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Bibliography and references about ancient times (+ book reviews)


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I open this thread to offer a starting point for those that want to deepen specific topics and to centralize the different useful sources found by the members of our community. Anybody can propose a reference to add to the list. I will update the list when I can. To ease the reading, I put the title first, then the author name and the year.

The goal here is NOT to reference EVERYTHING. There are too many books on the same topics. The best option should be to propose some key readings on specific topics, the best references available. Some books in foreign languages are welcomed. We should avoid to post direct links to Library Genesis or Sci-Hub here, but checking if the book is available there will be an appreciated effort. Proposing very rare and overpriced books is not useful, except if it is still possible to find it in an electronic format.

I start with Rome and I will continue later.

Recommended Classical Literature

Spoiler

Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico - online (english), online (french), online (spanish)

Xenophon's Anabasis  - online (english), online (french), audiobook (english)

Xenophon Hellenica - online (english), online (french)

Polybius Histories - online (english), online (french)

Herodotus Histories - online (english), online (french)

Thucydides Histories - online (english), online (french)

Strabo Geography - online (english), online (french)

Livy History of Rome - online (english), online (french)

 


Rome

Spoiler

 

General

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome. Beard (2015). London: Profile Books. Translated in French (SPQR : Histoire de l'ancienne Rome), in Spanish (SPQR: Una historia de la antigua Roma) and in German (SPQR: Die tausendjährige Geschichte Roms).

            Review: Praised book with a good critical approach of Roman history and easy to read. A good starting point. See other books from Mary Beard here, all recommended.

History of Rome. Grant (1978). Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

            Review: Michael Grant is a renowned classicist on the topic of the Roman civilization. See his other books here.

Climax of Rome. Grant (1968). Phoenician Paper.

            Review: Very good book dedicated on the turning point of the Roman empire from its climax and the beginning of its internal crisis. From a conquering to a defensive and authoritarian empire. From Marcus Aurelius to Constantine I.

The Cambridge companion to the Roman republic. Flower (2014). Cambridge University Press.

            Review: -

The Romans: from village to empire. Boatwright et al. (2004). Oxford University Press.

Review: Good textbook, initially made for undergraduates but is quite accessible. A good book to deepen the subject.

The Oxford History of the Roman World. Boardman et al. (2001). Oxford University Press. Re-edition of The Oxford History of the Classical World.

Review: -

Rome, grandeur et déclin de la République (Tome 1). Le Glay (1989). Tempus Perrin. French book.

Review: A very good work in two parts, summarizing nicely Roman history with a good focus on social and cultural changes to explain the background. Perfect for those having already basic knowledge of the general events.

Rome, grandeur et chute de l'Empire (Tome 2). Le Glay (1992). Tempus Perrin. French book.

Review: A very good work in two parts, summarizing nicely Roman history with a good focus on social and cultural changes to explain the background. Perfect for those having already basic knowledge of the general events.

Centered on military

The Roman Army: A History 753BC-AD476. Southern (2014). Amberley Publishing, Perrin.

Review: A very good coverage of the topic, a good start and easy to read. However, avoid the paperpack version, there are issues. Choose the electronic version.

The Encyclopedia of the Roman Army (two volumes). Le Bohec (2015). Wiley Blackwell.

Review: If you want a critical handbook about the Roman army, this is the one. Very useful and handy source when you have a doubt on something. 

The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire: From the First Century CE to the Third. Luttwak (1979, reedition in 2016). Johns Hopkins University Press.

Review: -

Roman military equipment from the Punic Wars to the fall of Rome. Bishop and Coulston (2006). Oxbow books.

Review: -

Early Roman Warfare: From the Regal Period to the First Punic War. Armstrong (2016). Pen and Sword Military.

Review: -

Centered on society, economy, culture and religion

The Roman Empire: Economy, Society and Culture. Garnsey et al. (1989, reedition in 2014). University of California Press. Translated in French (L'empire romain - économie, société, culture).

Review: -

Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome. Adkins and Adkins (2004). Facts on File.

Review: -

Centered on the Punic Wars

A Companion to the Punic Wars. Hoyos (2011). John Wiley & Sons.

Review: -

The Punic Wars 264-146 BC. Bagnall (2003). Routledge.

Review: -

The First Punic war. Lazenby (2016). Routledge.

Review: -

Audiobook: Punic Nightmares. Carlin (2008). Hardcore History.

Review: -

Centered on early Rome

The Beginnings of Rome - Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars. Cornell (1995). Routledge.

