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Why did Caesar regularly pluck out all his body hair? Did this lend credence to the popular saying of his time, "Caesar is a man for all women and a woman for all men" ?

Did you know that dear old Uncle Claudius wrote a tract on the importance of breaking wind, and recommended this expulsion even at the dinner table? He even tried to get a law through the senate to the effect. I guess he wanted the senators to pass more than legislation. History is full of the kind of gossip perhaps even the Enquirer would think twice about printing. Great writers of antiquity such as Suetonius, Polybius, Tacitus and Dio were also the major-league yentas of their time. Procopius, secretary of the Byzantine general Belisarius and author of the book The Secret History, wrote about the Emperor Justinian and his wife Empress Theodora in such terms as would rival the scandal mongering of a modern Hollywood exposé. Robert Graves took Tacitus' Annals of Imperial Rome as his model for the mayhem-riddled I, Claudius and Claudius the God. He also borrowed from Procopius for his lesser-known but no less exciting book Count Belisarius.

Most people avoid reading the ancient authors for fear of ponderous writing about forgotten places and events. It seems like a lot of investment just to get a little juicy information. Writers like Colleen McCullough, Steven Saylor and Lindsey Davis research directly from the classics, wrap them up in an interesting package and deliver it to millions of fans. What many of us don't realize is that, in the realm of the classics, the events as reported by the old historians are in many ways stranger and more exciting than their interpretation by modern writers.

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This is a resource for those who love books on and about ancient Rome, from the classics of Tacitus, Suetonius, Polybius and more, to modern volumes both fiction and non-fiction.

The ebook version is listed wherever possible. Click on the book’s image to follow the link for each title and it will take you directly to or Apple’s iBook store where you can buy the item or search for another item or edition.

An Unorthodox Sage

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An Unorthodox Sage

by Peter Mangiaracina

Yes, of course I would plug my own book first!

Julius Claudius, recently back from a philosophy education in Greece and full of self-importance, solves the murder of Rome's most notorious eroticist. He has no choice in the matter; his uncle, the emperor Claudius, has accused HIM of the murder!

The events in this book take place during the reign of the emperor Claudius, made famous by the I,Claudius TV series from the 1970's. Anyone who's seen the series or read Robert Graves' novels "I,Claudius" and "Claudius, the God" will remember some of the characters featured in this novella, "An Unorthodox Sage"


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I, Claudius

by Robert Graves

Once a rather bookish young man with a limp and a stammer, a man who spent most of his time trying to stay away from the danger and risk of the line of ascension, Claudius seemed an unlikely candidate for Emperor. Yet, on the death of Caligula, Claudius finds himself next in line for the throne, and must stay alive as well as keep control.

Drawing on the histories of Plutarch, Suetonius, and Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, noted historian and classicist Robert Graves tells the story of the much-maligned Emperor Claudius with both skill and compassion. Weaving important themes throughout about the nature of freedom and safety possible in a safety and a monarchy, Graves’ Claudius is both more effective and more tragic than history typically remembers him. A best-selling novel and one of Graves’ most successful, I, Claudius has been adapted to television, film, theatre, and audio.

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Claudius, the God

In I, Claudius, Robert Graves begins the story of the limping, stammering young man who is suddenly thrust onto the throne after the death of Caligula. In Claudius the God, Graves continues the story, detailing Claudius’ 13-year reign and his ultimate downfall. Painting the vivid, tumultuous, and decadent society of ancient Rome with spectacular detail, Robert Graves provides a tale that is both instructive and compelling, and difficult to put down for both casual readers and students of Roman history.

Masters of Rome

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Masters of Rome Series: Books 1-5

by Colleen McCullough

The world cowers from its legions, but the fate of Rome hangs in the balance. From the marble columns of the forum to the squalor of the Subura, the city is about to be plunged into civil war that will set rich against poor, Roman against Italian, father against son, a conflict destined to destroy a republic but give birth to an empire.

This book includes five novels: The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, Fortune’s Favorites, Caesar’s Women and Caesar.

This series, including the five separate books and the collection here, are not available on Amazon, only on the iBooks store. In my opinion, this is very unusual as the opposite is usually the case. The later books in the Masters of Rome series are indeed available on Amazon.

