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Recommended HF set in Ancient Rome

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Initial post: May 9, 2010 3:00:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 9, 2010 3:19:21 PM PDT
gilly8 says:
I really enjoy ancient Roman novels/ history/ mysteries... read Robert Harris' two books about Cicero, "Imperium" and it's (so far---I'm in the middle---not quite as good ) sequel: "Conspirata" "or, in Great Britain, titled "Lustrum". I thorughly enjoyed his excellent and (I thought ) believable book "Pompeii" about the explosion of the volcano.Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome; Conspirata: A Novel of Ancient Rome. ]].Pompeii: A Novel.

The Simon Scarrow series is about average men in the Roman Legions, during the days of the Empire, that is worthwhile I think. It does need to be read in order. Under the Eagle: A Tale of Military Adventure and Reckless Heroism with the Roman Legions is the first book in the series.

Gillian Bradshaw has several really good books set in Roman Britain: "Island of Ghosts" and "Dark North". She has also written about Roman times in other books, as well as about the era of Justinian and Theodora in "the Bearkeeper's Daughter" The Bearkeeper's Daughter set in Byzantium in about the 4th Century AD. Her books are all "stand-alones". She is an excellent writer, and imo gets the mindset, the "voice" of those times perfectly. One of my favorite HF's ever is her : "Island of Ghosts".Island of Ghosts: A Novel of Roman Britain.

Lindsay Davis, who writes the very popular ancient Roman mystery series w/ lead character/ detective type Marcus Didius Falco (first book in series: The Silver Pigs (Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries) also has a very good, based-on-true-story novel about the Emperor Vespasian and his almost life-long secret love affair w/ an ex-slave woman: The Course of Honor, a Novel.

Posted on May 9, 2010 3:04:51 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 9, 2010 3:08:17 PM PDT]

Posted on May 9, 2010 3:05:17 PM PDT
gilly8 says:
Another fascinating subject, written about both in HF and in history, is the massacre of the three Roman Legions in the Teutoberg Forest. Several good, highly rated books about this:

The Teutoberg forest massacre of three Roman Legions: excerpt from Product review of the Tom Clunn book:
"In 9 A.D., the 17th, 18th, and 19th Roman legions and their auxiliary troops under the command of Publius Quinctilius Varus vanished in the boggy wilds of Germania. They died singly and by the hundreds over several days in a carefully planned ambush led by Arminius-a Roman-trained German warrior adopted and subsequently knighted by the Romans, but determined to stop Rome's advance east beyond the Rhine River. By the time it was over, some 25,000 men, women, and children were dead and the course of European history had been forever altered. "Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!" Emperor Augustus agonized aloud when he learned of the devastating loss.

As the decades slipped past, the location of the Varus defeat, one of the Western world's most important battlefields, was lost to history. It remained so for two millenia."

Books about this battle:

Eagle in the Snow is hist. fic. by William Breem and is supposed to be really excellent, and based on a true story that is, the capture and/or massacre of three Roman Legions under General Varus by the Germanic tribes in the Teutoberg Forest : haven't read it yet. "Give Me Back My Legions" by Turtledove, mentioned below, is on the same theme, is what Emperor Augustus said upon hearing of the (to them) unimaginable defeat.

These are non-fiction, on the same subject: Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest by Adrian Murdoch; and by the one person who actually re-located the battle site, and recreated the events of that time: QUEST FOR THE LOST ROMAN LEGIONS: Discovering the Varus Battlefield by Tom Clunn.

Posted on May 9, 2010 3:07:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 9, 2010 3:15:10 PM PDT
gilly8 says:
On my tbr pile: Marius' MulesSJA Turney, (slang for Roman legionnaries); Gods and Legions: A Novel of the Roman Empire by Michael Curtis Ford; Give Me Back My Legions! by al. history author Harry Turtledove; The Forgotten Legion The Silver Eagle both by Ben Kane, and one follows the other---they are about the legions captured in the war against Parthia, led by Crassus, before Ceasar's advent to power when it was still a multi-person power struggle. They are an attempt to fictionally tell of their fate.



