Margaret Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian is
a literary masterpiece.
Robert Graves' I, Claudius and its sequel, Claudius the God
are based largely on Suetonius' biographies of the early Roman emperors. They
were the basis for the umpteen-episode BBC dramatization, starring Derek
Jacobi as Claudius.
There are currently several series of detective novels set in ancient
Rome. Those by Steven Saylor
are set in the late Republic and feature Gordianus the Finder, private
inquiry agent and sometime employee of the great Marcus Tullius Cicero. The
series traces his career from the 70s BC down to the civil war. Titles
include Arms of Nemesis; The Venus Throw; Catilina's Riddle;
Murder on the Appian Way; The House of the Vestals.
Lindsey Davis' novels take
place under the Flavian emperors and star the 'informer' Marcus Didius
Falco. These are more light-hearted than Saylor. I find the scenes with
Falco's upper-class girlfriend Helena Justina unbearably saccharine but
Davis does have loyal fans.Titles
include: Silver Pigs; Venus in Copper; The Iron Hand of
Mars; Poseidon's Gold; Shadows in Bronze; Last Act
in Palmyra; A Dying Light in Corduba.
Gore Vidal's Julian is a typically barbed historical novel about the fourth-century emperor who tried to bring back paganism, seen through the eyes of two of his associates.