Review: -

A Critical History of Early Rome: From Prehistory to the First Punic War. Forsythe (2006). University of California Press.

Review: -

Centered on the end of the Roman Republic

Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic. Holland (2004). Abacus.

Review: -

The Fall of the Roman Republic. Shotter (2005). Routledge.

Review: -

Rome in the Late Republic. Beard (2000). Bristol Classical Press.

Review: -

Centered on the end of the Western Roman Empire

How Rome Fell: Death of a Superpower. Goldsworthy (2009). Yale University Press. Exists in audiobook.

Review: -

 

Celts

Spoiler

Britons

The Later Iron Age in Britain and beyond. Haselgrove & Moore (2017). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Review: Very good academic book although it is not an introduction. Each chapter is simply a different topic. This is not an exhaustive book.

The Earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near continent. Haselgrove & Pope (2007). Oxford: Oxbow Books.

Review: -

Hillforts: Prehistoric Strongholds of Northumberland National Park. Oswald, Ainsworth, Pearson & Frodsham (2013). English Heritage.

Review: Nicely illustrated, interesting about historiography as well.

Iron Age Hillforts in Britain and Beyond. Harding (2012). Oxford.

Review: -

The Iron Age in northern Britain: Britons and Romans, natives and settlers. Harding (2017). Taylor & Francis.

Review: -

The Iron Age in Lowland Britain. Harding (2014). Routledge.

Review: -

Iron Age communities in Britain: an account of England, Scotland and Wales from the seventh century BC until the Roman conquest. Cunliffe (2005). Routledge.

Review: Best but difficult introduction to the topic.

Gauls

Les Celtes: histoire et dictionnaire: des origines à la romanisation et au christianisme. Kruta (2010). Laffont.

Review: -

L'Europe celtique à l'âge du Fer (VIIIe-Ier siècle). Buchsenschutz (2015). Presses Universitaires de France.

Review: -

Guerre et armement chez les Gaulois (450-52 av. J.-C.). Brunaux & Lambot (1987).

Review: -

Towns, villages and countryside of Celtic Europe. Buchsenschutz & Audouze (1989). Indiana University Press.

Review: -

Language

The Celtic Languages. Ball and Müller (2009, 2nd edition). Routledge.

Review: -

Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Celtic. Matasović (2009). Brill.

Review: -

Dictionnaire Français-Gaulois. Savignac (2014, 2nd edition). La Différence.

Review: -

Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise : Une approche linguistique du vieux celtique continental. Delamarre (2018, 3rd edition). Errance.

Review: -

La langue gauloise : Description linguistique, commentaire d'inscriptions choisies. Lambert (2018, 2nd edition). Errance.

Review: -

Yextis Keltikā: A Classical Gaulish Handbook. Piqueron (2020). Freely available on https://skribbatous.org/

Review: -

 

Mauryas / Ancient India

Spoiler

King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India : Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra : A New Annotated Translation. Olivelle (2013). Oxford.

Review: -

Warfare in Pre-British India-1500BCE to 1740CE. Roy (2015). Routledge.

Review: -

A History of ancient and early medieval india: from the stone age to the 12th century. Singh (2009). Pearson Education India.

Review: Visually pleasant.

India: The Ancient Past: a History of the Indian Subcontinent from C. 7000 BCE to CE 1200. Avari (2016). Routledge.

Review: -

Ashoka in Ancient India. Lahiri (2015). Harvard University Press.

Review: -

 

Hellenistic / Diadochi / Alexander and his successors

Spoiler

From Samarkand to Sardis : A new approach to the Seleucid empire. Sherwin-White & Kuhrt (1993). Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Review: -

Alexander's Heirs: The Age of the Successors. Anson (2014). John Wiley & Sons.

Review: -

Hellenistic history and culture. Green (1993). University of California Press.

Review: -

The Cambridge companion to the Hellenistic world. Bugh (2006). Cambridge University Press.

Review: -

The Hellenistic world from Alexander to the Roman conquest: A selection of ancient sources in translation. Austin (2006). Cambridge University Press.

Review: -

Hellenistic civilization. Chamoux (2008). John Wiley & Sons.

Review: -

The Seleucid army: Organization and tactics in the great campaigns. Bar-Kochva (1976). Cambridge University Press.

Review: -

Ptolemy I and the Transformation of Egypt, 404-282 BCE. McKechnie & Cromwell (2018). Brill.