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1. First Man in Rome

When the world cowered before the legions of Rome, two extraordinary men dreamed of personal glory: the military genius and wealthy rural "upstart" Marius, and Sulla, penniless and debauched but of aristocratic birth. Men of exceptional vision, courage, cunning, and ruthless ambition, separately they faced the insurmountable opposition of powerful, vindictive foes. Yet allied they could answer the treachery of rivals, lovers, enemy generals, and senatorial vipers with intricate and merciless machinations of their own—to achieve in the end a bloody and splendid foretold destiny . . . and win the most coveted honor the Republic could bestow.

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2. The Grass Crown

Throughout the Western world, great kingdoms have fallen and despots lay crushed beneath the heels of Rome's advancing legions. But now internal rebellion threatens the stability of the mighty Republic. An aging, ailing Gaius Marius, heralded conqueror of Germany and Numidia, longs for that which was prophesied many years before: an unprecedented seventh consulship of Rome. It is a prize to be won only through treachery and with blood, pitting Marius against a new generation of assassins, power-seekers, and Senate intriguers—and setting him at odds with the ambitious, tormented Lucius Cornelius Sulla, once Marius's most trusted right-hand man, now his most dangerous rival.

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3. Fortune’s Favorites

In a time of cataclysmic upheaval, a bold new generation of Romans vied for greatness amid the disintegrating remnants of their beloved Republic. They were the chosen...and the cursed—blessed with wealth and privilege yet burdened by the dictates of destiny in a savage struggle for power that would leave countless numbers crushed and destroyed. But there was one who would tower above them all—a brilliant and beautiful boy whose ambition was unparalleled, whose love was legend, and whose glory was Rome's: a boy they would one day call "Caesar."

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4. Caesar’s Women

His victories were legend—in battle and bedchamber alike. Love was a political weapon he wielded cunningly and ruthlessly in his private war against enemies in the forum. Genius, general, patrician, Gaius Julius Caesar was history. His wives bought him influence. He sacrificed his beloved daughter on the altar of ambition. He burned for the cold-hearted mistress he could never dare trust. Caesar's women all knew—and feared—his power. He adored them, used them, destroyed them on his irresistible rise to prominence. And one of them would seal his fate.

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5. Caesar

Colleen McCullough's track record in publishing reads like Caesar's triumphs in battlewide-ranging in scope, masterful in style, unequaled in achievement. From her almost twelve-million-copy-selling Thorn Birds through her four novels in the Masters of Rome series, McCullough has never faltered.

Here she turns her attentions to Caesar's conquest of Gaul and to his momentous decision at the river Rubicon to claim his place in the government of Rome. At a time that preceded the technology of any firearm, when military acumen, strategy, and leadership were all, it was Caesar's genius that prevailed, over and over. What Caesar accomplished in Gaul is the stuff of historical epic, of military academies, and of this novel. He was utterly awesome. Yet history forgets that Caesar was also a man, not immune to the human condition. He succeeded brilliantly, but he also suffered great personal grief and disappointment. It is the full portrait of Caesar, a man destined to inspire an empire, that Colleen McCullough paints here--faithfully, magnificently, and in radiant light.

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6. The October Horse

As The October Horse begins, Gaius Julius Caesar is at the height of his stupendous career. When he becomes embroiled in a civil war between Egypt's King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, he finds himself torn between the fascinations of a remarkable woman and his duty as a Roman. Though he must leave Cleopatra, she remains a force in his life as a lover and as the mother of his only son, who can never inherit Caesar's Roman mantle, and therefore cannot solve his father's greatest dilemma -- who will be Caesar's Roman heir?

A hero to all of Rome except to those among his colleagues who see his dictatorial powers as threats to the democratic system they prize so highly, Caesar is determined not to be worshiped as a god or crowned king, but his unique situation conspires to make it seem otherwise. Swearing to bring him down, Caesar's enemies masquerade as friends and loyal supporters while they plot to destroy him. Among them are his cousin and Master of the Horse, Mark Antony, feral and avaricious, priapic and impulsive; Gaius Trebonius, the nobody, who owes him everything; Gaius Cassius, eaten by jealousy; and the two Brutuses, his cousin Decimus, and Marcus, the son of his mistress Servilia, sad victim of his mother and of his uncle Cato, whose daughter he marries. All are in Caesar's debt, all have been raised to high positions, all are outraged by Caesar's autocracy.

Caesar must die, they decide, for only when he is dead will Rome return to her old ways, her old republican self.

