Books about Roman Empire
September 6, 2005 9:18 AM   Subscribe

Like others I am watching HBO's Rome. Does anyone know of a good concise, non overtly academic history of this period? Secondly, I'm also looking for a similarly styled general overview of the empire. Thanks.
posted by captainscared to Society & Culture (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Also playing on the History Channel is Rome: Engineering an Empire
posted by fourstar at 9:43 AM on September 6, 2005

captainscared, wikipedia's got some fairly concise information for you regarding the late Roman Republic and the beginnings of the Empire. Check it out.

For longer, but still not-completely-historical-reading, read Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series of books, starting with this one, which begins about 75 years before the events chronicled in HBO's series, and cover the late Republic in marvelous detail, all the way up to Augustus taking power as the first Emperor. They're hugely (and I mean that, each book is about 700 or more pages long) entertaining reads and extraordinarly well-researched, too.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:49 AM on September 6, 2005

You might want to check out the answers to this question.
posted by gsteff at 10:09 AM on September 6, 2005

For the period you're interested in (if I understand right), try Rubicon by Tom Holland. It's pop history, but none the worse for that and tells its tale with care and skill.

There are some good audiobooks swirling around ... keep an eye out for Cyril Robinson on iTunes (fun, but in truth rather dated) or lectures from The Teaching Company Oh but when will they offer legal mp3s?
posted by grahamwell at 10:31 AM on September 6, 2005

I read this a few years back and it wasn't bad. A little dry, but pretty readable.
posted by baggers at 10:40 AM on September 6, 2005

I think there's a number of condensed versions of Gibbon's infamously long Decline and Fall out there. And I'd have to root around to say which, but some of the condensed versions are are well regarded.
posted by Heminator at 11:06 AM on September 6, 2005

Not an answer at all (I've actually been curious about this very subject) but rather a related question (or maybe just a more specific question). I've been playing this game and I was wondering if there are any good books about Roman military strategy, technological advancements etc. Any suggestions would be much appreciated (bonus points if the book deals with military strategy of other nations in the Roman era too).
posted by panoptican at 11:24 AM on September 6, 2005

The Romans: An Introduction by Antony Kamm was required for my Latin classes. As the title suggests, it is a general, concise introduction to Roman history and culture.
posted by ijoshua at 11:42 AM on September 6, 2005

panoptican, I also play Rome: Total War (AWEsome and fun game!) and have used this site in the past for information about ancient Rome's military life. You'll also find information about Rome's opponents there :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:57 AM on September 6, 2005

De Bello Gallico (The Gallic Wars), by Julius Caesar, is amazingly evocative of the frontier, though there's little in it of life in Rome. For that you should read Pliny or Tacitus. In any case, do not neglect primary sources -- until you've read one you can't know how a voice can travel across thousands of years. That voice will give you more perspective into the Roman mind than any overview. Ideally you can read one of each in tandem, supporting each other.
posted by dhartung at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2005

For background on the HBO series specifically, check out Wikipedia's entry on Julius Caesar. The series picks up at the end of the Gallic Wars, so scroll down. (It's also available in Latin. I love wikipedia.)

For more background, is good. Their chapter on the Late Roman Republic covers the HBO series time period.
posted by profwhat at 12:02 PM on September 6, 2005

I, Claudius is terrific.
posted by Scoo at 12:18 PM on September 6, 2005

You know, for a great historical-fictional account of the period, from the point of view of a future emperor, you can't go wrong with I, Claudius. Robert Graves is no slouch, and he did his homework.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 12:20 PM on September 6, 2005

Damn it, Scoo beat me to it.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2005

I'm in the middle of Rubicon and I also recommend it as a gentle entrance into the period.
posted by boo_radley at 12:41 PM on September 6, 2005

Suetonius' 'The Twelve Ceasers' formed part of the source material for 'I, Claudius', and is also fantastic.
posted by anagrama at 4:38 AM on September 7, 2005

Just want to add my voice to the chorus recommending I, Claudius.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2005

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