Book picks similar to
On The Spartacus Road: a Journey Through Ancient Italy by Peter Stothard
The Punic Wars
Adrian Goldsworthy - 2000
It will grab the attention of military buffs and general readers alike. The struggle for supremacy between Rome and Carthage encompassed the First (264-241 B.C.) and Second (149-146 B.C.) Punic Wars; both sides suffered casualties exceeding that of any war fought before the modern era. Its outcome had far-reaching consequences for the Western world, too, as it led to the ascendancy of Rome. In grand narrative style, follow the fighting on land and sea; the terrible pitched battles; and such generals as Hannibal, Fabius Maximus, and Scipio Aemilianus, who finally drove Carthage into the ground. A Main Selection of the History Book Club.
The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal & the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic
Robert L. O'Connell - 2010
It was the battle that countless armies tried to imitate, most notably in World Wars I & II, the battle that obsessed military minds. Yet no general ever matched Hannibal's unexpected, innovative & brutal military victory--the costliest day of combat for any army in history. Robert L. O'Connell, an admired military historian, now tells the whole story of Cannae, giving a stirring account of this apocalyptic battle of the 2nd Punic War, its causes & consequences. O'Connell shows how a restive Rome amassed a giant army to punish Carthage's commander, who'd dealt them deadly blows at Trebia & Lake Trasimene, & how Hannibal outwitted enemies that outnumbered him. He describes Hannibal's strategy of blinding his opponents with sun & dust, enveloping them in a deadly embrace & sealing their escape, before launching a massive knife fight that would kill 48,000 men in close contact. The Ghosts of Cannae then conveys how this disastrous pivot point in Rome's history ultimately led to the republic's resurgence & the creation of its empire. Piecing together decayed shreds of ancient reportage, the author paints powerful portraits of the leading players: Hannibal, resolutely sane & uncannily strategic; Varro, Rome's co-consul scapegoated for the loss; & Scipio Africanus, the surviving, self-promoting Roman military tribune who would one day pay back Hannibal at Zama in N. Africa. Finally, O'Connell reveals how Cannae's legend has inspired & haunted military leaders ever since, & the lessons it teaches. Superbly researched, written with erudite wit, The Ghosts of Cannae is the definitive account of a battle whose history still resonates.
The Spartacus War
Barry S. Strauss - 2009
Starting with only seventy-four men, a gladiator named Spartacus incited a rebellion that threatened Rome itself. With his fellow gladiators, Spartacus built an army of 60,000 soldiers and controlled the southern Italian countryside. A charismatic leader, he used religion to win support. An ex-soldier in the Roman army, Spartacus excelled in combat. He defeated nine Roman armies and kept Rome at bay for two years before he was defeated. After his final battle, 6,000 of his followers were captured and crucified along Rome's main southern highway.The Spartacus War is the dramatic and factual account of one of history's great rebellions. Spartacus was beaten by a Roman general, Crassus, who had learned how to defeat an insurgency. But the rebels were partly to blame for their failure. Their army was large and often undisciplined; the many ethnic groups within it frequently quarreled over leadership. No single leader, not even Spartacus, could keep them all in line. And when faced with a choice between escaping to freedom and looting, the rebels chose wealth over liberty, risking an eventual confrontation with Rome's most powerful forces.The result of years of research, The Spartacus War is based not only on written documents but also on archaeological evidence, historical reconstruction, and the author's extensive travels in the Italian countryside that Spartacus once conquered.
Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic
Tom Holland - 2003
Tom Holland’s enthralling account tells the story of Caesar’s generation, witness to the twilight of the Republic and its bloody transformation into an empire. From Cicero, Spartacus, and Brutus, to Cleopatra, Virgil, and Augustus, here are some of the most legendary figures in history brought thrillingly to life. Combining verve and freshness with scrupulous scholarship, Rubicon is not only an engrossing history of this pivotal era but a uniquely resonant portrait of a great civilization in all its extremes of self-sacrifice and rivalry, decadence and catastrophe, intrigue, war, and world-shaking ambition.
Robert Harris - 2003
The world's largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta's sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.
