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Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome Series)


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Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome Series)

30 review for Caesar's Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    LeAnn

    In Caesar's Women, McCullough finally hits her storytelling stride. Caesar really comes to life, and what a life that is. McCullough is a sympathetic biographer who persuasively fills in the historical outline for Caesar's political career in the fourth novel in her Masters of Rome series, covering roughly ten years. The novel reflects the important women in his life, his mother Aurelia, his daughter Julia, and his mistress Servilia, with minor roles played by his last two wives Pomponia and In Caesar's Women, McCullough finally hits her storytelling stride. Caesar really comes to life, and what a life that is. McCullough is a sympathetic biographer who persuasively fills in the historical outline for Caesar's political career in the fourth novel in her Masters of Rome series, covering roughly ten years. The novel reflects the important women in his life, his mother Aurelia, his daughter Julia, and his mistress Servilia, with minor roles played by his last two wives Pomponia and Calpurnia. The title also alludes to Caesar's prolific female conquests, which McCullough imagines came about due to a marriage between Caesar's strong sexual appeal to women of all classes and his political need to take his rivals down a notch (as well as to prove that he wasn't gay, which was whispered by his envious rivals to a homophobic Roman society). McCullough admits in her author's note that this novel has the richest historical source material, thereby being much covered by modern writers but also allowing her to detail the patrician Roman woman's life better. It's rather telling that McCullough has convinced this modern woman, who disdains powerful philanderers and suspects sexual psychopathy in individuals who hurt others through repeated casual use, that Caesar not only cared for the women in his life, but that they fully accepted who and what he was. Roman wives of the pre-Christian era expected their husbands to be incontinent; sex was a male bodily hunger that had little to do with marriage. Moreover, marriage was a legal relationship that didn't require fidelity on the man's part. Besides showing Caesar's domestic relationships, which underpin his political life, McCullough weaves a story of his increasingly hostile interactions with the boni, a group of ultra-conservative Senators who oppose anything Caesar does out of personal animosity. Caesar intends to be the First Man in Rome, to enlarge his personal dignitas until it is synonymous with Rome's, but he wants to make Rome greater in doing so. The boni, however, are quite determined to prevent any man from being greater than his peers. They simultaneously acknowledge Caesar's greater ability while insisting that he can't be greater than they are. They fear that he will make himself a king. For modern political junkies, reading the ever-increasing dysfunction of the Roman Republic's last days is quite eye-opening. Roman government grinds to a standstill as powerful Senators maneuver to block one another, or bribe electors and jurists, or interpret law to suit their exigencies, or manipulate legal calendars to take advantage of magistrates' short terms in office. Caesar, while a catalyst for some of the filibustering and gridlock, is also capable of cutting the Gordian knot and ruling with a firm, brilliant hand. Although it takes years, decades even, to bring Caesar to his breaking point, McCullough painstakingly lays the groundwork for his famous ride over the Rubicon and his eventual assassination by his implacable, envious enemies.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Fourth in the “Masters of Rome” series, this book has two main themes: The first is the rise of Caesar, which McCullough portrays (as the title advertises) from the point of view of the women in his life: particularly his influential and independent mother Aurelia (the one person Sulla regarded as an equal); his torrid affair with the ruthless Servilla (half-sister of Cato and mother of Brutus); his devotion to his daughter Julia, initially betrothed to Brutus but then married to Pompey in a love Fourth in the “Masters of Rome” series, this book has two main themes: The first is the rise of Caesar, which McCullough portrays (as the title advertises) from the point of view of the women in his life: particularly his influential and independent mother Aurelia (the one person Sulla regarded as an equal); his torrid affair with the ruthless Servilla (half-sister of Cato and mother of Brutus); his devotion to his daughter Julia, initially betrothed to Brutus but then married to Pompey in a love and political match, as well as the Vestal Virgins for whom he takes responsibility after being elected Pontifex Maximus. Interestingly Caesar’s two wives during this period are barely mentioned except in terms of the divorce of the first (following Clodius’s gatecrashing of a female religious ceremony at Caesar’s house meaning she was no longer “above suspicion”) and the marriage of the second (purely for expedient political purposes on behalf of the Triumvirate). We also get an excellent perspective on his money issues and his desperate attempts to continually stave off his creditors (and possible Senate disqualification), which he achieves by his religious appointment, his Praetorship in Spain and then at the end of the story by attempting to secure Gaul as a pro-consular Province. The second is the growing battle between the conservative faction in the Senate – personified by the traditionalist, sanctimonious Cato – who aim to maintain the republican status quo, and the three “tall poppies” Pompey (hugely rich, possessed of an enormous army but unable to gain the acceptance and approval of the Roman Patricians), Crassus (the business man and ex-soldier) and Caesar (with Sulla’s drive, Marius’s popularity and with an unimpeachable pedigree – who Cato in particular sees only lacks an army to be an even greater danger than Sulla). There are two key consular years: that of Cicero when faced with what he sees as a huge conspiracy involving Cataline (and later portrays as one of the greatest ever threats to the history of Rome) invokes emergency powers and orders the immediate execution without trial of a number of the key conspirators; that of Caesar which he runs more as a legislating, populist Tribune of the Plebs than a traditional patrician, despite the attempts of the conservative faction to stop him (including the attempts of his fellow Consul and enemy since he first served in the army Bibulus to declare the whole consul year invalid due to inauspicious omens) with the balance being shifted by the agreement reached before the year-end and broked by Caesar for he, Pompey and Crassus to form an expedient Triumvirate. The author’s clear bias towards the Great Men rather than the conservative faction comes out more clearly in this book of the series – with the implicit and sometimes explicit assumption that their conservatism is due to their being weaker than the Great Men. Another excellent book in this series.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome #4), Colleen McCullough

