Essential books for learning Latin

What should I read? Which text­book? Which dictionary?

Study roadmap

These are main­ly books for begin­ners and inter­me­di­ate stu­dents. See also: rec­om­mend­ed books for begin­ners and inter­me­di­ate learn­ers, use­ful tools. If you want to see what I have in my library (edi­tions, styl­is­tics, etc.) go here.

Which are the best books for learning Latin?

Which are the best books for learn­ing Latin? Which text­book, dic­tio­nary, gram­mar should I use? There are count­less books out there, some pop­u­lar, some more secret. We’ve tried them all with stu­dents, and found the best—with some room for bias.


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Our recommendations


Most text­books promiss to much and under­de­liv­er, but there are great ones too.



The only way to mas­ter Latin is to read a lot of Latin at your own lev­el. There are a lot of bad­ly writ­ten books, but also great ones.


Study­ing gram­mar is reward­ing and fun—as long as you have a suit­able book.

Recommended textbooks

These are the best text­books on the mar­ket to start learn­ing and mas­ter­ing Latin. We rec­om­mend you get sev­er­al books and work through them to build a large vocabulary.

Familia Romana, (Lingua Latina per se Illustrata I)

Hans Ørberg

The best book to get a strong foun­da­tion in Latin, which I used to learn Latin. Entire­ly writ­ten in Latin, it takes you from sen­tences like “Roma in Italia est” to longer inter­me­di­ate texts. Mar­gin­al notes and images help explain new words with­out trans­lat­ing. The book cen­ters around a Roman fam­i­ly but adds in some clas­si­cal Latin texts towards the end. This is where to start.      


Exercitia Latina I: Exercises for Familia Romana, (Lingua Latina per se Illustrata I)

Hans Ørberg

While Famil­ia Romana by it self is great, this exer­cise book pro­vides you with count­less oppor­tu­ni­ties to drill in the mor­phol­o­gy, syn­tax, and vocab­u­lary. When I learned Latin many years ago, I went through these exer­cis­es many times, both in writ­ing and oral­ly.    


Colloquia Personarum, (Lingua Latina per se Illustrata I)

Hans Ørberg

These dia­logues are writ­ten so that each dia­logue cor­re­sponds in sto­ry and dif­fi­cul­ty to a par­tic­u­lar chap­ter in Famil­ia Romana. If you study these three books dili­gent­ly, you will devel­op a per­fect foun­da­tion, so that you will nev­er have to think about end­ings and basic gram­mar again—you will know it instinc­tive­ly.   


Assimil le latin sans peine

Clé­ment Desessard

This book con­sists of 101 dia­logues in Latin with a par­al­lel trans­la­tion in French. Some of the dia­logues are sil­ly con­ver­sa­tions in every­day sit­u­a­tions, while oth­ers are pas­sages tak­en from Latin lit­er­a­ture, from Plau­tus to a Ear­ly mod­ern apothe­cary oath. Dia­logue also comes with notes on gram­mar and vocabulary.

To get the most out of this book, you need to lis­ten to the record­ings of the all the dia­logues over and over again to start to devel­op an intu­itive under­stand­ing of Latin.

Although the trans­la­tions and com­ments are in French, you could still get a lot out of the book by read­ing and lis­ten­ing to the dia­logues. With­out the French notes and trans­la­tions, you should per­haps wait until you have a foun­da­tion in Latin.


Recommended readers

These are the best Latin read­ers, or books for exten­sive read­ing. They dif­fer in lev­el and scope, but you should strive to read them all, many times.

Ritchie’s Fabulae Faciles

Frank Ritchie

This is a real­ly fun book to read with sto­ries about Her­cules, Odysseus, and Perseus in a rather Cae­sar­i­an Latin. Read and reread this to build your vocab­u­lary and knowl­edge about the myths in which Roman authors were steeped.

This edi­tion has Latin text with fac­ing vocab­u­lary and com­men­tary.   


Pugio Bruti — A Crime story in Easy Latin

Daniel Pet­ters­son, Amelie Rosengren

When Terentia’s father dies he leaves her with a dag­ger and the words ”It will lead you to…”. Alone in Rome, Ter­en­tia goes out to find the secret behind her father’s dag­ger. But she is not the only one, and soon she is fight­ing for the dag­ger, its secret and her own future. 

