I just started reading The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough (you may remember her from her well known novel, The Thorn Birds). At over 800 pages this is by no means a short read and added to the lengthy book are hand drawn portraits, maps (all by Colleen McCullough), a glossary and pronunciation guide.
The First Man in Rome begins on New Year's Day in 110 B.C. where Romans are celebrating the new year and two men have political ambitions to become The First Man in Rome. Hop on over to a blog review here.
Colleen McCullough's painstaking research is evident in the book where she gives details of life in Rome and the underlying battles for political recognition.
This is the first of a series.