The Grass Crown picks up where The First Man of Rome leaves off… covering the years 97 BC to 86 BC. Life in the Roman Republic at that time features many of the same people as in the first book plus some new-comers… Cicero as a child orator, and Julius Caesar as a precocious child.
When The First Man of Rome ended, Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla had been brother-in-laws, comrades in war, and trusted friends. But that is not to continue in The Grass Crown. In fact, they become each others greatest enemy, vying for power and control of the Senate. While Marius retains the adoration of the masses, Sulla has been awarded the “grass crown”- the highest military award for saving an entire legion or army. They both feel however, that there is room for only one man at the top and both want to be that man.
The story is of more wars, more battles, more death. Right now I think I know everything I ever want to know about commanding an army… the brutality, the blood, the filth and disease, the lust to kill, the lack of remorse, the barbaric custom of decapitation.
And on the home front, loyalty is purchased by arranged marriages, pouches of gold, and bartered promises. It is laughable that each aristocrat thinks his ideals are the correct ones, his ideas better than all others, and most of the Roman nobility will do anything – legal or illegal, moral or immoral – to gain power and fame. The politics are fascinating.
Minorities are seeking equal status. The poor despise the rich. The government is corrupt. The middle class is over taxed. Everyone has a lot of debt. And the government is broke.
Have things really changed in 2000 years?
Knowing this series is based on the true facts, it was painful to read of the chaos that ensued when the politicians failed to reach agreement in a democratic way… generals fighting over who will lead the troops, thugs forcing election results, and the senate getting disbanded. For the first time in history an army marched into Rome putting the city in a state of siege. As The Grass Crown comes to a close, the barbaric activities have a snowball effect… becoming more frequent, more brutal, and more devastating resulting in riots and a massacre of some of the most powerful senators.
For the most part, The Grass Crown was captivating. The only negatives which prevented a 5 star rating were the dry extensive details related to military exploits where the book slogged along on one or two occasions, and the excessive minutia of unnecessary background information. But Wow! Colleen McCullough did an amazing job in writing this series about one of the most extraordinary times in human history.
Rated 4 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.