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Roma Eterna

Roma Eterna [Kindle Edition]

Robert Silverberg
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

The Roman Empire never fell. Riven by political ambition and internal dissent, thrown into turmoil by rebellion and civil war, it changed and adapted, and somehow it survived. The balance of power between Constantinopolis in the east and Roma in the west ebbed and flowed, but the Empire endured. And it continued to expand, encountering the New World while still dominating the old.
Robert Silverberg's superbly accomplished and ambitious novel explores over fifteen hundred years of Roman history through the very human stories of some of those who lived it. The young soldier encountering the exoticism of the New World for the first time; the minor official exiled to Arabia, for some misdemeanour, whose meeting with a religious fanatic may have changed the course of history; the military hero seizing his destiny; the innocent British aristocrat witnessing at first hand the bloody destruction of the royal family, and the children who find the last emperor in a decaying house in an old wood are all vividly and memorably portrayed.

About the Author

Robert Silverberg was born in 1935 and began to write while studying for his BA at Columbia University. He is one of the most prolific of all sf writers. Among his many fine novels are Dying Inside, Downward To Earth, The World Inside and Shadrach in the Furnace.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 629 KB
  • Print Length: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Gateway (30 Sep 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00F50E358
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,175 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down. 27 Aug 2004
This isn't so much a novel as a collection of short stories, each one worth reading in its own right.
As an alternative history it is based upon one imagined change in world history: if the Hebrews had never escaped from Egypt then Christianity would never have risen in Palestine and changed the way people think about the world, their place in it, and morality. The hypothesis seems to be that without the Christian principles of charity and social justice, the Roman Empire would never have fallen.
Credible? I don't think so, but in this book that doesn't seem to matter. There are oversights and assumptions - anyone who has studied Roman history will be disappointed by them, but they really shouldn't be. This is a very enjoyable read.
The pictures of Roman Europe (and beyond) you get from reading these stories are vivid and imaginative, but you aren't asked to stretch your imagination too far; it seems to work. It makes sense. You can believe it would have been possible. That's what makes this such an enjoyable book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Less than the sum of its parts 6 Jan 2014
By Archy
As mentioned elsewhere, this is not a novel but a series of loosely linked pieces based on a single premise: suppose the Roman Empire continued for two thousand years? Most of the pieces are highly readable and enjoyable, though one or two read more like synopses for future novels. The problem is that it all gets a bit repetitive. Robert Silverberg sets the scene with great skill, introduces his characters - and then whoosh, the plot's wrapped up and we move on a few hundred years. This is frustrating, since the reader rarely finds out what happened to the characters in the previous piece (occasionally this is told in a casual mention) and once again finds the book setting a scene for a fresh story. Because of this it's best read a chunk at a time, with something else to read in between. Certainly someone reading it all through would be in for a rather stodgy read.

That criticism aside, it gets four stars because of the ambition of its scope, and some very enjoyable individual pieces. But a great novel it's not. An appendix with a timeline showing the list of 'imaginary' Emperors would have been helpful too!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars complex, clever alternate history 21 Mar 2009
By Sarah A. Brown VINE VOICE
As I am equally interested in alternate histories and novels about Rome it's perhaps not surprising that I enjoyed `Roma Eterna' very much indeed. It is predicated on the assumption that Moses never managed to cross the Red Sea, that Christianity was never established, and that the Roman Empire never fell. The short stories are rather loosely connected yet I still felt (unlike some other reviewers) that `Roma Eterna' worked as a novel as well as a linked story collection.

Part of the pleasure of alternate histories is spotting events which are similar - yet strangely different - to things which have happened on our own world. This novel offers further patterns and puzzles for the reader to decode for the stories intersect, not just with `real' history, but with other works of literature. This is most clearly apparent in the very first story. The relationship between irresponsible young prince Maximilianus and his debauched older friend Faustus is full of echoes of Shakespeare's `Henry IV' plays - and this pattern of allusion offers clues as to how the story will end.