Also, some other well reviewed and in some cases "classic" books about ancient Rome: the classic ones would be Robert Graves' "I, Claudius" and "Claudius the God", later made into great TV miniseries, still available on DVD.....I, Claudius : From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 (Vintage International); Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina; and the TV miniseries which starred Derek Jacobi: I, Claudius. Robert Graves was a well known writer, historian, and ground-breaking expert on ancient history/myths etc. See also his most famous work: The White Goddess.

Also, and not yet read: a series on ancient Rome's battles/ etc by James Mace and one by Harry Sidebottom which both appear popular according to the reviews.


Posted on May 10, 2010 12:57:22 PM PDT
S. Nagle says:
Steven Saylor has written a series of 12 history/mystery books set in Ancient Rome.

Posted on May 11, 2010 6:43:13 PM PDT
You might enjoy this: The Gospel According to the Romans - Excerpt from 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award entry looks at the Roman occupation of Palestine/Judea, and the life of Jesus, from a pagan/agnostic point of view. The premise is that the man we call Saint Matthew, "sitting at the receipt of custom" (i.e. the tax collector) in Capernaum, is by definition a Roman agent in the employ of Pilate. This leads to a very different view of the teachings of Jesus: a religious fundamentalist trying to purify Israel and lead an insurrection to get rid of the occupying forces.

The first part of The Gospel According to the Romans - Excerpt from 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award entry is available free, as it is in the Semifinals at ABNA.

Posted on May 11, 2010 7:02:55 PM PDT
A Voice in the Wind and An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers are set in ancient Rome. They are excellent. But, they are Christian fiction (but grittier), if this is your thing.

In reply to an earlier post on May 11, 2010 8:57:36 PM PDT
Chretien says:
I'm particularly fond of Roman Blood and Catalina's Riddle in the Saylor series. I once saw a battered paperback of Catalina's Riddle in German offered on amazon for $104. Says something about his international fans.

Posted on May 13, 2010 10:20:51 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 13, 2010 10:24:51 PM PDT
Selene says:
There's a long-running discussion on this forum dealing with Ancient Greece and Rome- lots of good ideas there

Also useful, the Ancient Rome and Roman Britain sections at the Historical Novels Info website:

much as I enjoyed Turtledove's series about the ancient Greek mariners (writing as Turtletaub) I found his novel about the Varus disaster disappointing. In fact, the best novel I've read yet about Teutoburg Forest is the older novel by Ralph A Graves, called "The Lost Eagles"

Another older novel I'd recommend is George Shipway's "Imperial Governor" , which is about the 1st century Roman Governor of Britain who defeated Boudica.

Posted on May 14, 2010 2:49:30 PM PDT
HHK says:
try Mistress of Rome

Posted on May 14, 2010 5:16:30 PM PDT
Billo says:
Recently enjoyed Ruth Downie's "Medicus", her first of three so far about a doctor, Gaius Petreius Ruso, serving in Brittania at the end of the Trajan era and start of Hadrian's.

Posted on May 14, 2010 5:34:37 PM PDT
Billo says:
How do people like Steven Saylor versus Lindsey Davis?

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2010 7:55:58 PM PDT
Davis is my much preferred choice. The Falco series has a roguish character.It actually seems to have a lot in common with the "Thin Man".

Posted on May 17, 2010 8:27:09 PM PDT
Colleen McCullough, Masters of Rome series. Detailed, interesting, sometimes very funny, and historically accurate depiction of the major events leading to the end of the Republic through the rise of Augustus. Probably the best historical fiction I've read about Rome next to I, Claudius and Claudius the God.
The First Man in Rome

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2010 8:48:38 PM PDT
maindefer says:
Excellent fictionalization of actual conditions in medical world of the roman legion times. Hopefully she will continue to write- she seems to have a great grasp of the setting and the Britain environment of the legions. Not for everyone but very well done. Physicians would like it as well as anyone who loves good historical fiction.

Posted on May 18, 2010 6:03:15 AM PDT
R.S.Gompertz says:
No Roads Lead to Rome

My novel, "No Roads Lead to Rome," is a wild romp along the fringes of the Roman Empire. It's set in Hispania during the time of Hadrian in the year 123 A.D.

I wrote it while living in Spain, tracing the footsteps of the ancient Romans, and reflecting on the tragi-comic similarities between their times and ours.