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paula Hebert

    I really wish they could have found a better title for this book, it smacks of soft porn and ripped bodices, but that being said, mcculllough is at her usual suberb best, bringing ancient history to life and giving you a feeling of having been there with them. granted. caesar was surrounded by women. his incredible strong mother aurelia, three wives, one died in childbirth leaving him a daughter, one whom he divorced, and then his last. he also was a notorious womanizer, who took great pleasure I really wish they could have found a better title for this book, it smacks of soft porn and ripped bodices, but that being said, mcculllough is at her usual suberb best, bringing ancient history to life and giving you a feeling of having been there with them. granted. caesar was surrounded by women. his incredible strong mother aurelia, three wives, one died in childbirth leaving him a daughter, one whom he divorced, and then his last. he also was a notorious womanizer, who took great pleasure in cockolding his political enemies, and had a particularly nasty mistress. that being said, they had no impact on his life unless they happened to work to his political advantage in some way. he preferred the warfields to rome, and was happiest when he was adding to romes empire or setting sensible systems in place so that empire would run more efficiently. we also learn more about both cicero and cato's lives, which is really interesting, and brought to life with colorful prose. caesar spent his time in rome doing what he had to do to go through the steps necessary to advance in the senate, so that he could then go back into the field. this book leaves us at the end of his consulship, when he is about to leave for the governorship of nearer gaul, that is northern italy, to hopefully make his next fortune. great and accurate historical fiction.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    The title may make this book sound like a romance novel of the Roman Empire, but it's well beyond any such thing (though does include a few rather well scripted sex scenes involving good ol' Caesar). Written with a savant-like skill for detail and period-appropriate descriptions and backed up with impeccable research, "Caesar's Women" is the story fo the rise of Julius Caesar and the women who are a part of his life as his star brightens. Although the book sometimes lacked readability due to its The title may make this book sound like a romance novel of the Roman Empire, but it's well beyond any such thing (though does include a few rather well scripted sex scenes involving good ol' Caesar). Written with a savant-like skill for detail and period-appropriate descriptions and backed up with impeccable research, "Caesar's Women" is the story fo the rise of Julius Caesar and the women who are a part of his life as his star brightens. Although the book sometimes lacked readability due to its dense recounts of Senate verdicts or the sparring of the various Catoes and Luciuses, overall it transported me to a place that fascinates me and gave me a thorough and believable image of a man who does the same. McCullough could do with some more flower in her writing- more adjectives and less antiquated terms- but I'd take her books over pretty, fluffy ones any day.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Pickstone

    Can you call this series a modern classic? Well, I just did, so there it is. After abandoning it as awful at the time of publication, I remain spellbound at this 4th book of the eventual 7. The style is odd and sometimes clunky - but I don't care! I never thought I could be so hooked on the story of Rome, which was never a favourite historical period of mine. I am also consistently awed by the breadth of CM's mind and obvious brainpower as she hooks it all together. An astonishing achievement. I Can you call this series a modern classic? Well, I just did, so there it is. After abandoning it as awful at the time of publication, I remain spellbound at this 4th book of the eventual 7. The style is odd and sometimes clunky - but I don't care! I never thought I could be so hooked on the story of Rome, which was never a favourite historical period of mine. I am also consistently awed by the breadth of CM's mind and obvious brainpower as she hooks it all together. An astonishing achievement. I keep going off to check facts and dates and haven't caught her in any major dilemma yet.....

