The best Roman Republic books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about the Roman Republic and why they recommend each book.

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Women in Ancient Rome

By Bonnie MacLachlan,

Book cover of Women in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook

Even though the details of specific aristocratic women in the late Republic are often fleeting, serious digging into our sources provides a much fuller and richer picture of Roman women, a critical half of the Roman people. McClachlan offers a brief, but rich introduction to the available literary evidence. The book extends before and beyond the Republic, painting a picture that transcends the political structure of Monarchy, Republic, and Empire. The English translations are very readable (not always the case to be sure).

What makes her work so engaging for those who want to dig into the Romans’ own words, is that McLachlan essentially writes in each chapter a combination of narrative, context, and commentary that work seamlessly with the passages from the ancient sources to deliver an engaging narrative about the topics from Legendary Dido, to the historical women protesting the Oppian laws. It is such an accessible way…

Women in Ancient Rome

By Bonnie MacLachlan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This sourcebook includes a rich and accessible selection of Roman original sources in translation ranging from the Regal Period through Republican and Imperial Rome to the late Empire and the coming of Christianity. From Roman goddesses to mortal women, imperial women to slaves and prostitutes, the volume brings new perspectives to the study of Roman women's lives. Literary sources comprise works by Livy, Catullus, Ovid, Juvenal and many others. Suggestions for further reading, a general bibliography, and an index of ancient authors and works are also included.


Who am I?

I am a historian and history teacher in Ohio with a passion for studying the endlessly fascinating Roman Republic. It was a time when many believed the gods walked the earth, when legend and reality mixed. The resulting stories lure us with their strangeness while reminding us of our modern world. For me, no topic in the Republic captures this paradox of strangeness and familiarity more than the political systems of the Republic. Our very ideas about representative democracy come from the Romans. But the legacy is deeper. In Roman politicians’ thirst for votes and victory, their bitter rivalries we can, perhaps, see the dangers of excessive political competition today.


I wrote...

Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

By Jeremiah McCall,

Book cover of Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

What is my book about?

This is the story of how some Roman aristocrats grew so competitive in their political rivalries that they destroyed their Republic, in the late second to mid-first century BCE. Politics had always been a fractious game at Rome as aristocratic competitors strove to outshine one another in elected offices and honors. And for centuries it had worked—or at least worked for these elite and elitist competitors. Enemies were defeated, glory was spread round the ruling class, and the empire of the Republic steadily grew. When rivalries grew too bitter, when aristocrats seemed headed toward excessive power, the oligarchy of the Roman Senate would curb its more competitive members, fostering consensus that allowed the system—the competitive arena for offices and honors, and the domination of the Senate—to continue.

Rubicon

By Tom Holland,

Book cover of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic

Named for the river that Julius Caesar crossed when he invaded Italy and began the civil war which brought the Roman Republic to its knees, this book offers a sweeping account of the Republic’s fall and has been rightly described as narrative history at its best. All the major characters are vividly presented, from Marius and Sulla to Pompey, Cicero and Caesar, in prose that manages to remain readable and fast-paced while spanning almost 400 pages. Tragedy is arguably more apparent than triumph, understandably in a book devoted to the collapse of the Republican order. But the glory of the Republic does also shine through, and the story is told on a larger scale than my book would have allowed.

Rubicon

By Tom Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roman Republic was the most remarkable state in history. What began as a small community of peasants camped among marshes and hills ended up ruling the known world. Rubicon paints a vivid portrait of the Republic at the climax of its greatness - the same greatness which would herald the catastrophe of its fall. It is a story of incomparable drama. This was the century of Julius Caesar, the gambler whose addiction to glory led him to the banks of the Rubicon, and beyond; of Cicero, whose defence of freedom would make him a byword for eloquence; of Spartacus,…


Who am I?

Born and raised in New Zealand I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I had decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach many different aspects of that transformation, from the Roman Republic to early Christianity and the Goths, and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 


I wrote...

Book cover of The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction

What is my book about?

The Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilisation. It is the stuff of legends, from Hannibal crossing the Alps to Julius Caesar and the Ides of March, as Rome grew from humble beginnings to dominate the ancient Mediterranean world. Yet the triumph of the Republic was also its tragedy. The very pressures that drove Rome to expand plunged the Republic into a descending spiral of crisis and civil war, until power passed into the sole hands of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. This book offers an accessible introduction to the dramatic history of the Roman Republic, and traces the Republic’s influence from early Christianity and the Renaissance to the American and French Revolutions and down to our modern times.

The Roman Republic

By David M. Gwynn,

Book cover of The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction

I’ve used this text a number of times teaching courses on the Republic and it is a terrific overview that will expand on many areas. Short, informative, packed with anecdotes and examples and surveying the whole of the Republic. For those interested in a more academic survey, while still very approachable, text on the period of the Republic, Gwynn’s work offers just the right balance of depth and briskness. 

The Roman Republic

By David M. Gwynn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The rise and fall of the Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilization. From humble beginnings on the seven hills beside the Tiber, the city of Rome grew to dominate the ancient Mediterranean. Led by her senatorial aristocracy, Republican armies defeated Carthage and the successor kingdoms of Alexander the Great, and brought the surrounding peoples to east and west into the Roman sphere. Yet the triumph of the Republic was also its
tragedy.

In this Very Short Introduction, David M. Gwynn provides a fascinating introduction to the history of the Roman Republic and its literary…


Who am I?

I am a historian and history teacher in Ohio with a passion for studying the endlessly fascinating Roman Republic. It was a time when many believed the gods walked the earth, when legend and reality mixed. The resulting stories lure us with their strangeness while reminding us of our modern world. For me, no topic in the Republic captures this paradox of strangeness and familiarity more than the political systems of the Republic. Our very ideas about representative democracy come from the Romans. But the legacy is deeper. In Roman politicians’ thirst for votes and victory, their bitter rivalries we can, perhaps, see the dangers of excessive political competition today.


I wrote...

Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

By Jeremiah McCall,

Book cover of Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

What is my book about?

This is the story of how some Roman aristocrats grew so competitive in their political rivalries that they destroyed their Republic, in the late second to mid-first century BCE. Politics had always been a fractious game at Rome as aristocratic competitors strove to outshine one another in elected offices and honors. And for centuries it had worked—or at least worked for these elite and elitist competitors. Enemies were defeated, glory was spread round the ruling class, and the empire of the Republic steadily grew. When rivalries grew too bitter, when aristocrats seemed headed toward excessive power, the oligarchy of the Roman Senate would curb its more competitive members, fostering consensus that allowed the system—the competitive arena for offices and honors, and the domination of the Senate—to continue.

Book cover of The Fall of the Roman Republic

For any reader seeking a short (not much more than 100 pages) and concise account of the Republic’s fall, Shotter has provided an excellent foundation. The key themes and events are clearly explained, as are the sometimes rather complicated structures and offices of the Republican political system, in a series of compact chapters organized around the leading individuals from the Gracchi brothers to Mark Antony and Octavian (the future emperor Augustus). Shotter’s emphasis is very much on clarity and accuracy rather than dramatic narrative, and my students have found this an ideal book to read in order to acquire a solid grounding before moving on to longer and more intensive volumes.

The Fall of the Roman Republic

By David Shotter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Revised and updated to include the latest research in the field, this second edition of a popular history text examines how the Roman republic was destabilized by the unplanned growth of the Roman Empire.

Central discussion points include:

the government of the republic how certain individuals took advantage of the expansion of the empire Julius Caesar's accession to power the rise of the Augustan principate following Julius Caesar's murder.

Drawing on a wealth of recent scholarship and including an expanded and updated guide to further reading, a chronology, and a guide to the provinces of the Roman Empire, students of…


Who am I?

Born and raised in New Zealand I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I had decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach many different aspects of that transformation, from the Roman Republic to early Christianity and the Goths, and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 


I wrote...

Book cover of The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction

What is my book about?

The Roman Republic occupies a special place in the history of Western civilisation. It is the stuff of legends, from Hannibal crossing the Alps to Julius Caesar and the Ides of March, as Rome grew from humble beginnings to dominate the ancient Mediterranean world. Yet the triumph of the Republic was also its tragedy. The very pressures that drove Rome to expand plunged the Republic into a descending spiral of crisis and civil war, until power passed into the sole hands of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor. This book offers an accessible introduction to the dramatic history of the Roman Republic, and traces the Republic’s influence from early Christianity and the Renaissance to the American and French Revolutions and down to our modern times.

