The best books on Ancient Greece, recommended by Christopher Pelling

Ancient Greece’s legacy can be seen all around us, including in our political system — but many of us don’t know that much about it. Fortunately, we have someone who has devoted his life to studying this remote time and place to give us a reading list. Chris Pelling, Emeritus Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford, recommends his top five books on Ancient Greece.

The Best Classics Books for Teenagers, recommended by Olly Murphy

Caesar, Cicero, Achilles, Socrates, Plato: millennia later, we still talk about them. Olly Murphy, classics teacher at Wycombe Abbey, one of England’s top girls’ schools, recommends books and explains why classics remains one of the most exciting subjects for teenagers to study.

The best books on Boudica, recommended by Richard Hingley

Boudica was an Iron Age queen who led her people into rebellion against Roman rule in the province of Britannia. She was defeated, but only after she had burned several towns, including London, to the ground. Here Richard Hingley, Professor of Archaeology at Durham University, explains how to sift the truth from the myth, and why Boudica has remained an enduring source of fascination down the centuries.

The Best Augustine Books, recommended by Catherine Conybeare

Christianity has been profoundly influenced by Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), but the fifth-century North African bishop has impacted almost every area of western thought: philosophy, theology, political theory, linguistics, and rhetoric. His Confessions is one of the most recommended titles on Five Books, but is it really the first autobiography? Professor Catherine Conybeare introduces us to the life, thought, and personality of this controversial yet brilliant figure. She picks the best books to learn more about St. Augustine and explores how he has been unfairly maligned.

The best books on Hieroglyphics, recommended by Diane Greco Josefowicz

Reading the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt reveals much about the worldview of a civilisation that rose to prominence 5000 years ago and flourished for thousands of years. Here, intellectual historian Diane Greco Josefowicz—whose book, The Riddle of the Rosetta, co-written with Jed Buchwald, tells the story of how the meaning of the hieroglyphs was deciphered in 19th century France—recommends the best books to learn more about hieroglyphics.

The best books on Sparta, recommended by Andrew Bayliss

Their reputation for self-discipline and self-denial made their way into the English language, but what the ancient Spartans were really like remains a source of debate among scholars, not least because they wrote little themselves. Andrew Bayliss, Senior Lecturer in Greek History at the University of Birmingham and author of an excellent, short book on The Spartans, talks us through what we know about the heroes of Thermopylae, including the darker sides of their culture and society.

The best books on Julius Caesar, recommended by Peter Stothard

Julius Caesar was a populist politician and general of the late Roman Republic who immortalized himself not only by his beautiful writing about his military exploits, but also by the manner of his death. Here, British journalist and critic Peter Stothard, author of The Last Assassin, chooses five books to help you understand both the man and what motivated him and some of the people who have been inspired by him in the 2,000 years since he died.

The best books on The Achaemenid Persian Empire, recommended by Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones

At the height of its greatness, the Achaemenid Persian Empire was the largest empire the world had ever known. Too often it is given merely a villainous walk-on part in the heroic history of classical Greece. Here, historian Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones explains why that needs correcting, looks at its cultural achievements and discusses why the first Persian empire is worth studying in its own right and on its own terms.

The best books on Alexander the Great, recommended by Hugh Bowden

Alexander the Great never lost a battle and established an empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent. From the earliest times, historians have argued about the nature of his achievements and what his failings were, both as a man and as a political leader. Here, Hugh Bowden, professor of ancient history at King’s College London, chooses five books to help you understand the controversies, the man behind the legends, and why the legends have taken the forms they have.

The best books on Socrates, recommended by M M McCabe

The classical Greek philosopher is credited with laying the foundation of Western philosophy – without ever having written a word. Here, the eminent scholar M M McCabe recommends the best books to read to understand Socrates and engage with the eternal question: How best to live?

The best books on Augustus, recommended by Peter Wiseman

Is it possible that Augustus was not the first Roman emperor, but the last of Rome’s great populist champions? That’s what classicist Peter Wiseman argues in his book, The House of Augustus: A Historical Detective Story. Drawing on a lifetime of research and writing on this period, the emeritus professor of classics and ancient history gives a brilliant overview of the Augustan age, and recommends what to read to better understand the adopted son of Julius Caesar, who found Rome in brick and left it in marble.

The best books on Thucydides, recommended by Johanna Hanink

The Greek historian and general Thucydides wanted his History of the Peloponnesian War “to be a possession for all time.” In that, he’s been remarkably successful, with his name still echoing in the corridors of power. But what lessons should we take away from his great work? Translator and classicist Johanna Hanink talks us through books to better understand Thucydides and the mythical Athens he lived in and wrote about.

The best books on Ancient Rome, recommended by Harry Sidebottom

From the first book he recommends to students coming up to Oxford to read ancient history, to a short, popular book that weaves together all the scholarly research on the fall of the Roman Empire and the terrible things that happened as Rome was sacked by the Vandals, Oxford historian Harry Sidebottom talks us through five must-read books on Ancient Rome.