Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

History of Rome and Byzantium

Post Reply
User avatar
The Czar
Reader
Posts: 137
Joined: May 2011
Location: Nashville TN

History of Rome and Byzantium

Post by The Czar » Tue August 2nd, 2011, 11:44 pm

I have recently stumbled upon a bunch of good historical fiction set in Rome or Byzantium (McCullough's Masters of Rome series, Ennis' Byzantium, and Graves' I, Claudius and Count Belisarius, Vidal's works, Napier's Attilla series, etc.)

I am really loving reading about this period of history (I know, it is numerous periods of history actually). The only thing I find annoying is that I have little knowledge of much of it (the pre-republican Roman monarchy, the post Octavian Augustus Empire, and most of Byzantine history.)

I have tried numerous times over the years to find a (relatively) concise, readable, history of Rome and or Byzantium, but never really succeeded. I tried Gibbon many years ago, but couldn't slog through it, maybe I should try that again.

Anybody got any recommendations on good straight history of these periods? Or, for that matter, any good novels that I may be unaware of?
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
_______________________________________________
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

annis
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4585
Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Wed August 3rd, 2011, 3:11 am

John Julius Norwich is good for non-fiction Byzantine history. You can either go for his Short History of Byzantium or the 3 volume set, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, Byzantium: The Apogee and Byzantium: Decline and Fall.

We had a bit of a discussion about Byzantine history somewhere here not too long ago- here it is:
http://www.historicalfictiononline.com/ ... php?t=4679

Edited to say I see you've just read Michael Ennis' novel, Byzantium. I loved this book written in the grand, romantic epic style- Harald Hardrada AND Byzantium, an irresistible combination :) Pity it's one of those historical novels that have become lost in the mists of time.
Last edited by annis on Wed August 3rd, 2011, 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
The Czar
Reader
Posts: 137
Joined: May 2011
Location: Nashville TN

Post by The Czar » Wed August 3rd, 2011, 12:40 pm

[quote=""annis""]John Julius Norwich is good for non-fiction Byzantine Edited to say I see you've just read Michael Ennis' novel, Byzantium. I loved this book written in the grand, romantic epic style- Harald Hardrada AND Byzantium, an irresistible combination :) Pity it's one of those historical novels that have become lost in the mists of time.[/quote]

Yeah, it is sad what publishing has become. I have pretty much read all the historical fiction I can find at bookstores, and am now plowing through my old college library's HF. It is ridiculous how many great books are virtually unavailiable. I am reading Count Belisarius by Robert Graves now, and it too is great, and it too is out of print. Can't get it on amazon or anwhere.

Hopefully, eventually, the publishers will at least get these out on kindle format or something. I am finding that the HF of the 70's and 80'a and earlier is better than what is coming out now. Like every other kind of literature, it seems that most authors of HF now are simply churning out pulp, book after book of the same thing, and not very historically deep. Either romance or military adventure lightly steeped in history.
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
_______________________________________________
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

User avatar
fljustice
Bibliophile
Posts: 1995
Joined: March 2010
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Contact:

Post by fljustice » Wed August 3rd, 2011, 9:22 pm

If you'd like something simple I'd recommend Chronicle of the Roman Emperors: the Reign-by Reign Record of the Rulers on Imperial Rome by Chris Scarre. Each section gives background info on what's happening at the macro level, as well as an overview of the Emperor and what happened in his reign. Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins lets you browse through overviews of Republic and Empire history, Military Affairs, Geography, Towns and Countryside, Travel and Trade, Written Evidence, Religion, Economy and Industry, and Everyday Life.

For more scholarly work, I'd second the recommendation for Norwich. I'm very fond of anything written by Peter Brown on Late Antiquity and Peter Heather on the fall of Rome and barbarians.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website
Image

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Wed August 3rd, 2011, 10:03 pm

I think I've mentioned this before, but the teaching company has an excellent audio series titled Byzantium.

User avatar
Shield-of-Dardania
Reader
Posts: 129
Joined: February 2010

Post by Shield-of-Dardania » Thu August 4th, 2011, 3:07 am

Basileios II was an interesting time, I think. With the newly deployed Varangian Guards and all.

User avatar
The Czar
Reader
Posts: 137
Joined: May 2011
Location: Nashville TN

Post by The Czar » Fri August 5th, 2011, 12:30 am

[quote=""MLE""]I think I've mentioned this before, but the teaching company has an excellent audio series titled Byzantium.[/quote]

That and the Rome one look great. Too bad they are $200+
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
_______________________________________________
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

User avatar
The Czar
Reader
Posts: 137
Joined: May 2011
Location: Nashville TN

Post by The Czar » Sun April 1st, 2012, 5:25 am

[quote=""annis""]
Edited to say I see you've just read Michael Ennis' novel, Byzantium. I loved this book written in the grand, romantic epic style- Harald Hardrada AND Byzantium, an irresistible combination :) Pity it's one of those historical novels that have become lost in the mists of time.[/quote]

Yeah, I couldn't find a copy anywhere, but then my college library had it randomly. I've thought about asking the librarian if I could buy it from them. I'll definitely want to read that one again.
Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.
_______________________________________________
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

SGM
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 699
Joined: March 2010

Post by SGM » Sun April 1st, 2012, 6:24 am

I know the postage will be high but Count Belisarius is still in print in the UK and readily available used.

I second the recommendation of John Julius Norwich.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun April 1st, 2012, 6:48 am

[quote=""The Czar""]That and the Rome one look great. Too bad they are $200+[/quote]
Sorry I didn't catch this post before, but you don't have to take those prices seriously. The Teaching Company has so many sales on their courses (70% off is the usual) and they hit my email box so often (2+ times per week) that I never pay attention to any of their posted prices. I usually bite at around $60 for a 36-lecture course, and $45 for a 24-lecture course. I've gotten several for under $20-- like a recent 'sale' on a 12-lecture course on Machiavelli.
The professors vary in speaking skill--be sure to read the ratings before you buy, even if the course is on sale.

Post Reply

Return to “Ancient”