Upon the completion of reading the Masters of Rome I find myself mentally drained and sad. Sad for the tragic outcome of this once powerful nation, sad that the series is over, and drained from the non-stop reading of this 7 book classic. Alas, to complete this incredible journey of traveling through 100 of Rome’s most tumultuous years in history – 4,943 precious pages of absolute pure enjoyment.
Book 1 –The First Man of Rome started in 110 BC when Rome was a thriving republic with reasonably legitimate elections…. albeit the power was ultimately based on wealth and family name. And elections could be bought by bribery, blackmail or coercion. But there was a democratic process and balanced distribution of power. At the time, any of the famed leaders were looked upon as honorable statesman.
Unfortunately in the short 100 years of the Masters of Rome series, the Roman elite managed to cause several civil wars killing millions of their own citizens, and aggressively invade surrounding foreign lands causing mass destruction and confiscating foreign treasuries. They killed millions of innocent foreigners who were fighting back simply to protect their own freedom. And they send millions more (including women and children) into slavery – all in the name of preserving Roman glory and growing the empire. They were greedy bullies – heros and villains all at the same time.
The final book of the Masters of Rome series Antony and Cleopatra covers fourteen years – from 41BC to 27 BC. As the book begins, the power of Rome is amiably split three ways between Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) who controls Egypt and everything east of Rome, Octavianus (Augustus Caesar) who controls Rome and everything west of Rome, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus who controls Africa. Sextus Pompey is the legal governor of Sicily where most of Rome’s grain is grown, but after he sells all the grain to the highest bidder (outside of Rome) for his own financial gain, Rome is left to starve…. which causes yet another civil war.
And the grand finale – Egypt goes to war against Rome. Mark Antony and Cleopatra try to take over Rome for Cleopatra’s son by Julius Caesar – the 14 year old Caesarion – to become the King of a Roman/Egyptian empire.
And here’s some food for thought. The Caesars all thought they had divine right to rule. Gaius Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar were both supposedly descendants of Romulus who’s mother was a Vestal Virgin impregnated by the God Mars. Much like Jesus – the Caesars were thought to be Gods. And Caesarion not only had the Caesar Roman God ancestry but Cleopatra’s divine heritage as well – holding the coveted title of Pharaoh of Egypt.
If this series had been pure fiction, it would have been discarded as grossly exaggerated, overly dramatic, and too ludicrous to ever be considered as a realistic story. Yet, it was all based on fact! Once again, truth is stranger than fiction. And I wish I could say at the end they all lived happily ever after…. that the end did justify the means, but we all know that didn’t happen. The persistent wars drained Rome of it’s wealth and irreplaceable man power and ultimately contributed significantly to the collapse of the Empire and the onset of the dark ages.
Antony and Cleopatra was the shortest book of the series. Perhaps that is why it seemed to end so quickly – the now familiar names rolling off my tongue, words dissolving in a blur, chapters whirling by, and the pages turning as though riffled by the wind. My only disappointment is that the series did not continue.
I would love to read Colleen McCullough’s interpretation of the birth of Christianity and the demise of the empire. It is with incredible insight that Colleen McCullough could write with such depth. She details so well the historical events that took place over 2000 years ago. Absolutely amazing!
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.