15 Best Roman Authors Of All Time

Discover some of the best Roman authors in this article. 

From architectural columns to stories of gladiators, the thought of Ancient Roman, Greek, and Latin culture evokes the idea of rich artistry, intellectual debates, and moral lessons that still hold firm in today’s world.

Rome has a storied history, full of tales of warriors, art, and beauty. While many Romans enjoyed the mansions and lush lifestyles many people associate with the culture today, others lived a less-than-posh existence, struggling to make ends meet from day to day. Authors in Ancient Rome often dug deep into the nature of human nature, grappling with moral issues that philosophers and scholars still study in the present day.

Roman authors didn’t just discuss philosophy—they also told tales of love and war and created poetry that’s still heralded as some of the best prose ever written. Authors in Rome were respected artists. Early Roman literature mainly discussed military history, while later literature was often written for entertainment’s sake and included tragedies, comedies, and poetry.

Popular Roman Authors 

Best Roman Authors

Without further ado, let’s dig in and look at Roman authors whose work is still relevant and celebrated today.

1. Cicero

Best Roman Authors: Cicero
Liam Clarkson-Holborn, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cicero was a Roman statesman, philosopher, and author who had an indelible influence on the Latin language. Cicero’s most well-known writings were De re publica (On the Commonwealth) and De Legibus (On the Laws). Cicero’s works are widely regarded as some of the most essential preserved pieces of Roman literature.

Still, Cicero considered his career as a politician his most significant accomplishment during his life. He’s also remembered as a successful lawyer and orator.

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How to Win an Argument: An Ancient Guide to the Art of Persuasion
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero (Author) - Simon Vance (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/27/2016 (Publication Date) - HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books (Publisher)

2. Ovid

Ovid is a widely read ancient Roman author best known for his 15-volume narrative Metamorphoses, a mythological tale. To the present day, Metamorphoses provides scholars and researchers with much of their understanding of Ancient Roman mythology. Unlike most Roman poets, Ovid regularly wrote about his own life, providing valuable insight into what it was like to live during Ancient Roman times.

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Metamorphoses: Penguin Classics
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Ovid (Author) - Martin Jarvis, John Sackville, Maya Saroya (Narrators)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 04/23/2020 (Publication Date) - Penguin Audio (Publisher)

3. Virgil

Best Roman Authors: Virgil
Circa 45 BC Roman Sculptor, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Virgil is an Ancient Roman poet known for composing the three most famous poems: the Eclogues, the Georgics, and the Aeneid. Today, many people flock to Virgil’s tomb in Rome, as many believe the structure to have mystical powers.

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The Aeneid
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Virgil (Author) - Simon Callow (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 11/02/2006 (Publication Date) - Penguin Audio (Publisher)

4. Augustus Caesar 

Best Roman Authors: Augustus Caesar
Alvesgaspar, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also known as Octavian, Augustus Caesar was the first emperor of Rome. Known for his peaceful rule of Rome, Augustus was a descendant of Julius Caesar. During his reign, he wrote a detailed account of his achievements entitled Res Gestae Divi Augusti. The ruler was also a poet. Poems attributed to Augustus include Ajax, Epiphanius, and Sicily.

Res Gestae Divi Augusti: Text, Translation, and Commentary
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Augustus (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 331 Pages - 05/29/2009 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)

5. Gaius Valerius Catullus

Gaius Valerius Catullus was born into a high-class family in Rome, and his social standing allowed him to rub elbows with prominent members of society, including Julius Caesar. It’s believed that the author spent most of his younger years in Rome, but historians are unsure of exactly where he spent his later years, as there is no surviving biography of Catullus.

Many poems are attributed to Catullus. His works are labeled as Catullus 1, Catullus 2, etc.

Res Gestae Divi Augusti: Text, Translation, and Commentary
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Augustus (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 331 Pages - 05/29/2009 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)

6. Horace

Horace is known as the best Roman lyric poet of his time. His contemporary Quintilian discussed Horace’s The Complete Odes and Epodes, saying, “He can be lofty sometimes, yet he is also full of charm and grace, versatile in his figures, and felicitously daring in his choice of words.”

After growing up in Rome, Horace moved to Athens and enrolled in The Academy, which Plato founded. While at The Academy, Horace became deeply familiar with the ancient tradition of lyrical poetry popular at the time.

The Complete Odes and Epodes (Oxford World's Classics)
  • Horace (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 12/15/2008 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

7. Julius Caesar

Best Roman Authors: Julius Caesar
Lvova Anastasiya (Львова Анастасия, Lvova), CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Roman dictator Julius Caesar is known for the pivotal role he played in the fall of the Roman Republic, which eventually led to the power of the Roman Empire. Born in Rome to a noble family, Caesar had many political connections from a young age.

Caesar had a storied military reign, which eventually ended in his assassination. During his lifetime, Caesar wrote memoirs, including The Gallic Wars and The Civil War. Caesar also wrote Anticato, a document created to lower public opinion of Cato.

The Complete Works of Julius Caesar
  • Caesar, Julius (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 505 Pages - 06/22/2017 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

8. Titus Livius

Also known as Livy, Titus Livius was a well-known Roman historian. He wrote a detailed history of Rome entitled The Early History of Rome. Livius held conservative values and preferred to spend time by himself.

