Top Picks for ANCIENT ROME

You will quickly come to know that I have a thing for history! Love, love, love to learn about all different people, places, and things from the past.

You could say my mom instilled this love in me at an early age. And I have since passed it on to my children as we homeschooled. We immersed ourselves in many different time periods, adding in drama, hands-on fun, field trips, and YES books!

The largest category of books we own is a close tie between religion and history. You can read some of my TOP Picks for Religion in the Blog,

As for history, we always appreciated fair and balanced presentations in our book choices, especially authors that presented information that did not have an ax to grind or their own personal agenda to push, but  rather books that presented the time, people, and places as if we just dropped into a time machine and were transported to that time of long ago.

It is therefore with great love and many, many, many books I reviewed and read for the past 25+ years that I now present to you my list : TOP PICKS for Ancient Rome.

PS – And if you are interested in other time periods or creating a timeline of your own for your family, then do look at my other TOP Pick Blog articles and History Worth Remembering Timeline Figures.

Paola’s TOP PICKS for Ancient Rome:

Art of the Catapult

The Art of the Catapult

By William Gurstelle

Publisher: Independent Publishers Group

With some scrap wood, rope, hammer, nails and this book, build seven historic catapults. Our son Andrew built the Onager catapult, it was easy and absolutely amazing. These simple yet sophisticated hurling machines rely on the fundamentals of math and physics using levers, force, torsion, tension and traction. Through these exciting projects also read the colorful history of siege warfare as it comes to life—the stories of Alexander the Great and the battle of Tyre; Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, and the Third Crusade; pirate-turned-soldier John Crabbe and his ship-mounted catapults; and Edward I of England and his battle against the Scots at Stirling Castle. For the legions of Tolkien fans, budding backyard warriors and engineering wizards this book is a must-have. (Ages 10+, 168 pages, PB, .epub, $$)

Caesar’s Gallic Wars

by Olivia Coolidge

Publisher: American Home School Publishing

Written as a companion to Julius Caesar’s own book, “Commentaries on the Gallic War.” Based on archaeology and classical research, Mrs. Coolidge gives the background in a way that makes sense to modern readers. Using a fictitious narrator, she adds drama to this account of Caesar’s war to subdue the tribes of Gaul and Britain. Includes black and white ink illustrations, maps of the area, and viewpoints from The Deliverer, The Conqueror, and The Rebels, complete with timeperiods. (Ages 11-16, 240 pages, PB, $$)



By Rev. Michael E. Giesler

Publisher: Scepter Press

As the beautiful daughter of a Roman senator, Junia enjoyed the best that life had to offer in first century Rome. She was grateful and anxious to please her family, a dutiful and obedient young woman of privilege. That is, until a chance friendship and its abrupt end sparks an interest in a new religion that will lead to a destiny she never imagined. Junia is a fictional exploration of life at the very beginning of Christianity from a very personal point of view. It shows how the attractions of the new religion were accompanied by social struggle, family division, and the risk of a disgraceful death to those courageous enough to embrace it. This is the first in Fr. Giesler’s trilogy which include Marcus and Grain of Wheat. (Gr. 9+, 120 pages, PB, $)



By Rev. Michael E. Giesler

Publisher: Scepter Press

In second-century Rome, Marcus tries to resume his life as a student of philosophy at the Athenaeum. His sister, Junia, had been executed in the Amphitheater for the crime of becoming a Christian. A few weeks after her death, Marcus himself is saved from being run over by a reckless charioteer. A young passerby, a Samarian, instinctively throws him out of the path of danger. And through this selfless act of a stranger, Marcus is led to share a new world based on truth and love, but a world beset with new dangers. Continuing the story of Junia and of early Christian experience in the Roman Empire, Marcus reveals how the followers of Jesus, the Christ, began to transform pagan society. Social and family connections intertwine with friendship and betrayal, prejudice and loyalty, as those who are drawn to the Way must make decisions that define their own lives and forever change the world in which they live. (Gr. 9+, 127 pages, PB, $)

