Ancient Rome

De Roma

Excerpts from Ancient Writers about Rome

Information about the Ancient Authors


Latin Writers

Greek Writers

Middle Republic

PLAUTUS—T. Maccius Plautus (254–184 BCE) was a Roman practitioner of the Greek New Comedy, and one of the earliest surviving playwrights in Latin.

POLYBIUS—Polybius of Megalopolis (200–118 BCE) was a Greek historian who lived in Rome and moved in its elite circles. His important World History attempts to explain the rise of Rome down to 146 BCE.

Late Republic

CATULLUS—C. Valerius Catullus (84–54 BCE) was an influential poet whose works were unusual for celebrating the personal rather than the public.

CICERO—M. Tullius Cicero (106–43 BCE, consul 63 BCE) was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, and political theorist. He came from a wealthy Italian family of the equestrian order, and is generally considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and writers.

CORNELIUS NEPOS—Cornelius Nepos, who probably lived from around 100 to 24 BCE, is our first surviving Latin biographer. Nepos among other works wrote at least 16 books of On Famous Men and On Eminent Foreign Leaders. The last survives and fragments of others remain.

SALLUST—C. Sallustius Crispus (86–34 BCE) was a Roman historian who belonged to a well-known plebeian family. Sallust’s writings, including a History (which we have only in fragments) and surviving accounts of the Jugurthine War and the Catiline Conspiracy reflect his opposition to Pompey’s party and to the old aristocracy of Rome.

DIONYSIUS OF HALICAR-NASSUS—Dionysius (c. 60 BCE–after 7 BCE) of Halicarnassus was a Greek historian and teacher of rhetoric whose history of Rome is, with Livy’s, the most valuable source from early Roman history. This work, called Roman Antiquities (c. 20 BCE), treats Rome from its origins to the First Punic War.

Julio-Claudian Principate

ASCONIUS—Q. Asconius Pedianus’s only surviving work is part of a commentary (54–57 CE) on Cicero’s speeches, apparently much abbreviated.

AUGUSTUS—C. Iulius Caesar Octavianus, emperor 27 BCE–14 CE.

CLAUDIUS—Ti. Claudius Caesar Germanicus, emperor 41–54 CE.

HORACE—Q. Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BCE) was a clerk in a public office who attracted the attention of arts patron Mæcenas, henceforth devoting himself to literary pursuits. The first book of Satires was soon published in 35 BCE.

LIVY—T. Livius (59 BCE–17 CE) was the author of the authorized version of the history of the Roman republic (27–25 BCE), of which several chapters survive.

PLINY THE ELDER—C. Plinius Secundus (23–79 CE) was a Roman officer and encyclopedist and author of the Natural History (77–79 CE).

SENECA—L. Annaeus Seneca, or Seneca the Younger (c. 1 BCE–65 CE), was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and humorist. He was tutor and later advisor to the emperor Nero.

VELLEIUS PATERCULUS—Velleius Paterculus (c. 20 BCE–after 30 CE) was a Roman officer, senator, and scholar, and author of a brief Roman History (30 CE).

STRABO—Strabo (63/64 BCE–ca. 24 CE) was a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher, most famous for his 17-volume work Geographica (7 BCE), a descriptive history of people and places from different regions of the world known to his era.

Flavian Principate

MARTIAL—M. Valerius Martialis (38–104 CE) was a Latin poet and epigrammist from Roman Hispania whose Elegies famously satirized Roman life.

PLINY THE YOUNGER—C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus (62–c. 115 CE) was a Roman senator and nephew of Pliny the Elder. He was governor of Bithynia–Pontus (109–111) and author of a famous collection of letters.

JOSEPHUS—Josephus, a law-observant and Hellenized Jew, recounted the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70 CE), in which he had fought as the Jewish military commander in Galilee. After the war he went to Rome, attached to the entourage of the future emperor Titus, and became a Roman citizen.

Middle Principate

SUETONIUS—C. Suetonius Tranquillus (c.71–c.135 CE) was a Roman scholar and official, best-known as the author of the Lives of the Twelve Caesars (121 CE).

TACITUS—(c.55–c.120 CE) was a Roman historian, author of the Histories (105 CE) and the Annals (117 CE), which survive but with substantial sections missing, among other works

APPIAN—Appian of Alexandria (c.95–c.165 CE) was a valuable Greek historian, author of a Roman History (c. 165 CE). The part on the Civil Wars survives.

HERODIAN—Herodianus of Syria (c. 170–240 CE) was a minor Roman civil servant who wrote a colorful history in Greek titled History of the Empire from the Death of Marcus (240 CE) in eight books covering the years 180 to 238.

PLUTARCH—Plutarch of Chaeronea (46–c.122 CE) was influential Greek philosopher and author, well known for his biographies (including the Parallel Lives, written in the late first century) and his moral treatises.

Late Principate

AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS—The last great historian to write in Latin, Ammianus Marcellinus (325/330–after 391 CE) was born in Syrian Antioch. He served in the Roman army in Gaul and against the Persians, and was an officer in the Praetorian Guard. His History runs through 378.

CONSTANTINE—Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus, emperor 306–337.

JORDANES—Roman bureaucrat and clergyman in the eastern empire who, in his retirement (mid-6th century), wrote a history of Rome and another of the Goths (from which the excerpt on the Battle of Chalôns comes).

PRUDENTIUS—Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348–413 CE) was a Latin poet living in northern Spain, a provincial governor and courtier who later devoted himself to asceticism and Christian poetry.

RUTILIUS NAMATIANUS—Rutilius Claudius Namatianus was a 5th century Roman poet whose surviving work elegantly describes a coastal voyage from Rome to Gaul.

VOPISCUS—one of the credited authors of the problematic Historia Augusta (late 4th century).

EUSEBIUS—Eusebius (263–339 CE) studied under Pamphilius, a Christian scholar and presbyter in the church at Caesarea. His major work was his History of the Church (c. 326 CE), a massive piece of research that preserves quotations from many older writers that would otherwise have been lost.

JULIAN—Flavius Claudius Julianus Augustus, emperor 355–363. He was known as Julian the Apostate because he attempted to return the Roman Empire to pagan rule, reversing the promotion of Christianity begun by Constantine (his father-in-law and cousin).

OXYRHYNCHUS PAPYRI—A large cache of thousands of papyrus manuscripts discovered in the 19th century at an ancient Egyptian rubbish dump.

SOZOMEN—Salminius Hermias Sozomen was one of the famous historians of the early Church. He was born in Palestine, in the last quarter of the fourth century CE, and died probably in 447 or 448.



PROCOPIUS—Procopius of Caesarea (500–565 CE), a scholar who accompanied Justinian’s armies, has been called the last major ancient historian.

ZOSIMUS—Zosimus (fl. 490s–510s CE) was a Byzantine historian, who lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (491–518) and was one of its officials.