Ancient Greek Roman Byzantine Medieval Coins Reference Books Guide and Review [Video & Article]

This is a review of the best books and references online and in book form on ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins available. Having spent many years collecting and selling ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins, I have developed quite an extensive library. The links below is a culmination of being years in the field, and I hope you can appreciate that. You have access to practically all the books on numismatics and history I have on my shelves! I have paid much higher prices than the ones that are available from the competitive Amazon marketplace, for which you have easy to navigate links to save you much time. My goal is for others to develop an even greater appreciation of history and ancient numismatics through these great works (and perhaps develop an even greater base of educated patrons in ancient coinage). What is exciting about them is that they don’t just give you the coins, they also give you the historical context in which they were based. Visit my site to be able to own your own ancient coins described in these reference works, or sign up to my educational and special deal email newsletter at

Many books mentioned here are by David R. Sear, which you can buy directly from the author here.

Otherwise, there are links below to find them on

May this special list of books on ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine numismatics and history give you an easy to use guide to building a great library, all in one easy place.

Greek Coins and Their Values (Hb) Vol 1: Europe

This is an essential reference for any collector of ancient Greek coinage – this volume is the 1st volume of a 2 volume set. This volume covers the “European” Greek coins, the 2nd volume is Asia Minor and African Greek coins. It is 356 pages long in total, 40 pages of introductory material which includes an illustrated history of Greek coinage, a showing of several different denominations, deities and helps for dating and various archaic alphabets and some more specialized books that were used in composing this handy reference. Once you get over that, take the prices as a guide as to the commoness and/or availability of a given issue. If it lists for £15 – £50, it may be a pretty affordable piece to add to your collection. If it lists in excess of £1000, I would not count it out, but you may have to save a substantial amount of money to afford it.

Overall, without spending 100s of dollars, this is the best guide you can get to attribute ancient Greek coins from Europe for your greek coin collection. It’s numbering system is the most commonly used by collectors and dealers alike. It has an easy to follow and consistent format and is copiously illustrated and documented. If you collect ancient Greek coins, it belongs on your shelf.

Greek Coins & Their Values Vol. 2: Asia and Africa

The first nearly 50 pages are necessary introductory material such as coin types, deities, denominations & weights, coin dating, a list of other detailed references upon which this work is based, ancient alphabets, a glossary of terms and a couple of conversion tables.
Following that are the actual sections which break down as such: Asia Minor – archaic; Asia Minor – Classical & Hellenistic; The East – Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine, etc; Egypt and N. Africa – Egypt, Kyrenaica, Carthage, etc; Hellenistic Monarchies – Seleukid, Ptolemaic, Macedonian, Baktrian, etc.
Not every single coin minted is pictured or listed but boy – if it’s not in this book or it’s companion Volume 1, buy it! This is a pretty thorough reference work and for what you will come across in the everyday market, this will certainly get you through most of what you will see. Anything more complete will be in a large multivolume set costing 100s, possibly 1000s of dollars so I would not pass on this waiting for something better. The one strike against this book is you must not take these prices as set in stone. They do not reflect the new reality of today’s rapid exchange of sales taking place on the internet. In addition to that, the prices are in British pounds as the author is from the UK and this will throw some American users. Once you get over that, take the prices as a guide as to the commoness and/or availability of a given issue. If it lists for £15 – £50, it may be a pretty affordable piece to add to your collection. If it lists in excess of £1000, I would not count it out, but you may have to wait til you are rich and famous to buy it!
Overall, without spending 100s of dollars, this is the best guide you can get to attribute ancient Greek coins from Asia & N.Africa for your greek coin collection. It’s numbering system is the most commonly used by collectors and dealers alike. It has an easy to follow and consistent format and is copiously illustrated and documented. If you collect ancient Greek coins, it belongs on your shelf.

Greek Imperial Coins and Values, The Local Coinages of the Roman Empire

This book deals with the subject of Roman provincial coins. It has every emeperor that issued Roman provincial coins and a list of cities. It is a bird’s eye view on the provincial topic. There are so different types, that it would be almost impossible to put every single one in the same book. It also deals with coinage of several kingdoms, such as that of Judaea, Bosporus, Elymais and more. A standard reference work that is great to have on any collector or dealer’s bookshelf.


