112 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on 4 November 2003
I have always been a keen reader of historically "based" books and my only slight disappointment is that this book does not so much rely historical fact as "bend" it to fit in with the book's story. But the author - even at his ending historical note - never pretends that this is the "definitive" narrative of one of history's most famous figures .
Never the less, this was a very enjoyable adventure which follows the growing up of two young Roman boys living on the outskirts of a turbulent Rome....from their early lives up until they go their separate ways, one into the political intrigue of the Roman Senate and the other to fight in one of Rome's far flung legions. It would be a good read for anyone who has enjoyed Cornwell's novels, and even for those interested in fantasy and / or non fictional works. The mixes humour with tradgedy, affection with war, and there is enough adventure in there to keep the reader flying through the book.
If you are a person who enjoys a little escapism in their novels, and wants a good book with Sharpesque swash and buckle, then buy this book. If you are looking for pure fact then buy something from the non fiction section. I didn't watch Gladiator for it's historical content and I didn't buy this book for that either!!
And by the way, my whole reading experience was slightly tarnished by one Amazon "reviewer" who decided to give away all the details of the two main characters in the book in his review. This definitely takes the "kick" out of the ending. Please try not to do this!! there are readers out there who want to read the book prior to knowing all the plot twists!!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 April 2015
I think this is Conn Iggulden's first novel and if that's true then it's a reasonable start. As with many series like this, quite a lot of the first book is spent getting the young protagonists to adulthood and although it's not bad, the first half doesn't contribute massively to the plot. It does give us a good (if entirely fictional) background to Gaius and Marcus. The story really begins to take shape when the lads arrive in Rome so it's worth pushing on until the spat between Marius and Sulla really begins to kick off.
Do I care how true to history Mr Iggulden is? No, not really. It's fiction, after all. Do I care that it isn't fantastic writing? Yes, a bit. Iggulden plays fast and loose with narrative point of view. One sentence we're inside Renius' head and the next, we suddenly switch to Marcus' viewpoint and his thoughts which is mostly OK, but sometimes I had to stop and read back to work out who the word 'he' is referring to. The country is referred to as Italy at one point and the term Italian is used at least once too which is something of an anachronism, so too is his use (I think) of the word 'steel'. A bit picky perhaps but I was hoping for better in a book from a big house like Harper Collins.
In anticipation of Igulden's style improving with each successive book, I may read the next in the series one day, but I'm not rushing to buy it tomorrow.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The perfect companion for all Roman history enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
This series will delight you whether you care about the history of Julius Caesar or not! Iggulden writes with a passion, and has a rare ability to draw you in and through a story.
But take care. The author messes a bit with history. In later works in the series he tells you why, but here there are things that you are told that do not stack up.
As a story it works though, and it really works very very well. Forgive the historical inaccuracies (there are not so many of these. The most notable is the way Marcus Brutus and Julius Caesar are made to be the same age, and even grow up in the same home), and enjoy being transported into a believable ancient Roman adventure that will keep you reading to the last page of the last book.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
The Gates of Rome is the first novel in the Emperor series written by the ex-English teacher Conn Iggulden. Unfortunately my first impression was unfavourable, a comparison with the 'blockbuster' movie Gladiator. The cover features a gladiator's helmet and quotes The Times, 'If you liked Gladiator, you'll love Emperor'. However The Gates of Rome is no mere Hollywood distraction like the previously mentioned Gladiator, the recent Troy, and the soon to be released Alexander. Instead it is a true historical epic with fewer gladiators than the cover would have you believe (however for those who look for such things, the occasional gladiator does appear). It is an instant classic with all the depth and passion that you would associate with one.
Emperor: The Gates of Rome is the story of two young boys, Gaius and Marcus, who are destined to become two of the greatest Romans, who are still, even today, house-hold names. Cleverly and well written, the story hides the identities of the two boys until well into the book. The reader is continually drawn into the story with Conn Iggulden's descriptive style evoking the ancient Roman world incredibly well. We are taken from the rural farm of Gaius and Marcus's youth into the opulent Rome with all the excitements of gladiatorial games, political manoeuvrings of the senate and the deadliness of war. We follow the boys on the early steps of their careers, Gaius as a senator and Marcus as a legionary, both hoping to one day to make their impact on the Rome they love so much.
The Gates of Rome is incredibly well written, although this is sometimes achieved at the cost of historical accuracy. However, this is excusable, as all the changes made improve the plot and the passage of the story. In fact, the whole story is so well written that the 600 and so pages are consumed far too quickly, leaving you with only a single consolation; that there are two more books already published and hopefully more on the way.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2009
No, not a Rolf Harris story!
The first book starts with two boys - Julius and Marcus - who grow up together on an estate outside Rome, fighting the local bully, and being trained by the estate manager and former gladiator.
