PDA

View Full Version : Roman Empire - book recs anyone?



ink wench
01-16-2007, 10:36 PM
Hi all! Maybe I should post this in the historical writing forum, but as a fantasy writer I felt I should try here first. Could anyone recommend some good books on Roman culture? I'm looking for city planning, politics, religious life, clothing, food, etc. Not so much military. I have a very vague knowledge of that period and would like to flesh it out. For some reason my next novel idea is screaming to me that the world should be based on pre-Christian Rome. It's probably better to feed the muse than fight it, I suppose.

Thanks a lot!

Pthom
01-16-2007, 10:53 PM
Sorry, I haven't a very good suggestion for you, other than to hit the library, or ask a history prof at your local community college. I threw away all that stuff when I no longer needed it for my sophomore Social Studies class. When was that? Over 40 years ago?

alleycat
01-16-2007, 10:57 PM
You might do just as well to go to Amazon and key in "early Roman history", then read the book descriptions and reviews.

Meerkat
01-16-2007, 11:00 PM
The Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess...a real eye opener.

Higgins
01-16-2007, 11:03 PM
Hi all! Maybe I should post this in the historical writing forum, but as a fantasy writer I felt I should try here first. Could anyone recommend some good books on Roman culture? I'm looking for city planning, politics, religious life, clothing, food, etc. Not so much military. I have a very vague knowledge of that period and would like to flesh it out. For some reason my next novel idea is screaming to me that the world should be based on pre-Christian Rome. It's probably better to feed the muse than fight it, I suppose.

Thanks a lot!

Would that be before the birth of Christ? Then it would be late Republican Rome.
Or before Constantine made Christianity official? That would be most of Imperial Rome alright.
You could read Livy, Didorus Sicilus in any case. Seutonius, Tacitus, Ceasar, Marcus Aurelius, Flavius Josephus.
Lots of stuff just under the heading of history.

alleycat
01-16-2007, 11:19 PM
The Twelve Caesars is worth reading.

PattiTheWicked
01-16-2007, 11:22 PM
Julius Caesar's Commentaries is fascinating as well.

ink wench
01-16-2007, 11:24 PM
My local library is a (very) small town, underfunded library, and doesn't contain much of use, sadly. Off to browse Amazon and B&N I go...

Sokal, I think I want Rome pre-Constantine's conversion, but I'd need to read more to narrow it down. Then again, I only want this as a basis for my world so I know I'll be taking plenty of liberties with whatever I choose.

gclare, I will check it out. Thanks.

Higgins
01-17-2007, 01:11 AM
My local library is a (very) small town, underfunded library, and doesn't contain much of use, sadly. Off to browse Amazon and B&N I go...

Sokal, I think I want Rome pre-Constantine's conversion, but I'd need to read more to narrow it down. Then again, I only want this as a basis for my world so I know I'll be taking plenty of liberties with whatever I choose.

gclare, I will check it out. Thanks.

But I haven't looked for websites about Rome. There should be some good ones.

greglondon
01-17-2007, 02:30 AM
Heres some free info

http://www.roman-empire.net/

And some more free info

http://www.roman-emperors.org/

Histry Nerd
01-17-2007, 02:54 AM
Your local Barnes and Noble should have some kids' books that provide good background information. Not kidding. The Dorling Kindersley books, in particular, are great starting points--excellent illustrations, including cutaways, as well as baseline descriptions of the stuff you are talking about. I think the one on Ancient Rome has only a two-page spread on military stuff; the rest focuses on architecture, daily life, politics, and the like. I think the books run about $12.

HN

PeeDee
01-17-2007, 02:55 AM
The Twelve Caesars is worth reading.

Oh yes. That's a magnificant book. And when you go to pick it up at your local bookstore, look at the three or four books that are shelved before and after it. They're good too, I betcha.

OR, you can wait two years and read my wonderful Roman Empire novel that will come out. You know. Eventually. When I write it.

