Customer Review

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The end at last!, 24 Oct. 2003
This review is from: The October Horse (Masters of Rome) (Paperback)
So, here it is. Must be nearly 10 years since I read 'The First Man in Rome' and so started on Colleen McCullough's 'Masters of Rome' series. Now, at last, the whole lot can be viewed as one.

This one follows right after the last, there's no annoying 5 year gap like there was between 'Caesar's Women' and 'Caesar' If you know anything about history (or even if you don't) you probably know a lot about what's going to happen. This book takes up the rest of the Civil War and - surprisingly - goes on past Caesar's famous assassination and onto the end of the second civil war with the battle of Phillipi, with Octavian/Augustus taking his first steps along the road that would make him the first emperor. I suppose McCullough had to add a postscript, she couldn't just end with the death of Caesar - after all, she began it before the birth of Caesar.

So what to say? Well, it's a worthy climax. The book is as good as any of its predecessors and also shares its faults. The main one, and this has been inherent throughout the series, is McCullough's hero-worship of Caesar (which seems to rub off onto Augustus by association) Caesar can do no wrong, in this book, hence Marcus Antonius' atrocities committed in Rome were all down to him, not Caesar. So she makes Antonius a deadly enemy of Caesar, a little strange considering how much power and responsibility Caesar entrusted him with. Not that I'm doubting that there was friction and rivalry between the two but I think she exaggerates in order to whitewash Caesar. And, likewise, she never gives any serious consideration to the idea that Caesar wanted to be emperor, even after the Civil War is over and Caesar is emperor in all but name, she has him going on about how he'd been forced to do this and how he'd have preferred to have just become one of the 'Grand Old Men' of the Senate but his enemies FORCED him to march on Rome and seize more power than any man in the world had known up until then. Poor guy! The incidents in which Caesar acted as though he'd like to be an emperor are all dismissed by McCullough as machinations of Marcus Antonius or (in one case) Caesar's health problems (she does something similar with Augustus, giving him asthma to explain why he ran away at the battle of Phillipi. She says she's as likely to be right as wrong seeing as ancient sources didn't know too much about health, but I think someone would have mentioned Augustus having asthma.)

And, as in its predecessor, you have the revolting spectacle of McCullough 'justifying' Caesar's atrocities in Spain, in terms of Realpolitik again. I am aware that people had different values 2,000 years ago, but a massacre is a massacre and even Thucydides could see that, 2,300 years ago. McCullough's 'justifications of this are as convincing as Slobodan Milosovich's or Ariel Sharon's and just as repellent.

That aside, though, this is a good end to the series. And the series as a whole is worth reading.
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