Like Cornwell with his Arthur stories where Lancelot was turned from hero into a cowardly, preening, pompous twit, in this book Marcus (who you later learn is the Brutus from 'Et tu.....?') is changed from the potential coward, preening, pompous twit you might have thought from other stories into a sword swinging hero.
Yes, this book and the others twist the truth. For starters, the age gap between Julius and Brutus was far bigger in real life, but this is fiction based on fact. And it works well. A great start to what is a tremendous quartet.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2010
These books are set during one of the most turbulent and exciting parts of human history - the infamous late Republican period in Rome.
Why, why, WHY does Mr Iggulden think that he can write a better version of events by changing several of the most important historical facts? That's the problem, Conn doesn't completely depart from historical accuracy, it's just a few infuriatingly glaring liberties that make you go "What??" every now and then while reading the series.
It's all designed to portray Julius Caesar as a superman who did everything pretty much single-handedly. Caesar was indeed a great man, but Conn massively cheapens his character by fatuously attributing to him all the ridiculous achievements described in this series.
In between the "What??" moments there is genuinely exciting prose. I read the whole series only moderately painfully, but sheer disbelief at what I was being asked to accept at times meant I nearly put it down. I put a 'Historical Fantasy' tag on the series for the incredible amount of suspending of disbelief you need to do in order to get through it.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 18 April 2007
There really is very little that's good about this series. Perhaps if it was called, say, "Drussus the Roman", and Drussus had a magic battle-axe, it might have been fun and sat well in the heroic fantasy shelves.
But the comedy of Caesar riding around on David Gemmell's "swayback" horses is just daft. And I like David Gemmell.
It's been mentioned in other comments that people complaining about the lack of historical accuracy is terribly pedantic and boring: the sort of stuff that shouldn't get in the way of a good story from people who'd be much happier with Mommsen.
Not true. Iggulden's series is about as close to the facts as a story about the Second World War which featured Peter Pan growing up to be Prime Minister and saving Neverland from the evil Klingons.
The fairy-dust stuff just makes the story unbelievable. And not in a good way.
If you're looking for a good novel about Caesar, read Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. It is so much better on every possible level than this rubbish.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2009
What you need to understand is this series of books are a fictitious story loosely based on facts. As with TV histories for films and dramas facts are adapted to make the story more gripping and readable. If you want a book that is purely facts then don't buy this, buy a textbook written by a historian. These books are excellent if you bear in mind they are not out to get the facts clear and right; instead they are out to produce a good story that is based on the life of one of the most famous Roman Emperors, Gaius Julius Caesar.
The story is good, it is interesting and would satisfy any reader who loves a good story. This book has good descriptions of the people and places of Rome, which help to create a clear picture in your mind of what is going on and what life was like during those times.
on 22 March 2013
I can't quite decide whether this is more a reworking of several combined sword and sandal epics, (themselves a mish-mash of fiction and fact), or simply inspired by them all. But although centring on the young Gaius, there are definite shades of Spartacus, in the main,and bits and pieces here and there of other stories of the time.
However, it is a good read in the end, but, in my opinion, it would have been even better if the book had stuck more to Gaius's life and doings, rather than cut to Marcus' lot after travelling with Renelius to join his legion, those parts are not so good and smell of padding out; if the author thought that Marcus was not far off equal billing and therefore justified his own bits, then, nonetheless, his sections away from Gaius and the others are not good enough.
The tale also briefly suggests that the healer in the crew is getting part of his skills from the great doctor in the sky. This is not developed further; whether it does re-emerge in the sequels I have no idea, but it does not work well in this book, it's just odd.
But, yes, still worth a read and just about worth its 3 stars, but sadly, not enough for me to rush off to the book shop or library to demand the other two books in the series.
on 20 March 2011
Gates of Rome is the first book in Conn Iggulden's Emperor series, I came across this book a couple of years ago, purchased it and never got round to reading it - until now...
If like me there is anybody putting off perhaps delaying reading Gates of Rome then delay no more! What awaits you is an action packed page turner that immerses the reader in the early life of Gaius Julius Caesar. Conn Iggulden has managed to re-create the early life of Julius Caesar by beautifully weaving and capturing the Roman way of life, the traditions, politics and the society all conveyed effortlessly. The story begins with Julius and his friend Marcus (later Brutus) as children who slowly are trained and taught the way of a Roman Soldier/Politician and more importantly Man. The tale is supported with a host of believable characters from Julius's uncle Marius to the sadly fictional character of Renius the battle hardened Gladiator.
What strikes me most about Gates of Rome is the fluidity in which the story flows, at no one time does the story feel erratic. Conn Iggulden has created a real work of genius that leaves the reader wanting more, luckily there's another three books in the series after this!