Ancient Rome was a frequent subject of Victorian historical fiction and also popular throughout the 20th century. It was similarly popular in movies, though it fell out of fashion for a couple of decades until the game-changing success of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, released in 2000. Since then the floodgates of fictional Rome have been torn open.
But Rome means different things to different people. For some it is a military story of imperialism and war in foreign lands. For others it is the victim-tale of the conquered (especially if the conquered happen to be British or Judaic). For others it is broadly cultural: how could people be so similar to us and so different? There is a broad strand of historicals that touch on the New Testament stories, including many new ‘gospels’ and a wealth of faith stories, as well as some militantly anti-Christian novels. There are Roman detective novels, military historicals, sea stories, epics, and literary novels.
Biographical novels are perhaps the richest vein – for literature and ‘box office’.
Dawn Empress: A Novel of Imperial Rome (The Theodosian Women)
In 404 AD in Constantinople’s imperial palace, Emperor Arcadius of the Eastern Roman Empire pulls his five-year-old daughter, Pulcheria, into her dead mother’...Read Review
The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar
From its first pages, The Last Assassin is a trustworthy and compelling read, qualities the best histories share. I thought I’d dipped ...Read Review
A Fatal Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Murder in Ancient Rome
This is a witty and erudite summary of murder and death as a part of Roman daily life. Emma Southon’s work spans ...Read Review
Hiding From the Past: An Eighth Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger
A murder from the past and an ambush on a hurried trip by Pliny the Younger in 87 CE to join his best friend, ...Read Review