Byzantine Coins and Their Values

This book is perhaps the best single volume reference on Byzantine coins currently available. It is a great guide for both the beginner and novice collectors as well as the advanced collector on a budget who doesn’t want spend a small fortune on the Dumbarton Oaks collection of Byzantine coin references.
This book is well organized and illustrated with many examples on the same page as the listing, rather than having to turn to the back of the book to view plates in order to check the picture of the coin. Coins are listed by decreasing denomination within a seperate section for each mint for every emperor. This makes it easier to identify a coin if only the mint or emperor is known. Cross references to other catalogue numbers such as those in Dumbarton Oaks are given for each listing as well.
Prices are listed in two different grades in UK pounds and are closer to real market values than Sear’s other references on ancient coins and their values.

Free online reference with the coins indexed by the numbers from this book. Best if used together with the book, and is very helpful!

Guide to Biblical Coins

Fifth edition of the bestselling reference book in the field of ancient Judaean and Biblical coins appears almost 25 years after the book’s first edition. Already more than 14,000 copies of various editions of Hendin’s Guide to Biblical Coins are in print. Hendin has fully revised and updated the fifth edition to reflect archaeological discoveries, and the work of a new generation of numismatists who specialize in this field. He has added a complete, illustrated catalog of the Judaea Capta series and a concordance to other major references.<P>Also new to the fifth edition are numerous end notes with references and incidental commentary, a full index, an index of Latin inscriptions, and extensive new research by the author which enhances understanding for both student and scholar.<P>New graphics and photo composites help explain and supplement the text, which is aimed at both collectors and scholars. Since his 1967 year-long stay in Israel as a volunteer of the Six Day War, Hendin has remained in constant touch with numismatists, historians and archaeologists around the world in order to gather information for his books and articles. Updated values by Herbert Kreindler.

A Treasury of Jewish Coins : From the Persian Period to Bar Kokhba

Originally published in Hebrew, A Treasury of Jewish Coins was awarded Israel’s literary achievement Ben Zvi Prize in 2000. This new volume replaces Meshorer’s classic Ancient Jewish Coinage (Vols. I & II) in a single book, fully expanded and updated as a new work and comprising all of the latest theories and information in this field. 80 pages of photographic plates showing top examples of each ancient Jewish coin type; hundreds of drawings and photos in the margins throughout the book, which enhance the pleasure of reading and studying these coins.

Dictionary of Greek Coin Inscriptions: English/Greek

The content of this book is of extreme value for numismatists who collect Greek coins.

The description says “English Greek” but this is true only for the preface and the “Directions for use”–limited to only 5 pages. The remainder of the book is French-Greek. For those who know French this will be no problem.

The paperback binding is an entirely different matter and potential buyers need to be forewarned that the issue published in 1979 by the publishing house, Obol International, apparently used the wrong glue. The binding of my copy was dried out and when I went to the middle of the book to look up an inscription the book cracked and immediately began to fall apart. It is barely useable in this condition. There is a hardbound version is better for use than the paperback version.

Otherwise, here we have 565 pages dedicated to deciphering ancient Greek inscriptions on coins but, more importantly, since ancient coins were often struck off-flan, not all of the inscription may be available to the examiner. This is where this book is extremely valuable because fragments of an inscription are alphabetized and even retrograde forms are also included. At the end there are two alphabetic charts giving both “Italic” and “Greek” letter forms.

Roman Silver Coins: The Republic to Augustus, Vol. 1

This book allows for the quick and accurate attribution of Republican and Imperatorial coinage, also referred to as Family and Consular coinage. The illustrations present all major designs and easy-to-follow descriptions aid in identification. Depending on the edition, the values can be somewhat out-of-date and are figured in Pounds Sterling, but a rough conversion can always be made and the differences in values reflect the rarity and desirability of each coin. Anecdotal information about the moneyers is usually provided as well, giving insight into the symbolism behind these coins. This book is still the most user-friendly, for both dealers and collectors, among the works written on Roman Republican and Imperatorial silver coinage.

