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Books Inspired by Roman Mythology

Greek, Norse, and Egyptian mythology get all the credit. Here are some recommendations for Roman mythology fans.
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I’ll be frank: Greek mythology gets a lot more retellings than any other pantheon. But Roman history and myths are just as exciting, so why don’t we talk about them more? Here are some of my favorite books.

I wanted to talk about all the retellings I’ve seen inspired by the Romans, but then I realized there weren’t that many. Instead, I took a few liberties and found some stories inspired by Roman culture rather than focusing on retellings. And let me tell you, all of these are just as good as The Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.

‘The Labours of Hercules’ by Agatha Christie

The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot detective series is well-known, but did you know she wrote a book of 12 short stories inspired by the Roman tales of Hercules? And yes, I mean Hercules because contrary to popular belief (thanks, Disney), the Greek hero was called Heracles.

Throughout Hercule Poirot’s retirement, he takes on twelve final cases. This book tells the story of them. From a missing poet to a murder that rivals the likes of Jack the Ripper, who knew Hercule Poirot could go through so much while solving mysteries.

See related: Asian Mythology Retellings You Need to Read Now

‘The Eagle of the Ninth’ by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Dolphin Ring Cycle first three books by Rosemary Sutcliff
Oxford University Press | Slightly Foxed

Inspired by the Roman invasion of Celtic Britain, Rosemary Sutcliff captures what so many fail to do concerning the missing Eagle Standard from Rome’s Ninth Legion. If you read Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series (specifically The Son of Neptune), you might recognize that symbol.

The Eagle of the Ninth starts the series by following a Roman officer as he investigates how the Ninth Legion disappeared. Marcus, the son of the Ninth Legion Commander, is set on restoring his family’s honor and retrieving the eagle standard.

The second and third books in the series, The Silver Branch and Frontier Wolf, follow other characters from The Eagle of the Ninth as they embark on their own journeys. The fourth book details the Saxon invasion of Britain. That overarching storyline continues as we follow more characters through the final four books.

‘The Time Travel Diaries’ by Caroline Lawrence

The Time Travel Diaries series by Caroline Lawrence
Piccadilly Press

Solomon Daisy will do anything to find the blue-eyed girl he’s obsessed with. He even creates a time machine to get her. But, it’s not as easy as Solomon had hoped. In addition to the three rules he’s given by a time traveler, he has to avoid dangers during the war if he wants to get back to the present day.

The series is inspired by Greco-Roman history. The second book in the series takes place in ancient Greece – Athens, to be specific. It follows the time-traveling child from the first book as he embarks on another mission from Solomon Daisy. I’m still hoping Lawrence writes a third novel.

‘The White Mare’ by Jules Watson

Dalriada Trilogy by Jules Watson
Harry N. Abrams

Set during the years Rome invaded Celtic Britain, we follow Rhiann and Eremon as their lives and fates cross during the war. Rhiann is a princess who just wants to protect her fellow Scottish people – she’ll even marry someone she’s never met. Eremon needs a wife to get his Irish throne back, and Rhiann is the only person he can find.

The Dawn Stag continues their story. The third book, Song of the North, changes pace and follows Minna, Cian, and Cahir. Cahir is Rhiann and Eremon’s descendant, but Minna is the main focus of the final book in the trilogy.

See related: Greek Mythology Retellings That Aren’t ‘Percy Jackson’

‘Imperium’ by Robert Harris

Cicero trilogy by Robert Harris
Simon & Schuster | Knopf

During the reign of the Roman Empire, there lived a powerful and influential man named Cicero. Robert Harris tells his story as it’s entangled with his slave, Tiro.

Though the world knows Cicero’s story of coming into power in Rome, Tiro goes unvoiced. Until now. When he lets in a Sicilian stranger, Tiro unknowingly sends the world he knows into chaos. The series continues for three books and sees Caesar’s assassination and the fall of the Roman empire.

‘Mistress of Rome’ by Kate Quinn

Empress of Rome series by Kate Quinn
Berkley Books

When we talk about Roman history and mythology, we usually focus on the men and warriors. But what about the women who are holding down the forts–or joining the battles? I’m more likely to hear about the gods, goddesses, or demigods – thankfully, Kate Quinn felt the same and wrote a series based on the women we needed from history.

Thea was just a slave from Judea when she caught the eye of the Emporer of Rome. And while many will try to destroy him, tear them apart, and possibly even try to kill her, she’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive. And to do that, she must become the Emporer’s lover.

The rest of the series follows other women during Rome’s reign. The second book follows the story of Cornelia during the aftermath of Nero’s death. The third is about Sabina getting wrapped in a conspiracy. The fourth book follows the end of Sabina’s story as Empress.

