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Ancient Rome—Book Summaries

    Comprehensive History     Episodic History     Biography     Christian Antiquity
    Legends and Literature     Historical Fiction

 
Colored stars indicate texts of special interest or importance.
Red Stars indicate comprehensive histories. Most study questions are based on these texts.
Gold Stars indicate recommended books of exceptional interest and quality.
Green Stars are assigned to high quality, but easy-to-read books for younger readers.
Black Stars indicate that only selected chapters pertain to the subject civilization.

Click on Title Link to add Book to Reading List.         Reading credits indicate book length.
 

Comprehensive History

Famous Men of Rome   by John Haaren   96 credits
Attractive biographical sketches of twenty-eight of the most prominent characters in the history of ancient Rome, from its founding to its fall. Includes most of the best known characters from the kingdom and republic of Rome, as well as the most prominent personages from the imperial age. Each story is told in a clear, simple manner, and is well calculated to awaken and stimulate the youthful imagination.

Story of the Romans   by Helene Guerber   114 credits
This elementary history of Rome presents short stories of the great heroes, mythical and historical, from Aeneas and the founding of Rome to the fall of the western empire. Around the famous characters of Rome are graphically grouped the great events with which their names will forever stand connected. Vivid descriptions bring to life the events narrated, making history attractive to the young, and awakening their enthusiasm for further reading and study.

Story of Rome   by Mary Macgregor   201 credits
A vivid account of the story of Rome from the earliest times to the death of Augustus, retold for children, chronicling the birth of a city and its growth through storm and struggle to become a great world empire. Gives short accounts of battles and campaigns, and of the men who expanded the borders of the Roman empire to include all lands bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Story of the Roman People   by E. M. Tappan   109 credits
This introductory history of Rome discusses Roman society, religious practices, and customs, as well as covering all the major characters and events in Roman history. Tappan begin her narrative with the story of Aeneas, and legends of the seven kings of Rome before presenting a comprehensive history of the Republic and Empire. The book was written as a classroom text so section summaries and study questions are included at the end of every chapter.

City of the Seven Hills   by S. B. Harding   116 credits
This short history of Rome is part of a four book set, intended for middle school readers that introduces the major points of world history. Like most Roman histories written for younger students it focuses primarily on the Kingdom and Republican eras, and conveys all of the major legends and hero stories of the age. Harding is exceptionally good at conveying the essential stories of an era in concise, but engaging prose. An excellent introduction to Roman history for novices.

On the Shores of the Great Sea   by M. B. Synge   78 credits
Book I of the Story of the World series. Focuses on the civilizations surrounding the Mediterranean Sea from the time of Abraham to the birth of Christ. Brief histories of the Ancient Israelites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Scythians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans are given, concluding with the conquest of the entire Mediterranean by Rome. Important myths and legends that preceded recorded history are also related.

Historical Tales: 11—Roman   by Charles Morris   139 credits
Starting with the founding of Rome and continuing until the fall of the western empire, the author has emphasized the most important stories from history, and rewritten them in detail in a manner especially interesting to young adults. Familiar characters such as Cincinnatus, Cicero, and Nero are introduced, but so are more obscure characters such as Jugurtha, Vitellius, and Maximinus. Morris is an exceptionally good writer and his books are highly recommended as an enjoyable review for the mature student.

Stories From Livy   by Alfred J. Church   78 credits
This is a faithful rendition of Livy's History of Rome, but simplified for the general reader. It covers the period from the founding of Rome through the Samnite Wars (about 750 to 300 B.C.). Famous stories of the Roman kings, and such early heroes as Horatius, Coriolanus, Cincinnatus, Camillus, Manlius, and Mucius Scaevola are related.

Story of Rome   by Arthur Gilman   122 credits
This history of Rome provides a mature introduction to the most famous conflicts of the Roman Kingdom and Republic. The Imperial era is only briefly covered, but several chapters near the end are dedicated to discussing the manners, customs, beliefs and attitudes of the Roman people. It can be read as either an introduction or a review by a mature reader.