Grain of Wheat

By Rev. Michael E. Giesler

Publisher: Scepter Press

Set in the second century of the early Christian Church, this book takes you into the heroic lives of the early Christians. Along the way, it shows the beauty and dignity of the Christian family, along with the power of the vocation to celibacy — a charism lived not only by priests and bishops, but by many of the lay faithful. These brave men and women, both single and married, followed Christ and spread his Kingdom while remaining in society. Through their courageous faith an entire culture was transformed, one person at a time, one family at a time. This work of fiction draws on early Christian testimonies, as well as more recent historical and contemporary books. It continues the saga which the author introduced in Junia and Marcus. (Grades 9+, 212 pages, PB, $$)

Detectives in Togas

Detectives in Togas

By Henry Winterfeld

Publisher:  Clarion Book

This book was inspired by a child’s scribble uncovered on a temple wall in the excavation of Pompeii! Meet the young boys who are sons of powerful senators and generals in ancient Rome – and watch their hilarious antics as they try to solve the mystery of who is wreaking havoc at their school! Winterfeld incorporates history and mystery into a delightful tale for the young! (Gr. 4+, 249 Pages, PB, $)

Mystery of the Roman Ransom

By Henry Winterfeld

Publisher:  Clarion Book

In this hilarious whodunit, the boys from Detectives in Togas are back. In this delightful history-mystery, seven boys in Ancient Rome solve strange crimes… thanks to some help from their teacher, a little bit of logic, and a lot of amusing misadventure. It seems the boys can get nothing right: Their teacher’s fiftieth birthday is long past (they should have done their math homework); the servant they bought as a present for his birthday isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Gaul slave but a secret courier running for his life (they should have bought the lion, instead); and, to top it all off, the message he’s carrying requests the assassination of a Roman senator—the father of one of the boys. But whose? Once again, it’s up to the seven young detectives to save the day. Can they figure out which senator is in danger and protect him? Or will they mess that up, too? Our kids just could not put this one down and leatned about Ancient Rome in the process…totally fun and enjoyable. (Gr. 5+, 240 pages, PB, $)

Roman Britain

Publisher: Usborne Books

Almost 2,000 years ago, Britain was inhabited by tribes living a simple, rural life – but all that changed dramatically when the island was invaded by the formidable Roman army. The Romans stayed for the next 400 years, imposing their laws and their lifestyle. From battles and rebellions to food and fashion, find out what happened when the Britons became citizens of the mighty Roman empire. (Ages 9+, 48 pages, PB, $)

City of the Golden House

By Madeleine Polland

Publisher: Hillside Education

A slave and a cripple, a Saint and a Roman Officer, an Emperor and a Conspirator… a city on Fire! How wonderful to see another Clarion book reprinted. This one is fantastic! This story, written by the same author as Fingal’s Quest paints an accurate and poignant picture of life in turbulent Ancient Rome during the dreadful reign of Nero. A lame Roman boy, Diomed and his young British slave, Gretorix, discover danger and triumph when they become a part of the underground Christian movement. Both captives in their own way, the two boys become fast friends, and when Diomed hears of the man called Simon Peter, who heals the sick, he sends Gretorix to learn more about the new religion. Woven into this moving story of friendship and faith is the account of St. Peter’s last days in Rome. The petulant, frightened Emperor Nero spurred by the great fire in Rome, devises new tortures daily for Christians and uses St. Peter as the scapegoat for his angry city. This truly is a beautifully told story you will never forget! (Grades 4-6, 190 pages, PB $$, .epub $)


By Cardinal Wiseman

Publisher: Hillside Education

We have been waiting for years for this long out of print edition of this classic moving portrayal of the “Church of the Catacombs”. The language is faithful to the original 1800’s version but has been carefully made more accessible to your middle school to high school student. In this story you will not only see daily life of the early Romans but of the Christian martyrs living under the terror of Diocletian. You will meet St. Agnes, St. Pancratius, St. Sebastian and their wealthy pagan Roman friend, Fabiola. Hard to begin but impossible to put down…extraordinary! (Gr. 7+, 437 pages, PB, $$)

The Bronze Bow

By Elizabeth George Speare

Publisher:  Clarion Books

The story of a boy influenced by Jesus, changes his hatred of the Roman soldiers. 1962 Newberry award winner. A classic! (255 pages, PB, $)


