Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes.
The TV series this week is: HBO’s Rome.
A down-to-earth account of the lives of both illustrious and ordinary Romans set in the last days of the Roman Republic, from Julius Caesar’s civil war of 49 BC to the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.
Yet another series that I haven’t seen, but really need to – especially as it covers one of my favourite periods of history. I can think of so many different books to recommend for fans of this show, so I’ve tried to narrow it down a bit. I’ve included both fiction and non-fiction in today’s feature.
Looking for fiction?
The Aeneid by Virgil is the classic tale of the foundation of Rome, by Aeneas, a Trojan who escaped the Trojan War and traveled to Italy. I’ve chosen this one not so much because of what it covers, but when it was written – during the fall of the Roman Republic and therefore during the period that Rome is set. Robert Harris’ Imperium follows Cicero, the famous orator, lawyer and politician (and whose name means ‘chickpea’, a fact that will always amuse me), of the Roman Republic. The series is a fictional biography of his life, and features familiar historical figures from the show such as Julius Caesar and Pompey. Ovid: An Augustan Scapegoat by Michael Soloman is set a little after the end of the show: in 14 BC, after the death of Emperor Augustus (Octavian). It uses fact mixed with fiction to create a tale of the poet Ovid, exiled from the Roman Empire and never pardoned.
Tom Holland’s Rubicon is a very highly regarded account of the end of the Roman Republic, with lively portraits of historical figures such as Cicero, Cleopatra, Spartacus and Virgil. Mary Beard is quite possibly my favourite historian/classicist EVER, and I had the privilege of meeting her last year, so naturally I have to recommend one of her books! I’ve chosen The Roman Triumph because it’s more of a general look at Rome than some of her other work – although to be honest, I’d recommend any book by her. My final non-fiction book of choice would be The Classical World: An Epic History of Greece and Rome by Robin Lane-Fox (who also comes recommended by Mary Beard, if I remember correctly). This book is a pretty brilliant brief account of the ancient world and is wonderfully written. I could list so many more non-fiction books (basically half of my coursebooks for university) but I think that’s enough for now!