Review: -

Isis on the Nile. Egyptian Gods in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: Proceedings of the IVth International Conference of Isis Studies. Bricault & Versluys (2010). Brill.

Review: -

Army and society in Ptolemaic Egypt. Fischer-Bovet (2014). Cambridge University Press.

Review: -

Ancient Alexandria between Egypt and Greece. Ruffini & Harris (2004). Brill.

Review: -

Thundering Zeus: The Making of Hellenistic Bactria. Holt (1999). University of California Press.

Review: -

The Hellenistic settlements in the East from Armenia and Mesopotamia to Bactria and India. Cohen (2013). University of California Press.

Review: -

 

Others will follow up...

 

 

Edited by Genava55
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First of all, I think everyone ought to read Xenophon's Anabasis (“The March of the Ten Thousand”) in translation; it is an eye-witness account providing valuable information on Greek, Persian, and Thracian warfare c. 400 BC and reads like a well-written adventure novel; Caesar's De Bello Gallico (“On the Gallic War”) is stylistically indebted to it.

If one wants to read more classics, one could consider starting with Herodotus Histories, Thucydides Histories, Xenophon Hellenica (Xenophon's other works are worth reading too), and Polybius Histories, in that order.

13 hours ago, Genava55 said:

I start with Rome and I will continue later.

Mary Beard has written a number of books on Roman topics, combining up-to-date scholarship with accessible language; I see you already included two titles, but the others are worth a read as well, and they're affordable ($/£/€ 10-20 range); there is a list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Beard_(classicist)#Books

Civilizations do not exist in isolation, they're all part of a continuum, therefore it's worth listing textbooks covering specific subjects extending far beyond our timeframe; (they typically provide lots of references as well). If you have access to a university library or can find a free download on the internet, I'd recommend:

  • Lionel Casson Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World (Princeton 1971)
  • Sarah Iles Johnston (ed.) Religions of the Ancient World (Cambridge, MA 2004)
  • Philip Sabin, Hans van Wees, Michael Whitby (eds.) The Cambridge History of Greek and Roman Warfare (Cambridge 2008)

Furthermore, if one is interested in Bronze Age diplomacy in the Near East, read the Amarna letters (14th C BC).

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For information on the Seleucids specifically, I can highly recommend:

Susan Sherwin-White, Amélie Kuhrt From Samarkand to Sardis : A new approach to the Seleucid empire (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1993)

Most publications on the Seleucids are biased by essentially Helleno- and Romano-centric sources and historiography, and often by 19th C colonianist and imperialist notions as well, thus fundamentally reinforcing traditional views.

SW&K stands out in that it makes extensive use of Babylonian cuneiform records and various Asian archaeological sites. It makes a strong and convincing case for grounding the Seleucids as a successful continuation of Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid traditions, as well as correcting various misconceptions.

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1 hour ago, Sundiata said:

Yeah, something like that. Swahili, but without the fancy domes. For the record though, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea already indicates a relationship between the Swahili Coast (named "Azania" in classical sources, and Southern Arabia, as early as the 1st century AD. Of course, it would have been very different from the later muslim Arabia and classical Swahili culture, but still worth a note.

Speaking of which, I recommend:

Lionel Casson The Periplus Maris Erythraei : text with introduction, translation, and commentary (Princeton 1989)

The Periplus is an unique text, written between AD 40 and 70 in a matter-of-fact style by an experienced Egyptian Greek merchant who evidently sailed himself to the East African coast, Arabia, and Western India. What I find particularly interesting are the points where his account, of the early Roman period, differs from the descriptions of the major geographers (Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Pliny), which reflect the situation in Ptolemaic times. Casson's book contains a wealth of information, is reliable, and worth a read.

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If you like philosophy, and in particular it's historical aspects, then I highly recommend:

Vernant, Jean-Pierre (1984). The Origins of Greek Thought. Cornell University Press.

Granted, Vernant's landmark book is outdated by today's standards, but it's still a joy to read. 

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Today @Angen pointed out:

Barry Cunliffe The Ancient Celts : Second Edition (Oxford 2018)

Although the text is not always worth reading, it contains numerous quality images, nice and sharp (useful for artists), and a guide to further reading of two dozen pages, therefore I still recommend it.

