Roman Holiday Notes by Sam Laird
Republic to Empire - History, Fiction and Fun – to pass your enforced vacation
There is reading for all tastes on Ancient Rome and some of its areas of influence to help while away COVID downtime. Larger than life characters. War. Romance. Blood and gore on an epic scale down to drawing room murders. Rome has it all.
Here are some notes on a rich variety of material to help steer you through it all. Although my focus is limited to the 1st centuries BC and AD.
The history and characters of Ancient Rome have fascinated me since first reading Septimus in a galaxy far, far away. I was also fascinated by Latin Grammar, which permits a terse writing style that might have been a model for Hemingway. See the neat text of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, mostly dictated to his scribe with Caesar in the third person. You will recognise a number of phrases – O tempora, o mores…. (Caesar, not Shakespeare!).
So, get your head around this lot:
Julius Caesar, Commentarii De Bello Gallico. Based on Caesar’s extensive dictated notes. Various Latin and English texts online. One dual language version (facing Latin and English texts) is De Bello Gallico Passages for the AP Latin Caesar Liber I (thoughtco.com).
R. L. Chambers and K. D. Robinson, Septimus: A First Latin Reader, 1936. Nice review in Septimus: a Latin novella from the 1930s | Found in Antiquity. (Septimus is an English schoolboy transported to Nero’s time).
Lesley Davies, Falco Series (20 books), followed by Flavia Alba (Falco’s adopted daughter) Series (9 books) and others. Set in time of Vespasian (1st Century AD), i.e., post Claudius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Co. Falco is a successful “finder” (detective), solving mainly murders. He rises from the Plebeian to the Equestrian rank, marries the Aristocratic and very smart Helena Justina. Funny.
E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Covers my main period of interest and much, much, much more. Read selectively. Becomes less interesting after Rome falls (476 AD, give or take).
Robert Graves, I Claudius and Claudius the God. Classics by the master.
Robert Harris, The Cicero Trilogy, Amazon (3 books, last volume 2021 – more to come?). Based mainly on Cicero’s recorded speeches.
Conn Iggulden, Emperor Series, Amazon (5 books), focussed on Caesar, passing from the Republic, incl. Sulla’s Dictatorship, the triumvirate and on to Octavian wreaking revenge. Meet Brutus, Marc Anthony and the usual characters with lean and hungry looks. Pompey is past his best. Bump into Mithridates, Vercingetorix, Spartacus and the lovely Cleopatra.
Stephen Saylor, Gordianus Series (16 books). 1st century BC through to Caesar. Gordianus, the Finder is a more serious detective than Falco. Gordianus interacts with Sulla, Cicero, Marcus Crassus, Catullus, Catiline, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Quintus Sertorius, and Marc Antony. Generally serious crime novels but amusing in parts.
W. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar; Anthony and Cleopatra.
Suetonius (Gaius Suetonius Tranquilus), The Twelve Caesars, Amazon; The Twelve Caesars Book by Suetonius Free Download (363 pages) Gutenburg. This is not the nasty Suetonius in Conn Iggulden’s books.
Sam Laird August 2021