I rarely give up on a book, but for this one I could never muster more than marginal enthusiasm. I’ve been watching Rome on Amazon Prime, and contemplating Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul, so a novel about the formation of young Caesar seemed like a perfect fit. Unfortunately, this has much historical grounding in Rome as Star Trek‘s “Bread and Circuses”. Perhaps a better Trek allusion would be to “Spectre of the Gun”: Rome is the idea in the background, not the reality. Caesar is unrecognizable in the young boy Gaius, and his future assassin Brutus is even more implausibly depicted as an orphan raised by the Julian clan as a psuedo-brother to Caesar. That would make the assassination more poignant, but only if one could care about the plot enough to get that far into the series. After losing his father in a slave revolt, young Gaius arrives in Rome to find it torn between two men, Marius and Sulla, and in this age political debates involve armed gangs and mass arson. But between the YA-esque writing and the lack of real historical substance, I stopped caring. With a cry of “Speak, hands, for me!”, I closed the book halfway through.
I’ve also stopped watching Rome halfway into season 2 because it’s utterly depressing. The majority of the characters are horrible people, and even the few who are are not depraved are not admirable. The straw that broke the camel’s back, for me, was when a servant decided to induce an abortion in her mistress by slipping something into her tea, to get revenge. I can take people being stabbed easily enough, but that sort of inhumane calculation is another monster altogether. I only continued watching Downton Abbey because a maid who did something very similar was immediately sacked. I could never have watched that show if she continued to be a presence on it.