Life in the Roman Empire: Historical Fact and Fiction

Greetings, or as the Romans might say, salve!

As the author of historical fiction set in the Roman era and a retired scientist, I have a passion for getting the details right. Passionate to the point of acquiring more than 100 books, mostly by academic authors, on Rome and her Empire. As a lover of history and a writer as well, what could be more enjoyable than sharing the knowledge I’ve gleaned with you as history buffs, teachers, and students?

I hope you find these articles as fascinating to read as I have to write. New articles will be appearing here regularly. (After all, there is a lot of information in more than 100 books!) So check back often or, even better, join my email list to receive notice whenever something new is posted. If you have a topic you’d like me to write about, just email me at, and I’ll see what I can do.

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Caveat for teachers and students: For centuries, Rome was a military society driven by a desire for conquest. It was a brutal culture in a brutal world. Human life was not intrinsically valued, and sexual standards were different from today. It is impossible to accurately describe many topics, such as slavery, crime and punishment, popular entertainment, and military affairs, without acknowledging that fact. However, you will find nothing here that I have written that is worse than a PG-13 rating, so the material should be suitable for teenage students of history and Latin. HOWEVER, when there are links to other websites, they were no worse than PG-13 when I made the link. BUT I cannot guarantee that the owner of the linked site hasn’t added R-rated material since I last visited it. You will want to check any linked sites (except those at and, which are also mine and will remain “clean”) before having your students use them. You will also want to inspect any reference books listed here before your student reads them. Many, even by academic authors, have sections that can be quite explicit and definitely NOT PG-13.

And now, some questions whose answers might surprise you. (They did me!)

Which future Roman emperor won the 4-horse chariot race at the Olympics in Greece?

How did the charioteer stay in the chariot when it bounced into the air after hitting a bump?

If you were the galley slave, Judah ben Hur, could you have saved the admiral in the shipwreck?

What could get you sewn into a leather sack with a viper, a dog, a rooster, and a monkey and then thrown into a river?

Check out the articles on Chariot Racing, Slavery, Crime and Punishment, and the Roman Navy to find out.

Roman Empire novels by Carol Ashby
A mosaic of stories set in the Roman Empire of Trajan and Hadrian between AD 106 and 128. Each can be read stand-alone, but some characters and locations appear in more than one to create, as one reviewer described them, a “universe” set in the Empire at its zenith.

“This is a fabulous ancient-world series of novels that follow the lives of fictional early Christians. Carol is meticulous with her research and a true expert on Ancient Rome! History lovers and those who enjoy my biblical books are going to LOVE this series!” Roseanna White, best-selling author and winner of the Christy Award

“A story that absolutely grabbed my attention from the very first scene. Ashby’s history and cultural research are impeccable, but they’re beautifully lived out by characters I cared about deeply. I partly listened to the book and partly read it—all in one day—and was completely enthralled.”
Mesu Andrews, Christy Award winner, describing Hope Unchained

E-books available from,,, other international Amazon sites, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Walmart.

Available in hardcover and paperback
US: and international Amazon sites, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Thriftbooks, alibris, Walmart, and many independent bookstores.
UK:, Book Depository, Wordery, and Waterstones
Australia:, Angus & Robertson, Booktopia, and Boomerang Books.
Canada: and Indigo Books

Crushed Hopes and Hopeful Beginnings cover
Volume 13 of the Light in the Empire Series

Can God work all things for good if you don’t even think he’s real?

Lusario was content in Cyrene as part of the Philandros household. After he returns from serving the youngest son, Diokles, while he studies in Alexandria, Lusario expects to become a paid tutor for his master, earning the money to buy his freedom. But when Diokles uses him to pay a gambling debt, he must go to Carthago as the slave of a man who hates him. His once-bright future is gone forever. So why does his Christian friend Timon insist things will turn out so much better than he expects?

Truth and Honor cover
Volume 12 of the Light in the Empire Series

Is truth worth the price if it costs you everything?

For Tribune Glabrio, descended from three consuls of Rome and determined to be the fourth, commanding the troops policing Carthago appears ideal for hastening his political rise. Arriving from Rome with the secretly Christian Sartorus as his aide, Glabrio discovers the man he was to replace has vanished without a trace. Was the missing tribune too close to finding the counterfeiters Glabrio is now hunting? But no matter the cost, duty and honor require him to enforce Roman law.

What Matters Most cover
Volume 11 of the Light in the Empire Series

When faced with impossible choices, how do you decide what matters most?