Book cover of The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic

Duncan walks the reader through the generations leading up to the fall of the Republic, examining the political, economic, and social conditions that led to civil war and, eventually, the transition to Empire. While Duncan provides biographies of key figures like the Gracchi brothers, he also sets them in the context of their world: its constraints, its faith, its competing pressures. The Storm Before the Storm opens a window into an under-examined period of history, one which has echoes in modern-day politics.

The Storm Before the Storm

By Mike Duncan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roman Republic was one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of civilization. Beginning as a small city-state in central Italy, Rome gradually expanded into a wider world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings. Through the centuries, Rome's model of cooperative and participatory government remained remarkably durable and unmatched in the history of the ancient world.

In 146 BC, Rome finally emerged as the strongest power in the Mediterranean. But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome now ruled:…


Who am I?

I’m a writer and educator working in central Virginia, and I’ve been in love with the ancient world since my first Latin class back in the seventh grade. I’ve always been interested in social history more than just the chronology of battles and the deeds of famous men, so my research looks for sources that can illuminate daily life and the viewpoints of marginalized populations. I hold a BA in English and History from the College of William and Mary and an MLitt from Mary Baldwin University.


I wrote...

From Unseen Fire

By Cass Morris,

Book cover of From Unseen Fire

What is my book about?

The Dictator is dead; long live the Republic. But whose Republic will it be? Senators, generals, and elemental mages vie for the power to shape the future of the city of Aven. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. Now that the Dictator who threatened her family is gone, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people—if only she can find the courage to try.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history. As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius will use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate. But when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery, will their efforts be enough to save the Republic they love?

The Roman Revolution

By Ronald Syme,

Book cover of The Roman Revolution

Considered a controversial masterpiece, this book has helped reveal far more than many realize. It examined the fall and overthrow of the Roman Republic and the re-establishment of the monarchy centered on the life and career of Octavian, who became Augustus, the first emperor. Syme, a much-respected scholar of ancient Rome, was immensely skilled in the use of prosopography, the technique of examining and tracing genealogical connections between the various leading families of republican and imperial Rome. He showed that republican Rome was ruled by an oligarchy, in this case, where a small group of powerful people, related by blood, marriage links, are in control. Syme’s expertise in examining the nomenclature of ancient history has allowed further discoveries to be made, mainly the family connections between the Roman Emperors of the first and second centuries. This is not the best book for an introduction to Roman history, but it is…

The Roman Revolution

By Ronald Syme,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roman Revolution is a profound and unconventional treatment of a great theme - the fall of the Republic and the decline of freedom in Rome between 60 BC and AD 14, and the rise to power of the greatest of the Roman Emperors, Augustus. The transformation of state and society, the violent transference of power and property, and the establishment of Augustus' rule are presented in an unconventional narrative, which quotes from ancient evidence, refers
seldomly to modern authorities, and states controversial opinions quite openly. The result is a book which is both fresh and compelling.


Who am I?

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


I wrote...

Creating Christianity - A Weapon Of Ancient Rome

By Henry Davis,

Book cover of Creating Christianity - A Weapon Of Ancient Rome

What is my book about?

A profound and controversial investigation of a complex theme - the war that led to the fall of Jerusalem and the creation of the Christian religion. The religious and political battle between the people of Judea and the Jewish and Roman aristocracies is presented in an unconventional narrative, which investigates ancient evidence, quotes from the work of respected authorities on the subject, and states controversial opinions openly. Its main conclusion is that the New Testament (the new law) was created by a powerful senatorial family called the Calpurnius Pisos, who had the full support of their relatives, the Herodian royal family (the family of ‘Herod the Great’), and the Flavian emperors, with the Piso family hiding their name within the Koine Greek scriptures. The result is a book that is both provocative and compelling.

