• Help me learn new things in 2018 – Rome! (What should I read?) – Updated

    I’m going to spend February learning about the history of Rome. You’ve already given me some great ideas. I want to post them here, so you can help me prioritize what to read. If you think I’m missing something, please go tell me. I’m opening comments, or you can tweet me.

    1. The Storm Before the Storm by Mike Duncan
    2. The History of Rome: The Republic by Mike Duncan
    3. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
    4. SPQR by Mary Beard
    5. Rome: An Empire’s Story by Greg Woolf
    6. The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather
    7. The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization by Bryan Ward-Perkins
    8. Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr

    Some also suggested Anthony Everitt’s biographies of Cicero, Augustus, Hadrian. What do you all think? Any thoughts on the order?


    I updated the list as more recommendations came in. (AC)

    • The Final Pagan Generation by Watts is supposed to be pretty good. It’s on my list to read.

      • Excellent recommendation. I have not read this book, but to study the Roman Empire without studying the rise of Christianity would leave out a very large chapter. I have been more interested in studying the history of Christianity, which cannot be separated from Rome.

    • Also, while this might be cheating, you can get abridged versions of Decline and Fall. That would probably be best if you just want the flavor of it.

    • Decline and Fall by Gibbons. The classic but erroneous analysis of Rome. Read it if you want to for ITS historical place but not to understand Rome’s place in history.

    • I’m reading The Storm Before the Storm right now — it’s great

      but The History of Rome: The Republic is a scam — some guy just transcribed the podcast into a book. serious shadiness.

      Listen to the podcast. It’s fantastic. In another year or so when I’ve forgotten enough, I’ll relisten.

    • Roma Aeterna, by Robert Silverberg

      This is alternative history…assessing what might have happened if the empire had survived and thrived across a couple dozen centuries.

    • For a flavor of contemporary Rome, try Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. He’s an excellent writer and acute observer of environment and people.

    • I’ve been listening to Life of Ceasar Podcast (http://lifeofcaesar.com/) for years now. They start with the chaos the Roman Republic was in circa 100 BCE and illustrate the Rise of Julius Ceasar, the Triumvirate, the ascension of Augustus and now they’re up to about 5 BCE. If you enjoy your history with a few dick jokes and 80’s music, Ray and Cam are a good listen.

    • Doerr has comments on Roman history, as well as Pliny the Elders’ Natural History.

    • Read the Agony and Ecstasy. This isn’t the Roman Empire — it’s Michelangelo and Renaissance Rome. It’s historic fiction – but it’s a great take on the power and quirks of the popes and the politics of arts patronage at that time.

    • As a historian (medieval Europe) my preference is as much for knowing how things worked as what happened. So while I like the Heather book it’s long and more complicated than it seems; for a non-narrative approach with a lot of analysis of archaeological evidence (which is quantifiable and gets into the consequences of the fall of Rome) I’d suggest Ward-Perkins’ book The Fall of Rome. I’ve used Everitt’s bio of Cicero for teaching and it was good for what was going on at the end of the Republic. A.H.M. Jones’ little bio of Augustus, from the 1970s, is less than 200 pages and gets into the political structures as well as events. Ramsay MacMullen is always worth reading, (though not always easy). But you’ll need to choose what is especially interesting since even if you skip the 400 years between the Twelfve Tables and Cicero, you still have 500 years between Cicero and the Huns. One way to think about that is that 500 years ago was 1518,