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Ancient Rome—Recommended Core Reading

This page contains recommended reading lists for students of all ages but we expect most students using the Heritage Academy to be in fifth to tenth grades, reading at Levels I and II. College Prep and Young Reader recommendations are provided for enrichment but Level I and II assignments are intended to prepare students for Study Review questions.

    Level I: Introductory (5th-7th grade)     Level II: Intermediate (8th-10th)
    College Prep (young adult)     Young Readers (elementary)

Customizing Reading Selections

Interest and reading fluency differs among students at every grade level so it is important to be open to customizing reading selections for individual students. Our recommended reading lists provide a solid introduction to Ancient Rome history but students are free to make adjustments as desired. More information for students who intend to develop a lesson plan based on our core reading selections is available on the following pages.

  • The Scheduling and Review page discusses several approaches to scheduling history assignments based on our core recommendations. It also suggests ways to customize student reading assignments to maximize interest and enjoyment.
  • The Reading Assignments PDF file lists Level I and Level II reading recommendations for Ancient Rome organized by historical era. It is a useful starting point for estimating reading times and making a preliminary schedule.
  • The Reading Levels page will help determine student reading and review levels. It also provides advice for selecting appropriate books for all ages.
  • The Book Summaries page provides a short description of every book in the Ancient Rome library and can be used to research additional reading options.

Level I: Introductory Recommendations

The following books are recommended for upper elementary or middle school school students who are reading fluently and are ready for a comprehensive introduction to Roman history. The Core Assignments provide a thorough overview of all the major conflicts and characters in Roman history and should prepare students for Level I review questions. The supplemental recommendations include both easy and intermediate books and feature a mix of short biographies, hero stories and historical fiction.

Level I students should earn a minimum of 400 reading credits at least half of which are from supplemental reading selections. In order to do well on the Level I tests students should read both core reading selections. Additional reading selections are available on the Book Summaries and Reading by Era pages.

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

Core Reading Assignments — ~200 reading credits

Famous Men of Rome   by John Haaren   (required)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   (required)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.

Supplemental Recommendations — ~400 reading credits

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


Level II: Intermediate Recommendations

The following books are recommended for middle school and high school students who are interested in going beyond the basics and learning details about specific events and personalities of Roman history. The primary core assignments are Macgregor's The Story of Rome and Morris's Historical Tales - Roman. These books are the basis of most of the Level II study review questions. The supplemental texts recommended for intermediate students include hero stories, biographies, and historical fiction.

Level II students should earn a minimum of 600 reading credits, over half of which should come from supplemental reading selections. In order to do well on the Level II tests students should complete the core reading assignments. Additional reading selections are available on the Book Summaries and Reading by Era pages.

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

Core Reading Assignments — ~200 reading credits

Story of Rome   by Mary Macgregor   (required)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.

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.

Supplemental Recommendations — ~400 reading credits

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.


College Prep: Advanced Recommendations

Students interested in Advanced reading assignments should already be familiar with the fundamentals of Roman history at an Intermediate competency level. Most of the books recommended for College Prep students are in depth histories and simplified classics. Many were written by Alfred Church, a British author who specialized in adapting Greek and Roman classical literature for college prep audiences.

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

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Young Readers Recommendations

The following books are recommended for grammar school students who are reading at a chapter-book level, but are not fast or fluent readers. The core assignments introduce the basic stories of Greek history and the Supplemental Recommendations emphasize historical fiction and adapted literature. Young readers are not expected to emphasize review or study questions and there is no minimum recommended reading credits. Most of the books recommended for this age group are short enough to easily print and bind if younger students are not ready to use e-readers.

Click on Title Link to add Book to Reading List.         Reading credits indicate book length.
 
Famous Men of Rome   by John Haaren   (required)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.

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.

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.