Nero fiddles and Rome burns! Read all about it!

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In the wake of such big sellers as Robert Harris's Pompeii, Tom Holland's Rubicon, Allan Massie's Caligula and all Lindsay Davies's Roman-era detective novels, it seems clear that Ancient Rome is the flavour of the year.

Here are some of the other Latin-based titles on which you can lavish your Christmas book-tokens.

'Civis Romanus Stultus Sum' (or 'Stupid Romans') by Michael Moore

A savage onslaught on the politics of the Roman Empire by one of our foremost satirists. He predicts that if the Roman emperors go on expanding at the present rate and pursuing their reckless policy of global domination, the empire will either split into two, or be overrun by Goths and Vandals.

'Around the Roman World in Eighty Days' by Michael Palin

An enterprising attempt by the ex-Python to travel round the borders of the known Roman world in 80 days, using only Roman money and speaking only Latin. This comes off best in the Vatican, which is the last place in the world where they speak Latin, though it is also the only place where all his money is taken off him. He might have fared badly had he not had the foresight to take a large BBC film-crew with him.

'Angelus's Ashes' by Frank McCourt

This is the affecting tale of a desperately poor Roman childhood in a provincial city, where the newly arrived Christians have taken everything over and show precious little in the way of Christian charity.

'A Princess Royal' by Paul Burrell

When Nero's mother Agrippina died, it was widely assumed that she had been murdered at Nero's instructions, so that her opposition to his marriage would be removed. Mr Burrell, who will not hear a word said against her, defends her sacred memory stoutly, and adds some very interesting notes about household maintenance in imperial Rome. What he has to say about Nero cannot be repeated in a family newspaper.

'Edit, Occidit Et Exit' by Lynne Truss

A snappy, jokey but authoritative guide to punctuation in Latin that has become the season's surprise runaway best-seller. She is a bit hard on Julius Caesar's use of the comma, but generally fair-minded.

'Panis Incensus' by Nigel Slater

A happy-go-lucky amble through the highways and byways of Roman cookery. Fancy lizard on a spit? Like to know the best way to clean larks' tongues? It's all here.

'The Villa Makeover Book' From the TV programme of the same name

Got a few old stones at the bottom of your garden? Are they the only relics of the handsome Roman villa that used to stand there in palmier days? Would you like to turn it back into the palatial mansion of yesteryear? This book tells you just how to do it, and suggests ways of keeping Tony Robinson out.

'The Ancient Roman Diet Book' by Nigella Lawson

Apparently, the ancient Romans kept their trim figures by making themselves sick after meals, so it didn't really matter a lot what they ate. Nevertheless, this book details at least a hundred authentic Roman dishes that you might care to cook, serve and bring up.

'The Hundred Greatest Latin Jokes of All Time!' From the Channel 4 programme

'Ponytails, Jockstraps and Thumbs Up' by Hunter Davies

The gladiator's life was not all glamour, especially if you lost and were killed. Hunter Davies, with his customary enthusiasm, goes behind the glitter of the public face of gladiatorial combats and takes us into the sweaty training schools and the dreary third-division combats in some provincial outpost. Was travelling all day by wagon to a half-full stadium and getting run through by some hunky ex-slave really glamorous? Hunter reckons not. No wonder Spartacus and the lads went on strike for better conditions. Oh, and were gladiatorial combats ever rigged? Not half, says our Hunter. A great read for the ancient sports fan.

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