Sunday, April 21, 2013

Founding of Rome: Books with Roman Mythology and Ancient Rome

Rome wasn't built in a day, but according to myth, it was founded on a specific one. On this day in 751 BC, Romulus killed Remus and founded the city he named after himself. To mark the founding, we have a list of books that take place in Ancient Rome or use Roman mythology.


The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh. After being hit by a car, Latin prodigy Jack can see ghosts, and follows one, Euri, many stories under Grand Central Station. There, he discovers the underworld, populated by the spirits who can't get to Elysium. In this modern retelling of Orpheus, Jack hopes to find his mother, and bring her back to the land of the living. Follow it with The Twilight Prisoner.

Lavinia by Ursula le Guin. In The Aeneid, Aeneas travels from Troy to Latium where we fights a war to marry the princess Lavinia and they eventually found Rome. In the original, Lavinia isn't important enough to get a speaking role. In this book, le Guin gives her voice, telling the story from Lavinia's point of view, starting with her childhood.

Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak. Written as a travel guide to the ancient city, this is a humorous and light-hearted, but detailed and fascinating, look at life in Ancient Rome. Matyszak has other travel guides to ancient cities, for the interested.


Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter. When her parents, Cleopatra and Marc Anthony, kill themselves, Selene and her brothers are forced to Rome to live as prisoners. There, Selene must fight to save her brothers and reclaim her throne as the rightful queen of Egypt.

Laughing Wolf by Nicholas Maes. In 2213, a deadly plague has broken out, threatening all of humanity. In this future, Felix Taylor is an anamoly with his knowledge of Latin and Italian history-- to the point where he's the only person left who can speak and read the dead language. The only cure for the plague is Lupus Ridens, a plant that's been extinct for 2000 years. So, Felix is headed back to Ancient Rome to find the plant and save the world. Felix heads back to Rome in the sequel, Fortuna.

Metamorphosis: Junior Year by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Tom Franco. High school student Ovid takes inspiration from his namesake, seeing a retelling Metamorphosis in the lives of his classmates.


The Eagle by Rosemary Sutcliff. The disappearance of Rome's Ninth Legion is one of history's great mysteries. Sutcliff offers her own explanation when young Marcus goes to England to discover the fate of his father, one of the missing soldiers. This was critically acclaimed when it came out in the 50s with the title The Eagle of the Ninth and was recently turned into a movie. The first of Sutcliff's Roman Britain trilogy, follow it with The Lantern Bearers.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan. The popular Percy Jackson series continues as readers learn about the existence of Roman Demigods and the differences between Roman and Greek versions of the same deities. Percy's missing, but a new hero, Jason, has arrived at Camp Halfbood, as Hera/Juno unleashes a plot to bring the two sides together. The fate of the missing Ninth Legion plays a big part in the second in the series, The Son of Neptune.

Starfall by Michael Cadnum. This is a novelization of the myth of Phaeton, a boy descended from the Sun, determined to drive his father's chariot across the sky, with disastrous results. Follow it with Nightsong, another novelization of a story from Metamorphosis. Both are out of print, but easy enough to track down.

There are a plethora of stories on Greek mythology-- what are your favorites that are specifically Roman?

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