The Gates of Rome
Conn Iggulden - 2002
Conn Iggulden is just such a writer, bringing to vivid life one of the most fascinating eras in human history. In a true masterpiece of historical fiction, Iggulden takes us on a breathtaking journey through ancient Rome, sweeping us into a realm of tyrants and slaves, of dark intrigues and seething passions. What emerges is both a grand romantic tale of coming-of-age in the Roman Empire and a vibrant portrait of the early years of a man who would become the most powerful ruler on earth: Julius Caesar. On the lush Italian peninsula, a new empire is taking shape. At its heart is the city of Rome, a place of glory and decadence, beauty and bloodshed. Against this vivid backdrop, two boys are growing to manhood, dreaming of battles, fame, and glory in service of the mightiest empire the world has ever known. One is the son of a senator, a boy of privilege and ambition to whom much has been given and from whom much is expected. The other is a bastard child, a boy of strength and cunning, whose love for his adoptive family-and his adoptive brother-will be the most powerful force in his life. As young Gaius and Marcus are trained in the art of combat-under the tutelage of one of Rome's most fearsome gladiators-Rome itself is being rocked by the art of treachery and ambition, caught in a tug-of-war as two rival generals, Marius and Sulla, push the empire toward civil war. For Marcus, a bloody campaign in Greece will become a young soldier's proving ground. For Gaius, the equally deadly infighting of the Roman Senate will be the battlefield where he hones his courage and skill. And for both, the love of an extraordinary slave girl will be an honor each will covet but only one will win. The two friends are forced to walk different paths, and by the time they meet again everything will have changed. Both will have known love, loss, and violence. And the land where they were once innocent will be thrust into the grip of bitter conflict-a conflict that will set Roman against Roman...and put their friendship to the ultimate test. Brilliantly interweaving history and adventure, Conn Iggulden conjures a stunning array of contrasts-from the bloody stench of a battlefield to the opulence of the greatest city in history, from the tenderness of a lover to the treachery of an assassin. Superbly rendered, grippingly told, Emperor, The Gates of Rome is a work of vaulting imagination from a powerful new voice in historical fiction. "From the Hardcover edition."
Philip Freeman - 2008
He shaped Rome for generations, and his name became a synonym for "emperor" -- not only in Rome but as far away as Germany and Russia. He is best known as the general who defeated the Gauls and doubled the size of Rome's territories. But, as Philip Freeman describes in this fascinating new biography, Caesar was also a brilliant orator, an accomplished writer, a skilled politician, and much more.Julius Caesar was a complex man, both hero and villain. He possessed great courage, ambition, honor, and vanity. Born into a noble family that had long been in decline, he advanced his career cunningly, beginning as a priest and eventually becoming Rome's leading general. He made alliances with his rivals and then discarded them when it suited him. He was a spokesman for the ordinary people of Rome, who rallied around him time and again, but he profited enormously from his conquests and lived opulently. Eventually he was murdered in one of the most famous assassinations in history.Caesar's contemporaries included some of Rome's most famous figures, from the generals Marius, Sulla, and Pompey to the orator and legislator Cicero as well as the young politicians Mark Antony and Octavius (later Caesar Augustus). Caesar's legendary romance with the Egyptian queen Cleopatra still fascinates us today.In this splendid biography, Freeman presents Caesar in all his dimensions and contradictions. With remarkable clarity and brevity, Freeman shows how Caesar dominated a newly powerful Rome and shaped its destiny. This book will captivate readers discovering Caesar and ancient Rome for the first time as well as those who have a deep interest in the classical world.
Rome: A History in Seven Sackings
Matthew Kneale - 2017
Visitors stand on bridges that were crossed by Julius Caesar and Cicero, walk around temples visited by Roman emperors, and step into churches that have hardly changed since popes celebrated mass in them sixteen centuries ago.These architectural survivals are all the more remarkable considering the violent disasters that have struck the city. Afflicted by earthquakes, floods, fires and plagues, it has most of all been repeatedly ravaged by roving armies. Rome: A History in Seven Sackings examines the most important of these attacks and reveals, with fascinating insight, how they transformed the city - and not always for the worse. From the Gauls to the Nazis, Kneale vividly recounts those threatening the city, while drawing an intense and vibrant portrait of the city and its inhabitants, both before and after being attacked. In these troubled times when our cities can seem fragile, Rome's history offers a picture that is both shocking and also reassuring. Like the Neapolitans from Norman Lewis's Naples 44, Romans have repeatedly shrugged off catastrophes and made their city anew.A meticulously researched, magical and novel blend of travelogue, social and cultural history, Rome: A History in Seven Sackings is part celebration of the fierce courage, panache and vitality of the Roman people, and part passionate love letter to Rome. This is a popular history of the famous, incomparable city like no other.
