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6 Living Books about Ancient Rome

Here is a selection of living books about Ancient Rome.

Ancient Rome for Kids through the Lives of its Heroes, Emperors, and Philosophers by Catherine Fet

When I first discovered that my 8-year-old kid believed that the adventures of Odysseus were the actual history of ancient Greece, I panicked and bought him a stack of children's history books. I sat by his side as he started reading about the class structure of Athens and the economic underpinnings of the Greek polis. He yawned. He asked for candy... and then for the Disney Channel...

Kids like stories. And when it comes to history, they learn from stories, not from dense paragraphs about the phases of the Bronze age, the location of trade routes, or the injustices of the social order here and there.

This book follows the old-fashioned, story-based, traditional route of teaching history - through tales of heroes and kings, with no tribute paid to modern economic and social perspectives. Culture is memes. And that means historical figures, and anecdotes about them.

To write this book, I went back to Tacitus, Livy, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, Valerius Maximus, Josephus, Eusebius, Theodoret, and other ancient sources of biographical anecdotes, and extracted from them the stories that will be most memorable to a modern kid. I retold them without adding any fictional color. I have omitted some things, however. Anything gruesome, off-color, or outside traditional-family-friendly morality is not included. I also wove information about the social order and daily life of Ancient Rome into the stories of the era's most exciting historical figures.

The suggested reader age for this book is 8 to 14 years old.

This book is richly illustrated with paintings portraying historical figures and everyday life in ancient Rome. Whenever I could, I chose late 19th century and early 20th century realistic art featuring a more accurate representation of the Ancient Roman costume and environment. I also feature beautiful images of the sculpture, artifacts, and architectural monuments of Ancient Rome.

Important: I have selected illustrations with absolutely no nudity, so it's safe to take this book to school.

Here is a list of the historical figures included in this book: Romulus and Remus, Numa Pompilius, Tarquin the Proud, Cincinnatus, Coriolanus, Cato the Censor, Scipio Africanus, Pompey, Spartacus, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Mark Anthony, Caesar Augustus, Virgil, Caligula, Nero, Seneca, Vespasian, Titus, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Constantine the Great, Julian the Apostate, Theodosius.

Escape from Pompeii by Jim Eldridge

ESCAPE FROM POMPEII tells the story of a young boy fleeing Pompeii as Mount Vesuvius erupts. This gripping first-hand account is perfect for children studying Pompeii at school. An exciting story - perfect for readers interested in Roman history.

The Ides of April by Mary Ray

Hylas is a young Greek slave in the household of Caius Pomponius, a Roman Senator involved in political schemes. When the senator is found mysteriously murdered, the household slaves (including Hylas and his mother) fall under suspicion. Hylas escapes capture long enough to enlist the aid of a young tribune, Camillus Rufus. The desperate attempt to unravel the threads of the political intrigue carries Camillus into the very presence of Nero and brings Hylas into contact with the new secret sect of Christians.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. –from the Song of David (2 Samuel 22:35)

The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel. Daniel’s palpable hatred for Romans wanes only when he starts to hear the gentle lessons of the traveling carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. A fast-paced, suspenseful, vividly wrought tale of friendship, loyalty, the idea of home, community . . . and ultimately, as Jesus says to Daniel on page 224: “Can’t you see, Daniel, it is hate that is the enemy? Not men. Hate does not die with killing. It only springs up a hundredfold. The only thing stronger than hate is love.” A powerful, relevant read in turbulent times.

Martyr of the Catacombs: A Tale of Ancient Rome by James De Mille

What is it like to risk your life for the truth? A young Roman army captain in the third century is confronted by the brutalities endured by Christians. The solidity of their faith in the midst of persecution prompts Marcellus to convert, despite knowing it could cost him his life. Told through fictional characters, Martyr of the Catacombs will help the reader understand the history of the early church and the severe persecution it experienced.

Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster

Considered the innovator of "horizontal history," Genevieve Foster became frustrated when her two school-aged children complained about the boring presentation of history in their school texts. This frustration led to Foster's first book, George Washington's World (1941). In her unique approach, Foster weaves a story of the world around her central character; rather than focusing exclusively on geo-political events, as most textbooks do; she includes stories of scientific discovery and invention, music, literature, art, and religion. She has a keen intuition for stories that will especially delight and amuse her youthful audience. In Augustus Caesar's World, Foster traces the seven major civilizations Rome, Greece, Israel, Egypt, China, India, and Persia from 4500 B.C. to the time of Augustus Caesar in 44 B.C. and culminating in 14 A.D. Within this timeframe readers will learn not only the stories of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony, but also the historian Livy and how Virgil came to write the Aeneid. Foster will then take her readers all over the world to learn what was happening at this same time in China, Persia, India and so on. Foster's detailed pen and ink drawings are fresh and appealing, and her illustrated timelines give a clear sense of chronology, enriching the engaging text. An all-time customer favorite!

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