Books Recommendations

Song of Achilles

- Madeline Miller G

Tiktok users may have already read the rave reviews of Song of Achilles. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, set during the Trojan War, is an adaptation of Homer’s Iliad and told from the perspective of Patroclus: Achilles’ high-born companion. The novel follows Patroclus and Achilles’ relationship, from their initial meeting as youngsters, all the way through their adolescence and early adulthood as they evolve from friends to lovers and take to the battlefield to fight in the war. Miller stays true to the events of the Iliad whilst drawing from her own insights to offer a riveting modern take on the most famous war epic of all time.

Mythos

- Stephen Fry G

Stephen Fry, the award winning comedian, director, actor and presenter, published his book Mythos in 2017. In the novel, he retells several Greek myths, adding his witty and imaginative spin on these ancient stories to bring them to life for the contemporary audience. He describes Greek myths as ‘addictive, entertaining, approachable and astonishingly human’, welcoming anyone and everyone to immerse themselves in the world of Greek mythology and appreciate the stories and characters that have entertained humans for millennia.

Mythology : Timeless Tales of Greek Gods and Heroes

- Edith Hamilton G

Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Greek Gods and Heroes is a world-renowned classic which retells stories not only from Greek mythology but also Roman and Norse. Myths about Persues, Aeneas, Odin and more are packed in this 497 paged volume which, 75 years after its initial release, is still used in high schools to introduce students to Western mythology. Regarded as the best mythology book, Hamilton’s novel is a must-read.

The King Must Die

- Mary Renault G

The King Must Die, by Mary Renault, is a reimagination of the myth of Theseus, a hero in Greek mythology. The novel begins with his childhood in Troizen, following him in his travels through Eleusis, Athens and Crete before ending with his return to Athens. Drawing on both archeological findings at Knossos and her own imagination, Renault created an original and exciting story, described by the New York Times as ‘one of the truly fine historical novels of modern times.’

Circe

- Madeline Miller G

Miller’s fiction novel Circe tells a compelling story about the enchantress and minor goddess in Greek mythology. Often shrouded in mystery and the object of fascination for ancient writers including Homer, Circe is usually just regarded as the wild girl who turned men into pigs but Miller’s feminist spin on the fierce goddess is a modern bold take on the ancient rebel. Described by the New York Times as a story ‘both epic and intimate’, Circe is an incredible modern take on the mystical deity.

I, Claudius

- Robert Graves L

Published in 1934, I, Claudius is a historical novel that chronicles the history of the Roman empire from the murder of Julius Caesar (44 BC) to the murder of Caligula (41 AD). This book is written in the form of an autobiography of the Roman Emperor Claudius, who ruled from 41 to 54 AD. Although much of the narrative is fictionalized, the events narrated are largely drawn from historical accounts of that period. Now, this novel has been adapted into a TV show and unfinished movie! Because of the mature events occurring daily in Ancient Rome at this time, we would not recommend I, Claudius to a younger audience.

Imperium

- by Robert Harris L

Marcus Tullius Cicero, best known for his orations against Catiline, was one of Rome’s greatest lawyers and orators. Imperium is a fictional biography of Cicero, narrated by Cicero’s secretary and right hand man, Tiro. From 79 to 64 BC, Imperium provides a captivating account of Cicero’s decision to prosecute Gaius Verres for extortion, as a way to become aedile. If you have read any of Cicero’s orations against Catiline, we would recommend Imperium as it narrates Cicero’s life previous to Catiline’s attempted coup.

The Eagle of the Ninth

- Rosemary Sutcliff L

The Eagle of the Ninth is a children’s novel written about Marcus Aquila, whose father’s legion mysteriously disappeared. Set in Roman Britain in the 2nd century AD, the wounded young Marcus is discharged from the military and travels in search of the lost ninth legion. Inspired by the wingless bronze Roman eagle found at Calleva Atrebatum, the author beautifully writes about where it may have come from and why.

Mistress of Rome

- Kate Quinn

Another historical fiction novel set in Ancient Rome, the Mistress of Rome centers around Thea, a slave girl (ancilla) who gains the attention of a dangerous gladiator, infuriating Thea’s spiteful heiress. This novel shows how Thea went from a slave having an affair to the newest obsession of the Emperor of rome. From the senate house to the gladiator barracks to a brothel, Mistress of Rome provides an exciting description of the people and places of 1st Century Rome.

My Brilliant Friend

- Elena Ferrante GL

My Brilliant Friend is the first of four books, following the lives of Lila and Elena from their first encounter at ten years old, throughout their adolescence, to when they’re 66 years old with children of their own. Unlike the rest of the books we’ve recommended, this is not considered historical fiction and it is not set in the ancient world, but rather takes place in a neighborhood right outside of Naples, beginning in the 1950s. We included it on the list because it shows how important the Classics were in Italy at that time. Throughout the series, Elena and Lila are always trying to do better than each other, and much of their competition comes from who can learn Latin and Ancient Greek. We would highly recommend this novel for anyone who loves Italian history as well, as it depicts a beautifully vivid background for the tumultuous lives of these young girls.