Following Hadrian: A Second-Century Journey Through the Roman Empire
Elizabeth Speller - 2002
Yet the story of his reign is also a tale of intrigue, domestic discord, and murder. In Following Hadrian, Elizabeth Speller captures the fascinating life of Hadrian, ruler of the most powerful empire on earth at the peak of its glory. Speller displays a superb gift for narrative as she traces the intrigue of Hadrian's rise: his calculated marriage to Emperor Trajan's closestfemale relative, a woman he privately tormented; Trajan's suspicious deathbed adoption of Hadrian as his heir, a stroke some thought to be a post-mortem forgery; and the ensuing slaughter of potential rivals by an ally of Hadrian's. Speller makes brilliant use of her sources, vividly depictingHadrian's bouts of melancholy, his intellectual passions, his love for a beautiful boy (whose death sent him into a spiral), and the paradox of his general policies of peace and religious tolerance even as he conducted a bitter, three-year war with Judea. Most important, the author captures the emperor as both a builder and an inveterate traveler, guiding readers on a grand tour of the Roman Empire at the moment of its greatest extent and accomplishment, from the barren, windswept frontiers of Britain to the teeming streets of Antioch, from thedangers of the German forest to the urban splendor of Rome itself.
John Williams - 1972
Surrounded by men who are jockeying for power–Cicero, Brutus, Cassius, and Mark Antony–young Octavius must work against the powerful Roman political machinations to claim his destiny as first Roman emperor. Sprung from meticulous research and the pen of a true poet, Augustus tells the story of one man’s dream to liberate a corrupt Rome from the fancy of the capriciously crooked and the wildly wealthy.
The Confessions of Young Nero
Margaret George - 2017
In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman or child.As a boy, Nero's royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son's inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina's machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero's determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become, an Emperor who became legendary.With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy's ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival.
Steven Saylor - 2007
Roma recounts the tragedy of the hero-traitor Coriolanus, the capture of the city by the Gauls, the invasion of Hannibal, the bitter political struggles of the patricians and plebeians, and the ultimate death of Rome’s republic with the triumph, and assassination, of Julius Caesar. Witnessing this history, and sometimes playing key roles, are the descendents of two of Rome’s first families, the Potitius and Pinarius clans: One is the confidant of Romulus. One is born a slave and tempts a Vestal virgin to break her vows. One becomes a mass murderer. And one becomes the heir of Julius Caesar. Linking the generations is a mysterious talisman as ancient as the city itself. Epic in every sense of the word, Roma is a panoramic historical saga and Saylor’s finest achievement to date.
The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic
Mike Duncan - 2017
After its founding in 509 BCE, Rome grew from an unremarkable Italian city-state to the dominant superpower of the Mediterranean world. Through it all, the Romans never allowed a single man to seize control of the state. Every year for four hundred years the annually elected consuls voluntarily handed power to their successors. Not once did a consul give in to the temptation to grab absolute power and refuse to let it go. It was a run of political self-denial unmatched in the history of the world. The disciplined Roman republicans then proceeded to explode out of Italy and conquer a world filled with petty tyrants, barbarian chieftains, and despotic kings.But the very success of the Republic proved to be its undoing. The republican system was unable to cope with the vast empire Rome ruled. Bankrolled by mountains of imperial wealth and without a foreign enemy to keep them united, ambitious Roman leaders began to stray from the republican austerity of their ancestors. Almost as soon as they had conquered the Mediterranean, Rome would become engulfed in violent political conflicts and civil wars that would destroy the Republic less than a century later.The Storm Before the Storm tells the story of the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic--the story of the first generation that had to cope with the dangerous new political environment made possible by Rome's unrivaled domination over the known world. The tumultuous years from 133-80 BCE set the stage for the fall of the Republic.The Republic faced issues like rising economic inequality, increasing political polarization, the privatization of the military, endemic social and ethnic prejudice, rampant corruption, ongoing military quagmires, and the ruthless ambition and unwillingness of elites to do anything to reform the system in time to save it--a situation that draws many parallels to present-day America. These issues are among the reasons why the Roman Republic would fall. And as we all know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Alexander: Child of a Dream
Valerio Massimo Manfredi - 1998
From boyhood, the prince was trained by the finest scholars and mightiest soldiers to attain extraordinary strength of body and spirit. A descendant of Heracles and Achilles, Alexander aimed to surpass his ancestors' heroism and honor, and his chosen companions strove to be worthy to share his godlike fate. Even as a youth, Alexander's deeds were unequaled. In a single day, he tamed the fierce steed Bucephalus. In his first battle, his troops defeated the invincible Sacred Band. And as he grew to manhood, surrounded by deadly plots and intrigue, his friends pledged to follow him to the ends of the world. With the support of that loyal group of men, Alexander's might would transform dreams of conquest into reality amid the fabled cities of Persia and the mysterious East...and his destiny would carry them all to glory.
The Last Days of Pompeii
Edward Bulwer-Lytton - 1834
It tells the story of the virtuous Greeks Glaucus and Ione, their escape from Pompeii amid the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE, and their eventual conversion to Christianity, against a background of Roman decadence and corrupt Eastern religion.