‘Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle’ by Manda Scott

Boudica series by Manda Scott
Dell | Seal Books | Bantam | Knopf

While researching Roman history, I came across the story of Boudica. She was one of the strongest warriors in history, and this series highlights that.

The Boudica series starts years before everyone knew her by that name. Years prior, she was a child called Breaca who wanted to be a Dreamer, a leader who could see the future. But fate has other plans. Boudica embarks on her journey with Caradoc and her half-brother Ban, the prophesied Druid that would save her.

‘The Eagle and the Raven’ by Pauline Gedge

The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge
Chicago Review Press

While I’m on the topic of Boudica, I couldn’t settle on just one tale following her story. Where Manda Scott took the story through four books, Pauline Gedge captured the most exciting battles and journeys in one novel.

Caradoc gathered troops for years to take down Rome, but it was not as easy as he had hoped. In addition to Roman troops, he’s also evading Aricia, a Roman ally to the north. Years after Caradoc was captured, Boudicca takes up his mantel and gathers more troops against Rome, dead set on finishing his mission.

‘Metamorphica’ by Zachary Mason

Metamorphica by Zachary Mason
Jonathan Cape

Zachary Mason first took Homer’s Odyssey and reimagined it. Now, he’s doing the same to Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Ovid took Homer’s stories and retold them in a new light, so it makes sense for Mason to continue that tradition.

Metamorphica retells the Roman versions of Narcissus, Medea, and Midas–while also including Ovid in the story–and adds in twists you’ll never see coming. And while Ovid and Homer collected 250 myths, Mason pares that down into 53 short stories. My favorite stories are about Medusa and Scylla.

‘Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung’ by Nina MacLaughlin

Wake, Siren Ovid Resung by Nina MacLaughlin
FSG Originals

Wake, Siren is another retelling of Ovid’s Metamorphoses that modernizes the language while keeping the stories timeless. Nina MacLaughlin focuses on the women of the story from a new perspective. From Medusa and the Gorgons to other mythological creatures, it’s a fresh look at the stories that have shaped culture as it is today.

Where Zachary Mason retold the stories, Nina brought a female perspective that’s refreshing. Her take on Medusa is one of my favorites, but I also loved reading about the nymphs and their antics. And if you’re still on the fence, the beautifully designed cover shows hints of each character you’ll get to meet.

See related: Must-Read Anthologies Based on Your Favorite Fiction Genre

‘Blood and Sand’ by C.V. Wyk

Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk
Tor Teen

Before Spartacus, there was Attia and Xanthus. Attia used to be the warrior princess of Thrace; now, she’s Roman champion Xanthus’s slave. Despite all odds, the two begin an unlikely friendship–one that might just cause the downfall of Rome.

Blood and Sand was supposed to kick off a series following Attia and Xanthus’s stories in a Roman-inspired world. Despite the expected release in 2019, Wyk decided to end the series with just this standalone book. So, if you read this and still want more, you’re going to have to come back to this list or read Wyk’s other works.

‘The Valiant’ by Lesley Livingston

The Valiant trilogy by Lesley Livingston

Fallon was a princess when Caesar took over her home and killed her sister Sorcha. Several years later, she’s following in her sister’s footsteps to be a warrior, but things take a turn when she’s sent to Caesar’s training school. She’ll have to fight for her life every second of every day to get her revenge. But Cai, a Roman soldier, is making that difficult.

The series continues to follow Fallon’s journey through the school and onto the battlefield. While the romance is good, I live for the sisterhood Fallon has with the other girls at the school.

‘Set Fire to the Gods’ by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons

Set Fire to the Gods duology by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons
Balzer + Bray

I know I said I focused on Roman mythology and history in its setting and story, but this book also includes a bit of Greek inspiration, too. Set Fire to the Gods is the first in a duology that has been described as Gladiator mixed with Avatar. The second book is Rise Up from the Embers.

Ash has always known she would be a fighter growing up, so it’s no surprise she’d seek revenge on the person she blames for her mother’s death. Madoc, on the other hand, only fights to keep his family alive while hiding his powers. When the two cross paths, it’s up to them alone to overthrow the gods ruling over them.

‘Lavinia’ by Ursula K. Le Guin

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
Harcourt, Inc.

Ursula K. Le Guin has proven time and time again that she knows how to write a beautiful story that rivals mythology. So, when she takes a mythological tale and retells it in her distinct style, you know it’s bound to be a hit.

Le Guin takes The Aeneid and focuses on Lavinia, the king’s daughter whom Virgil fights for. Lavinia has always been surrounded by peace, so when those who want to marry her come knocking, she’s shocked to the core.