  7. 5 out of 5

    GeekChick

    I could barely stomach what little I read of this book. I was very excited, because I found this one right as I was discovering historical fiction for the first time. I was sorely let down. Repeated references to various women as "juicy" was so low-brow, I felt like I was reading a trashy romance novel. I kept the book around, thinking I might pick it back up, but after several years I just got rid of it. Why waste time when there are so many quality tomes out there?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Cline

    My favorite of the Masters of Rome series. I really like the portrayal of domestic life and the politics in Rome. Caesar is portrayed as nearly perfect, and although I admire him a lot, it's a bit hard to believe he was this flawless. The various women of the title are quite interesting. We've met his mother Aurelia in the previous books in the series and get to know her a little better. She appears to be the one person he confides in, not really having any male friends of his own class. We also My favorite of the Masters of Rome series. I really like the portrayal of domestic life and the politics in Rome. Caesar is portrayed as nearly perfect, and although I admire him a lot, it's a bit hard to believe he was this flawless. The various women of the title are quite interesting. We've met his mother Aurelia in the previous books in the series and get to know her a little better. She appears to be the one person he confides in, not really having any male friends of his own class. We also get to watch his daughter Julia grow up and become politically useful to him. Once he's elected Pontifex Maximus, he has the six Vestal Virgins to watch over, and does a really good job of it. Finally, there's his mistress Servilia, Cato the Younger's half-sister, whom he doesn't really love, but can't seem to give up. The book ends with his leaving Rome for his extended campaigns in Gaul.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tudor Ciocarlie

    So much more interesting than the latest European and American elections. You see very clearly in this novel how our justice and political institutions, made by white men for white men in the 18th and 19th centuries, were based on the Greek and Roman justice and political systems, also made by white men for white men.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tocotin

    It's my first book by this author. I only knew the "Masters of Rome" series was pretty famous, so I was excited to find this one for only 150. I can't say it was such a great read, though. The author had done her research, all the political and religious machinations and liaisons are explained at length, there are maps, plans, even portraits (a lol factor, definitely), there is a lot of detail (actually info overload), but... The characters (especially women) had a very modern feel to me, and It's my first book by this author. I only knew the "Masters of Rome" series was pretty famous, so I was excited to find this one for only 150¥. I can't say it was such a great read, though. The author had done her research, all the political and religious machinations and liaisons are explained at length, there are maps, plans, even portraits (a lol factor, definitely), there is a lot of detail (actually info overload), but... The characters (especially women) had a very modern feel to me, and all the motivations and inner thoughts were always so clearly described as to leave absolutely no space for any mystery or doubt. It was as if I were watching one of these ridiculous movies which are set in ancient times, but in which all the columns and floors are dazzlingly white, and there is plenty of light everywhere. No suspense, no feeling that these people were living and thinking in a different way. Also, no real character development (maybe except Clodius), and good guys (Caesar & his friends & family) always good and successful, others always bad. Hmm. But the intrigues got and held my attention, so I read to the end, hence 2 stars. The best part was about the Bona Dea scandal, I loved it, so one more star. But I don't think I'd like to read more of this particular author. She has a very simple and at the same time heavy style, and loves info dumps. And everything is about all those rich and influential people, which is boring to me. So I don't know. Maybe if I find another book from this series really cheap?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daphne

