A-Z of Historical Fiction

Access keys (Alt+"Letter", then press Enter) may be used to navigate this alphabetical list.

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The following pages are just a selection of the many hundreds of historical novels set in Ancient Rome, plus a few about ancient Greece and even some written by the ancients themselves. All entries are chiefly from my own personal bookshelf, although I have also included some which have been highly recommended to me, or are well-known (maybe better known as certain movies, for example!). For a more complete list of practically every Ancient Rome mystery novel ever written, visit the wonderful site The Detective and the Toga (link launches a new browser window).

Several people helped contribute to this page – they know who they are. Thank you guys!!!

[A]

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[B]

Anthony Burgess

  • Kingdom of the Wicked – Set in the first century AD (by the author of A Clockwork Orange.

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[C]

Colleen McCullough

A monumental fictional account of actual events in the late Republic of Ancient Rome, from Gaius Marius and Sulla to Caesar and Pompey.

  • First Man in Rome
  • The Grass Crown
  • Fortune’s Favourites
  • Caesar’s Women
  • Caesar
  • The Song of Troy – (non-Roman) a retelling of the Trojan War.

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[D]

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[E]

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[F]

Howard Fast

  • Spartacus – The source for the film starring Kirk Douglas.

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[G]

Ernest Gann

  • The Antagonists – About Masada; source for the TV mini-series.
  • The Triumph – A sequel, on Flavius Silva

Robert Graves

  • I, Claudius and Claudius the God: The fictional account of the troubled life of Emperor Claudius in the first century AD. Labelled at birth as mentally deficient and suffering all his life from a stammer, Claudius eventually becomes Emperor of Rome.
  • Count Belisarius

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[H]

Damion Hunter

The adventures of two half brothers in the army and politics of Vespasian to Domitian’s Roma. Great series and well researched.

  • The Centurions – set mostly in Germania
  • The Barbarian Princess – set mostly in Britannia
  • The Emperor’s Games – covers Vesuvius and Pirates in France

Hunter’s writing displays a concise, yet descriptive, skill of narrative, believable dialogue, and an extensive knowledge of the workings of Vespasian’s Rome and its army. Well worth the effort of locating a long out-of-print copy.” – Rubrius Servilius (alias).

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[I]

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[J]

Ben Jonson

  • Sejanus, His Fall – A play

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[K]

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[L]

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[M]

Allan Massie

A series of first-person narrative stories in the vein of Graves. This list in order of publication — all quoted text by Fiona Forsyth.

  • Augustus – “Massie incorporates passages from the Res Gestae into his work, using Augustus himself to explain and deliberate over this justification for his life.
  • Tiberius – “Ingenious though the portrayal of Suetonius’ monster is, Massie doesn’t quite eclipse the images of Tiberius left to us by other writers.
  • Caesar – “Narrated by Decimus Brutus, the conspirators themselves are the focus of the interest and it is good to see the unlovely Marcus Junius Brutus getting the treatment he deserves.
  • Antony – “I found that although Massie uses two narrators, the uncomplicated character of Antony is already familiar if you have read the other books and I did wonder why Massie provided two views of someone already known.”

In all books history is treated as something which has to fit into the story naturally without weighing it down – contrast with Colleen McCullough’s series. The elegance and simplicity of Massie’s style is also fittingly true to his stories and their background.” – Fiona Forsyth

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

See entry under R.

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[N]

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[O]

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[P]

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[Q]

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[R]

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

  • One for Sorrow – the first NOVEL in a series about John the Eunuch, set in Byzantine times.
  • Two for Joy – second novel in the John the Eunuch series.
  • Three For a Letter – third novel in he John the Eunuch series.

John the Eunuch has previously been seen in short story anthologies such as Historical Detectives edited by Mike Ashley.

John Maddox Roberts

These follow the adventures of a never-do-well son of a senator, who likes to play Roman detective in the time of Julius Caesar.

  • S.P.Q.R. I: The King’s Gambit
  • S.P.Q.R. II: The Cataline Conspiracy
  • S.P.Q.R. III: The Sacrilege
  • S.P.Q.R. IV: The Temple of the Muses
  • S.P.Q.R. V: Saturnalia
  • S.P.Q.R. VI: Nobody Loves a Centurian

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[S]

Steven Saylor

Series of mysteries about Gordianus the Finder and his unusual family. Set in the late Republic of Rome, from the dictatorship of Sulla onwards.

  • Roman Blood – the Sextus Roscius case.
  • House of the Vestals – a short story collection.
  • Arms of Nemesis – murder with a backdrop of Spartacus slave revolt.
  • Catalina’s Riddle – the “Cataline Conspiracy”.
  • The Venus Throw – the scandal of Clodia & the Marcus Caelius case.
  • A Murder on the Appian Way – the murder of Clodius and trial of Milo
  • Rubicon – the civil war between Pompey (“Rome”) and Caesar.
  • Last Seen in Massilia – Gordianus goes to Massilia to find Meto.

William Shakespeare

Everybody has heard of Antony and Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar, but you’d be surprised how often Shakespeare borrowed from ancient sources.

  • King Lear – play, based in pre-Roman Britain. (Read online)
  • Titus Andronicus – play (Read online)
  • Coriolanus – play (Read online)
  • Julius Caesar – play (Read online)
  • Antony and Cleopatra – play (Read online)
  • Cymbeline – play, set in Britain during the conquering by Romans (Read online)
  • The Rape of Lucrece – poem about the events that compelled the Romans to get rid of the Etruscan Kings. (Read online)

John Stewart

  • The Centurion – found in my local library, I was surprised to find a gripping story set upon the backdrop of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Rosemary Sutcliff

All of the following novels are set in Roman Britain

  • The Eagle of the Ninth – Based on the legend of the ‘Lost Legion’
  • The Silver Branch – Sort of a sequel, 4th century
  • The Lantern Bearers – Last of the trilogy
  • Frontier Wolf – About a penal unit operating beyond Hadrian’s Wall
  • The Capricorn Bracelet – Short stories
  • Eagle’s Honour – 2 stories (A Circlet of Oak Leaves & Eagle’s Egg)
  • Outcast
  • Song for a Dark Queen – About Boudicca’s revolt
  • The Shining Company – About resisting the Saxons after the Roman departure.

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[T]

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[U]

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[V]

Gore Vidal

  • Julian – About Emperor Julian

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[W]

Lew Wallace

  • Ben Hur – the novel on which the epic film was based.

David Wishart

Mystery series about a Senatorial class (although not actually a Senator) amateur sleuth called Marcus Corvinus. More information on David Wishart is available.

  • Ovid
  • Germanicus
  • Sejanus
  • The Lydian Baker
  • Old Bones
  • Last Rites
  • White Murder

Wishart has also written to non-mystery novels about the lives of Virgil and Emperor Nero, entitled I, Virgil and Nero respectively, plus a haunting novel about the revolt of Queen Boudicca and the Iceni, called The Horse Coin.

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[X]

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[Y]

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[Z]

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