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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 1 February 2009
This novel started well with some interesting characters struggling to overcome cliches, and has some excellent set pieces. But the plot, once it got going, was so daft it spoiled any escapist enjoyment. Are we supposed to understand a slave who has hardly ever weilded a sword but after a couple of lessons, slides of his elephant runs back to his solitary mate and holds of a mass of soldiers attacking the emperor, this is childish fantasy. The author really ought to read about the reality of life for roman slaves before he makes one the centre of his novel.
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on 17 April 2016
The cover is extremely misleading as another reviewer has pointed out. The characterization is not strong enough to really grip the reader. I felt the prolonged passages about the elephant belonged in a children's book. Disappointing.
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on 17 February 2009
I picked up this book just on the off chance found myself gripped quite quickly a good read some good characters over all highly enjoyable
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CALIGULA Douglas Jackson 2008

The pivotal characters are Rufus a slave with a natural talent for training animals for the arena who is purchased from his master by the Emperor Caligula as keeper for the Imperial Elephant and his friend Cupido a famous gladiator. Through the eyes of the slave the reader is drawn into the decadent and corrupt world of the imperial court and the reign of the mad and brutal emperor. The story follows the lives of slave, gladiator and emperor from Caligula's ascension to the imperial purple to his death.

The story moves along at a good pace, the background appears well researched and the fictitious elements blend into the historical setting well. I found this novel, absorbing, easy to read with believable and sympathetic characters and was eager to move straight onto the sequel the next day.

This was Mr Jackson's debut novel and is one of a pair of stories featuring Rufus, the imperial elephant keeper, (the sequel being Claudius - published in 2009).
I actually had both books on my shelf for nearly two years before getting around to reading them as I was somewhat dubious about the idea of the ` imperial elephant keeper'. In fact, by the time I had half completed Caligula Mr Jackson had managed to convince me that this was a perfect fitting piece of the jigsaw.

An enjoyable read with very few glaring errors, a good blend of fiction and history.
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on 11 January 2009
Why this book was titled Caligula is not so much a mystery as a marketing ploy. Caligula is a relatively minor player in this book & the main subject characters are Rufus a slave & animal trainer & his offsider Cupido a gladiator. This book sheds nothing on the life of Caligua & I regard it as superficial & a light read much on a par with Hawk by George Green. Better off by far to get The Way of the Gladiator by Daniel P. Mannix
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on 14 March 2009
... why wasn't I recommended this book by Amazon ... considering what I've been buying through years?
Well ... the writer won't win the Nobel-prize ... but it's ABSOLUTELY so close to Roman history. I felt that I WAS there ...
Well ... it's not like Conn Iggulden ... BUT I couldn't stop reading when I'd started ... cost me a night's sleep.
I'm not a historian ... but I do believe I have a fair knowledge about Roman history ... and this novel definetely hit 'truth'.
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on 14 April 2013
Not bad for the first of a trilogy (though only two novels, due to publisher's wish to use third outline as a first novel in a new series. Hey, the late,great Douglas Adams wrote a trilogy consisting of five books.) The author has taken a few liberties with the accepted version of Caligula's death, perhaps because it and Claudius' succession is widely known,so most readers will know the outcome.
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on 29 July 2014
Absolutely brilliant. I read a lot of Historical 'Faction'. I really like Authors such as Bernard Cornwell & Conn Iggulden. There are a lot of writers that try to emulate these authors but Douglas Jackson certainly comes very very near. I am already reading Claudius which is the follow up to Caligula and this is just as good.
I would highly recommending reading Douglas's books if yo like this sort of writing. I would give it more than 5 Stars if I could.
Bill **********
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Set against the magnificent backdrop of ancient Rome, this story focuses mainly on Rufus, a young slave, who, as the keeper of Caligula's Imperial elephant, becomes embroiled in the machinations of the Emperor's court. Bringing together the sights, sounds and smells of ancient Rome, the decadence and depravity of Caligula's rule is expertly described, and whilst the underlying brutality is never far from the surface, the book is never just gratuitously violent. However, Caligula is at times a very dark story; the spectacle of violent death is never far away, with scenes of animal and human cruelty which some readers may find distressing, yet, all are perfectly placed within the historical perspective, and the context of the story.
It's not easy to portray Caligula as a person with feelings and sensitivities, but the author has done meticulous research, and it shows in the quality of the writing and in the fine attention to detail. The complexity of Caligula's deviant personality permeates throughout the story, and yet, with some of the other characters, there are genuine moments of tenderness, a sense of friendship pervades, and despite the violence, love and life carry on.
On a personal level, I found the story to be a gripping and exciting read, without being overly complicated with too much historical detail. Teeming with intrigue, the pace is fast and furious, with an underlying sense of menace that continues until its powerful conclusion. Caligula is the first book in a proposed trilogy; I hope the next two books will be equally as compelling.
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on 15 August 2011
Our first meeting of Gaius in the prologue highlights the sadism prevalent in his character - even as a child. It's times like this I wish I wasn't so visual when reading!

The first part tells us the story of how Rufus moves from being a slave to the baker to be the slave of animal keeper Cornelius Aurius Fronto. We learn of the trust Fronto has in Rufus and how the dwindling of livestock for the arena prompts Rufus' idea of how the animals can be used differently. It is the success of this that leads to Rufus being recognised and later being taken by Gaius to work with his elephant. We come to understand Fronto and Rufus' father/son relationship. In the arena, we meet gladiator Cupido who is central to the plot.

I have to admit that the extreme feelings associated with the arena had me gripped. You can imagine how it is waiting to go and fight, hearing the other deaths before it's your turn to please the Emperor in the arena! When Rufus does his first and only display with the animals, the author writes in such a way that you also feel the numbness and fear that Rufus is feeling.

Emperor Tiberius dies and so the reign of death, destruction and torture begins with Gaius as Emperor. Through Rufus, we become involved in court intrigue, scandal and the plotting of the different factions. In some places, the violence is graphic but I have to admit gripping! There is loss and heartache. Surprisingly, there is also love ............. love between a man and a woman but also love between friends.

I enjoyed walking the narrow streets of Rome again, browsing through the different wares the booths were selling and seeing the great architecture. I didn't enjoy the smell of blood or decomposing bodies quite so much ........... but they're such an integral part of Caligula that it's all part of the adventure!

There is a lot of historical fact included in Caligula. It follows quite closely to what we know from historical records.

At no point while reading was I bored. In fact I was so caught up in this journey that I was loathe to put the book down. Caligula has taken me on a trip to the past and involved me in lives that became real to me. It has made me confront the dark shadows that are inherent in all of us. I hesitantly turned the pages towards the end (even though I wanted to know what would happen!) because I just didn't want it to end.

Buy it but be loathe to share your copy - it's a keeper!
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