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7. Antony and Cleopatra

Caesar is dead, and Rome is, again, divided. Lepidus has retreated to Africa, while Antony rules the opulent East, and Octavian claims the West, the heart of Rome, as his domain. Though this tense truce holds civil war at bay, Rome seems ripe for an emperor -- a true Julian heir to lay claim to Caesar's legacy. With the bearing of a hero, and the riches of the East at his disposal, Antony seems poised to take the prize. Like a true warrior-king, he is a seasoned general whose lust for power burns alongside a passion for women, feasts, and Chian wine. His rival, Octavian, seems a less convincing candidate: the slight, golden-haired boy is as controlled as Antony is indulgent and as cool-headed and clear-eyed as Antony is impulsive. Indeed, the two are well matched only in ambition.

And though politics and war are decidedly the provinces of men in ancient Rome, women are adept at using their wits and charms to gain influence outside their traditional sphere. Cleopatra, the ruthless, golden-eyed queen, welcomes Antony to her court and her bed but keeps her heart well guarded. A ruler first and a woman second, Cleopatra has but one desire: to place her child on his father, Julius Caesar's, vacant throne. Octavian, too, has a strong woman by his side: his exquisite wife, raven-haired Livia Drusilla, who learns to wield quiet power to help her husband in his quest for ascendancy. As the plot races toward its inevitable conclusion -- with battles on land and sea -- conspiracy and murder, love and politics become irrevocably entwined.

McCullough's knowledge of Roman history is detailed and extensive. Her masterful and meticulously researched narrative is filled with a cast of historical characters whose motives, passions, flaws, and insecurities are vividly imagined and expertly drawn. The grandeur of ancient Rome comes to life as a timeless human drama plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the Republic's final days.

Fiction: First in the Series

There are so many ancient Roman books out there, and many are part of a series. Sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start. Here’s a little guide to my favorite firsts in the series.

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Roma Sub Rosa Series: Roman Blood

by Steven Saylor

Steven Saylor’s ancient Roman mysteries featuring Gordianus the Finder is perhaps the best of all the historical mystery series’ out there. Set in the time just before the fall of the Republic, his novels are well-researched, and are based on historical events.

In the unseasonable heat of a spring morning in 80 B.C., Gordianus the Finder is summoned to the house of Cicero, a young advocate staking his reputation on a case involving the savage murder of the wealthy, sybaritic Sextus Roscius. Charged with the murder is Sextus's son, greed being the apparent motive. The punishment, rooted deep in Roman tradition, is horrific beyond imagining.

The case becomes a political nightmare when Gordianus's investigation takes him through the city's raucous, pungent streets and deep into rural Umbria. Now, one man's fate may threaten the very leaders of Rome itself.

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Falco Mysteries: The Silver Pigs

by Lindsey Davis

Lindsey Davis’ series, set in the time of Vespasian, has Marcus Didius Falco solving crimes and getting himself into trouble. While Steven Saylor takes a more serious approach, Lindsey Davis’ books are more humorous.

The Silver Pigs is Lindsey Davis' classic novel which introduced readers around the world to Marcus Didius Falco, a private informer with a knack for trouble, a tendency for bad luck, and a frequently inconvenient drive for justice.

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SPQR: The King’s Gambit

by John Maddox Roberts

In this Edgar Award-nominated mystery, John Maddox Roberts takes readers back to a Rome filled with violence and evil. Vicious gangs ruled the streets of Crassus and Pompey, routinely preying on plebeian and patrician alike, so the garroting of a lowly ex-slaved and the disembowelment of a foreign merchant in the dangerous Subura district seemed of little consequence to the Roman hierarchy. But Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger--highborn commander of the local vigiles--was determined to investigate. Despite official apathy, brazen bribes, and sinister threates, Decius uncovers a world of corruption at the highest levels of his government that threatens to destroy him and the government he serves.

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Marcus Corvinus Mysteries: Ovid

by David Wishart

When young aristocratic layabout Marcus Corvinus is approached by the stepdaughter of the exiled and now dead Roman poet Ovid and asked to clear the return of the ashes for burial, he cheerfully agrees; there should, he thinks, be no problem. Only when he makes the application to the imperial authorities it’s turned down flat. So what, Corvinus asks himself, did Ovid do that was so bad that they won’t even allow his bones back into Italy?

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Gaius Patreius Ruso Mysteries: Medicus

by Ruth Downie

Divorced and down on his luck, Gaius Petreius Ruso has made the rash decision to seek his fortune in an inclement outpost of the Roman Empire, namely Britannia.

Now he has a new problem: a slave who won't talk and can't cook, and drags trouble in her wake. Before he knows it, Ruso is caught in the middle of an investigation into the deaths of prostitutes working out of the local bar.