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A text frequently mentioned in connection with ancient India in general, and the Mauryas specifically, is Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra. You can find the Sanskrit at:

https://sarit.indology.info/kautalyarthasastra.xml

The text was considered lost for centuries, but rediscovered in 1905. The first complete (English) translation, by R. Shamasastry, appeared in 1915 (it's now in the public domain and available at Wikisource); however, this translation is often faulty at best: when the work reappeared, it was poorly understood; many of the words were unknown and did not appear in any Sanskrit dictionaries or commentaries available at the time. A second manuscript appeared later; both derive from a single version from Kerala. There's also fragmentary manuscript from Northern India, and four fragmentary commentaries have been found. Based on these R. P. Kangle published a critical edition in 1960 and a new English translation in 1963. The Arthaśāstra has been widely studied and the scholarly understanding now is much better than it was fifty or hundred years ago. A new, good, and recent translation is:

Patrick Olivelle King, Governance, and Law in Ancient India : Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra : A New Annotated Translation (Oxford 2013)

To properly understand the text, one should read the introduction carefully. It's over fifty pages, and contains a wealth of information.

As you may know, the Mauryas (c. 323184 BC) were the first Indian empire to rule most of the subcontinent. After three generations (Chandragupta, Bindusara, Ashoka), it shattered and a Mauryan rump state was ruled by a succession of kings for another fifty years. Centuries later a king Gupta founded the Gupta dynasty (late 3rd C AD 543); his grandson greatly expanded the state and took the name Chandragupta I, after the founder of the Maurya dynasty; his son Samudragupta and grandson Chandragupta II further expanded it. The Guptas were only the second empire to control most of India; their heartland was in the same region as that of the Mauryas, and they had the same capital (Pataliputra). For this and other reasons, the Guptas strongly identified themselves with Mauryas. The Gupta period was a golden age of India, and many Sanskrit texts were canonized under them, including the most important, the Mahabharata and Ramayana epics.

Traditionally Kauṭilya was equated with Cāṇakya and the name Viṣṇugupta as the author of the Arthaśāstra. This is no longer accepted in modern scholarship.

  • Kauṭilya is the author of the work; his name is mentioned in the text itself, as well as in Manu and other texts; the other two are not named, they're added in the later tradition.
  • Cāṇakya is the well-known teacher, advisor, and chancellor of Chandragupta Maurya; he's likely a historic person whose name and fame became legendary (not unlike Buddha, Socrates, and Jesus). Kauṭilya was most likely identified with Cāṇakya, for political and symbolic reasons, under Gupta emperor Chandragupta I.
  • Viṣṇugupta is a highly symbolic name: Viṣṇu is the most important god and Gupta the name of the dynasty. It was probably added as a third name (three is very symbolic number) later under the Guptas, possibly under Chandragupta II.

Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra has been dated as early as the Mauryas and as late as the Guptas. Modern scholarship has shown neither can be the case, both on linguistic grounds and content and culture. Kauṭilya compiled his work from several older works; we know this both because it lists several names, and because the work covers heterogenous topics and uses very different words in the first part(s) of the work than in the rest. It was probably titled Daṇḍanīti (the title Arthaśāstra was attached to it centuries later). An important scholar named Manu, from the Manusmṛiti (“Manu's Laws”, probably from the 2nd C AD), extensively used Kauṭilya's work. From it it's evident the version used was quite different from the one known in the present, therefore it must have been overhauled (at least once) afterwards, the so-called Śāstric Redaction. This restructured the text, divided it into chapters, added chapter-ending verses, enumerations, and a table of contents, and inserted new chapters, dialogues, and a heavy emphasis on number symbolism.

  • Kauṭilya's sources were probably written between c. 50 BC and c. AD 50. Not later, since only silver and copper coins are mentioned; gold coins were introduced c. AD 100 but not mentioned in the text. And not much earlier either:
    • The text explicitly forbids the use of wood in fortifications, whereas it's known from archaeological finds (and Greek texts) that the Mauryas had wooden city walls; stone fortifications and bricks were used in India only after the Mauryas.
    • Moreover, the Mauryas ruled a vast empire and had a huge army; the world in the Arthaśāstra consists of many small kingdoms, confederacies, and tribal states (as was the case after the Mauryas).
    • Furthermore, corral is mentioned multiple times (in books 2, 5, 7); it came from the Mediterranean; one of the types is called ālakandakam, from Alexandria in Egypt, another vaivarṇikam, possible named after the Greeks (Ionians); while India is known to have traded with the Persian Gulf already in the second millennium, direct sea trade between Egypt and India took off only after c. 100 BC.
  • Kauṭilya's version was probably compiled somewhere between AD 50 and 125; the absence of gold coins favours the earlier date, and it can't have been much later, since the text was already well known by the time of Manu.
  • The Śāstric Redaction probably happened between AD 175 and 300. Not earlier, because this version was not known to Manu, and not later, because this was the version known to and heavily influential at the Gupta court of Chandragupta I and his successors (AD 319 onwards).