Story of Carthage   by Alfred J. Church   108 credits
The Punic civilization was one of the most advanced in the ancient world, but few native works survived the destruction of Tyre and Carthage. About a third of this book is dedicated to the internal history and legends of the city of Carthage, but most of the rest gives accounts of the ancient wars that Carthage engaged in with the Greeks on the island of Sicily and with the Romans for control of the Western Mediterranean.

Story of the Goths   by Henry Bradley   114 credits
The Goths were Germanic tribes that migrated to the regions north of the Danube in the first few centuries of the Roman Empire. Because of their close proximity to Roman territory, the Goths played an important role in the history of the later Roman empire. This book traces the history of the Goths from their first appearance in history in the first century A. D. to the fall of the Visigoth empire in Spain in 711.

Byzantine Empire   by C. W. C. Oman   113 credits
Although the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century A.D., the Eastern Roman Empire continued to exist, although with a vastly reduced influence until the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This book recounts the history of the Eastern-Roman empire—called the Byzantine Empire in its later years—from its rise under Constantine, to its greatest extent under Justinian, through the disastrous Moslem conquests of the seventh century, through the iconoclast controversies and schism of the tenth century, through the crusades of the later middle ages, and to the final collapse under pressure from the Ottoman Turks.

Episodic History

Stories from Roman History   by Lena Dalkeith   40 credits
This children's book was written as a first introduction to Roman history for elementary students. It is too short to introduce Roman history in a comprehensive manner, but instead recounts stories about some of the most famous heroes of Republic Rome. Subjects include Horatius and Coriolanus, heroes of the early Republic; Hannibal, Fabius Cunctator, and Scipio Africanus, military leaders of the Punic Wars; and Pompey and Julius Caesar, protagonists of the Caesarean Civil War, which brought the republic to an end.

Stories from Ancient Rome   by Alfred J. Church   37 credits
This short book recounts stories of the early days of the kingdom of Rome through Punic Wars. In addition to retelling many of the most famous legendary stories of early republic, the author spends some time explaining how the early Roman government worked, including the roles of consuls, senators, tribunes, priests, and magistrates. The book ends with the Rome's final struggles against Pyrrhus in the south of Italy, and its war to the death with Carthage.

Peeps at Ancient Rome   by Jamse Baikie   47 credits
This book tells the story of Rome from the perspective of a traveler and explains many of the customs and mores of Rome as well as providing an abbreviated history. Much of the history is told by discussing important landmarks and sights. It is a social history and a geographical handbook more than a conventional history.

Stories in Stone from the Roman Forum   by Isabel Lovell   76 credits
This book takes a very unusual approach to conveying the history of the Roman by telling the stories associated with particular building and landmarks of Rome, instead of presenting a chronological account. In addition to recounting many of the stories of Rome, the author explains Roman history, customs, religious beliefs and customs in considerable detail. An excellent choice for the an intermediate student who has already been introduced to Roman history but would like more insight into Roman society.

Roman Life in the Days of Cicero   by Alfred J. Church   82 credits
Cicero's public life in Rome corresponded to the last four decades of the Roman Republic. He was a young man during the proscriptions of Sulla and Marius, and an old man at the Death of Julius Caesar. Although he did not write any comprehensive history himself, his speeches and letters give great insight into the goings-on of the times. This collection of anecdotes is mostly derived from the writings of Cicero and refer to characters with whom he had personal interactions.

Pictures from Roman Life and Story   by Alfred J. Church   107 credits
This is not a comprehensive history of Rome, but rather a series of stories and anecdotes pertaining to the early years of the empire, specifically the first two centuries A.D. Most of the emperors between Augustus and Aurelius are portrayed, as well as important characters such as Maecenas, Horace, Agricola, Pliny, Martial, Livia, Seneca and others.

Helmet and Spear   by Alfred J. Church   112 credits
This fascinating military history provides a review of some of the most important conflicts of Ancient times in an engaging manner, rich in detail. Six clashes between the Ancient civilizations and their barbarian neighbors are covered: the Persian invasion of Greece, the fight between Greece and Carthage for Sicily, the Macedonian invasion of Persia, the Punic Wars, Rome's early encounters with Barbarian Celts and Germans, and Rome's fall to the Barbarians.

