Want to know more about the factual world of Rome that builds the backbone of my imagined Aven? Here are a few of the resources I highly recommend!
The History of Rome podcast — Need to kill a few weeks of listening time? This podcast by Mike Duncan is as comprehensive a guide to Roman history as you could possibly want. It has well over 150 episodes and covers everything from the mythical founding through to the Empire’s collapse.
Daily Life in the Ancient World — One of the Great Courses series. A few of the Roman episodes are available on Audible! These give more focus to social history than the History of Rome podcast.
A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome, by Alberto Angela — Probably my favorite book on Ancient Rome. This is a remarkably detailed account of what life was like for Romans at the height of the Empire — so I have to scale some things back when applying the research to my late-Republic setting, but it has still been a tremendous resource for me. Think of it as a “ground-level” view; rather than the broad scope of who ruled and died when, it covers waking to sleeping in a single day for some average and not-so-average Romans. Angela gives details both for rich patricians and the common folk.
Legionary, by Philip Matyczak — Written with delightful humorous flair, Legionary is an inside look at the Roman army. Pretty much all the details from Gaius Vitellius’s plotline came from this or from Caesar’s Legion, below. It’s also a mid-Empire viewpoint, but after the Marian reforms of the first century BCE, average life in the legion didn’t change too much. Presented as a handbook for an aspiring legionary, this book teaches you about your weapons and armor, about the ranks and duties, and, best of all, the excruciating ways in which Rome’s various enemies will try to kill you.
Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Tourists, by Tony Perrottet — This one’s a bit different from the others on the list, as it is, at heart, a travelogue. Perrottet is a travel writer who had specialized in exotic and nigh-impossible-to-reach locations — until his wife got pregnant, and he realized he needed to scale it back a bit. So they took a grand trip together, following the route of the first real tourists in the world: 1st century Romans. What I love about this book is that Perrottet juxtaposes his own experiences and observations with what the ancient Romans would have seen, thought, and felt.
The Rise of Rome: The Making of the World’s Greatest Empire, by Antony Everitt — Here’s my great source on the Republic. This book focuses, unlike so many others, on how Rome got it start, rather than what it was like at its height or how it ended. What I love about that is how it shows the many and massive changes that Roman society went through in order to become the world of Augustus that we’re more familiar with. While the Empire had lots of political upheaval, society had somewhat fixed by then. Not so early on, as the Romans spent centuries figuring out the balance of patricians and plebs, law and custom.
Caesar’s Legion: The Epic Saga of Julius Caesar’s Elite Tenth Legion and the Armies of Rome, by Stephen Dando-Collins — The title’s a mouthful, I grant you. What I learned from this book will come into play much more in Book 2, as [redacted for spoilers]‘s legion is based a lot on Caesar’s Tenth. More broadly, though, this book taught me a lot about Roman military strategy, both when facing a “barbarian” enemy and when facing fellow Romans.
Storm before the Storm, by Mike Duncan — This book, by the author of the History of Rome podcast, offers keen insight into the decades before the ones that history knows so well. When we think of the collapse of the Roman Republic, we tend to focus on Caesar and Pompey, Brutus and Cassius, Antony and Octavian. But the stage was set for them much earlier, and Duncan has written a wonderfully detailed exploration of the political quagmire that Rome sank into from about 140-60 BCE.
S.P.Q.R. by Mary Beard — A comprehensive history of how Rome was built and grew into such a devouring empire, focusing not only on the kings, consuls, and emperors, but also on the millions of others whose lives shaped that nation: the women, the enslaved people, the merchants, the artisans, the poor. Beard’s style is accessible without sacrificing scholarly excellence, and she does a lot of recontextualizing of the history for the modern reader.
ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network of the Roman World — How long would it take to sale from Alexandria to Rome in the fall? Or march from Narbo to Toletum in the summer with a full baggage train? When I need to know the answers to these esoteric questions, I turn to ORBIS.
VROMA — An excellent online compendium of information about Roman history and culture and the Latina language. A great quick reference when I can’t remember the layout of a typical domus or the precise name for a particular kind of toga.
Maps of the Ancient World — Pretty self-explanatory. Oh how I love them.
The Perseus Project — An old friend from my high school days, the Perseus Project contains a wealth of Latin literature in the original language and in translation.
Meet the Romans: Citizens of the Empire, by Mary Beard — This short documentary series is a delightful look into Roman life. Beard focuses on the diversity and gorgeous chaos of the ancient city — the very things that my protagonists Latona and Sempronius so adore. She also engages with her source material with a giddy glee that I find utterly charming.