Pugio Bru­ti – A Crime Sto­ry in Easy Latin is writ­ten with two things in mind: To be a page-turn­ing enjoy­able book and to be a great study com­pan­ion to Latin learn­ers. The unique word count is less than 350 words, giv­ing you easy Latin with­out com­pro­mis­ing the excit­ing story.

It is writ­ten as true to clas­si­cal Latin as pos­si­ble with styl­is­tic fea­tures, phrase­ol­o­gy and dia­logue pat­terns from Plau­tus, Ter­en­tius and Petro­n­ius, while still being an acces­si­ble book to learn­ers of Latin. It is set in a his­tor­i­cal­ly authen­tic con­text and con­tains full Latin-Eng­lish vocabulary.


Epitome Historiae Sacrae: Brevi Christi Vitae Narratione Addita

Charles Lhomond, Rober­to Carfagni

Epit­o­me His­to­ri­ae Sacrae is a 17th cen­tu­ry read­er all in Latin (with long vow­els marked) with sto­ries from the Bible in an inter­me­di­ate Latin. This edi­tion has mar­gin­al notes explain­ing new or dif­fi­cult words all in Latin. It has also  exer­cis­es, includ­ing cross­words and matching.

The text will expand your vocab­u­lary greatly.

When can you read it? You should fin­ish Lin­gua Lati­na Part I: Famil­ia Romana first to be able to read Epit­o­me His­to­ri­ae Sacrae with­out too much trouble.


Ad Alpes — A Tale of Roman Life (2017 edition)

H. C. Nutting

Ad Alpes is the best Latin read­er out there. It is both a nov­el with its over­ar­ch­ing nar­ra­tive and a Latin read­er with over 200-pages of sto­ries in Latin from the ancient world.

  • Improve your Latin: 200 pages in a clas­si­cal Latin style for exten­sive reading.
  • Read and enjoy Latin: Inter­est­ing sto­ries from clas­si­cal authors and the Bible.
  • Read with­out the dic­tio­nary: Full Latin-Eng­lish vocabulary.

Read­ing (or lis­ten­ing) to this book over and over again will give you a vast vocab­u­lary and a good grasp of more advanced grammar.

Who can read it Ad Alpes? It is best to have a good ground­ing in Latin gram­mar and vocab­u­lary before read­ing it.


Roma Aeterna, (Lingua Latina per se Illustrata)

Hans Ørberg

Roma Aeter­na (the sec­ond main vol­ume of the Lin­gua Lati­na per se illus­tra­ta series) takes the read­er through Roman his­to­ry and myth via pas­sages from Roman his­to­ri­ans and poets such as Livy, Sal­lust, and Ovid. 

Before div­ing into Roman lit­er­a­ture, Roma Aeter­na first retells the first four books of Virgil’s Aeneid


  • Latin immer­sion with vow­el lengths marked
  • Approx­i­mate­ly 3,000 vocab­u­lary words
  • Short dis­cus­sions of gram­mar and exer­cis­es for each chapter
  • Select­ed read­ings that cov­er the mate­r­i­al in a Roman his­to­ry course

Who can read Roma Aeter­na? Although the book is meant to be read after Famil­ia Romana (and the ancil­lary books of the lin­gua Lati­na per se illus­tra­ta series, our stu­dents often find that there is too large a gap. We sug­gest read­ing and mas­ter­ing Ad Alpes before read­ing Roma Aeter­na.


Fabulae Gallicae — Fairytales in Latin

Charles Per­rault (author), Lau­rent d’Au­male (trans­la­tor)

Fab­u­lae Gal­li­cae is a Latin trans­la­tion of Charles Per­rault’s world of fairy­tales from 1697. It has a glos­sary in three lan­guages: French, Eng­lish, Spanish.

In the book, you’ll read eight clas­si­cal fairytales:

  • Cinerel­la – Cinderella
  • Mag­ae – Dia­monds and Toads
  • Bar­ba Caerulea – Bluebeard
  • Cucul­lus Ruber – Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood
  • Pol­li­cel­lus – Lit­tle Thumbling
  • Cat­tus Catus – Puss in Boots
  • Asi­ni Pel­lis – Donkeyskin 
  • Bel­la Puel­la in Sil­va Sopi­ta – Sleep­ing Beauty

    Who can read Fab­u­lae Gal­li­cae? You need to be at a rather advanced lev­el to read it with ease, as it is writ­ten in a high­ly clas­si­ciz­ing style. 