Roman Silver Coins: Tiberius to Commodus, Vol. 2.



Roman Silver Coins, Volume Three: Pertinax to Balbinus & Pupienus



Roman Silver Coins vol IV



Roman Silver Coins, Vol V, Carausius to Romulus Augustus



Ancient Coin Collecting (v. I), 2nd Edition is your roadmap through the intriguing world of ancient coins. With more than 300 photos and numerous tables and charts, this new expanded 2nd Edition will provide you with the tools needed to survive this often-bewildering market. Enter the incredible world of the ancients with a basic understanding of politics, history, mythology and astrology, and their affect on the minting and design of coins. Broaden the spectrum of your collecting. Make room for ancient coins with Ancient Coin Collecting.


Ancient Coin Collecting II: Numismatic Art of the Greek World (No. II)Discover a hobby rich in artistic beauty. Relive the power of one of history’s greatest civilizations. Stand face to face with the ancient Greeks as you study their coins.

Ancient Coin Collecting II: Numismatic Art of the Greek World , the second release in a series of six indispensable references, unearths provocative insights, common sense advice, historical backgrounds and the all-important answers to many of your basic questions about Green coins – in just one book!

Ancient Coin Collecting III: The Roman World – Politics and Propaganda (No. 3)

Explore one of the world’s mightiest empires, tracing a path of more than 700 years of expansion and upheaval, political intrigue and treachery, cultural enlightenment and decadence – all through that empire’s fascinating coins.Ancient Coin Collecting III: The Roman World – Politics and Propaganda, traces Roman coins from the empire’s origins in the third century B.C. to its final days in the fifth century A.D. This volume – the third in an acclaimed series – follows its predecessors by expanding the road map to collecting these intriguing coins. You’ll learn to attribute individual specimens while also gaining valuable insight into a civilization that used its extensive coinage for disseminating political propaganda.

Author Wayne G. Sayles shares three decades of collecting experience and a passion for ancient coins that inspires both beginners and experts alike. Collectors will treasure:

  • More than 300 illustrations, allowing coin identification with confidence
  • A comprehensive portrait gallery of Roman emperors depicted on coins
  • Special-interest sections devoted to architecture, astrology, mythology and more
  • Thorough bibliography, glossary and index, making this a powerful desktop reference tool

Take a journey through time and discover an exciting hobby with Ancient Coin Collecting III: The Roman World – Politics and Propaganda.

Ancient Coin Collecting IV: Roman Provincial Coins (v. 4)

Celebrate the festivals and color of the Roman Empire’s far-flung provinces. Delight at the expressive coinage of the Empire’s distant colonies. Discover a hobby that will provide a lifetime of enjoyment.

Ancient Coin Collecting IV: Roman Provincial Coins takes you on an adventurous road les traveled to the independent frontier mints of Spain, Gaul, Britain, Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt and other. There you’ll meet the cities’ founders; revel in their games architecture and civic achievements; and explore their mythology, astrology, and heroes.

Author Wayne G. Sayles’ extensive knowledge of ancient coins resonates through each page. Special highlights include:

  • More than 300 photos, including an illustrated guide to the rulers of the era.
  • Useful tables and maps summarizing mint cities and their dating system.
  • Valuable reference tools, including index, glossary and bibliography.

Increase your numismatic expertise with this unique tribute to the “other side” of Roman coins in Ancient Coin Collecting IV: Roman Provincial Coins.

Ancient Coin Collecting V: The Romaion/Byzantine Culture (v. 5)

The Romaioi, Greek citizens of the Roman East, stood squarely in the path of Islamic expansion and saved Europe from being overrun by powerful tribes from the Easy. Their coinage reveals a society with strong religious undercurrents and divergent philosophies, but plagued by political and financial crises.Ancient Coin Collecting V: The Romaion/Byzantine Culture explores the history and art of a culture that survived for nearly 1,000 years. Through the timeless record of coins you’ll learn what happened after the Fall of Rome, witness the sacking of Constantinople by marauding Crusaders, and experience the empire’s last days under Constantine XI.