I'm happy to see many 5 star reviews on Amazon and hope you'll read it!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 13, 2010 4:11:02 PM PDT
J. Nelson says:
Steven Saylor is MUCH, MUCH better than Lindsey Davis. In Saylor's books the characters age and mature, their relationships flourish and sour over time. I read the first six or seven of the Davis books and the characters were always in the same relationship to each other -- the relationships never changed. I finally gave up on the series.

Posted on Jun 13, 2010 4:15:32 PM PDT
J. Nelson says:
William Altamari's LEGION is superb.

Wallace Breem's THE EAGLE IN THE SNOW is even better. Breem's other Roman novel, THE LEGATE'S DAUGHTER is also good but the first work if by far superior. Perhaps the best book of its kind I have read.

I will also HIGHLY RECOMMEND all seven titles in the Roman series by Colleen McCullough. (The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, Fortune's Favorite, Caesar's Women, Caesar: Let the Dice Fly, The October Horse and Antony and Cleopatra.) I have often said that stranded on a desert island with only one author, it would be a tough choice between McCullough and Patrick O'Brian.


Posted on Jun 13, 2010 6:08:03 PM PDT
I've been telling everybody about my new favorite HF, Rubies of the Viper, which is set in first-century Rome and Syria. It's got great characters, quick pacing, and accurate history, plus it's a real page-turner: a mystery/suspense/romance that you cannot put down once you get into it. "Rubies" is racking up five-star reviews on Amazon... a good sign that others are enjoying it as much as I did. Actually, I've read it twice, and I got even more out of it the second time around.

Posted on Jun 17, 2010 6:37:48 AM PDT
i have to shout out to my girl Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. She's got two books in Rome now, and the detail is just wonderful in both. i'm really picky about my HF and i don't like most pop culture bestsellers. so if you need good character development and correct historical detail, she's your author. "Blood Games" is terrific and begins in Nero's Rome, the darker and equally well detailed "Roman Dusk" takes place many years later. they aren't really connected stories so you can read them in any order. Yarbro's main character is a vampire, but don't let that put you off. he's more human than most human characters in other books, in his way. Yarbro was writing about his vampirism long, long before this craze we see in pop culture today, and her style is very different than most of what is published today. Yarbro fans read these books because we are primarily HF types, and only sometimes are we also 'fantasy' readers, or 'horror' readers. the latter of which Yarbro keeps to the historically correct kind.

Posted on Jun 17, 2010 8:39:11 AM PDT
I am particularly fond of John Maddox Roberts' series of mysteries set in the late Republic.

The first book in the series is The King's Gambit (SPQR I).

He uses a really light touch, but his love of the time period shines through.

Thomas Brookside
De Bello Lemures, Or The Roman War Against the Zombies of Armorica

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 17, 2010 1:04:53 PM PDT
Yep. I'm a huge fan of this series for the reasons you state above. His light touch makes these books accessible to people who aren't familiar with ancient Rome while teaching a whole lot at the same time.

Posted on Jun 17, 2010 6:19:43 PM PDT
I would have to agree with Thomas above, I have read several of these series and find John Maddox Roberts' SPQR series to be absolutely fun to read while still pulling you into the era. He places the characters into the context of the period and makes no apologies for the costumes and beliefs of the day. Roman's rule the world; it is their birth right. After all, if it was not their birth right then some other empire would rule the world....

I also really enjoyed Simon Scarrow's first few novels in the Under the Eagle Series. Unfortunately, with Eagle in the Sand, the 7th book, Scarrow lost his mind and decided to delve into religious philosophy in Judea. Just a bad idea!!! He has published 2 books since that I have yet to read, so I am hoping that Scarrow has regained his sanity and is back to writing about my two favorite Centurions, Cato and Macro!

Posted on Jun 17, 2010 6:22:59 PM PDT
Also, Michelle Moran's recent book, Cleopatra's Daughter is set largely in ancient Rome with some great architectural detail.Cleopatra's Daughter: A Novel

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2010 5:01:37 PM PDT
Thank you, John, for your kind words. I'm currently at work on a second Roman novel.

William Altimari
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Discussion in:  Historical Fiction forum
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Initial post:  May 9, 2010
Latest post:  Apr 1, 2012

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