    Recommended Latin dictionaries

    Hav­ing a good dic­tio­nary is cru­cial for learn­ing Latin, but it’s hard to know which ones are good. Here are the best dic­tio­nar­ies, both large schol­ar­ly ones, and small­er ones for begin­ners and inter­me­di­ate students.

    The Bantam New College Latin & English Dictionary

    John Traup­man


    • 708 pages
    • Latin-Eng­lish
    • Notes on constructions
    • Sec­tion on basic grammar
    • His­tor­i­cal, geo­graph­i­cal, mytho­log­i­cal names’

    The Ban­tam New Col­lege Latin & Eng­lish Dic­tio­nary is a pop­u­lar medi­um sized dic­tio­nary with 70’000 words and phras­es. It has addi­tion­al sec­tions that might be of inter­est to begin­ners (e.g. pro­nun­ci­a­tion, gram­mar, his­to­ry, mythol­o­gy). In addi­tion it also has an Eng­lish-Latin sec­tion. Ban­tam stands out con­tain­ing slang, vul­gar expres­sions, and neo-Latin vocabulary.

    Who should use it? This is a great dic­tio­nary if you want a good all-in-one resource, and be able to look up a word and get a gen­er­al idea of its mean­ing. But for read­ing clas­si­cal authors, I rec­om­mend a larg­er dictionary.


    Cassell’s (standard) Latin Dictionary

    D. P. Simpson

    • 883 pages
    • 200 B.C. to 100 A.D
    • Latin-Eng­lish
    • Eng­lish-Latin section
    • Exam­ples from Latin literature
    • Sec­tions with idiomat­ic expressions

    Cassell’s Latin Dic­tio­nary is a very pop­u­lar dic­tio­nary and rather com­pre­hen­sive Latin dic­tio­nary, but what sets this apart from  Ban­tam’s are the many exam­ples of usage tak­en from Latin literature.

    Who should use it? If you are study­ing Latin and read­ing Clas­si­cal texts beyond a few sen­tences here and there, it is a very good dic­tio­nary. It gives most of what you need with­out being overwhelming


    Lewis & Short (A Latin Dictionary)

    Charl­ton Thomas Lewis, Charles Short

    • 2000 pages
    • Latin-Eng­lish
    • 2nd cen­tu­ry B.C. –8th cen­tu­ry A.D. 
    • Exam­ples from literature
    • Notes on usage and etymology

    Lewis & Short is with­out a doubt the most com­mon­ly used Latin dic­tio­nary dic­tio­nary for learn­ers and schol­ars out there. It is one of the most com­pre­hen­sive dic­tio­nar­ies cov­er­ing clas­si­cal Latin as well as lat­er Latin. It is also freely avail­able online.

    Who should use it? Advanced stu­dents and schol­ars: Although it has been crit­i­cised through­out the years for slight inac­cu­ra­cies, both with regards to def­i­n­i­tions, and, more par­tic­u­lar­ly, to quan­ti­ties, it is still the stan­dard dic­tio­nary used by schol­ars today.


    Oxford Latin DIctionary

    P.W. Glare (edi­tor)

    • 2400 pages
    • Ca. 200 B.C. to 200 A.D.
    • Latin-Eng­lish
    • Exam­ples from literature
    • Based on mod­ern editions
    • Notes on usage and etymology

    It’s an enor­mous work of 2400 pages, cov­er­ing Latin up to 200 A.D., how­ev­er, also exclud­ing most Chris­tan writers. 

    It stands apart from Lewis & Short in that it is not based on pre­vi­ous dic­tio­nar­ies but is a new work tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion mod­ern research. 

    One strength lies in the clear dis­po­si­tion of arti­cles mak­ing find­ing the rel­e­vant sense com­par­a­tive­ly easy for the reader.

    Who should use it? If you are an advanced learn­er and want to dive deep into the dif­fer­ent nuances and usages of words, it is a great resource. 


    Whats next?

    Study roadmap

    Fol­low the steps and guides below to avoid wast­ing time in your Latin studies.

    1. Get the books

    Get a text­book with exer­cis­es, a read­er, and a dic­tio­nary. Make sure to read the books in the right order by fol­low­ing our plan.

    2. Plan Your studies

    Learn­ing Latin takes time and plan­ning to avoid bad habits. Use our learn­ing guides instead.


    3. Start learning

    Now it’s time to start learn­ing. Save time by fol­low­ing our prac­ti­cal guides.