Gates of Rome

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.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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6 Responses to Gates of Rome

  1. Mudpuddle says:

    i'm glad to miss stuff like this… tx… in general i'm wary of historical fiction: unless one knows a lot about the era, it's easy to be misled and erroneous info gets into the little grey cells… as in the previous post, i recommend Gibbon…

  2. CyberKitten says:

    I LOVE historical fiction – particularly anything my Phillipa Gregory or Alison Weir who both *really* know their stuff. Obviously it has to be remembered that they're writing fiction and what they're saying needs to be taken with a pinch of salt but both authors know enough about their chosen time periods to base everything they do on actual history.

  3. Stephen says:

    @Mudpuddle: Volume one of his work is on my Classics list, and I have read the first few chapters. I need some lighter fare before I dive into another monster, though.@Cyberkitten: I've only read one Gregory novel, but I know she has a good reputation. Have you read any of Colleen McCullough's books? She has a Caesar novel — “First Man in Rome” — that's near a thousand pages. Perhaps when I'm further down my Classics Club list..

  4. CyberKitten says:

    I had to look Colleen McCullough up. I'm afraid that I'd never heard of her – and (obviously) never read anything by her! I have LOTS of books – both fiction and non-fiction – on Rome. I guess I really need to read some more of them…. [grin]

  5. Brian Joseph says:

    What was unrealistic about TOS episode Bread and Circuses? LOL – Just kidding. Some of these historical novels sound so bad. I have never watched Rome but I thought that it looked good. It looked like a lot of horrible things happened in it though. Based upon your description it would probably be too dark for me.

  6. Stephen says:

    @Brian: There's lots of death, including several scenes with severed heads. The plot inflicts a lot of sorrow and horror on its two main characters..for instance, one man is told that his wife betrayed him, and he's so taken by grief and anger that his wife jumps out the window,thinking he's going to kill her. His children find him over the body and run away, and then Caesar is assassinated. He's told by a man he angered that the man abducted and raped his children, then threw them in the river. LATER, the main character finds out his children were just sold into slavery — but when he rescues him, they hate and fear him for killing their mother. That's the plight of ONE character. I had to binge on feel-good ST Voyager to recover from the misery.

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