If you’d like to support the podcast (and you live in the US or Canada) then you can get a free audiobook if you sign up for a month-long trial of Audibles service. Audible has hundreds of thousands of audiobooks and a growing collection of original podcasts. Click here to start a free trial. Or click on the images to see options on Amazon.

So far on the podcast I’ve recommended:

The Storm Before the Storm by Mike Duncan

The peerless Mike Duncan takes you through the civil conflicts of the Gracchi, Sulla and Marius. The storm before, you know, the Julius Caesar storm. It’s like having new episodes of ‘The History of Rome’ podcast.

Queens of Jerusalem by Katherine Pangonis

Check out episode 238 for my interview with Katherine Pangonis. In her book she explores the lives of women in power during the era of the Crusader States. This includes the rulers of Jerusalem and Antioch  as well as the wives of the Muslim Emirs they fought with. Amongst this fascinating cast of characters are several Byzantine princesses who were dispatched to the Holy Land by Manuel Komnenos.

The First Crusade – The Call from the East by Peter Frankopan

Check out episode 208 for my interview with Professor Frankopan. This excellent account of the First Crusade puts the Byzantines firmly at the centre of the story.

In the Shadow of the Sword by Tom Holland

This is an exploration of the origins of Islam through the Christian, Zoroastrian and Jewish worlds it was born amongst. The stories of Justinian, Heraclius, Khosrau and others lead into the story of Mohammed and what we do and don’t know. Written with immersive language that assumes you have a grounding in the ancient world, it’s addictive but you may need to listen more than once.

Rubicon by Tom Holland

Julius Caesar and the fall of the Roman Republic. You know the story. Told in typically creative Holland style.

Ten Caesars by Barry Strauss

An account of the ten most important Emperors from Augustus to Constantine. Check out for my interview with Barry Strauss to find out more (just before episode 190).

In God’s Path: The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire by Robert Hoyland

If you think the swirling mysteries of Tom Holland aren’t for you then this might be. Understanding the source problems Hoyland puts together an entertaining and clear narrative of the Arab conquests from the beginning up 750.

Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

This is one of my favourite history books. It explains so much about how civilisations developed from simple things like latitude, urbanisation and untamable zebras.


Agent of Byzantium by Harry Turtledove

A Byzantine secret agent is sent to various trouble spots across the Empire (in a universe where Muhammad converted to Christianity). A collection of short stories fused into one narrative. This has the best observed details of the Byzantine world in any of the works of fiction I’ve read.

Strategos by Gordon Doherty

A young man with a dark secret holds the key to the coming battle between Byzantium and the Seljuks. An engaging fantasy-style adventure story set in the 11th century borderlands. Click on the image to see on Amazon.

Count Belisarius by Robert Graves

From the author of “I, Claudius” comes the story of Justinian’s go-to General. Graves’ fictional account is based as much as possible on what we know did happen.

The Empress by Meg Clothier

Recommended by a listener this is looser fiction set in 12th century Constantinople.

Books I haven’t read yet by authors I trust

The Last Great War of Antiquity by James Howard-Johnston (Heraclius’ war with the Persians)

The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather

Sicily by John Julius Norwich and The Popes by John Julius Norwich

Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD by Peter Brown

There is a shortage of good books about Byzantium on Audible at the moment. But the earlier Romans are very well represented.


10 thoughts on “Audible

  1. LOVED the hardback release of Justinian’s Flea when it originally came out ( I wasn’t too lazy to read with my eyes then). But the narrator of the audio book is shockingly bad. It’s like the publisher never bothered to listen to it before releasing it. I HIGHLY recommend the book but I suggest reading it with your eyes rather than your ears in this instance.

    • I’ve not read it, only listened to the audio book and I concur. The narrator’s slow, almost bored delivery made me consider “returning” it and asking for a refund. I stuck with it, and it’s a great book, and the narration gets less annoying, although maybe setting the audio speed to 1.5 or 2x may be needed. It’s a shame because the treatment of Justinian’s world is superb.

  2. The Audible reviews stomp all over In God’s Path.

  3. wes bailey

    Hollands theories in the book have been bashed pretty badly by other historians.

  4. matejcepltest

    I don’t have the Audible account (I don’t think they work in Czechia), so I have just read the book, but for the very easy-to-read description of the eighth century Rome I would suggest Sister Fidelma’s “Shroud-for-the-Archbishop” ( It is a classical whodunit, but in this series term “classical” takes another meaning :).

    • The Wise one

      Use a vpn and change your location

      • matejcepltest

        So, sir with so humble nick, you are advising me to lie?

  5. gerald hammond

    I read “Guns Germs and Steel” nearly 20 years ago. Diamond does a great job of explaining the development of different groups around the planet based on their “latitude”

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