I'm not sure what it was about ancient Rome that first attracted me. I think it was the fact that the more I learned about the Roman empire, the more it seemed to have in common with my own time -- and at the same time it seemed so different. As with everything else, my interest in Rome is concentrated on the military, as you can see by the books I recommend.
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Roman Empire Links
Ermine Street Guard: This is arguably the most prominent re-enactment organization devoted to the Roman army of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. If you watch the History Channel, you've probably seen them in action.
Hadrian's Wall: One of my dreams is to visit the wall, but until I can afford that, I collect maps and books, and drool over their website.
Armentarium: Maintained by the same folks who started the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies (see below).
JRMES: The website of the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies.
Presented in no particular order. As the list grows, I'll organize it better.
Penguin Historical Atlas of Ancient Rome, by Chris Scarre. This is a good, inexpensive guide to the people and places in ancient Rome.
The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World This was created by the Classical Atlas Project. It is enormous, and very expensive, but it is beautiful!
The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome, Peter Connelly. This is a gorgeous, copiously illustrated treatment of the cities of Athens and Rome at their respective heights. Panoramic views, floor plans, cut-away paintings, cross sections, and a myriad other details on life in the two premier cities of western civilization.
The Ancient Roman City, John Stambaugh. This is a more scholarly examination of the subject of Roman cities than Connelly's work, and covers social and economic conditions in more detail. This is another one to search among the used bookstores for.
Training the Roman Cavalry, Equus, Ann Hyland. These are two great books on Roman cavalry, which are now out of print, but worth a little effort to lay hands on if you are into Roman military history. Ms. Hyland is the author of a number of technical books on horses and horsemanship and clearly knows her field well.
Auxilia of the Roman Army, G. L. Cheesman. This is one of the standard works on the subject, albeit long out of date. The edition I have is a facsimile reprint from the late 70s, which I am pretty sure is out of print now also. There are more modern works in this area, such as Holder's monographs on the auxilia in Britain (from the British Archaeological Reports series).
The Roman Legions, H. M. D. Parker. Once the standard work on the subject, now superceded by Webster's book. Now out of print, and you can probably live without it, but grab one if you find a copy at a yard sale.
The Roman Soldier, G. R. Watson. A very good resource, but now out of print. If you can find a copy at a used bookstore, grab it up!
The Roman Imperial Army: Of the First and Second Centuries AD, Graham Webster. Considered by many to be the definitive work on the Roman Imperial Army.
The Roman Legions Recreated in Colour Photographs. This is a thin booklet, but it is packed with a large number of color photos of modern reproductions of Roman military equipment. The Ermine Street Guard and a number of other re-enactment groups feature prominently in these pages.
Roman Military Clothing (1) and (2). Two books by Graham Sumner, who draws heavily upon the experience of the Ermine Street Guard. These two books are slim, but like the other Osprey titles on this page, they are packed with details for the miniature painter and gamer.
Roman Military Equipment, M. C. Bishop and J. C. N. Coulston. The definitive work on the subject by the founders of the Journal of Roman Military Equipment Studies. See Armentarium, under links, below. It's out of print, but a good library should have it. If you are interested in the appearance of Roman armor and equipment (for recreationists or wargamers), this is one you should pounce on if you find a used copy.
Warriors of Rome, Michael Simpkins. A small but well-illustrated book, extremely valuable for the wargamer and the casual reader alike. Out of print, but worth hunting down, especially if you want a painting reference for wargaming figures..
The Armour of Imperial Rome, H. Russell Robinson. A large and copiously illustrated book by one of the premier experts on Roman armor. The book contains numerous photos of original pieces, line drawings, and photos of the authors reconstructions for the various museums. Like all too many classics, it is out of print, but worth hunting down, especially if you want a painting reference for wargaming figures. THis book and Simpkins' book (above) are especially well-suited to sculptors of historical miniatures.
Again, in no particular order. The ordering links are at the bottom of the page.
Masada. This was a TV mini-series in the 1980s, but the version I've linked to is from 1999. This is a romance set against the background of the siege of Masada during the Jewish revolt against Rome in the 1st century. Whenever someone mentions to me that history is written by the winners, I like to bring up Masada — most of what we know of the siege comes from the writings of Flavius Josephus, one of the losing generals who managed to get in on the victor's good side by prophesying that he would become emperor (which came true).
Fall of the Roman Empire. Sophia Loren and Stephen Boyd in one of those spear and sandal epics you've heard tell about. It's entertaining, but not especially accurate. It shares with Gladiatorand Spartacus the distinction of not dealing with early Christianity.
Gladiator. Russell Crowe in the award-winning epic that, coincidentally, happens to cover the same time period as Fall of the Roman Empire -- the death of Marcus Aurelius and reign of Commodus.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. OK, so not everything I like about Rome is related to the military! This movie is basically a loosely linked collection of jokes and sight gags lifted from the comedies of Plautus and Terrence. They are almost identical with vaudeville routines of 20 centuries or so later, because they are essentially the same jokes. Something about comedy remains the same after almost two millennia. Fascinating, eh? Very funny, but hysterically inaccurate. Frankly, watching Zero Mostel and Phil Silvers trade quips like "Plague! Is it contagious?" "Did you ever see a plague that wasn't?" makes it cheap at twice the price. I find the film hilarious, although it seems a little jumpily edited in places.
Sign of the Cross. This film by renowned director C. B. DeMille (starring Frederick March, Claudette Colbert, and Charles Laughton as Nero) was released before the Hayes Code placed restrictions on what could be shown in a movie. Claudette Colbert's famous "bathing in asses milk" scene, a full fledged orgy, gruesome gladiator fights, and the execution of victims in the arena were pretty outre for 1932. The biggest problem for modern viewers is the demonstrably 30s style women's hairdos.
Quo Vadis? Based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz and starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr, this film is typical of the genre -- plenty of pagan Romans, Christian martyrs, and what passes for sin and debauchery under the Hayes Code -- compared to The Sign of the Cross, Quo Vadis? is inferior.
The Robe. Richard Burton and Jean Simmons in a movie based on the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas, which speculates on what happened to Christ's robe after the Crucifixtion (in case you ever wondered).
Demetrius and the Gladiators Victor Mature in yet another "gladiator and martyrs" movie.
Barabbus Anthony Quinn and Jack Palance star in a movie based on the award-winning novelette of the same name -- Barabbus, you will recall, was released by Pontius Pilate at the request of the citizens of Jerusalem.
Ben Hur Based on the novel of the same name by Civil War General Lew Wallace, this one won an enormous number of academy awards, and it's worth watching just on that account. Probably the most mind-boggling chariot race ever filmed (not that there have been too many of those).
Cleopatra. The original over budget, bloated blockbuster, and not too bad, all things considered. Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, and a cast of thousands.
Spartacus. Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Olivier in an epic retelling of the slave revolts in 70 BC.