This volume is the perfect introduction to the fascinating hobby of collecting ancient coins. Author Wayne G. Sayles entertains, educates and inspires beginning and expert collectors alike, drawing on more than 30 years of experience in studying and collecting coins from antiquity. Special features include:

  • More than 300 photos, including an illustrated guide to the Emperors of Byzantium
  • A guide to coin attribution, along with denomination, dating and mint information
  • Powerful reference tools, including comprehensive index, bibliography and glossary

Classical Deception

This essential guide to detecting counterfeits, forgeries, and reproductions of ancient coins traces the history of well-known forgers, common fakes, and manufacturing techniques. Tools and methods of detection are described, and a catalog of the unpublished work of reproduction artist Peter Rosa is included.


Eric II The Encyclopedia of Roman Imperial Coins

The release of ERIC II follows five years of intensive work in going well beyond the scope of the first edition. Where 2005’s ERIC provided a solid introduction into the field of Roman coinage this followup aims for a much higher ambition with a fully comprehensive catalog of even the most obscure issues while maintaining the user-friendly format of the original. Also retained and significantly enhanced is the use of high-resolution color photography from cover to cover. The plates for each ruler have been upgraded with better and more photos with the rest of each section making rich use of color elsewhere. The listings are now more informative and are internally referenced with pertinent ancillary data. A significant improvement has been made in extending the catalog over the entire Byzantine series thus covering the complete span of coinage from the days of Augustus through the downfall of Constantine XI some 1,500 years later. Numbering some 60,000 entries, this landmark work marks the first occasion such a wide swath of numismatics has been covered in a single volume.

From Library Journal:Although twice the page count of the 2005 edition, ERIC II is not just an extension of its predecessor. It is a fundamental revision and scope expansion, including 60,000 entries that incorporate essential numismatic esoterica. The foremost subject resource since H. Cohen’s eight-volume Description historique des monnaies frappes sous l’Empire Romain of 1880-1892, ERIC II covers the 1500-year period between Augustus and the 1453 fall of Constantinople. Opening with an informative introduction that explains denominations and mint marks, Suarez (ERIC I) divides his subject into 15 chronologically organized chapters, surveying the ruling culture and detailing each imperial coin’s minted permutations. An absolutely vital guide for numismatists.

A Dictionary of Ancient Roman Coins

Created on the traditional A-Z basis, this Dictionary lists deities, denominations, subjects and topics tha need explanation or elucidation. It is a dictionary that will be invaluable to all numismatists concerend with ROman coins, Republican and Imperial, and of use to anyone who is interested in the world of Ancient Rome.


Coinage in the Roman World

Originally published in 1986, this book takes a fresh look at the development and use of coinage in the Roman world, form the third century BC to the break-up of the Empire in the fifth century AD. The emphasis is upon interpretation of the coins rather than description of types, focusing on both how and why they circulated, and how they can illuminate the historical and economic background.

Coinage in the Greek World

The development and use of coinage in the Greek world is surveyed in this book from its introduction in the 7th Century BC to the late Hellenistic period. Coins can illuminate many facets of history and here the focus is on the reasons why they were circulated and how they were used. As a result, there is a wealth of information that has been gathered in one place for the first time.


Coinage and History of the Roman Empire:2 Vol set

David L. Vagi’s “Coinage and History of the Roman Empire” is perhaps reminiscent of the god Janus, facing in two directions at once. Volume One is squarely focused on history, Volume Two on coins.Taking the History section first, this lengthy (over 600 pages) and physically impressive volume contains biographical essays about every person portrayed on a Roman coin (and even a couple who were not), 284 biographies in all. Although a few are limited to a single paragraph because virtually nothing is known of the person except for their appearance on a coin, most are multiple-page essays covering everything from origins to ultimate fate (and in the case of a good many Roman emperors, their fates were anything but happy). The biographies are arranged primarily on a chronological basis, beginning with Sulla who became Dictator in 82 BC and concluding with Leo, Caesar under Zeno in the eastern Empire in AD 477. The essays are grouped into chapters with such titles as “Collapse of the Republic (Imperatorial Period)” and “Civil War and the Severan-Emesan Dynasty”, with each chapter prefaced by a separate essay providing a historical survey of events in that period. In all, more than five centuries of Roman history are covered. Many of the individual biographies include a “Numismatic Note” section specifically addressing information about or gleaned from the coin’s bearing that subject’s image. Volume One might be considered to be a counterpart of historian Michael Grant’s “The Roman Emperors: A Biographical Guide to Rulers of Imperial Rome”, long a favorite of mine for its handiness as a source for quickly providing basic information (and more) about each emperor.

