The most recommended Tacitus books

Who picked these books? Meet our 9 experts.

9 authors created a book list connected to Tacitus, and here are their favorite Tacitus books.
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Book cover of 69 A.D.: The Year of Four Emperors

Martha Marks Author Of Rubies of the Viper

From my list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD.

Why am I passionate about this?

I made my first visit to Pompeii at age seven. That day, I told my parents that I had been there before. It was all very familiar. And that sense of déjà vu has never left me. I feel it whenever I go back to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Roman Forum. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but... As an adult, I’ve returned many times to those places and visited others featured in my books: the Etruscan necropolis at Caere, which was already 1,000 years old at the time of my novels; Athens; and the ancient ports of Piraeus in Greece and Itanos in Crete. I earned a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, taught for many years, and enjoyed a million marvelous experiences, but my lifelong love of ancient Rome is the direct result of that long-ago visit to Pompeii with my parents.

Martha's book list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD

Martha Marks Why did Martha love this book?

The Civil War of 69 AD — aka “The Year of Four Emperors” — was a complex, pivotal moment in the history of the Roman Empire. Since it took place at a key moment in my trilogy’s timeline, and since so many of my characters were active participants, I had to understand it. Morgan expertly clarifies an interrelated series of historical threads that I needed to follow to make my three-part fictional story both historically accurate and novelistically intriguing.

By Gwyn Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 69 A.D. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Year of Four Emperors, so the ancient sources assure us, was one of the most chaotic, violent and frightening periods in all Roman history: a time of assassinations and civil wars, of armies so out of control that they had no qualms about occupying the city of Rome, and of ambitious men who seized power only to lose it, one after another.
In 69 AD, Gwyn Morgan offers a fresh look at this period, based on two considerations to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past. First, that we need to unravel rather than cherry-pick between the…

Book cover of The Annals: The Reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero

Catharine Edwards Author Of Lives of the Caesars

From my list on Roman emperors behaving badly.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient Romans and particularly by the ways they wrote about themselves. A Professor of Ancient History at Birkbeck, University of London since 2005, I regularly take part in BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time, discussing topics such as Roman decadence. Later generations look back on ancient Rome as mired in luxury and sexual misbehaviour—but that’s because the Romans themselves were constantly accusing one another of terrible vices. What can these claims tell us about Roman society? That’s a question that I’ve often returned to in many years of university teaching—and writing books, such as The Politics of Immorality in Ancient Rome.  

Catharine's book list on Roman emperors behaving badly

Catharine Edwards Why did Catharine love this book?

This darkly magnificent account of Roman history under the emperors from the time of Tiberius to that of Nero (with some retrospective swipes at Tiberius’ predecessor Augustus) is an ironic masterpiece written by a Roman senator in the early second century CE. Tacitus offers an unflinching analysis of the effects of an autocratic system on the behaviour of rulers—and the ruled. While a handful of individuals dare to speak truth to power, most people, in his account, are caught in the toils of second-guessing how the emperor might want them to behave and what he might want them to say. Tacitus’ hugely influential analysis of what power does to peopleand his breath-taking prosemake this a riveting read.  

By Tacitus, Anthony A. Barrett, J. C. Yardley (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'He was atrocious in his brutality, but his lechery was kept hidden... In the end, he erupted into an orgy of crime and ignominy alike'

Such is Tacitus' obituary of Tiberius, and he is no less caustic in his opinion of the weak and cuckolded Claudius and the 'artist' Nero. The Annals is a gripping account of the Roman emperors who followed Augustus, the founder of the imperial system, and of the murders, sycophancy, plotting, and oppression that marked this period in Rome. Tacitus provides the earliest and most detailed account of Boudicca's rebellion in Britain, and his history also…

Book cover of The Histories

Ahimsa Kerp Author Of Empire of the Undead

From my list on the Roman world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ahimsa Kerp is a peripatetic language mercenary and spec-fic writer who hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but has lived on 5 continents. He is fond of rambling hikes, board games, and tofu tacos. He is the author of several novels, role-playing game books, and the co-founder of Knight Owl Publishing. He earned his Masters in Ancient History from the University of Queensland.

Ahimsa's book list on the Roman world

Ahimsa Kerp Why did Ahimsa love this book?

