7 Days 7 Books - Book 7 - Caesar

The last book took a lot of time to decide - since there were so many. I decided to keep it light and racy fiction for the last but so many of my other favorite genres get left out. But Historical fiction is what I like most, it would seem by the choice of this book.
The the 'Masters of Rome' series by Colleen McCullough would be rated a great series of novels about an explosive period of history - well written, researched and fantastic to read about. It is impossible not to finish the book once you start it.

As with every other book in the series, I picked the first of this series 'First Man in Rome' at the airport book stall at Omaha in April 1999. I've no idea why I did that. I am more or less a snob when it comes to literature vs the novels written for consumption. The higher levels of reading pleasure associated with literature cannot be obtained by the common novels intent on giving one a high for the moment. So, it must've been some secret pleasure of doing the forbidden that would've made me pick up the first book.

And I am glad that I did. The books chronicle the most intersting period in Rome's history - the decline of the republic and the rise of the monarchy. While the initial series was planned to be 5 books, she wrote 2 more at the end to complete the story.

The story starts from the rise of Gaius Marius in Rome's hierarchy of equals and ends with the rise of Octavian as Caesar - the ending of the republic and the start of the reign of Augustus as emperor. The history of this period, read as is, makes for fascinating read. The fictional narrative - with not much of fiction in it - is made interesting by the discussions that go on between the characters.

The strength of the series is the characters that walk around the story. Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Caesar, Servilia, Cicero, Cato, The Gracchi brothers, Aurelia, Octavian, Antony - and countless others who all lived and left a lot of literature for us to understand their thinking and philosophies. McCullough makes sure to peruse all of that and use their own quotes as much as possible and whizzes through the story like a whirlwind.

While it is interesting to read, the amount of confusion and wars that happened during this period of about 100 years - not to mention the civil strife, the scandals and in between all this, the lives of all the ordinary people and the egos of their leaders, makes one think of the nominally peaceful times that we are in. It is only with the advent of Octavian as Augustus that peace comes to the Roman empire. But only because Octavian ensures that there is no enemy left to breach the peace.

But the hero of the story is the other Caesar - Julius Caesar. Starting his life as a nephew of Marius, he raises slowly through the complicated Roman system of magistracy and elections and reaches his goal of becoming the First man in Rome - in the likes of Marius and Sulla. The first 5 books traverse this journey - from his life with his mother Aurelia to his death at the Senate. His various exploits, travels and the many loves of his life (mostly wives of other senators, earning his their enmity!).

The books are well-written, racy and if there is a slightest interest in history, it is hard not to love this series.

Although I just wrote about the 7 books - but choosing them means I have to drops other books that I considered and had to reluctantly decide against. I may write about them , may be, some day in the future. So the honorary mention goes to the following.

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