I'm tacking this review onto all of the books in McCullough's Masters of Rome series:
I'm interested, in a layman's way, in the history of Rome, so this entire series (books listed below) was riveting for me.
Masters of Rome series:
1. The First Man in Rome (1990) - The narrative begins in 110 B.C. with the story of Gaius Marius.
2. The Grass Crown (1991)
3. Fortune's Favourites (1993)
4. Caesar's Women (1995)
5. Caesar (1999)
6. The October Horse (2002) - Originally intended to be the final book of the series, the narrative carries us through Julius Caesar's death on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., and ends after The Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian (Caesar's great-nephew, and adopted son) and the forces of the tyrannicides Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus.
7. Antony and Cleopatra (2007) - Somehow McCullough was persuaded to add one more book to the series, tying up loose ends, perhaps? Or maybe it was just hard for her to imagine life without The Masters of Rome? I had secretly hoped she'd carry on further into the reign of Augustus.
Julius Caesar appears in each of the first six books. If you're interested in popularized Roman history, this is a treasure. The writing is good, if not quite up to the standard of Robert Graves two volume set "I, Claudius," and "Claudius the God," or Robert Harris' Cicero trilogy. If you have read and enjoyed any of these, however, you MUST read them all - in chronological order, of course. It is particularly interesting that McCullough seems more or less in the Caesar-worshipping camp. He was a prodigy; he was too good at too many things, which in the end had a lot to do with his downfall. But what a magnificent creature he was!
However, Cicero was Caesar's mortal enemy, and Robert Harris' books tell much of the same story as we find in McCullough - from a diametrically opposed point of view.
Be forewarned, these books are packed with lengthy Roman names, so will in some ways read like Russian novels. Hard to keep track of the cast of characters without a program, which the author naturally provides, along with detailed hand-drawn maps, and her own line-drawing fanciful portraits of the principle characters. Not very good drawings, but somehow rather endearing. She was quite a character herself.
P.S. It gets easier to keep the characters straight on the third and fourth readings. Yes, the books are that good ………
I found the same kinds of incongruence in "Fortune's Favorites" that I found in the prior books. First, the liberties she takes with a few historical facts--OK, I can take it, because she writes well enough. But some things she wrote had me biting my lip! But what bothers me much more is her lack of respect for her readers. Since the first book her sense of superiority is made clear. Her arrogance in the "Author's Afterword" is nevertheless shocking: "I have neither the room nor the inclination to argue here why I have chosen to portray Spartacus in the way I have; scholars will be able to see the why--and the who--of my argument in text." In other words, we, who are the bulk of her readership (how much time do these "scholars" have to be able to read novels?!) are too ignorant and uninformed to be given a decent explanation for her historical interpretation of Spartacus! Courtesy is a word Mrs. McCullough never researched, indeed! (And she should stick to writing: her drawings are, to say the least, pathetic!)
This third volume of McCullough's 'Masters of Rome' series concerns Lucius Cornelius Sulla's rise to Dictator of Rome and his eventual retirement, as well as the budding careers of both Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar. I enjoyed this work more than the second book, but not quite as much as the first. I have to keep reminding myself that it's fiction, because the minute details seem very real.
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