Volume Two is specifically geared towards numismatics, with over 180 pages devoted to discussions of various aspects of the coins: types, physical characteristics, how and where made, collecting, etc. The bulk of the volume, however, is given over to a catalog of Roman coins, including statements of value based upon grade of condition. It is here where Vagi’s book may be considered short of some other Roman coin resources, depending on the needs of the individual reader. Because many of the coins for any given person depicted are grouped as being a generic or common type, with only the more interesting or rare coins given an individual listing, Vagi’s numerical classification scheme may not deemed adequate by many serious collectors because it fails to differentiate between similar types which are given separate identification numbers in other sources. Vagi also limits himself to providing price range estimates for only three grades, typically Fine, Very Fine, and Extremely Fine. Within these limitations, however, Vagi’s catalog is easy to use and does quickly provide a general guide to a given coin’s scarcity and worth.

Armenian coins and their values (Special publication)

Study the development of Armenian coins from their historical Greek origins to the medieval times, with an easy-to-use reference book. This book has many great pictures on the back that you can check out. The most comprehensive numismatic work on Armenian coins to date!

Monumental Coins: Buildings & Structures on Ancient Coinage

“Monumental Coins” is a bountiful tapestry of numismatics, history and architecture that explores the buildings found on ancient coins and the historical and cultural importance of these structures. In addition to a comprehensive gallery of actual coin photos, coins are illustrated by line drawings to reveal fine structural details. Computer-generated plans of the buildings, along with freehand illustrations of building reconstructions allow complete understanding of these ancient wonders.


Life in Republican Rome on Its Coinage

Why should we be interested or want to study and collect coins of the Roman Republic? The many possible reasons can be simplified to one basic factor: our fascination, an almost mystical curiosity, which the ancient world, especially that of Rome, exerts on us. Coins are the tangible remains of millenia past which are readily available for any person in our generation.


Roman Republican Moneyers & Their Coins, 63 BC – 49 BC (Aspects of Ancient Classical Coins)

Occassionally a book gives pleasure way beyond every expectation raised by the title. It happens when an enthusiast is let loose on a subject that delights him, that he knows more about than seems possible and he has the talent to communicate his knowledge in an impressive and interesting way. When the subject is as well rehearsed as the final years of the Roman Republic, to find a new slant and pack it with brilliant detective work makes for great reading.

Presumably everyone who is interested in Roman Republican coins and the final years of what Tacitus first called the Roman Republic, over a century after its demise, will have devoured this book enthusiastically. If they haven’t they should. It is worth shelves full of lesser retellings of the familiar parts of both stories, on a par with Henri Cohen and Ronald Smythe.

But readers unfamiliar with coins as the only mass produced media of the day and with little or no understanding of the politics of Rome in the middle of the first century BCE will be enthralled by the quality of this work and the intelligence of its author. The book contains more brilliant detective work than most thrillers and breaths life into ancient history.

During the 15 years under consideration young Roman aristocrats setting out on a political career were appointed annually to one of some sixty public posts: some civil, some legal,some military, some helping with the governance of foreign parts. Those put in charge of the mint were responsible for the coinage for a year. Whereas the quality and quantity of the coinage was largely determined by others and the technical side was carried out by artists and artisans, the young hopefuls were able to prescribe what the coinage portrayed. The coins were redesigned differently each year. At a time when coins really were the only mass produced media of the day and a media of some permenance, here was a golden (or silver or bronze) oppertunity to strike your mark, or that of your ancestors, which spoke well of your genes.

Michael Harlan is competant with this material to an uncanny degree. He introduces new concepts and challenges long held views with a persuasion and elegance it is rare to find.