Cicero and His Friends

By Gaston Boissier, Adnah David Jones,

Book cover of Cicero and His Friends: A Study of Roman Society in the Time of Caesar

Cicero, the statesman who stood in defense of the Roman Republic against Julius Caesar's popular uprising, was himself a fine writer. Assassinated in the civil war, he never had a chance to write a history of his time. For that reason, I have chosen this beautiful, balanced, profoundly humane study by one of France's greatest historians. Cicero's often solitary stand against the man who was once his friend, his stoic acceptance of what the consequences were to be to himself and his family, and on the other side, the heavy personal cost to Caesar himself of his own advance, are all laid out, illuminated by the light of a profound understanding of the human condition, another name for which is "wisdom".

Cicero and His Friends

By Gaston Boissier, Adnah David Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This Is A New Release Of The Original 1897 Edition.


Who am I?

Benita Kane Jaro's novels are admired for their intense focus on the personal experience of historical events, and on the literature in which the participants expressed it. Her novels and translations have been featured in many academic journals, books, and papers, and cited on popular internet sites, Wikipedia, National Public Radio, major American newspapers, and lists of the best novels on Roman history in the US and abroad.


I wrote...

The Key: A Passionate Novel About Catullus

By Benita Kane Jaro,

Book cover of The Key: A Passionate Novel About Catullus

What is my book about?

Gaius Valerius Catullus, a young poet from the provinces, comes to Rome. There he falls in love with a woman of the highest reaches of Roman society, deeply involved in politics. Their affair, embodied in his incandescent poetry, thrusts him into the upheaval of a collapsing Republic amid the shifting loyalties of ambitious men and women, of ordinary citizens, of slaves and free. The first volume of a trilogy about the destruction of the Roman Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar.

Book cover of Politics in the Roman Republic

Mouritsen’s short, detailed, survey of Roman politics in the Republic packs such a punch in terms of its sophisticated, but brief, analyses of Roman political systems including the fall of the Republic. In short, I think Mouritsen has done as good a job as any historian, page-for-page examining in brief the mechanics of Republican politics and their collapse. I certainly relied on his broader analysis of Roman political systems and their collapse on a number of occasions in my book as we investigated the turbulent tenures of this and that aristocrat. Politics in the Roman Republic is an excellent first step to Mouritsen’s thoughtful analysis, since it will provide the stories of essentially all the key aristocrats who form the evidence for his analysis. For those who want even more understanding of the political and competitive systems as they operated, Mouritsen’s book is a terrific next step.

Politics in the Roman Republic

By Henrik Mouritsen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The politics of the Roman Republic has in recent decades been the subject of intense debate, covering issues such as the degree of democracy and popular influence, 'parties' and ideology, politics as public ritual, and the character of Rome's political culture. This engaging book examines all these issues afresh, and presents an original synthesis of Rome's political institutions and practices. It begins by explaining the development of the Roman constitution over time before turning to the practical functioning of the Republic, focusing particularly on the role of the populus Romanus and the way its powers were expressed in the popular…


Who am I?

I am a historian and history teacher in Ohio with a passion for studying the endlessly fascinating Roman Republic. It was a time when many believed the gods walked the earth, when legend and reality mixed. The resulting stories lure us with their strangeness while reminding us of our modern world. For me, no topic in the Republic captures this paradox of strangeness and familiarity more than the political systems of the Republic. Our very ideas about representative democracy come from the Romans. But the legacy is deeper. In Roman politicians’ thirst for votes and victory, their bitter rivalries we can, perhaps, see the dangers of excessive political competition today.


I wrote...

Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

By Jeremiah McCall,

Book cover of Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

What is my book about?

This is the story of how some Roman aristocrats grew so competitive in their political rivalries that they destroyed their Republic, in the late second to mid-first century BCE. Politics had always been a fractious game at Rome as aristocratic competitors strove to outshine one another in elected offices and honors. And for centuries it had worked—or at least worked for these elite and elitist competitors. Enemies were defeated, glory was spread round the ruling class, and the empire of the Republic steadily grew. When rivalries grew too bitter, when aristocrats seemed headed toward excessive power, the oligarchy of the Roman Senate would curb its more competitive members, fostering consensus that allowed the system—the competitive arena for offices and honors, and the domination of the Senate—to continue.