The year 68 CE is a very important, not to mention interesting, year in Roman History. Because history was written by the upper class, we tend to lose sight that Nero was a populist, a man of the people. Tacitus gives you the scoop here on all the soap opera that unfolds with the end of the Julio-Claudian line. If you think history is boring, you might be surprised at how fast-paced and scandalous these accounts are.

By Tacitus, Kenneth Wellesley (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

AD 69, the year following Nero's suicide and marking the end of the first dynasty of imperial Rome, was one of the most dramatic and dangerous in the city's history. In the surviving books of his Histories, the great barrister-historian Tacitus gives a gripping account of the long but single year' that saw the reigns of four emperors: disciplinarian Galba; conspirator and dandy Otho; unambitious hedonist Vitellius; and pragmatic victor Vespasian, who went on to establish the Flavian dynasty. In a narrative that extends from Britain to Egypt and from the Caucasus to Morocco, taking in revolt, conspiracy, battles and…

Book cover of Roman Britain: A Sourcebook

Ruth Downie Author Of Medicus

From my list on Roman Britain.

Why am I passionate about this?

A family visit to Hadrian’s Wall first sparked my interest in Roman Britain, and since then I’ve written eight novels, one novella, and a couple of short stories featuring Roman Army Medic and reluctant sleuth Gaius Petreius Ruso and his British partner, Tilla. I’m the owner of an archaeological trowel and infinite curiosity, both of which I wield as often as possible in search of the “real” Roman Britain. 

Ruth's book list on Roman Britain

Ruth Downie Why did Ruth love this book?

This is the place to go for the written evidence, conveniently gathered together in one slim paperback: all the way from the distant whispers of early Mediterranean travellers to fifth-century Christian writers. Letters, coins, altars, curses, graffiti and gravestones find a place here beside the scrolls of historians for whom “good writing” was not always synonymous with “sticking to the facts”. 

By Stanley Ireland,

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?

Roman Britain: A Sourcebook has established itself as the only comprehensive collection of source material on the subject. It incorporates literary, numismatic and epigraphic evidence for the history of Britain under Roman rule, as well as translations of major literary sources.

This new edition includes not only recently discovered material, but also the texts of Caesar's commentaries on his expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 BC, as well as relevant sections of Tacitus' biography of his father-in-law, former governor of Britain. The inclusion of these pivotal texts, which provide the most detailed account of the Romans campaigns in Britain,…

Book cover of Myth of Persecution

Henry Davis Author Of Creating Christianity - A Weapon Of Ancient Rome

From my list on ancient history that challenge assumptions.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Henry's book list on ancient history that challenge assumptions

Henry Davis Why did Henry love this book?

Certain events that the ancient writers described, do not always seem to fit within the time they were writing, and I very much enjoy books that question what was written. In my opinion, this book by Candida Moss is very provocative, as it challenges the traditional view of the alleged persecution of Christians. A particular point she makes is in regards to the Roman historian, Tacitus, she states: ‘Tacitus’s Annals dates to 115-20 (CE), at least fifty years after the events he describes. His use of the term “Christian” is somewhat anachronistic. It’s highly unlikely that, at the time the Great Fire occurred, anyone recognized Jesus followers as a distinct and separate group.’ Although this book leaves questions unanswered, it offers a great deal to think about. Another scholar of note, who also argues against the idea that Christians were a special group being attacked by the Roman state or…

By Candida Moss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss, a leading expert on early Christianity, reveals how the early church exaggerated, invented, and forged stories of Christian martyrs and how the dangerous legacy of a martyrdom complex is employed today to silence dissent and galvanize a new generation of culture warriors.
According to cherished church tradition and popular belief, before the Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the fourth century, early Christians were systematically persecuted by a brutal Roman Empire intent on their destruction. As the story goes, vast numbers of believers were thrown to the lions, tortured, or burned alive because…

Book cover of Myths of the Pagan North: The Gods of the Norsemen

Thomas Williams Author Of Viking Britain

From my list on Norse mythology (from an archaeologist).

Why am I passionate about this?

Dr. Thomas Williams is a bestselling writer, historian, and archaeologist. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, he was a curator of the major international exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend at the British Museum in 2014 and earned his PhD at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology. He wrote Viking Britain and Viking London. 