Biography

Children's Plutarch: Tales of the Romans   by F. J. Gould   69 credits
The Children's Plutarch provides a brief biography of most of the Romans that Plutarch wrote lives for, including Cicero, Caesar, Sulla, Marcellus, Pompey, Numa, Romulus, Coriolanus, and many others. The essays are not complete biographies, but brief sketches that usually illustrate a few simple moral lessons about the character of the subject. The complexity level is very appropriate for younger children.

Old World Hero Stories   by E. M. Tappan   58 credits
The short biographies of important characters of ancient Greece and Rome given in this books are most appropriate for beginning students. They are best read in conjunction with introductory histories because the author can only provide limited context in the space available. Some of the subjects include Homer, Lycurgus, Solon, Xerxes, Pericles, Plato, Alexander, Cincinnatus, Hannibal, Caesar, Augustus, and many others.

Plutarch's Lives   by W. H. Weston   167 credits
This is our favorite rendition of Plutarch's Lives. Instead of including all fifty biographies, Weston focuses only on twelve of Plutarch's most famous subjects. His work is therefore able to retain a great deal more of the character of Plutarch's original narrative than more highly condensed versions. Since Plutarch was a moral philosopher as well as a biographer, retaining the tone and dialogue of the original collection is key to understanding his contribution to Western thought. Plutarch's complete lives run over a thousand pages. This is an excellent condensation.

Augustus: His Life and Work   by Rene Francis   56 credits
This biography of Octavio (Caesar Augustus) does an excellent job of explaining what the state of Rome's affairs were in the years following the death of Julius Caesar in easy to understand terms, accessible to middle school students and older. It clearly explains why Octavio's organizational abilities, and tact were so effective at stabilizing the republic at a critical juncture and laying the foundation of an empire.

Julius Caesar   by Ada Russell   74 credits
The life of Julius Caesar spans one of the most fascinating and important periods in all of Ancient history, and this book does an excellent job of bringing all the characters of the age to life. The first century B.C. saw the collapse of a corrupt republic, a number of savage civil wars, and the rise of a relatively benign tyranny under Caesar. The book devotes just enough attention to the political dramas of the time to give intermediate students some idea of the vicious politicking of the era, without being tiring.

Herman and Thusnelda   by George Upton   41 credits
Hermann was a chieftain who defeated the Roman army at the battle of Teutoburg Forest, a defeat which ultimately drove the Romans from Germany. This story of his life is based on historical accounts but also romanticizes the Norse gods and legends that animated the German heroes.

Our Young Folks' Plutarch   by Rosalie Kaufman   259 credits
Our Young Folks' Plutarch is an excellent reference book for anyone studying Greek or Roman History. The author provides shortened, but still thorough biographies of every life that Plutarch wrote--over fifty characters from ancient times in all. Missing of course, is much of Plutarch's original commentary and his comparisons between Greeks and Romans, but that is unavoidable in a significantly abridged work.

Romulus   by Jacob Abbott   86 credits
This story of early days of Rome, begins with the legendary flight of Aeneas from Troy and his adventures before around the Mediterranean before founding a kingdom in Latium. The story of Romulus, the prince of Latium who founded the city of Rome does not begin until halfway through the book. From that point all the most famous legends of the founding of Rome are recounted, from the strange childhood of Romulus and Remus, to the kidnapping of the Sabine women, to the mysterious death of Rome's first king.

Hannibal   by Jacob Abbott   84 credits
This account of the life of the famous Carthaginian general who acquired distinction as a warrior by his desperate contests with the Romans was written for mature high school students and young adults. Its lively treatment of the Punic Wars depicts Hannibal's crossing of the Alps with his elephants, the battles he waged in Italy, and his eventual defeat. Although Hannibal is the central character, the book begins with a brief overview of the first Punic War, and ends with the destruction of Carthage following the third Punic war.

