The Roman Empire and I have never really been properly introduced. I was captivated by ancient Egypt at a very early age and always came to ancient history with a focus on Egypt. I also never took Latin in school, which is where most people encounter the first book of today’s pairing. Let’s kiss the twentieth century goodbye and leap back into Roman history.
The Gallic War by Julius Caesar and Aulus Hirtius
The Gallic War, published on the eve of the civil war which led to the end of the Roman Republic, is an autobiographical account written by one of the most famous figures of European history.
Okay, confession time: I was floored by the existence of this text. Obviously, on an intellectual level, I knew about—and have read—ancient Greek and Roman plays, philosophy, and other texts. But something about having a book written by Caesar himself just blew my mind and grabbed me. The best part? It’s in the public domain.
jmnlman at Strategist’s Personal Library highly recommends it; she comments more on the translation than the content of the text, but she seems to like it. Michael at Vulpes Libris loved it, citing how great it is to see Roman soldiers as humans despite the millennia between us and them and Caesar’s gift for rendering action.
The Gallic War (also known as Commentaries on the Gallic War, the title’s literal translation) was first published around 50-40 B.C.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
Spanning thirteen centuries from the age of Trajan to the taking of Constantinople by the Turks, “Decline & Fall” is one of the greatest narratives in European Literature.
It’s a nonfiction classic that’s seeped into pop culture (or at least the title has). Plus, the Roman Empire is interesting. I think there’s little to say beyond that, except that, of course, it’s in the public domain as well. I love you, public domain.
I wasn’t able to find any book blogger reviews of the text, but Alberto Manguel lists it as one of his favorite books. I feel pretty confident here.
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published in installments from 1776 to 1789.