Other connections are more teasing and uncertain. One of my favourite chapters told the story of young Cymbelin, a native of the Roman colony of Britannia. The account of his first trip to Rome as an innocent abroad seemed at one point to work as a kind of reverse imitation of `Passage to India' with the Briton playing the role of Indian Aziz, but then started hinting at links with `Cabaret' as Cymbelin becomes increasingly bewildered by the sexual and political machinations of his sophisticated new Roman friends.
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3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Neat idea poorly performed 4 Jan 2004
By A Customer
A neat idea about how history may have developed if Moses hadn't led the Israelites to freedom and the Roman Empire had never fallen. Chapters are tenously linked through convoluted ancestral relationships. The last chapter has a nice twist centreing on the 2nd Exodus.
However the writing was overly stodgy and repetitive leading to this being a very dreary book that was hard to read willingly.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It Doesn't Get Much Worse Than This.... 18 July 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Three characteristics recommended this book to me: 1) I am a fan of Roman history 2) I love SF short stories 3) Robert Silverberg is one of my favorite authors. With this combination, I figured I couldn't go wrong and bought this book on a whim without looking at Amazon's ratings, which I have come to rely on increasingly. I'll detail why all 3 of these characteristics failed this book and forced me to rate it 1 star, the lowest rating I have ever given a book. Normally, I don't finish books that bad but my mistake was to take too few books with me on my 3 week vacation (which was a Danube river cruise followed by a week in Constantinople/Istanbul since my hobby is visiting all the current countries that made up the Roman Empire at it's greatest extent). Therefore, I didn't have enough books to read and, once I finished everything else, I had to read this book or nothing during my cruise.

1) I expected Silverberg to be more knowledgeable about Roman history. Reading this book, my illusion disappeared quickly but as I plowed through this incessant book, I expected that he would delve further into Roman history than tossing off a few place names and the barest outlines of the empire's history. Ostensibly, Silverberg visited a few well-known Roman sites like Tivoli and Capri since he constantly refers to them but the problem with that is he, well, constantly refers to them.

2) The SF extrapolations and even simple plot elements are virtually non-existent. These "stories" are more vignettes with the last few pages wrapping up what plot elements there are.

3) Silverberg's writing is well-crafted but his characterization is thin and his plots, as I mentioned above, don't exist.

If you like Silverberg, I strongly recommend avoiding this book and buying some of his excellent work such as Nightwings, Dying Inside, At Winter's End, Kingdoms of the Wall, etc. If you like Roman History, read Tacitus, Suetonius, and even Procopius. If you like Alternate History about the Roman Empire, read Harry Turtledove's Krispos Trilogy, Videssos series, or Agent of Byzantium. Turtledove is a professor of Byzantine/Roman history and a master of alternative history. His worst efforts look good next to this mess.
41 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bold idea, disappointingly executed. 9 Jun 2003
By David Rasquinha - Published on
Roma Eterna is an ambitious attempt at alternate history and the base assumption is audacious indeed. What, asks Silverberg, if the Roman Empire had never really collapsed but instead endured and prospered? Silverberg proceeds to answer this question by highlighting a series of 10 historical moments in such an alternative history that could mark key turning points in such an Empire. The vignettes themselves are often absorbing and Silverberg mixes in just enough actual history to make the venture worthwhile. Human nature, one sees, remains the same irrespective of ruler or system of government. The Empire parallels with real history like the bloody purges of Robespierre and the colonial voyages that subjugated (often brutally) the Orient and the New World. For all its ponderous bureaucratic inertia and the sheer logistic barriers, the Empire is pervasive and powerful enough to crush any attempt at true democracy - brief flickers of a "Republic" which is more an oligarchy or merchant aristocracy are as far as we go. In the end, a band of Hebrews seeks to escape to another plant as the only alternative to Rome's crushing embrace.
Bold as this attempt at alternative history is, Silverberg strangely falters thereafter. His examination of the circumstances in each of the 10 events is disappointingly shallow and the ending in particular seems highly contrived. A map of the world using the Roman names for various countries and a parallel timeline linking the Roman dates with the AD calendar would have made things easier for the reader as well. Having read several of Silverberg's masterpieces. I expected better from him. I started reading this book as if sitting down to a delicious meal; by the end, it was as if the food had been but an illusion and my hunger remained unappeased.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good solid Silverberg... 25 Aug 2004
By Addison Phillips - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have to admit to a soft spot in my heart for anything by Robert Silverberg, since he's written some of the books that most moved me over the years. From Thorns to Shaderach in the Furnace to Up the Line, he has written an amazing number of classic novels and shorter fare. Despite the fact that he's written many pure SF novels, he also has a fondness and penchant for writing about the ancient world.

Here we get a set of short stories (which is not clear from the cover: bad publisher, no biscuit!) which display the unique tone and amazing attention to detail that characterizes much of his work. The quality is a bit uneven, with some of the stories being somewhat unreadable, but the majority of them are quite good and one or two are very good indeed.