Basically Kauṭilya's Arthaśāstra is not reflective of India under the Mauryas. Nevertheless, it's a fascinating and important text, worth reading.

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 Hi, thanks, good work! interesting research, looks cool, masterful and informative. I have always appreciated such things, because it is a pleasure to read and study. On my own I recommend https://papersowl.com/examples/animal-farm/ also practical and useful Animal Farm Essays and reviews for general development, or just read and download. Also, the resource is full of interesting and informative topics and materials in every possible way, good luck to everyone in your study!

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https://www.amazon.com/Army-Ptolemaic-Egypt-323-Institutional/dp/1473833833

The Army of Ptolemaic Egypt 323 to 204 BC: An Institutional and Operational History

A study of the Ptolemaic army as an institution reconstructed through a wide range of ancient sources, from histories to documentary papyri and inscriptions to archaeological finds.

The Ptolemaic Dynasty ruled Egypt and much of the eastern Mediterranean basin for nearly 300 years. As a Macedonian dynasty, they derived much of their legitimacy from military activity. As an Egyptian dynasty, they derived much of their real wealth and power from maintaining a secure hold on their new homeland. As lords of a far-flung empire, they maintained much of their authority through garrisons and the threat of military action. To achieve this they devoted much of their activity to the development and maintenance of a large army and navy.

This work focuses on the period of the first four Ptolemies, from the acquisition of Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great to the great battle of Raphia more than a century later. It offers a study of the Ptolemaic army as an institution, and of its military operations, both reconstructed through a wide range of ancient sources, from histories to documentary papyri and inscriptions to archaeological finds. It examines the reasons for Ptolemaic successes and failures, the causes and nature of military change and reform, and the particular details of the Ptolemaic army's soldier classes, unit organization, equipment, tactics, and the Ptolemaic state's strategy to compile a military history of the golden age of one of the classical world's significant forces.

 

About the Author

Paul Johstono gained his PhD from Duke University, North Carolina, USA, with a thesis on Hellenistic military institutions. He is an Associate Professor of Military History and Security Studies at the Air Command & Staff College, Maxwell Air Force Base, where he designs and teaches leadership and ethics curriculum. He was previously Associate Professor for History of Warfare and Leadership Studies at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. He was formerly lead project historian for the video game team, Europa Barbarorum. He has published numerous articles and book chapters on Hellenistic military history, Ptolemaic history, and ancient historiography, but this is his first monograph. He regularly speaks on ancient warfare, leadership, and strategy. He resides in Wetumpka, Alabama, USA, with his wife and three children.
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1 hour ago, Genava55 said:

@Nescio I have seen this book recommended by other people: "War, Warlords, and Interstate Relations in the Ancient Mediterranean". The book is in libgen in case. Just in case you are interested, I share it with you.

Thanks. Although I haven't read the book myself, I daresay it's worth a read. Anything published by Brill is generally high-quality. Moreover, books such as this, where various experts each contribute a chapter on a specific subject, tend to reflect recent scholarship and can greatly further one's understanding of a topic, as well as make one think about something from a different way than one would otherwise. That said, they're not introductions written for a general audience. (I don't know if that's the purpose of this thread.)

This title is actually part of a larger series ( https://brill.com/view/serial/IMEM ), of which some volumes are open access.

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For those of you interested in Proto-Indo-European (PIE) or comparative linguistics in general, I can highly recommend:

R. S. P. Beekes Comparative Indo-European Linguistics / An Introduction / Second edition [revised and corrected by Michiel de Vaan] (Amsterdam / Philadelphia 2011)

It's a book that's both accessable and informative. Moreover, its well-structured bibliography provides a decent starting starting point in more specific subjects. Personally I also appreciate the simple maps and black-and-white illustrations in the appendices, which can already give anyone a taste of the great variety of early writing systems used in the past.

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3 hours ago, Nescio said:

That said, they're not introductions written for a general audience. (I don't know if that's the purpose of this thread.)

Well the thread is simply an opportunity to exchange references, to share book reviews or to ask other members if they know any reference on a topic. While being also a useful list for everyone. Thus, very general.

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