For ten years, the incorruptible Tribune Titianus enforced Rome’s laws. He’s four days from leaving the Urban Cohort to teach at his brother-in-law Kaeso’s school when Emperor Hadrian and the Praetorian Prefect draft him to secretly investigate and thwart an assassination plot…one that might involve his own commander. He can’t refuse, but if Hadrian’s enemies discover his Christian faith, will it mean death for everyone he loves?

More Than Honor cover
Volume 10 of the Light in the Empire Series

As he hunts the one who killed her father, will he discover the secret that could lead to her death?

Devotion to duty and dogged determination make Tribune Titianus the most feared investigator of the Urban Cohort. Honor drives him to hunt down anyone who breaks Roman law, but it becomes personal when Lenaeus, his old tutor, is murdered in his own classroom. Why kill a respected teacher of the noble sons of Rome, a man who has nothing worth stealing and no known enemies? Had he learned something too dangerous to let him live?

Hope's Reward cover
Volume 9 of the Light in the Empire Series

Must the secrets we hide destroy our hope for a future?

For a gladiator slave, each time you step on the sand, it’s kill or die. When Ursus decides to follow Jesus, he must choose to die the next time he’s ordered to fight…or run away. He runs, taking again his childhood name, Matti. But he isn’t just trying to escape. He’s running to Thessalonica, where he hopes to find other Christians like the woman who led him to faith.

Honor Bound cover
Volume 8 of the Light in the Empire Series

Honor had forced him to protect her. Time would tell if he’d regret it.

Marcus Brutus owns estates, ships, and gladiator schools that increase his fortune daily, but his greatest treasures are his honor and his wife. When she reveals her faith in Jesus before dying after the birth of their son, he’s consumed by hatred for the unnamed Christian woman who led his beloved to abandon the Roman gods, making him lose her in this life and the next.

Hope Unchained cover
Volume 7 of the Light in the Empire Series

Can the deepest loss bring the greatest gain?

Rome’s conquering army took Ariana’s family and freedom, but nothing can take her faith in Jesus. When she rescues a tribune’s wife from certain death, her reward is freedom and a chance to free her brother and sister. But first she must catch up with the slave caravan before they vanish forever, and tracking them from Dacia to the coast seems impossible for one woman alone.

True Freedom cover
Volume 6 of the Light in the Empire Series

The chains we cannot see can be the hardest ones to break.

When Aulus runs up a gambling debt to his father’s political enemy, he’s desperate to pay it off before his father returns to Rome. His best friend Marcus suggests they fake the kidnapping of Aulus’s sister Julia and use the ransom money. But when the man they hired kidnaps her for real, Aulus is catapulted into a desperate search to find her. More

Second Chances cover
Volume 5 of the Light in the Empire Series

Must the shadows of the past destroy the hope of the future?

In AD 122, Cornelia Scipia, proud daughter of one of Rome’s noblest families, learns her adulterous husband plans to betroth their daughter to the vicious son of his best friend. Over her dead body! Cornelia divorces him, reclaims her enormous dowry, and kidnaps her own daughter. She plans to start over with Drusilla a thousand miles away. No more husbands for her. But she didn’t count on meeting Hector, the widowed Greek captain of the ship carrying her to her new life. More

Faithful cover
Volume 4 of the Light in the Empire Series

Is the price of true friendship ever too high?

In AD 122, Adela, the fiery daughter of a Germanic chieftain, is kidnapped and taken across the Roman frontier to be sold as a slave. When horse-trader Otto wins her while gambling with her kidnappers, he entrusts her to his friend and trading partner, Galen. Then Otto is kidnapped by the same men, and Galen must track them half way across the Empire before his best friend loses a fight to the death in a Roman arena. More

The Legacy cover
Volume 3 of the Light in the Empire Series

When Rome has taken everything, what’s left for a man to give?

Betrayed by a ruthless son who’ll do anything for power and wealth, Publius Drusus faces death with an unanswered prayer―that his treasured daughter, Claudia, and honorable son, Titus, will someday share his faith. But who will lead them to the truth once he’s gone? More

Blind Ambition cover
Volume 2 of the Light in the Empire Series

Sometimes you have to almost die to discover how you want to live.

It’s AD 114 in the Roman province of Germania Superior, and being a Christian carries a death sentence. Tribune Decimus Lentulus is on the fast track for a stellar political career back in Rome. When he’s robbed, blinded, and left for dead, a young German woman who follows the Way finds him. More

Forgiven cover
Volume 1 of the Light in the Empire Series

Are some wounds too deep to forgive?

With a ruthless father who murdered for the family inheritance, Marcus Drusus plans to do the same. In AD 122, Marcus follows his brother Lucius to Judaea and plots to frame a zealot for his older brother’s death. More

Fact and Fiction by Carol Ashby