Book four of the Masters of Rome series covers a ten year span, 68 BC through 58 BC. During this decade the whole world revolves around Rome… and all of Rome revolves around Julius Caesar. At this point in the series, you know all the important people intimately: Julius Caesar, his family, friends, enemies, and lovers. Politically speaking – very few people took a neutral position when it came to Caesar – most either loved or hated him.
This is the first volume of the series that does not involve extensive war scenes. Rather, it develops and expands on the domestic and cultural sides of Roman life. Having covered a total of 50 years since the series began, there are subtle signs of social change. Women are gaining more freedom and men of less aristocratic background are gaining entrance to the political scene.
You make the acquaintance of the Vestal Virgins – a select group of young girls who dedicate their youth to serving the Gods. And the author provides lots of scenes depicting religious rituals.
Episodes of the very first Italian Mafia running a “protection ploy” – actually offering protection from themselves “they sell protection from robbery and assault to shopkeepers and manufacturers. Fail to pay up, your goods are stolen… you’re beaten up… your machinery is destroyed.” (Pg. 619) And they are used by politicians to sway senate votes. It was common to have barbaric brawls break out during the voting process which occasionally resulted in the death of a senator.
No different today… the young adults rebel. You will read about the Clodius Club, the younger generation of aristocrats. They scandalously allowed women to join. “The only aim of the Clodius Club is to shock the world. That’s how they entertain themselves. They’re all bored, idle, averse to work, and possessed far too much money. Drinking and wenching and gambling are tame. Shocks and scandals are the Club’s sole purpose.” (Pg. 216) This creates quite a stir when they get involved in the political scene.
Masters of Rome is based on real historical events with authentic detail of life of that period, however, I don’t know how accurate Colleen McCullough is in depicting the attitudes and feelings of the characters. If she is totally accurate – poor, poor Cicero. He is not quite the person I had always envisioned. And could Julius Caesar really have been that handsome, smart, and gloriously perfect?
Once again, McCullough did an outstanding job of presentation. Her only weakness may be in sharing too many details which can be tiresome especially when attempting to read the entire series straight through, non-stop.
One word of warning. There are so many important characters who play a major role in history, I found it difficult to keep track of who was who, and how that related to Julius… friend? enemy? traitor? relative? With each book I started keeping a list with a line down the middle separating friends from enemies. As the plot unwinds this comes in handy especially since the entire series covers over 100 years and several generations.
Masters of Rome is a time consuming reading project not to be taken lightly. It is truly educational, entertaining, and thought provoking.
Rated 5 Stars.
I use a rating scale of 1 to 5. Books rated 1, I seldom finish. Books rated 2, I usually finish but would never recommend to anyone. 5 is the highest rating.