His book was published ten years ago and remains fresh. Can he be the poet who published much the same time and the author, with his partner Linda, of a later book on setting up a market garden in his back yard. I suspect so. There are lively spirits, who know they go through life just the once and choose to make the most of it. In spite of its title ‘Roman Republican Moneyers and their coins 63BC – 49BC’ is much too good to be work of an acedemic or any other sort of type in a rut.

100 Greatest Ancient Coins

Emperors and assassins, owls and turtles, gods and goddesses, brave heroes and villainous rogues–all of these and more await you among the 100 Greatest Ancient Coins. In this beautifully illustrated book, Harlan J. Berk, one of America’s best-known ancient-coin dealers, takes you on a personal guided tour of the numismatic antiquities of Greece, Rome, the Byzantine Empire, and other parts of the ancient world. Coffee-table-size, Hardcover, 144 pages, full color, with enlarged photographs and stories for every coin.


Roman History from Coins: Some uses of the Imperial Coinage to the HistorianIn this 1968 study, Michael Grant examines the varied ways in which Rome used currency to inform direct or deceive public opinion and also considers results of this exploitation. Cunning historians can read in the coins matters of art politics, religion, economics – even personalities not to be found in surviving books: or if found, can set what the books say against what the coins say. Professor Grant astutely masters his difficult and complex subject matter, producing a brief exposition of it in words which the general reader and specialist alike can understand and profit from. Complemented by a series of half-tone plates, Professor Grant’s book is an excellent introduction for students of history to the value of coins as evidence for their subject.

2014 Standard Catalog of World Coins – 1901-2000

Standard Catalog of World Coins – 1801-1900

Standard Catalog of World Coins 1701-1800 (Standard Catalog of World Coins Eighteenth Century, 1701-1800)

Standard Catalog of World Coins 1601-1700


Additional Reading

Not specifically on coins, but may include coins, which allows us to understand the context of the time they came from. Great reads!

The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus (Thomas Spencer Jerome Lectures)

This book is an excellent example of how art critique can be used to analyze politics and history. Paul Zanker does an exceptionally thorough job as he systematically works his way through the end of the Republic to the heights of Augustan Rome. The book includes tons of photographs, coins, maps and reproductions to illustrate appropriate points in the text. The thesis of the book is to show how art was used to convey the importance and dignity of the new Imperial system. Despite the breadth of material presented here, the text is smooth and understandable.

There really isn’t enough space in a review to adequately cover this book. Zanker’s main thrust is to show how Augustus rebuilt and remodeled Rome with himself at the center. The styles that Augustus used were quickly picked up and duplicated by the Roman upper classes, as well as those in the provinces. My favorite section of the book concerns the coinage. Augustus minted coins closely linking himself to Julius Caesar in order to establish himself as the heir apparent (which he was) to Caesar. Coins were also used to commemorate Augustus’s triumph at Actium over Antony, and also to promote Augustus’s conservative legislation concerning marriage and childbirth. Although Augustus slowly consolidated power under the title of princeps, he took great pains to show Rome that he was bringing about peace, prosperity and honor, all things that had been missing during the civil wars. Is Augustan art propaganda? It could certainly be interpreted that way, even though there was no “Ministry of Information” in Rome.
null While I can agree with his depictions of the later Augustan busts as showing a calm, sort of omniscient demeanor, I have a tough time agreeing with his assessment of an earlier bust of Augustus as nervous and power hungry. This is a small problem with an otherwise great book that will make you think about Rome in a different way.

The Cults of the Roman Empire (Ancient World)

This book is about the multiplicity of gods and religions that characterized the Roman world before Constantine. It was not the noble gods such as Jove, Apollo and Diana, who were crucial to the lives of the common people in the empire, bur gods of an altogether more earthly, earth level, whose rituals and observances may now seem bizarre. As well as being of wide general interest, this book will appeal to students of the Roman Empire and of the history of religion.