Julius Caesar   by Jacob Abbott   79 credits
This book recounts the life of Caesar, who remains one of the most controversial and fascinating characters in world history. He was a man of action with many battles to his credit, including the Gallic Wars, Pharsalia, and the Alexandrine War. But even more, he was a mastermind. He laid the groundwork for the empire with his brilliant reorganization of the legions and his plan for consolidation of power. He was a master statesman as well as a general and won over as many rivals with diplomacy as he did on the battlefield. All aspects of his life are considered in this biography, written for high schoolers and young adults.

Cleopatra   by Jacob Abbott   90 credits
This story of Cleopatra starts with a brief history of Egypt and the illustrious Ptolemies. By the time Cleopatra came of age, her life was already full of danger and intrigue, even before her romantic encounter with Julius Caesar. Under the protection of Caesar she enjoyed a few years of security on the throne of Egypt, but the death of Caesar led her to seek protection from his successor, Mark Antony. Their tragic story is one of the most dramatic liaisons in history.

Nero   by Jacob Abbott   89 credits
The story of Nero is also the story of much of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. The bloody legacies of the previous emperors Caligula and Claudius are introduced before delving into Nero's own reign of intrigue, murder, and atrocities. The women of the family, including Nero's mother Agrippina, his wife Poppaea, and the empress Messalina, contribute their share of villainy to the tale. The death of Nero provides a pathetic testimony to the cowardice that often underlies tyranny.

Christian Antiquity

History of the Church: Christian Antiquity   by Notre Dame   47 credits
First of a five volume history of the Church, this book covers the period from the founding of the Church at Pentecost to the fall of the Roman Empire. During that time the church underwent horrific persecutions, but nevertheless spread over the whole Roman Empire and produced thousands of worthy saints. The account of the earliest years of the church, including the lives of the church fathers, early heresies, and early martyrs is truly fascinating.

Stories of Saints and Martyrs   by Jetta S. Wolff   62 credits
This book includes the stories of over 32 saints, and includes sections on the Early Fathers (Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus), the Saints of Ireland (Patrick, Columba, Columbanus), as well many saints of the Calendar, ranging from martyrs of the third century, to saints of Mediaeval England.

Roses of Martyrdom   by C. M. Cresswell   49 credits
Dramatic stories of the lives of nine of the early martyrs of the Christian church. Most of the subjects, including Sts. Agnes, Lawrence, Genes, and Dorthea,suffered martyrdom during Rome persecutions in the first centuries of the Christian age. Others, such as St. Pelaguis and the Japanese Martyrs, suffered their fates during the middle ages.

Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages   by George Hodges   69 credits
An excellent introduction to the history of the church through portraits of twenty of the most important saints and heroes of the faith from the third century A.D. to the time of the Reformation. Includes Cyprian, Athanasius, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Benedict, Gregory the Great, Columba, Charlemagne, Hildebrand, Anselm, Bernard, Becket, Langton, Dominic, Francis, Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola.

Last Days of Jerusalem: From Josephus   by Alfred J. Church   48 credits
Based on War of the Jews by Josephus, this book tells the dramatic story of the bravery, fanaticism, and treachery which lead to the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus was an eyewitness to the events, first as Jewish leader in a neighboring town that fell to the Romans, then as Roman captive. He tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the zealots holding Jerusalem and save the city from destruction.

Early Church: from Ignatius to Augustine   by George Hodges   105 credits
This book gives a detailed history of the first four centuries of the Christian Church. Important topics include the struggle between Christianity and Pagan Rome, early persecutions, early heresies, and the establishment of monasticism in both the Greek-speaking east, and the West. The Arian controversy is explained in detail, and the life stories of many of the early church fathers are introduced.

Jews under Roman Rule   by W. D. Morrison   143 credits
This book focuses on the role of the Jewish states and people during the period of Roman influence. When the Romans first encountered Judaea it was under the influence of the Macedonian empire. The Romans gave the Jewish state a great deal of autonomy, but tried to integrate it into the greater empire, and the Jewish people, largely due to a resurgence of religious vigor, rebelled. The Roman Jewish rebellions continued throughout the first and second centuries, and affected not only the Jews, but also the Christian communities that had sprung from them.

