SPQR serves as a very good and well written overview of the history of the early Roman Empire. It is an enjoyable and educational read,
The book can be a bit long and detailed (600+ pages) so isn't a good introduction. If I didn't already know a lot about the chronology and emperors it would have been hard to follow.
I found the most interesting chapters to be the ones dealing with the commoners and slaves. Turns out that the Romans had a vast network of taverns, where the people played board games. Learning about the different languages, religions, and attitudes of the empire was fascinating.
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