Pomona
01-17-2007, 02:56 AM
Books:
Carcopino's Daily Life in Ancient Rome is a bit dry, but is an old standard.

T.W. Potter's Roman Italy is good; it has some historical chapters about the development of the Roman Republic, and chapters on things like the countryside, trade, temples and religion, cities and urbanization, etc. It has lots of good pictures.

The Perseus Digital Library is a major site. It has classical texts and translations, photos of sites and artifacts, and some public domain (and so mostly older) reference works. If you want to read some primary texts, this is a good place to go.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/


Here's a page on the ever-confusing Roman system of names.
http://www.vroma.org/~bmcmanus/roman_names.html

Lacus Curtius has loads of good stuff. Their "photo albums" of Roman towns and monuments may be especially good for you.
http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/home.html

The Forum Romanum also collects public domain works. Their online copy of The Private Lives of the Romans may be useful.
http://www.forumromanum.org/index2.html

For sheer squiffy coolness, here's a collection of links to various collections of papyrus (ancient paper). Many of them have educational pages and pictures of stuff in their collections.
http://odyssey.lib.duke.edu/papyrus/texts/homepage.html

Diotima is focused on studying ancient women and gender issues.
http://www.stoa.org/diotima/

Here's a site called the Illustrated Roman Empire, which I haven't used but which looks like it has interesting stuff, including interactive maps. (They're using the term "Roman Empire" pretty loosely to mean "ancient Rome", not just the period that historians call the Empire proper. If you're looking into pre-Christian Rome, you're going to be most interested in stuff through the first few centuries A.D.- it took a while for Christianity to get a real foothold in Italy.)
http://www.roman-empire.net/

In general, I've found Wikipedia's articles on Roman history to be pretty good. This may be your best bet for a place to start, honestly- go click around on what interests you. Here's a list of topics related to ancient Rome.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_topics_related_to_ancient_Rome

Other stuff:
If you can get ahold of the HBO series Rome, I highly recommend it. From the few episodes I've seen, they put an immense amount of effort into getting the details right- for an immediate taste of what the city looked like in the late Republic, it's superb. (Though be warned that it's quite graphic in places.) The old BBC(?) I Claudius is also good.

ink wench
01-17-2007, 04:40 AM
Pomona: Wow, you rock. Thank you! I'm wary of trusting online resources when I don't personally have any way to judge the quality of info, but I happily take recommendations. I will check all those out.

Histry Nerd: Thanks! Children's books in particular sounds like they'd be a good start. Duh.

alleycat and Patti: I will add these to my 'investigate' pile, thanks.

This is a whole new area of research for me so I feel very much like I'm diving head first into a cold swimming pool. Usually I have a clue where to start, what sources are good for beginners, etc. I appreciate all nudges, points, and shoves in the right direction.

PeeDee: Just let me know when ya write the thing. Maybe by then I'll have cleared some space on my reading list.

Euan H.
01-17-2007, 04:42 AM
I'm thinking of maybe writing something based in an alternate version of the Republican period of Rome (Hannibal wins), and these are things I've read an d enjoyed while doing my desultory research:

Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0195123328/002-3905999-7210455)

As the Romans did (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/019508974X/002-3905999-7210455) -- this is a collection of writings by Roman authors on various topics: role of women, religion, morality, etc. Very useful.

The Grass Crown (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/038071082X/002-3905999-7210455), First Man In Rome (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0380710811/002-3905999-7210455), and anything else by the same author.

The Gates of Rome (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0440240948/002-3905999-7210455), The Field of Swords (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0440240964/002-3905999-7210455), the Death of Kings (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0440240956/002-3905999-7210455) -- not really very accurate, but good stories, and they sold a bunch as well. (So strict accuracy is not always essential . . .)

Daily Life in Ancient Rome (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0631193952/002-3905999-7210455)-- translated from French. Sometimes the author has a rather peculiar view on a topic (her views of slavery and the attitudes of slaves to their masters are . . . odd) but she loves her subject, and her writing is vivid.

