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on 11 January 2013
First of all, I will agree with many reviewers that this book is not really a novel. It is a collection of stories, joined by an amulet passed down the line of a family, telling the story of the first 800 years or so of Rome. Having got that out of the way, I have nothing but praise for it.
All early history contains a strong element of myth and legend; just think of our own history, and this is obvious. What the author has done is take the myths and legends that the Romans had - at least, those that have survived and been passed down to us - and add his own fictional story on top of them.
Some parts are stronger than others, but it is easy to see which are the 'old' parts and which are the additions of the author, but they blend very well in most cases.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and have a better understanding of early Roman history, plus a desire to learn more, which I hope the author would see as a success!
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VINE VOICEon 27 March 2008
I love Steven Saylor's Roman mysteries, but the fictional characters in this were not as well drawn or sympathetic, with a couple of exceptions like the Vestal Pinaria during the sack of Rome by the Gauls in 393 BC. I also love sweeping historical epics covering vast swathes of time a la Rutherfurd or Michener, but this lacked the depth of those. So to some extent this was a bit disappointing, especially when plot and action were sacrificed for lengthy expositions by older characters explaining the events of the past decades or centuries to younger characters. But much of it was still a good read with some memorable setpieces such as the aforementioned sack of Rome (for me, the best section of the whole novel), the massacre of the supporters of Gaius Gracchus and the assassination of Julius Caesar. The book stimulates wider non-fiction reading about Roman history and is a worthy book for this reason, though probably more likely to appeal to the reader who already has some interest in this area, rather than the general reader who might pick up one of the author's mysteries.
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on 24 September 2012
This is a very interesting book on ancient Roma. It charts the development of the city from the Bronze age up to about 5 BC.
As others have said the novel in parts are more of a collection of short stories rather than a continuous novel.

The book takes a while to get going, at over 650 pages, some parts are particularly slow. It's not until after about 150 pages or so that you start to form the typical vision of ancient Roma. The first 150 pages are about life in and around the hamlets that later form Rome.

This book goes into great detail about the power struggle for Rome and surprisingly little about the Roman Empire, apart from the invasion of Gaul and Cartagena, very little is mentioned.
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on 22 May 2017
great for life in the Roman age
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on 23 July 2017
love it
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on 24 July 2017
Excellent , Saylor is the King of Ancient Rome.
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on 29 May 2007
The front of the cover reads "An Epic Novel" - but is it really a novel?

Personaly I would call it a collection of short stories - allthough the stories are linked together, primarily by an amulet which is passed down from generation to generation.

Also, many of the stories span several years - divided into small chapters, or sections, each titled by a year in which the action takes plcase.

All in all, this could be quite a fragmentary read - but it is not!!

Steven Saylor is a fantastic story steller - also in short stories. The stories are told in his ususal style: good settings, lots of intresting details - but always with a clear focus on the cahracters and the story.

Granted, the setting of the first stories is so far from our usual image of ancient Rome (and the time of the Roma Sub Rosa series) that some may be dissapointed, while others (like me) will find it facinating to get a glimpse of the early years Rome.

And connectiing these 500 years of history gives the book a true epic feeling - novel or not!
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Steven Saylor's fascination with Ancient Rome began in childhood. A history graduate and former newspaper and magazine editor, he lives in Berkeley, California and has a huge number of fans of the Sub Rosa series he has written featuring Gordianus the Finder.

For avid readers of Saylor's books, this one will be well worth waiting for, although those who are expecting it to be another Gordianus the Finder mystery novel may be a little disappointed as the author has discarded with the Finder's services for this volume.

In Steven`s own words he says "This book marks a departure from my Roma Sub Rosa series. I wanted to try my hand at a truly epic novel, and to explore the remarkable ten centuries that came before the time of Gladiator, HBO's Rome, and my own books. This is the story of how the Romans created the greatest city on earth -- the story of how Rome became Rome.

The book takes in a thousand years, and follows the changes in fortune of two families through the ages. This is a beautifully written book about the city of Rome and its people. It reminds me very much of Sarum by Edward Rutherford, one of my all time favourite novels. Roma brings to life the first thousand years of a city that is arguably the most famous in all of history. From its founding by the twins Romulus and Remus through to the city becoming the focal point of the most powerful empire of all time. Everything is there, the book recounts the capture of the city by the Gauls, the invasion of Hannibal. Bitter struggles between patricians and plebeians. The strength and weaknesses of the senate and the ultimate demise of Rome's republic with the assassination of Julius Caesar.
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on 13 August 2007
Steven Saylor has used the genre of historical fiction to produce a fascinating and informative account of the first thousand years of the history of Rome. It begins with the salt traders who first camped by the Tiber and concludes with Octavian taking power and ending the Republic.

It is in effect a series of short stories linked buy lineage and a religious amulet and this structure works remarkably well. I've noticed one or two fans of the sub Roma series criticising the quality of plotting and characterization; I couldn't disagree more and, considering that the genre is the short story format, I found the characters well drawn and easy to identify with. This is a different type of historical novel from the Gordianus mysteries but equally rewarding.

Saylor is a wonderfully fluent narrative writer who deserves greater recognition. There is no one that I know of who can recreate the past with such intense, gritty clarity and he has succeeded here again.

I do have a couple of minor reservations:
1. I am interested by the brutalisation of the people of the Roman State. There are references to public games and chariot racing but I would have appreciated a section on how the State and its people moved from that situation to one where it was sport to watch men kill each other. And how did this progression relate to the politics and social situation of the day?
2. Rome created a military machine (the legionary army) which in the end defeated all other opposition but how did this machine come about? Who moved the Roman military system away from the Greek/Etruscan hoplite model to the legionary one? What was the process of evolution? I would have appreciated some references along the way because Rome was after all a military state first and foremost.

But these are minor gripes in the overall scheme of this book. This is an excellent read.
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on 31 May 2008
I too have enjoyed this author's Roman Sub Rosa series with Gordianus--surely one of the most likeable heroes in detective fiction. So I approached this book with great anticipation, but like a number of others I enjoyed it --but wasn't really bowled over. It is the old problem of 'didactic' fiction --using fictional form to teach history. It is very difficult to do well, and I think Saylor has not done all that well. Parts are grippping, and pull the reader in, other parts get tangled up with the real history. However, it did give me a strong impression of how just how awful the Romans were--cruel, licentious, bullies, merciless,treacherous, the list goes on. I think Saylor, who is a really distinguished Roman scholar, give him his due, set out to write "the ultimate novel about Rome". He failed, but I give him a rosette for trying.
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