History of the Byzantine Empire: Vol. 1, 324-1453

History of the Byzantine Empire: Vol. 2, 324-1453

“This is the revised English translation from the original work in Russian of the history of the Great Byzantine Empire.  It is the most complete and thorough work on this subject.  From it we get a wonderful panorama of the events and developments of the struggles of early Christianity, both western and eastern, with all of its remains of the wonderful productions of art, architecture, and learning.”—Southwestern Journal of Theology

The Life and Times of Marc Antony (Classic Reprint)

This book is a bit of a departure from what has been referred to as “Gentlemenly” historical accounts written by other renowned British authors. Mr. Weigall does not shy away from sometimes harsh descriptions of historical characters like Cicero who he various describes as “pompous” and a “windbag”, and one who frequently reminded others that he had “saved” the Republic on many occasions.

I was interested in this account because I feel that Marc Antony has received a raw deal in posterity, owing largely to Augustus’ efforts to erase him from Roman memory. Although he followed his heart to his death, descriptions show him to be less concerned with status, willing to socialize without regard to class, extraordinarily popular with his men, and one of those rare warriors in history who exercised restraint and compassion for his vanquished opponents.


I read The Folio Society edition of this book several years ago and found it to be less a biography of Cleopatra than a Marxist social history of the conflict between, on the one hand, the Patrician Class of the late Roman Republic and its empire as represented by such figures as Brutus, Octavian, Cicero and Cato the Younger (although in the latter case, I may be conflating my memories of this book with those of the entertaining HBO series, “Rome”), and on the other, the conquered Eastern provinces of the Empire, the lower classes of those provinces and Rome itself, and their representatives, Caesar, Mark Antony and Cleopatra. At that level, Lindsay’s book is fascinating, especially in its description of the plebeian yearning throughout ancient history for a pre-historical “Golden Age” of freedom and plenty absent class-domination and oppression. Lindsay also offers a welcome corrective to the traditional view of Brutus as “the noblest Roman of them all,” noting, if memory serves, that he was the biggest moneylender in the Empire, and that his agents in Cyprus, for example, charged interest at the rate of 40% or higher.

As for Cleopatra herself, Lindsay covers her leadership of the East in rebellion against Rome and her alliances with Caesar and Antony well, but I never got much of a sense of her as a personality. Lindsay’s Cleopatra is a diplomat, a political and war leader, and she and Antony, in particular, are popular spiritual and temporal figures, but she is not a full-blooded person. For that, I imagine there are far better books, but for a discussion of the international implications of class conflict, ancient Apollonian “liberation theology” (Antony and Jesus as variations on an Apollo as Liberator) and colonial unrest in the Roman civil wars, Lindsay has a lot to offer.

The World of Classical Athens

This book is a great bargain at the low prices it’s being offered for on Amazon. It is huge and full of beautiful color photos! Get it if you love classical Athens and it’s culture.


The Search for Alexander

The author traveled hundreds of miles on foot and horseback up into the forbidding mountains of Iran and Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan, retracing Alexander’s march. In his 20s, both tactitian and intellectual, Alexander struck out on an adventure from Greece, leading 50, 000 men. It would span 10 years and 11, 000 miles on foot and horseback, beginning in 336 BC. At its end, he was by conquest king of the Greeks, pharoah of Egypt, ruler of Persia, master of the known world. By age 32, he would be dead. A comprehensive and wonderfully illustrated and documented biography of Alexander the Great, published to coincide with a national television special and a major international art exhibition held at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and museums in Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. Published in conjunction with a television series and an art exhibition, this is a comprehensive biography of Alexander the Great, focusing on what is actually known, beautifully illustrated throughout. Illustrated with over 220 photographs

The Twelve Caesars

The personalities of the Twelve Caesars of ancient Rome – Julius Caesar and the first eleven Roman emperors who followed him – have profoundly impressed themselves upon the world. They formed the theme of the great Roman biographer Suetonius, who had much to say about their sexual and other aberrations, which have been the subject of countless legends and bizarre fantasies. In this book Michael Grant attempts to penetrate the fog of superstition and rumour that has gathered around these astonishingly powerful men and investigates how they wielded such vast might, how they coped or failed with their task, and considers the effects their intensely demanding public careers had on their private lives. He questions the truth of the many stories which have suggested that the Caesars were consumed by erotic eccentricities, and he asks to what extent we are justified, after a study of the scorching pages of Tacitus, in applying to the Roman Caesars Lord Actor’s saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

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