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Emperors of Rome: The Monsters (Paperback)

From Tiberius to Theodora, AD 14–548

Ancient History Rome Military

By Paul Chrystal
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: History of Terror
Pages: 128
Illustrations: 60
ISBN: 9781526728852
Published: 21st November 2018



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As with everything else, there were good and bad Roman emperors. The good, like Trajan (98–117), Hadrian (117–138), Antoninus Pius (138–161) and Marcus Aurelius (161–180) were largely civilized and civilizing. The bad, on the other hand, were sometimes nothing less than monsters, exhibiting varying degrees of corruption, cruelty, depravity and insanity. It is a sobering thought that these ogres were responsible for governing the greatest civilization in the world, simultaneously terrorizing, brutalizing and massacring. Tiberius, Caligula, Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Caracella, Elagabalus, Septimius Severus, Diocletian, Maximinus Thrax, Justinian and Theodora all had more bad days than good; they are all covered in this book.

Their exploits have, of course, been well documented since classical times but much of the coverage can only be called gratuitous, sensationalist or tabloid. This book is different because it is based on primary sources and evidence – and attempts to balance out the shocking with any mitigating aspects in each of their lives. Many of our monsters have some redeeming factors and it is important that these are exposed if a true record of their lives is to be conveyed. The book also examines how each of the twelve has been treated for posterity in literature, theatre and film, and the lessons intended to be drawn from popular culture through the ages.

As featured on Author Translator

Author Translator, Olga Nunez Miret

This series is well worth collecting!

Watch the full video review here

The View From The Turret Vlog

Chrystal works hard to shine an unbiased light onto these acts of violence in a way that considers the contemporary feelings of the Romans as well as the stark reality that these horrors led to mass pain and suffering for very real, very innocent people. It’s a heartbreaking and important addition to any history lovers book shelf.

Read the full review here


"Emperors of Rome: The Monsters" depicts the depravity that was Rome through its more deviant rulers. The author begins by describing in two chapters the "monstrous behavior" in Rome and the Republic. The bulk of the book follows with "The Imperial Monsters", from Tiberius to Theodora, some thirteen emperors and one empress. Inclusive biographical sketches of each describe their own particular depravity and its effects on Roman life and society. Profusely illustrated, this is an excellent addition to the "History of Terror" series.

Amazon Customer, David Poremba

This book is an addition to the very readable series that looks at the use of terror. The Roman Emperors were mostly monsters of one sort or another, very few being wise leaders of an Empire.- Highly Recommended


I found the book thoroughly compelling, hard to put down and fascinating in its depictions. The author has done an excellent job of research into his subject and presents his facts in a true and fair way.

I would recommend this book to any student of Roman life and also anyone else interested in the genre.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)
 Paul Chrystal

About Paul Chrystal

Paul Chrystal studied classics at the University of Hull and then specialised in Latin love poetry for his MPhil at the University of Southampton. He is the author of numerous classics books, including The Romans in the North of England (2019) , From Republic to Empire (2019), Roman Military Disasters (2015) and Women at War in the Classical World (2020). He has contributed as a feature writer to the Daily Express, BBC History Magazine, Ad Familiares, Minerva and All About History, and is frequently on BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Tees, BBC Radio Manchester and BBC World Service. He is a reviewer for and contributor to Classics for All and a contributor to the Classics section of OUP’s Oxford Bibliographies Online; he is an editorial reviewer for Yale University Press Classics books. In 2019, he was guest speaker for Vassar College New York’s London Programme in association with Goldsmith University.

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