    Caesar's Women is not, as the cover and title might suggest, a romance novel disguised as historical fiction, but an accurate and meticulously researched portrayal of Ancient Rome. Filled with plenty of political upheaval, such as the witnessing of Caesar emasculating his enemies, the Optimates and Cicero being reduced to a whimpering fool. This novelization of history is more factual than most, as it presents historical events in its entirety. Caesar and his political strategies are brutal and Caesar's Women is not, as the cover and title might suggest, a romance novel disguised as historical fiction, but an accurate and meticulously researched portrayal of Ancient Rome. Filled with plenty of political upheaval, such as the witnessing of Caesar emasculating his enemies, the Optimates and Cicero being reduced to a whimpering fool. This novelization of history is more factual than most, as it presents historical events in its entirety. Caesar and his political strategies are brutal and heartless, but that is so often the truth when it comes to all-powerful men. The novel also presents voice to the women behind Caesar. Feminists might find the role women play in the novel misogynistic, as they are often thrust around as political weapons rather than human beings. Again, women being treated as mere objects was often the sad reality of being a woman in Ancient Rome. Women were divorced and re-married for the sake of familial alliances and advancing the family name. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, albeit some parts being a little long-winded and overly detailed. I suppose describing every minute event and political battle that took place in Ancient Rome can have its merits and its pitfalls. However, it remains an interesting piece of historical fiction that I will probably re-read in the near future.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek

    Whenever I complete a book from the Masters of Rome series, I never cease to wonder the talent that lay in the hands of Colleen McCullough who could turn more than 2000-year old history into such a fascinating piece of work, as if she stood there, right at the doorsteps of the Roman Forum, soaking in the politics, the gossips, the wars of Ancient Rome. Caesar’s Women brings us to a newer age of Rome, moving away from the previous three books where Gaius Marius and Cornelius Sulla took Whenever I complete a book from the Masters of Rome series, I never cease to wonder the talent that lay in the hands of Colleen McCullough who could turn more than 2000-year old history into such a fascinating piece of work, as if she stood there, right at the doorsteps of the Roman Forum, soaking in the politics, the gossips, the wars of Ancient Rome. Caesar’s Women brings us to a newer age of Rome, moving away from the previous three books where Gaius Marius and Cornelius Sulla took centre-stage for most times. It is now Caesar, and Caesar alone who is going to bring to life the stories of Colleen McCullough. It takes a bit of time though to reach to the real Caesar, as if Colleen McCullough wanted to give a flavour of Rome without him too, for once Caesar comes in the frame, it is difficult to look anywhere else. A man driven by his desire to be the best Roman the world has seen, a savvy politician, a sharp tactician, nonetheless burdened by those that feared his growing power. The book takes us through the journey of a mature Caesar who is coming close to his year as consul, as his sharpness of mind starts to make him stand apart from the crowd. A bit of Sulla, a bit of Marius, you will find, but Caesar still has his own personality that would make you dream of having lived in Ancient Rome and walked by his side. Oh, the energy that must have seeped through him! As the title of the book suggests, many female characters do occupy a prominent position in this story. Caesar’s mother has always been a force to be reckoned with, but now we also meet his daughter Julia and the lady Servilia whose path will intersect with Caesar a lot. We get to see the roles these women played in Caesar’s life, the manner in which they influenced his decisions, and how instrumental they were in his rise. Oh, but no book on Rome is complete without the political entanglements, and Caesar’s Women continues to hold colourful and exciting stories on that front too as have the previous three books. New names emerge, old names remain, those with ties to Caesar, those who would do anything to see him fail. And we do read more on young Brutus, the lad who will play a critical role in Caesar’s history. An extraordinary book, though I would rate it slightly below the previous three that I have read. Maybe Colleen McCullough has spoilt us with the grand narratives of Gaius Marius and Cornelius Sulla, that I missed them now. It took time for me to accept Caesar as the centre of the story. As an old man who would look at the stars and dream of the world gone by, I too felt a pang in my heart when those names I had become familiar with in Colleen McCullough’s first three books now were a memory, as a new generation takes over the Roman Forum and fights its own brand of politics. Pompey the Great is no longer the kid of the Butcher, trying hard to make a name for himself and feel accepted, but a veteran and the First Man of Rome. Ahh, how times change! But now that I have soaked in Caesar's world, I am truly excited about reading the next book, for it would be another great adventure that cannot be missed...