From the Gracchi to Nero

By H.H. Scullard,

Book cover of From the Gracchi to Nero

This is a focused survey of the most fascinating period in Rome's history, when the ancient Republic evolved into an empire: the era of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and the emperors Augustus, Nero, and others. During this period Rome's expansion meant major internal changes and a century of instability, and I know of no better book that explains why and how this happened.

From the Gracchi to Nero

By H.H. Scullard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the Gracchi to Nero is an outstanding history of the Roman world from 133 BC to 68 AD. Fifty years since publication it is widely hailed as the classic survey of the period, going through many revised and updated editions until H.H. Scullard's death. It explores the decline and fall of the Roman Republic and the establishment of the Pax Romana under the early Principate. In superbly clear style, Scullard brings vividly to life the Gracchi's attempts at reform, the rise and fall of Marius and Sulla, Pompey and Caesar, society and culture in the late Roman Republic, the…


Who am I?

I have spent 50 years studying, teaching, and writing about Roman history, participating in and leading many archaeological expeditions to the Roman world, particularly in Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the Levant. I have written a dozen books on the ancient world, including the best-selling Cleopatra: A Biography. Ancient Rome is both my expertise and passion.


I wrote...

Empire of the Black Sea: The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic World

By Duane W. Roller,

Book cover of Empire of the Black Sea: The Rise and Fall of the Mithridatic World

What is my book about?

What is commonly called the kingdom of Pontos flourished for over two hundred years in the coastal regions of the Black Sea. At its peak in the early first century BC, it included much of the southern, eastern, and northern littoral, becoming one of the most important Hellenistic dynasties not founded by a successor of Alexander the Great. It also posed one of the greatest challenges to Roman imperial expansion in the east. Not until 63 BC, after many violent clashes, was Rome able to subjugate the kingdom and its last charismatic ruler Mithridates VI. This book provides the first general history of this important kingdom from its mythic origins in Greek literature (e.g., Jason and the Golden Fleece) to its entanglements with the late Roman Republic. 

Persian Fire

By Tom Holland,

Book cover of Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West

Tom Holland is one of the most famous popular historians alive, and also one of the most famous polymaths, writing on topics ranging from Islam to medieval and classical history. He’s also dabbled in fiction and playwriting, and those chops come shining through in Persian Fire, an entirely fresh look at one of the most studied conflicts in ancient history – The Greco-Persian War. Holland effortlessly eviscerates the tired “east versus west” narrative and treats the Persians with an honestly and empathy that is made even more rich by his gifts as a storyteller.

Persian Fire

By Tom Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 480 BC, Xerxes, the King of Persia, led an invasion of mainland Greece. Its success should have been a formality. For seventy years, victory - rapid, spectacular victory - had seemed the birthright of the Persian Empire. In the space of a single generation, they had swept across the Near East, shattering ancient kingdoms, storming famous cities, putting together an empire which stretched from India to the shores of the Aegean. As a result of those conquests, Xerxes ruled as the most powerful man on the planet. Yet somehow, astonishingly, against the largest expeditionary force ever assembled, the Greeks…


Who am I?

I’m a lifelong warfighter, law enforcement officer, intelligence officer, and emergency services worker, intimately familiar with the crisis response and what makes conflict so fascinating to students of history. I’m also a popular novelist with an in-depth understanding of story arcs and what makes great prose. I’ve previously published narrative military history myself – Legion Versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World. My short nonfiction, much of it based on military history and crisis work, has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Ancient Warfare Magazine.


I wrote...

The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy

By Myke Cole,

Book cover of The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy

What is my book about?

The Spartan hoplite enjoys unquestioned currency as history's greatest fighting man. The last stand at Thermopylae made the Spartans legends in their own time, famous for their ability to endure hardship, control their emotions, and to never surrender - even in the face of impossible odds, even when it meant certain death. Was this reputation earned? Or was it simply the success of a propaganda machine that began turning at Thermopylae in 480 BC?

The story of the Spartans is one of the best known in history, from their rigorous training to their dramatic feats of arms--but is that portrait of Spartan supremacy true? I go back to the original sources to set the record straight.

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