Legends and Literature

Gods and Heroes or The Kingdom of Jupiter   by R. E. Francillon   101 credits
This book features the retelling of a number of Greek and Roman myths and legends. After introducing the major gods, the author recounts important legends, including those of Orpheus, Perseus, Theseus, Jason, and Hercules. Although many of the Roman gods were adopted from Greek mythology, this book uses Roman rather than Greek nomenclature . It is therefore an appropriate supplement when studying Roman History.

Aeneid for Boys and Girls   by Alfred J. Church   59 credits
This story recounts the fascinating tale of Aeneas, the legendary ancestor of Romulus, who escaped from the burning city of Troy and wandered the Mediterranean for years before settling in Italy. His adventures once arriving in Latium are no less interesting since he must fight the jealous suitor Turnus for the hand of the princess Lavinia. Patterned after the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Aeneid was described in an epic poem by Virgil to glorify the imperial city of Rome.

Historical Fiction

Our Little Roman Cousin of Long Ago   by Julia D. Cowles   37 credits
This book tells the story of Marcus, a young boy who lived in the final years of the Roman Republic during the age of Julius Caesar and Cicero. The focus of this children's book is less on political events than on the everyday life of a boy growing to manhood during the close of the Republican era.

Our Little Carthaginian Cousin of Long Ago   by C. V. Winlow   36 credits
This story about a Carthaginian boy named Hanno takes place during the era between the first and second Punic Wars. Instead of focusing on historical events, the author emphasizes the customs and daily lives of typical Carthaginian of the era. The drama of the story peaks when Hanno rescues his sister from the murderous priests of Carthage, and eventually joins the army of Hannibal.

Burning of Rome   by Alfred J. Church   116 credits
This book covers a dramatic period of Nero's reign, encompassing the catastrophic fire that destroyed Rome and the rebellion, known as Piso's Conspiracy, that soon followed. Virtually all of the characters in this book are based on historical Romans, and the levels of treachery, cowardice, martyrdom, and villainy displayed by the characters in this drama would be incredible if they were not actually true.

To the Lions   by Alfred J. Church   70 credits
A fictional story of Christian persecution in the second century A.D. The story does an excellent job of showing how the persecutions were often local affairs instigated by regional jealousies, rather than government projects. The conversations between Pliny the Younger, who was governor of Bithynia, and the historian Tacitus reflect the sentiments of the Roman intelligentsia regarding the Christians at this time.

Lords of the World   by Alfred J. Church   133 credits
The hero of this book is a Greek enemy of Rome, who vainly tries to resist the all-conquering Romans. During the course of his trials he befriends Hasdrubal, the Carthaginian general, Polybius, the great historian of the Punic Wars, and Scipio the Younger, the general who conquers Carthage. During the course of his struggle, he begins to understand the weaknesses of the Greek and Punic civilizations, and why they are unable to resist the domination of Rome.

Lucius: Adventures of a Roman Boy   by Alfred J. Church   137 credits
Lucius comes of age in first century Rome during the age of Cicero and Pompey and is sent on his first assignment to Sicily. On his way he is attacked by Spartacus's rebels, captured by Mediterranean pirates, and involved in numerous other adventures. Eventually he ends up in Asia Minor, where he visits Eastern kingdoms and becomes involved in the war with Mithradates. The book covers a complicated era in Rome's history, and illustrates many of the reasons for the decline of the Republic.

Crown of Pine   by Alfred J. Church   92 credits
This book depicts life in the Roman Empire in the first fifty years after the birth of Christ. Most of the action takes place in Corinth, which had been rebuilt after the Romans razed it in 146 B.C. The plot involves an athlete who is training to compete in the Corinthian games, but most of the characters are merchants, exiled Jews, and various other townsfolk. An important subplot involves some early Christians who have personally befriended St. Paul and are members of the Corinthian church.