The Love-Artist by Jane Alison . Publication: 2001 Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Book Description: “Two offenses ruined me: a poem and an error,” wrote the famed poet Ovid, notorious in ancient Rome for his composition of the erotic Art of Love. In history, Ovid was exiled to the Black Sea outpost of Tomis in the first century AD for reasons that have not yet been discovered. Alison's solution to the mystery involves Xenia, a witch and mystic from the far reaches of the empire who becomes Ovid's tragic muse. The atmosphere is dark, eerie, and electrically charged. [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening by Mario De Carvalho . Publication: 1997 Louisiana State University Press.
Book Description: Lucius Valerius Quintius is magistrate of what will one day be Portugal in the second century A.D., when Marcus Aurelius was emperor. Lucius is a just and moral man surrounded by corruption and ruling a populace who would rather go to the games and watch the persecution of a rapidly growing cult, the Christians, than attend to the growing threat of Moor invasion. Matters grow still more complicated when Lucius finds himself falling in love with Iunia Cantaber, an aristocrat who has converted to Christianity. She runs afoul of Roman law and places Lucius in the terrible dilemma of judging her. Winner of the Pegasus Prize for 1996. [As cited in John Mort, Christian Fiction]
Also Described: Portuguese writer de Carvalho looks at his native land of nearly two millennia ago in this fictional memoir. Lucius Valerius Quincius is ruler of the Roman outpost of Tarcisis, a city on the Iberian Peninsula, but finds its inhabitants more concerned with day-to-day amusements—such as the persecution of early Christians—than the real possibility of a Moorish invasion. He finds he has to deal with the problem of the Christians sooner rather than later, and his love for Iunia Cantaber, their strong female leader, complicates matters. [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
The Emperor's Babe by Bernardine Evaristo . Publication: 2002 Viking.
Book Description: Zuleika, a hip, wisecracking Sudanese woman in Londinium of AD 211, is married off at the age of eleven to Lucius Aurelius Felix, a fat Roman senator three times her age. Though happy with her new social status, she's sexually frustrated and bored. When Felix is away on a business trip, she takes up with a new conquest, Septimus Severus, who just happens to be the emperor of Rome, on one of his visits to Britannia. Her story is cleverly told in jaunty free verse. [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
Threshold of Fire by Hella Haasse . Publication: 1993 Academy Chicago (first published 1964).
Book Description: In fifth-century Rome, Christianity is the dominant religion, and the pagans —formerly at the forefront of Roman life—are being persecuted. In this clash of cultures and religions during the last years of the empire, the Emperor Hadrian must decide the fate of a man brought to trial for conducting pagan practices. What complicates things is the man's familiarity, for he was once the court poet Claudius Claudianus, who secretly remained in the city after being sentenced to exile years ago. (Originally published in 1964 in the Netherlands.) [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
Cutter's Island by Vincent Panella . Publication: 2000 Academy Chicago.
Book Description: At age twenty-five, as is recorded in history, pirates captured Julius Caesar while on his way to study rhetoric on the island of Rhodes. He was held prisoner for nearly forty days. Here, Caesar's encounter with the pirate king Cutter is a character-developing experience, as he finds to his surprise that his forced captivity gives him the needed chance to hone his tactical skills. [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears . Publication: 2002 Riverhead.
Book Description: Similar dramas unfold in three different historical periods: the fall of Rome in the fifth century AD, the Black Death in the fourteenth, and World War II in the twentieth. Stories from all three eras intertwine, becoming part of a greater whole. All are set in Provence and have the underlying themes of romantic love, the end of a civilization, and the persecution of one people (the Jews) by another. Connecting the tales together is a neo-Platonic treatise, “The Dream of Scipio,” written by Manlius Hippomanes, the earliest protagonist, and translated and studied by his counterparts in future centuries. [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
Julian by Gore Vidal . Publication: 2003 Random House Inc.
Book Description: As a youth, Julian Augustus shows incredible military and intellectual ability, promising to become a successful Roman emperor one day. When that day comes, in AD 361, he throws off the yoke of Christianity, which his uncle Constantine the Great had introduced as the official religion, and attempts to restore Rome to worship of its original pagan gods. A fascinating figure, Julian the Apostate—philosopher, scholar, and military genius—was murdered at the age of thirty-two, after reigning for only four years. [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
Also Described: The contemporary American master of the literary historical novel reached back with great authority, to say nothing of his trademark eloquence and nimbleness of style, to ancient times and came up with this delightful, amusing, intelligent treatment of the nature and corrosiveness of power at a time of intense religious upheaval. Roman emperor Julian has spent time and energy attempting to restore the old pantheon of gods in the face of the rising appeal of Christianity. It is now A.D. 30 A.D.; Julian is deceased, and Emperor Theodosius of the Eastern Roman Empire has not only converted to Christianity but also has made his new faith mandatory for everyone within the Eastern realm. Julian's teacher combines a fragment of the late ruler's memoir with his own sympathetic reconstruction of Julian's life story, to "show the justice of his contest with the Christians." A heady and exciting novel. [As cited in Brad Hooper, Read On?Historical Fiction]
Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar . Publication: 1963 Farrar Straus & Giroux.
Book Description: Hadrian, Emperor of Rome in the second century AD, recounts his life story in the form of letters to his adopted grandson, who later became the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. His eloquent correspondence, as he contemplates the state of the empire during his reign and after he's gone, shows him to be a man of intelligence and strength. [As cited in Sarah L. Johnson, Historical Fiction]
Also Described: From a French writer of extremely precise prose, this is an elegant and eloquent explication of the complicated character of Rome's Emperor Hadrian as well as the times that shaped him and to which he himself gave shape. The premise of this seminal work in the history and development of the historical novel, rightly regarded as a classic in the field, is that Hadrian looks back from the vantage of old age over his dramatic life. This becoming-one-with-a-historical-figure, writing about a person from the past from the inside out, is a great challenge for a novelist, and Yourcenar's novel is one of the best of the type. [As cited in Brad Hooper, Read On?Historical Fiction]