on 26 January 2011
Procopius' Wars may be read on its own, as indeed it was until the manuscript of the Secret History by the same author was unearthed from some Vatican archive in the seventeenth century, but this risks missing the author's message (and it is definitely not advised if you are student).
On the surface, the Wars are the typical classicising historical account, with a heavy emphasis on military events, set-piece speeches, and allegorical anecdotes, overlaid with a veneer of Christianity. Wars I & II deal with the Persian frontier, III & IV with the Vandal wars in north Africa, V-VII with the reconquest of Italy, and VIII is a concluding book dealing with all these different fronts. The timeframe is 527-553, meaning that all these wars, especially the Persian, hadn't quite come to an end by the time this finishes. But Wars is also about Justinian's reign (527-565), and describes events such as the Nika insurrection of 532, in Constantinople, a key political marker (this is in Book I). On this, however, it is not possible to read the Wars on its own, without check the Secret History and perhaps even the Buildings. Procopius himself states, and modern historians agree, that the Secret History discloses what he was not able to write, due to the dangers of imperial censorship, in the Wars. Though the Secret History is a controversial and problematic work in its own right, it demands to be read alongside the Wars (it is also short and entertaining). For readers on Procopius, the most important books are probably Averil Cameron's Procopius and the Sixth Century, and Anthony Kaldellis's Procopius of Caesarea.
If you are a student, I would also advise buying the Loeb edition, which unlike this edition provides the manuscript page numbers, useful for footnoting.