For example, the first story after the front matter ("With Caesar in the Underworld") bears the plot of Shakespeare's Henry IV plays, with a lead character of Faustus ("Falstaff"), set in the wonderfully decadent ancient Rome of this alternate history. There are little sparkly details throughout that make the story bump along, teasing you with both the puzzles that form the alternate history bits and the tidbits of fun (parallels with the lifted Shakespeare plot, for example). It... tickles.

Other reviewers have complained that Silverberg doesn't dive as deeply into the history part, that the stories are all little "what if..." one-trick ponies. But I think those reviewers are missing the fact that in virtually all of these character driven stories, there is at least one other "angle" that Silverberg is playing with. Once I recognized what he was doing, it was a lot of fun to both read the stories as straight AH yarns and also be watching for the sly games.

This isn't the Silverberg of the great early 70's novels. Nor does it quite match his lovely time-travel novel "Up the Line" (if you've not read that, get it with this). It's just that no one except possibly Gene Wolfe quite matches his style and careful, multi-layered craftsmanship. I enjoyed this collection (despite, as noted, some warts) and, if you like alternate history, you probably will too.
22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What It Would Have Taken For Rome To Not Fall... 27 Jun 2003
By Carl Malmstrom - Published on
Robert Silverberg's "Roma Eterna" is actually a collection of short stories he wrote between 1989 and 2003 detailing a Roman Empire that never fell. While each story is a stand-alone tale within the alternate history of the world, taken together, they read much like another recent alternate history that details a radically different history of Euroe and Asia: Kim Stanley Robinson's "Years of Rice and Salt".
It becomes apparent very early in the book that Silverberg envisions not merely one but a chain of events as being necessary for Rome to not fall: a failed Jewish Exodus, Christianity never arising, a strong Emperor heading off the Third Century crisis, a definitive destruction of the Northern barbarians and Persia and an assassination of Mohammed before he could spread the word of Allah. In the context of world history we as we know it, the chain is a pretty fragile one, but it does make for an interesting exercise in history - much like the entire book. Some of his ideas have a very real ring of possibility to them: a Rome squandering the military might of a generation on an unsuccessful attempt at invading the Americas, Eastern and Western Empires that eventually fall on each other in a series of Civil Wars, a Rome grown fat and decadent on trade throughout the world that breeds emperors even more insane and bizarre than those known historically. However, for each of these interesting and realistic twists, he allows himself more than a few historical parallels: the World Wars, Leonardo da Vinci, the French Revolution - and his modern Rome (of 1970) bears a great deal of resemblance to a modern Europe under a traditional Roman hegemony.
In all, though, I really liked this book, although I suspect it's not for everyone. In fact, I would direct scholars or fans of Roman and Byzantine history towards it before I would the average sci-fi/fantasy/alternate history fan. He knows his Roman history well, and he's not afraid to make obscure use of it. Sometimes this makes for neat touches (like having the Eastern Empire fall to the West in 1453, the year the Eastern Empire in actuality fell to the Ottomans), and sometimes it just makes for a lot of names and dates. The book is basically one great conceit to the 'what if' bundled inside an extensive history. If that's your sort of thing (and it certainly is mine), you'll love it. Otherwise, you may find youself rapidly bored or confused.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Short stories that should have stayed that way 7 Sep 2004
By Ashley Megan - Published on
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A collection of short stories that, alas, should probably have stayed short stories. Grouped together like this, the niggling little problems with each one amass into one or two huge glaring headaches.

The premise of this book, of course, is that the Roman Empire never fell. Unlike most alternative history, this involves not just one point of departure, but a series of highly improbable occurrences that would allow the Empire - indeed, any empire - to last over 2500 years. If you can swallow that premise, you shouldn't have much trouble with any of the other stories in this book, give or take a few historical howlers.

The stories are interesting historical fiction, but not until the end do they become good alternate history. 90% of the book could conceivably have taken place during the actual time of the Roman Empire, and didn't need to be set in the 14th or 19th centuries at all.

The stories are told from an interesting perspective, all of them narrated by someone close to the Imperial throne but usually lacking any real power or influence. Unfortunately, there is no continuity in the characters from one chapter to the next. Kim Stanley Robinson achieved this masterfully in "The Years of Rice and Salt"; given the many comparisons to his book I wish Silverburg could have done the same. With no main character to root for, the chapters remain a set of disjointed short stories - enjoyable in and of themselves, but I wish a bit more work had gone into turning them into a full-length novel.
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