HConn
01-17-2007, 08:59 AM
I was going to suggest <i>Handbook</i> as well.

I think it's a great idea to start with children's books. You get a great overview with visuals. Check out <i>Your Travel Guide to Ancient Rome</i> for instance.

And don't give up on your library too easily. I sometimes get books on Inter-library loan--Essentially, your library borrows the book from another library. Talk to your librarian about it.

Good luck.

ink wench
01-17-2007, 09:43 PM
Euan and HConn, thanks! Those look great. ILL reminds me I can hit up one of my friends whose a professor for her library access. Yay!

Tia Nevitt
01-18-2007, 05:08 AM
Hannibal by Dodge gives an excellent background on the Roman military. And of course, you can learn all about Hannibal's campaign against the Romans.

The military went through a reorganization in 107 BC. Prior to this, the soldiers were "citizen soldiers", i.e. citizens with property. Marius abolished the property requirement. This changed the makeup of the army greatly, for it now had professional soldiers.

Read a good general history, such as Caesar and Christ by Durant, in order to hone in on the exact timeframe that you want to work in. Someone else mentioned As the Romans Did; it is an excellent book.

badducky
01-18-2007, 06:04 AM
For subjects like this, one research technique is to search online for a professor's syllabus, complete with books and topic excerpts and sometimes even lecture notes.

For instance, http://www.emayzine.com/history3a/lectures.html
http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/ROME/ROME.HTM

Many others available. Google "History lecture notes Rome"

Oh, also always cross-reference anything you see on-line. You never know if you're getting good or bad data until you check it. On-line is just not as rigorous.

Diana Hignutt
01-18-2007, 02:47 PM
Don't forget to read I, Claudius by Robert Graves.

Niesta
01-19-2007, 05:40 AM
Ah, my thunder has been stolen on the nonfiction...

However, the Marcus Didius Falco mysteries by Lindsey Davis and the Gordianus the Finder mysteries by Stephen Saylor are very well researched highly addictive, and will give you some knowledge of how other folks do Rome these days.

ink wench
01-19-2007, 08:44 PM
Thanks a lot everyone. There are some fabulous ideas, and my reading list is getting quite heavy. Not feeling so lost anymore! And Niesta, those mysteries sounds great since the project looks like it's going to have a strong mystery plot or subplot.

Momento Mori
01-21-2007, 08:48 PM
Procipious The Secret Histories is worth a read - written at the time of the Emporer Justinian, it's wonderfully gossipy and bitchy, but an authentic text from the time. It's available from Penguin Classics in translation.

Glen T. Brock
03-24-2007, 10:48 AM
Hello folks,

Since you mentioned 'fantasy' one of the best fantasy novels was a time travel story set during the Roman Empire. LEST DARKNESS FALL, by L. Sprague deCamp is excellent and may even still be in print. I reccomend it highly.

Glen T. Brock

blacbird
03-24-2007, 11:01 PM
Rome produced a lot of excellent historians, and there are plenty of good translations. To get background, I'd certainly start there. As previously mentioned, The Twelve Caesars, by Suetonius, is good. Also Plutarch, Tacitus, Julius Caesar his very own self.

caw

Silver King
03-25-2007, 12:54 AM
You may also want to have a look at Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. It was originally published in six volumes and covers 1200 years, from 200 A.D. to 1453. The text is available online (http://www.ccel.org/g/gibbon/decline/home.html) for free.

L'Vaeryn
03-30-2007, 06:49 AM
This will send you to the site for the Caesar (http://forums.vugames.com/thread.jspa?threadID=5496&tstart=0)computer games forum, but don't let that put you off. The moderator there posted a huuuuuuuuge list of "SPQR" links. I've found the list to be helpful any number of times when I went looking for something Roman and even sometimes medieval.