Thomas' book list on Norse mythology (from an archaeologist)

Thomas Williams Why did Thomas love this book?

Despite its rather misleading title, Chris Abrams’s Myths of the Pagan North is not a retelling of the Norse myths or a primer to the worlds they describe. It is instead a detailed and sustained exploration of how the myths as we know them developed, what evidence exists for the Norse mythos outside the major compendia of thirteenth-century Icelandic prose and poetry (Snorri’s Edda and the so-called Elder Edda), and what function these stories played in the societies of the Viking Age and medieval north. With chapters exploring the historical context in which the myths developed, the full range of sources that can shed light on them (including runic inscriptions, picture stones, and skaldic verse) and the relationship of the myths to the religious worldview of the pagan and Christian societies that shaped them, this is a book for those who want to go beyond the stories themselves and…

By Christopher Abram,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is an engaging account of the world of the Vikings and their gods. As the Vikings began to migrate overseas as raiders or settlers in the late eighth century, there is evidence that this new way of life, centred on warfare, commerce and exploration, brought with it a warrior ethos that gradually became codified in the Viking myths, notably in the cult of Odin, the god of war, magic and poetry, and chief god in the Norse pantheon. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries, when most of Scandinavia had long since been converted to Christianity, form perhaps the most important…

Book cover of Nero

Phillip Barlag Author Of Evil Roman Emperors: The Shocking History of Ancient Rome's Most Wicked Rulers from Caligula to Nero and More

From my list on challenge thinking of the Titans of Roman history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never set out to read & write so much about Roman history; it was an accident. I happened to visit Rome when I was young, quite poor and decidedly light on my knowledge of Roman history. Five minutes out of the train station and into the streets and I was hooked for life. I had to know more and started reading. Then I found gaps in the library and started writing. Roman history never stops changing, even thousands of years later. New discoveries, new scholarship, new interpretations, all keep Roman history fresh & exciting. I love sharing what I find. Thank you for joining the adventure.

Phillip's book list on challenge thinking of the Titans of Roman history

Phillip Barlag Why did Phillip love this book?

Was Nero really such a monster? The New York Times and the British Museum are among the venerable institutions attempting to answer this question. It’s part of a broad trend to rethink the life and rule of one of history’s most famous villains. I’d like to think that this book helped start this historical reframing. Nero was not without his virtues. But he most definitely had vices in abundance. The question is not whether he was good or bad; rather, how did those two dimensions interact? Champlain does a great job of looking at Nero with a measure of objectivity and helping readers see things a bit differently. 

By Edward Champlin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roman emperor Nero is remembered by history as the vain and immoral monster who fiddled while Rome burned. Edward Champlin reinterprets Nero's enormities on their own terms, as the self-conscious performances of an imperial actor with a formidable grasp of Roman history and mythology and a canny sense of his audience.

Nero murdered his younger brother and rival to the throne, probably at his mother's prompting. He then murdered his mother, with whom he may have slept. He killed his pregnant wife in a fit of rage, then castrated and married a young freedman because he resembled her. He…

Book cover of The Annals of Imperial Rome

Benita Kane Jaro Author Of The Key: A Passionate Novel About Catullus

From my list on history as personal experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Benita's book list on history as personal experience

Benita Kane Jaro Why did Benita love this book?

Ancient Rome's greatest historian is also one of its greatest writers. In sharp, bitter, brilliant sentences he chronicles the rise of the tyrannical emperors who succeeded Julius Caesar. His passionate anger at the loss of Roman liberties for the sake of wealth and security will alarm you; but his description of the hollowing out of Rome's political, judicial, military, and religious institutions until nothing remains but terror will freeze your blood.

By Michael Grant, Tacitus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

His last work, regarded by many as the greatest work of contemporary scholarship, Tacitus' The Annals of Imperial Rome recount with depth and insight the history of the Roman Empire during the first century A.D. This Penguin Classics edition is translated with an introduction by Michael Grant.

Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome recount the major historical events from the years shortly before the death of Augustus up to the death of Nero in AD 68. With clarity and vivid intensity he describes the reign of terror under the corrupt Tiberius, the great fire of Rome during the time of Nero,…