  13. 5 out of 5

    GoldGato

    For a while in the 1990s, I was very much into the whole fictional take on ancient Rome and its most famous citizens, such as Sulla, Gaius Marius, and Julius Caesar. It was one thing to read standard biographies of them and quite another to get absorbed in some fictional lifestyles. Thus, it was Colleen McCullough I turned to with her very enjoyable 'Masters Of Rome' series. I wasn't disappointed. This is one of those summer-type books that get included in the walk to the beach. Spread that For a while in the 1990s, I was very much into the whole fictional take on ancient Rome and its most famous citizens, such as Sulla, Gaius Marius, and Julius Caesar. It was one thing to read standard biographies of them and quite another to get absorbed in some fictional lifestyles. Thus, it was Colleen McCullough I turned to with her very enjoyable 'Masters Of Rome' series. I wasn't disappointed. This is one of those summer-type books that get included in the walk to the beach. Spread that towel, slather on the sunscreen, put on the sunglasses, and read this book. The goods are here, just as the title states, as it's all about the women in Caesar's life, whether it be his mother or daughter or the Vestal Virgins (what?). Personally, I think one should start at the beginning of the series to get the feel for where McCullough is going with her historical figures, but this one will suffice anyway. Book Season = Summer (toga toga)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    It's always a joy to dive into McCullough's Rome. Her meticulous detail, sharp voice for characters, and sheer volume of writing make these novels feel like an extended trip to the ancient world, although this entry is a bit weaker than the earlier ones. In the Foreward she writes that her narrative has reached the period of ancient Rome that is better documented than the ones covered in her previous works. The resulting slight shift away from fiction toward history may explain why this entry is It's always a joy to dive into McCullough's Rome. Her meticulous detail, sharp voice for characters, and sheer volume of writing make these novels feel like an extended trip to the ancient world, although this entry is a bit weaker than the earlier ones. In the Foreward she writes that her narrative has reached the period of ancient Rome that is better documented than the ones covered in her previous works. The resulting slight shift away from fiction toward history may explain why this entry is less compelling; History isn't always dramatic. Throughout the book, the same dynamic repeatedly plays out between Caesar and his political enemies the boni: the boni, out of hatred of Ceasar, attempt some political stratagem which Caesar foils through his exceptional intellect, daring, education, or some other superlative property. Even the boni themselves grow frustrated with their defeats, declaring "We'll never beat him!" The sameness of these encounters don't shed much light on the character of Caesar, who swans through the peak of his political career showing little effort, occasional anger, and no doubt. He's a cipher, even among his family or his peers Pompey and Crassus. As a fan of ancient warfare, I was disappointed by the lack of military action in the book. Pompey's war against the pirates is covered as a remote conflict and Caesar's adventurous legateship in Spain is almost completely skipped. Warfare has always been a minor element of these books but I was disappointed by its absence. In its place though, is a satisfying new element: as indicated by the title this book greatly expands the role of the women of Rome. Caesars mother, wives, and lovers join various other women as characters as large and vital as Caesar's friends and rivals, and McCullough's characterization remains masterful. In particular, the feminine and even feminist ritual of the Bona Dea captures what's so great about these books: exotic but engaging, surprising but convincing.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ozymandias

