as, though much has been lost, there is still plenty to discover, and England’s ‘dark age’ offers us a rich seam of untold stories. By combining research, scholarship, and imagination an author can strike a literary light that will illuminate even the darkest corner.


I wrote...

Leofric: Sword of the Angles

By Stephen Arnott,

Book cover of Leofric: Sword of the Angles

What is my book about?

Denmark, AD 520. Fearing invasion, Cynefrid, the King of Angeln, summons a muster of fighting men to his eastern stronghold. Thegn Eadwig and his nephew, Leofric, answer the call, but they quickly become embroiled in the intrigues of the kingdom and a violent encounter leads to Leofric being charged with murder. This bloody act heaps ruin on Leofric and his family, and he is forced to flee to a remote sanctuary where he recovers his strength and plans the revenge that will ultimately reclaim his birthright.

Hadrian's Wall

By Brian Dobson, David J Breeze,

Book cover of Hadrian's Wall

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…

Hadrian's Wall

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.

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.


I wrote...

Hero of Rome

By Douglas Jackson,

Book cover of Hero of Rome

What is my book about?

Rome's grip on Britain is weakening. Roman cruelty and exploitation has angered their British subjects; the Druids are on the rise; the warrior queen Boudicca will lead the tribes to war. The Roman Tribune, Gaius Valerius Verrens must lead the legionary veterans at Colonia in a last stand against the rising tide of rebellion and the unstoppable horde of Boudicca's rebel army.

An Imperial Possession

By David Mattingly,

Book cover of An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409

In my opinion the definative, academic standard account of the Roman occupation of Britain. Professor Mattingly’s book is very well organised, with sections which easily engage the reader on specific aspects of the Roman presence here, for example religion, political organisation, the military, agriculture, and industry. It also explains in great detail the various impacts across Britain of the transition from the Late Iron Age to the Roman period.  

An Imperial Possession

By David Mattingly,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked An Imperial Possession as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Part of the Penguin History of Britain series, An Imperial Possession is the first major narrative history of Roman Britain for a generation. David Mattingly draws on a wealth of new findings and knowledge to cut through the myths and misunderstandings that so commonly surround our beliefs about this period. From the rebellious chiefs and druids who led native British resistance, to the experiences of the Roman military leaders in this remote, dangerous outpost of Europe, this book explores the reality of life in occupied Britain within the context of the shifting fortunes of the Roman Empire.

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. 


I wrote...

Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

By Simon Elliott, Simon Elliott,

Book cover of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

What is my book about?

Legio IX Hispana had a long and active history, later in its career founding both Lincoln and York in Britain, from where it guarded the northern frontiers in the Roman province. However, it is last mentioned in history in AD 82 and epigraphy in AD 108, after which it completely disappears. The mystery of its disappearance has inspired debate and imagination for centuries. In his new best-selling work, Dr. Simon Elliott analyses whether it was most likely lost in the north of Britain, in the south here, on the Rhine or Danube, or in the east.

The Druids

By Peter Berresford Ellis,

Book cover of The Druids

My copy of this book is highlighted and dogeared to the max. When searching the word Druids, you usually come up with books on magic or books related to the neopagan movement which calls itself "druidism". This book, however, is a summary of what we really know about them and is based on solid research. Scholarly yet highly entertaining. Awesome book!

The Druids

By Peter Berresford Ellis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Readable and well-researched history and practices of the Druids. Illustrated.

Who am I?

I have been studying Celtic history and lore since I was in college and took a class on Arthurian literature. Drawing heavily from Irish and Welsh lore to build my “land beyond the veil” known as the Five Quarters, I have always been intrigued by the Celtic view of the land of the dead as a distinct world to which we go and then return, like two sides of the mirrored surface of a well. The land below the water, and the land above. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!


I wrote...

Three Wells of the Sea: Three Wells Series Book 1

By Terry Madden,

Book cover of Three Wells of the Sea: Three Wells Series Book 1

What is my book about?

When high school English teacher Hugh Cavendish is summoned back across the well between worlds, he finds his killer sitting on his throne and invaders at his shore. He was a failure as a king in his last life. Why does this druid think he can fix things now? But this world holds everything he has longed for—vengeance, love, and a second chance at all of them. For he is bound to this land by blood magic and something far stronger.

He soon realizes he wasn't the only one who crossed the well. Someone has followed him here, and they are set on taking him back. But first, Cavendish vows to set things right with his land, his people, and his own soul.

Book cover of Pagan Celtic Britain

I am fascinated by the author’s contention that neither the Roman invasion of Britain nor the coming of Christianity eliminated pagan religious practice across the land. I also like the combination of archaeological and anthropological evidence with folklore and tradition, which is very unusual in such works, and provides a far broader insight into the early Celtic world than most books of its type. 

Pagan Celtic Britain

By Anne Ross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Although some aspects of pre-Roman and pre-Christian beliefs remain shrouded in mystery, the author of this comprehensive, profusely illustrated volume contends that neither the Roman invasion of Britain nor the coming of Christianity eliminated pagan religious practice. Dr Anne Ross, who speaks Gaelic and Welsh, writes from wide experience of living in Celtic speaking communities where she has traced vernacular tradition. She employs archaeological and anthropological evidence, as well as folklore, to provide broad insight into the early Celtic world. She begins by examining Celtic places of worship, the shrines and sanctuaries in which sacred objects were housed and from…

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by ancient sacred sites since I first visited the ancient Rollright Stones on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border decades ago. I am interested in how the study of folklore and local traditions can be used in conjunction with archaeology to trace the origins and purposes of ancient monuments. I am an author and researcher who has had seven books published on the subjects of ancient civilizations, prehistoric monuments, and supernatural folklore. Born in Birmingham, England, I am a qualified archaeologist with a BA in European Archaeology from the University of Nottingham, and an MPhil in Greek Archaeology from Birmingham University.


I wrote...

Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places: A Field Guide to Stone Circles, Crop Circles, Ancient Tombs, and Supernatural Landscapes

By Brian Haughton,

Book cover of Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places: A Field Guide to Stone Circles, Crop Circles, Ancient Tombs, and Supernatural Landscapes

What is my book about?

Examines the megaliths of Britain and Ireland, the tombs of the Etruscans, the ancient Native American city of Cahokia, and other legendary and mysterious places around the world, with a review of the myth, lore, and paranormal phenomena for which they are known.

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