During his teenage years, Livy experienced civil wars throughout Rome. Livy gained widespread acclaim for his historical work, inspiring people to travel from afar to talk with him about his knowledge of Rome’s beginnings.

The Early History of Rome (Books I-V)
  • Livy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 314 Pages - 06/18/2018 (Publication Date) - Digireads.com Publishing (Publisher)

9. Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca was an actor, satirist, philosopher, statesman, and writer. Born in Hispania, Seneca spent most of his youth in Rome. While working as a Senator, Seneca experienced great success. Seneca was eventually accused of adultery and sentenced to death, a sentence which was later commuted to exile.

Seneca completed several tragedies throughout his storied lifetime, including Hercules, Troades, and Agamemnon. He also composed many essays, including On Providence, On Anger, and On the Happy Life.

Anger, Mercy, Revenge (The Complete Works of Lucius Annaeus Seneca)
  • Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 247 Pages - 11/20/2012 (Publication Date) - University of Chicago Press (Publisher)

10. Juvenal

Juvenal was a Roman poet who specialized in satire. The author is known for 16 poems known as The Satires (the 16th poem is not complete). Juvenal was Jewish, and many historians believe that the author’s poems give accurate accounts of what early Judaism entailed.

Juvenal expressed many ideas on society throughout The Satires, including that most people care more about entertainment and food than about freedom, that it’s rare to have a perfect spouse, and that it’s difficult to trust people with unchecked power.

The Satires (Oxford World's Classics)
  • Juvenal (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 08/01/2008 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

11. Lucretius

Lucretius was a Roman writer and philosopher. His only surviving work is De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things), a philosophical poem that deals with Epicureanism. Historians don’t know much about Lucretius’ life. However, De rerum natura was influential in the work of Virgil and Horace.

On the Nature of Things
  • Lucretius (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 230 Pages - 09/13/2021 (Publication Date) - Digireads.com (Publisher)

12. Pliny the Younger

Pliny the Younger was a Roman magistrate, author, and lawyer. His letters are still highly valued today, and more than 240 of his works are still preserved. Born in Northern Italy, Pliny the Younger’s uncle was Pliny the Elder, a well-known writer.

Pliny the Younger wrote many poems and was also a known orator. His most well-known oration is Panegyricus Traiani. The author’s letters and oration provide an exciting glimpse into what life was like in Ancient Rome and even describes the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Pliny the Younger’s descriptions of the eruption are historically accurate.

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Complete Letters (Oxford World's Classics)
  • Pliny the Younger (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 06/15/2009 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

13. Pliny the Elder

Naturalist, philosopher, and military commander Pliny the Elder’s most well-known work was Naturalis Historia (Natural History), which provided the framework for modern encyclopedias. In addition to studying nature, Pliny the Elder studied geography.

Sadly, Pliny the Elder perished during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, as described by Pliny the Younger.

Pliny's natural history in thirty-seven books - Scholar's Choice Edition
  • Holland, Philemon (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 02/12/2015 (Publication Date) - Scholar's Choice (Publisher)

14. Lucius Apuleius

Lucius Apuleius was from Numidia, a Roman province, and spent time studying in Athens, Egypt, and Asia Minor. The prose writer and rhetorician was also initiated into many cults and secret societies.

The author was best known for his work The Golden Ass, which, to this day, is the only wholly preserved Latin novel. The book offered exciting perspectives on society and culture in Rome. The book provides a humorous perspective and interjects serious topics with adventure—the fairy-tale-style book details what Apuleius likely experienced in some of his cult initiations in Ancient Rome.

The Golden Ass (Oxford World's Classics)
  • Apuleius (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 06/15/2008 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

15. Lucan

Corduba-born Lucan is one of the most well-known poets of Ancient Rome. He started in the literary world at a young age, after being born into a wealthy family and educated in Athens. The author is well-known for Pharsalia, an epic poem that detailed the Pompey-Julius Caesar civil war.

Many of Lucan’s works have been lost over time, including Saturnalia, Catachthonion, Epigrammata, Silvae, Salticae Fabluae, and Medea.

Civil War
  • Lucan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 236 Pages - 03/23/2020 (Publication Date) - Digireads.com Publishing (Publisher)

The Final Word On The Best Roman Authors

Roman authors offer readers a unique glimpse into what life was like in ancient society. From understanding the convoluted politics of the time to understanding what day-to-day life was like in Rome, Ancient Roman authors provided both history and entertainment alike.

FAQs About The Best Roman Authors

Who Is The Most Widely-Read Roman Author Of All Time?

Ovid is typically regarded as the most widely read Ancient Roman author.

What Is The Literary Scene Like In Rome Today?

The people of present-day Rome both celebrate their storied literary past and embrace new traditions. The city is dotted with many cafes and bookstores that offer glimpses into past literature while celebrating all that new Roman authors have to off

Further Reading

If you liked learning about the best Roman authors, you might be interested in our guide on the best British authors.

You might also enjoy our explainer on the best Japanese authors

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