Publisher: Oxford University Press,

The Eagle of the Ninth

In A.D. 119, the Ninth Roman Legion marched into the northern wilds of Britain, and never returned! Fifteen years later, the son of the commander followed in order to find his father and to recover the legion’s standard, the Eagle. ††The Eagle of the Ninth (Grade 7+, 292 pages, PB, $)

The Silver Branch

The sequel to Eagle of the Ninth, involving the grandson of the lost commander of the Ninth Roman Legion.This is the period of Saxon invasion of Britain, when local chiefs were declaring themselves emperor. ††The Silver Branch (Grade 7+, 232 pages, PB, $)

The Lantern Bearers

The sequel to The Silver Branch. In A.D. 450, as the last Roman Auxiliaries are leaving Britain, Aquila struggles to keep the flame of civilization alive in the midst of invasions by Saxons and Anglos. ††The Lantern Bearers (Grade 7+, 281 pages, PB, $)


By David Macaulay


Through impressively detailed drawings, David Macauley shows how Romans designed and built marvelous cities, such as this imaginary Verbonia. Featured in this book are: The Coliseum, The Forum, The Central Market, and many more. B/W ink illustrations of the structures are found within the text, as well as, a glossary of architectural terms. (Grade 8+, 112 pages, PB, $)

Famous Men of Rome

By Poland & Haaren

Publisher: Memoria Press

Covers the life and times of Roman Society from Romulus (753 BC) to the End of the Western Empire (476 AD.) The text is broken down by the leaders of Rome at the time, what was going on, and the important things that were happening during that leader’s reign. Richly details the history of the great city of Rome through the trials and tribulations of her champions and opponents! Includes b/w pictures and illustrations throughout the text. Also has explanations of new words within the text. (Gr. 7+, 145 pages, PB, $$)

The Book of the Ancient Romans

By Dorothy Mills

Publisher: Memoria Press

Dorothy Mills has a knack for story telling in an engaging manner that is accessible to young readers. I love using this book as our framework text, to anchor our study of Ancient Rome.  The publisher added illustrations! Mills’ books include quotes from great classical historians such as Herodotus and Cicero, making them a great preparation for reading these authors in high school. We also wrote study guides so that you can have a total classical history curriculum in the middle school years. Our study guides contain reading notes, vocabulary, comprehension questions, enrichment activities, maps, and tests.

The Romans

By Marks & Tingay

Publisher: Usborne Books

This Usborne book examines everyday life in this ancient civilization! Maps and diagrams included. (Ages 14-17, 96 pages, PB, $$)

The Ides of April

By Mary Ray

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Intrigue, murder, conspiracy, this story has it all! This amazing tale also makes the readers really feel a part of Ancient Roman life! Many aspects of Roman life are touched on in The Ides of April including funeral rites, law and justice, treatment of slaves, the Roman circus and so much more. When a powerful senator is murdered in his sleep, his slave is immediately, and conveniently, suspected and all the slaves in the household are imprisoned to suffer the same fate as the guilty. One young, Greek slave, Hylas, escapes and bravely investigates the crime he believes was committed by someone else. Will the evidence he finds be enough to save his fellow slaves, including his mother or will Hylas be caught before the real murderer can be named? (Ages 14+, 165 pages, PB, $$)

Now it’s your turn, which books have you read?

Which ones are a family favorite?

And do you have some to recommend???

Get updates for the next post!


  1. Katherine

    These look wonderful! Thank you for sharing this collection. Am going to check library and perhaps order a few new. I just watched a presentation from Classical Academic Press – thinking I had signed my son and I up for a session on how to learn history from reading primary sources… . Only to discover it was a preview of CAP’s new History series for highschoolers. They have compiled 50 primary source documents or selections for each of their new Textbooks. Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, US, and soon – Modern times. Looks like an interesting options for the homeschool shelf or program. Heavy on Philosophy!

    • Paola

      I love primary sources, and found many sources for American History books, my favorite time period by the way. I will be posting my TOP PICKS for American History soon!!!


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