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Roman Empire

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The Czar
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Joined: May 2011
Location: Nashville TN

Roman Empire

Post by The Czar » Sat March 31st, 2012, 4:09 am

I've recently read a lot of HF about the Republican era of Rome (Colleen McCullough's First Man series) and early imperial era (Robert Graves' Claudius novels) and am currently reading one set a little later (Gore Vidal's Julian). I have also read Byzantium, by Michael Ennis, and the Attila trilogy, by William Napier, which are set still later.

I find this period of history incredibly interesting. Unfortunately, I also have big gaps in my knowledge of this period. For example, Julian constantly refers to the reigns of Diocletian, Nero, and Domitian and other emperors, and I have little or no knowledge of those periods.

What I would like is recommendations for two things...

1. A straight history of the Emperors, from Augustus all the way through to the end of the Byzantine Empire. It needs to be readable, as much a narrative as a history if possible.

2. Any HF set in this period other than those I mentioned. Anything from the "barbarian" point of view would be interesting as well.

Last edited by The Czar on Sat March 31st, 2012, 4:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Posts: 3565
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) » Sat March 31st, 2012, 5:33 am

I recently read Mistress of Rome, which deals with Diocletian. It was meh.
I understand that the Dovekeepers, another Masada novel, is outstanding.

And old one that I read long ago, which deals with Vercingetorix, is calle 'the Conquered'. It was a bestseller in its day, but it's hard to find nowadays.

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Post by SGM » Sat March 31st, 2012, 5:47 am

I always find the Oxford Ancient History a useful reference book and its free online at archive.org. I always download from the "all http files" option which eliminates being relocated to the Google site where I can't find the book at all or only ones you have to pay for. You can even just read online without downloading.
Currently reading - Emergence of a Nation State by Alan Smith

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Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Sat March 31st, 2012, 6:41 am

As far as fiction goes Steven Saylor's Gordianus the Finder/Roma Sub Rosaseries is excellent and covers a great deal of the personalities and events of the Late Republican period. You do need to read them in the order Saylor gives on his website as the volumes of short stories fill in large gaps in time bewteen some of the novels. (Saylor has also written two time-sweep novels covering a broad sweep of Roman history- Roma and Empire). Robert Harris' Cicero trilogy has a similar setting, though he has only published two to date - Imperium and Conspirata aka Lustrum.

For Caesar's Gallic campaign - Naomi Mitchison's The Conquered, Alfred Duggan's Winter Quarters - the story of two young Gallic auxiliaries (also deals with Crassus' doomed Parthian campaign) and Norman Spinrad's Druid King

Crassus' Parthian campaign also features in Ben Kane's Forgotten Legion trilogy.

Lindsey Davis's Falco series is set in the era of Vespasian, Titus and Domitian, and she has a new novel out soon set in the reign of Domitian called Master and God.

George Shipway's Imperial Governor, a fictional account of Suetonius Paulinus, the Roman Governor of Britain who defeated Boudica (a classic).

Gillian Bradshaw's Island of Ghosts and Dark North are both written from the POV of Roman auxiliaries drawn/conscripted from lands conquered by Rome, and set in Roman Britain.

Alaistair Forrest's novel Libertas is good. Set in the Ist century BC in southern Spain. it's written from the POV of the native inhabitants caught between the battle between Caesar and Pompey.

Later Roman Empire in the dying stages- Keith Roberts' Boat of Fate and Wallace Breem's Eagle in the Snow (another classic).

Alan Massie's trilogy Augustus, Tiberius and Caesar (to be need in that order), followed by Antony - then separately Nero's Heirs and Caligula.

Could keep going indefinitely, but better stop! Much more listed at Margret Donsbach's Historical Novels Info website - see Ancient History section.

Then there's the terrific HBO Rome series, Seasons One and Two- such a shame they never did another one.
Last edited by annis on Sat March 31st, 2012, 7:26 am, edited 20 times in total.

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Justin Swanton
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Location: Durban, South Africa

Post by Justin Swanton » Sat March 31st, 2012, 8:03 am

I don't want to blow my horn, but, heck, how can I resist? Before writing my novel Centurion's Daughter I took time out to research what is a very obscure period - the late fifth century West. The politics, the social structure and economic setup (such as it was), the military techniques and likely military units, and so on. This included consulting people knowledgeable in the subject. You could do worse! ;)
Last edited by Justin Swanton on Sat March 31st, 2012, 8:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

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Post by fljustice » Sat March 31st, 2012, 3:59 pm

For a "just the facts, Ma'am" take on the Roman Emperors, I recommend Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre from Thames & Hudson. It's good through Constantine, then skims the last Western emperors and doesn't take up the Byzantine ones. John Julius Norwich picks up the Byzantine emperors starting with Constantine in 323 through 802 in Byzantinum: The Early Centuries. I've studied mostly Late Antiquity and Early Byzantine and like Peter Heather's work on barbarians and Peter Brown's work on general society trends.

As to HF, I like Lindsey Davis for lighter fare. Her characters have very modern attitudes, but the research is great and the action moves. I've only read a couple of the Gordianus books and found them meh (personal opinion!) But did like Steven Saylor's multi-generation novel Empire (reviewed on HFO). Gillian Bradshaw is a favorite and I'd add Beacon at Alexandria which is partly in Alexandria and partly with the Roman army as it fights the Goths under Emperor Valens. Ditto annis' recommendation for our own Ben Kane's trilogy. For a brilliant and highly entertaining look at Julian the Apostate's reign, I recommend Julian by Gore Vidal. Melanie McDonald (a friend of mine) wrote a literary take on Hadrian's relationship with Antinous titled Eromenos.

Enjoy! Lots of good stuff out there.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website

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Post by rockygirl » Wed June 6th, 2012, 1:08 am

I agree with everyone who suggested the Lindsey Davis books.

For anything historical on Rome, I suggest Michael Grant. He doesn't, as far as I know, have anything on all the emperors, but he's written a lot on the emperors and has several books on different emperors and different eras.

I didn't see anyone recommend the Ruth Downie books. They're set in Roman Britian, and I really like them.

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