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Masters of Rome

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I was asked to start this thread and now I have, I can begin it but the topic is so vast. Colleen McCullough has written six fabulous novels charting the lives of leading Roman figures through from Marius to Julius Caesar. All these men are brilliant, ambitious, bloody and not very nice in many ways, but Caesar has always been my historical hero simply because he was the most brilliant tactician.

Through McCullough's intensely researched project, you get to see how Caesar was inspired by Marius. He was nearly bereft of any political or army career and his place in history by Sulla - um, I think. I have read the novels several times but there is so much stuff there that it's hard still to get it all in the right order.

The first book in the series, First Man In Rome, begins with Marius and how this upstart from Picenum used his wealth to gain clout by marrying into the impoverished Julian family. He becomes general of the Roman forces, bringing in the change that the soldiers no longer need be of family and able to buy their own weapons, armour, etc. He builds up an army paid for by the state. He is consul of Rome 6 times.

Sulla is of a noble family brought to ruin; so poor they don't have even one slave! He murders to gain money and get his career going. He joins the army with Marius and the two eventually become rivals even though they are brothers-in-law at one stage.

Damn! :) I'm going to have to read them all again...Please someone help me continue this thread and jog my memory. I'll get reading!

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I will contribute but I have to jog my mind a little.


I remember starting the series excited by the prospect of reading about Caesar. It son became apparent that he wouldn't feature in the first book, but I wasn't disappointed at all. The friendship and eventual feuding between Marius and Sulla is a fantastic story arc.


McCullough has an unbelievably easy writing style, she soaks the pages with history but manages to bring it alive through her characterisation of the known, and lesser known, historical figures.


I mostly remember the long orations in these books the speeches in the Curia and courts are excellent, they really bring the politics of the empire to life.


One of my favourite passages in the series comes form the Grass Crown (second or third book I think), about the civil war, Romans Vs Italians and the slave uprisings.


These books mix in a bit of everything. History, politics, family drama, military drama. They showcase the best and worst of Roman history and the sudden end of the Republic.


Edit: Sorry to be pedantic (shocker I know) but the title of the first book is "The First Man in Rome." Collectively the six massive 1000+ page books make up the "Masters of Rome," series. Just in case anyone might have trouble or confusion tracking them down at a later time.


The Masters of Rome series:


1. The First Man in Rome

2. The Grass Crown

3. Fortune's Favourites

4. Caesar's Women

5. Caesar

6. The October Horse

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Hi all,

I've been an avid devourer of Rome-based writing for years. I first encountered Colleen McCullough's Rome books in the early 90s. I vaguely recall her appearing on Terry Wogan's evening chatshow talking about the years of research she had put in in preparation for writing The First Man In Rome. I read that and the next two, and really enjoyed them. Thereafter I started a degree as a mature student and that all rather took over my reading.


I think they have all been republished in a uniform series now, the overall title of 'Masters of Rome' being introduced only towards the end of the series.


Since then I've discovered Lindsey Davis and Steven Saylor, to name but two of my favourites, well worth checking out if you like a well-researched and well-written tale.

Saylor's books are part of a series he calls Roma Sub Rosa: http://www.stevensaylor.com/


Davis sets her stories about Marcus Didius Falco during the emperorship of Vespasian: http://www.lindseydavis.co.uk/


I have Colleen McCullough to thank for igniting an interest in the history of Rome which has stayed with me. I now have a substantial number of books on the subject, and no sign of any diminishment in interest. I hope to visit Rome and Pompeii in 2009.


I find this on Wikipedia, you might find it interesting:



Best wishes,


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Conn Iggulden's books about Caesar were quite good, but after reading McCullough's series they always seemed like a summer blockbuster compared to an oscar winner.

Enjoyable none-the-less.

I quite like the different interpretations on the relationship between Brutus and Caesar. In Iggulden's books they are virtually brothers while McCullough has them as bitter enemies all of the way through.

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I'm in this series now.  I'm having a hard time getting through it just because of the different usage of words between the US and Australia but I'm looking them up and logging them so that it might get easier.


I'm only on the first book at the moment.

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