    Story: 8 (A reasonably clear account of Caesar’s pre-Gallic career) Characters: 8 (Well-written but not as memorable as Sulla) Accuracy: 10 (Basically perfect) I really hate the name of this novel and the next one. Caesar’s Women and Caesar? How uninspiring. I do wish she’d gone for her proposed title of Let the Dice Fly for the following one. I have no idea why this book is called Caesar’s Women. Women do factor into it, but not more regularly than in previous books. There is some truth to these Story: 8 (A reasonably clear account of Caesar’s pre-Gallic career) Characters: 8 (Well-written but not as memorable as Sulla) Accuracy: 10 (Basically perfect) I really hate the name of this novel and the next one. Caesar’s Women and Caesar? How uninspiring. I do wish she’d gone for her proposed title of Let the Dice Fly for the following one. I have no idea why this book is called Caesar’s Women. Women do factor into it, but not more regularly than in previous books. There is some truth to these titles in that Caesar is at the forefront in a way that none of the characters in the previous books were. This is Caesar’s story now, and he’s in it to win. His rise up through the political ladder is told clearly and carefully. In many ways this book is the most important of all from a narrative purpose. The alliances formed here and the fallout from these actions will motivate everything that happens in the final books. The stage is being set for Caesar’s civil war. The book’s view of Caesar (and the rest of the First Men to one degree or another) really is that of a Nietzschean übermensch. Caesar (and the rest) is a great man full of great ability and promise. His foes are all mediocrities of one sort or another conspiring to prevent competent men from arising who might threaten their self-image as “great” men. And while this is certainly true to a degree, it ignores the destructive nature inherent to these übermenschen. Can you blame Caesar’s enemies for trying to prevent another Sulla? Another civil war with all the death and destruction that entails? And while it might be argued that this description of them is Caesar’s viewpoint (and I don’t doubt that this was how Caesar saw it) we’re never (at least so far) given any reasons for opposition to Caesar beyond personal animosity or jealousy. The book takes his side absolutely, not necessarily making him pure or anything (I think his basic personality and behavior is spot on) but making all his obstacles devoid of consequence. Maybe that will come back to bite him in future books. This is, after all, early days for him. But the two rival points of view are not really in place: that Rome needs change and this can only be done by placing a competent man in charge vs. that Rome needs to preserve her traditions and freedoms (especially aristocratic ones) against domination by a single faction. Instead it’s personal and petty, and while there was a lot of that and nobody’s motives were pure, it’s frustrating that only one side gets a genuine ideology and actual sympathy. Regarding these übermensch, it seems odd to me that their goals don’t really matter, only their ability to reach them. Sulla’s intentions for Rome were vastly different from Caesar’s, yet both are treated in a generally positive way. Because they achieved something. That matters more than how they achieve it or even what they achieved. And that bothers me, both for the historical implications and the ethical ones. Yes, nobody turns to the Romans for views on proper moral behavior. Slavery, murder, corruption, extortion... these were all acceptable elements of Roman society and are all on display here. But there is a thesis being posed here that I find very troubling. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but I don’t believe that The curious thing here is that while the book takes Caesar’s side like a firm partisan it doesn’t really make him very likeable. Perhaps that’s impossible. A youthful Caesar with actual emotions and stuff can be enjoyed. This Caesar has largely discarded such limitations as reflecting ill on his dignitas. A cold, emotionless Caesar, even one who has emotions but just bottles them up to preserve his public image, can never be personally appealing to moderns so fond of emotional reactions. Or, frankly, to those who had to deal with him not as a successful and generous superior but as an equal. Because Caesar can brook no equal. That’s why it’s a lot easier to sympathize with Pompey’s childishness or Crassus’ genuine concern or Cato’s insane rage and Cicero’s weakness. Speaking of the others, it was very nice to see Pompey actually developing into more of the competent military commander recorded by history. If there was a complaint about him from the last book it was that he was too childish and immature. But here Pompey develops an unexpected (and painful) ability to learn. It really impresses me how well McCullough is able to make these characters grow and develop without ever drawing attention to the changes or feeling unnatural or unearned. It was awe-inspiring to see decayed, decrepit, wicked Sulla appear from the East and still feel like the same person as young and overpowering Sulla. And it’s the same with mature Pompey. He’s still the overemotional man thirsting for praise who we saw as a kid, but he’s learned from his failures (something that seemed impossible) and now takes his campaigns a lot more seriously. And while he will never be a political as well as military genius, he’s sat down and worked out exactly how to go about gaining and keeping political positions too (even though it was really really boring and he hated it and it sucked and was stupid). I’ll be sad to watch his fall in the next book. But who can face Caesar and win? Crassus was the real surprise here. While we saw a bit of him in the last book (the whole Spartacus thing) we never really got to know him outside his peculation and greed. But here he comes across as a loyal friend, loving father and husband, and generally sensible man. And also very close to Caesar. I never really thought of Crassus and Caesar as good friends. Their alliance always seemed more one of convenience, as with Pompey. But it works very well here. Just from a plot perspective, Caesar needs someone who’s close to an equal with whom he can plot and exposit. And as Aurelia is sidelined (a sad but necessary consequence of growing up) and suffers from the misfortune of being a female it needs to be someone outside the family. I was never expecting to actually like Crassus, who usually comes across as one of the bogeymen of the age: a greedy, cruel plutocrat who cared for nothing but wealth and advancing his own position. His fall will likewise be sad to watch. Finally showing up is one of my personal favorite historical figures: Publius Clodius. A wonderfully mischievous man who seems to have gotten up in the morning rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of the trouble he could cause that day. An immensely enjoyable and eccentric demagogue, my only complaint is that we hardly spend enough time on him. Most of his famous acts take place between this book and the next, which is really unfortunate. And then we get the optimates and related allies: Cato, Cicero, Scipio, and Bibulus. As mentioned before, they all come off pretty badly. Cato is nearly perfect as the screeching, angry man of extreme virtue and little give, although his good traits (honesty, integrity, bravery) are generally ignored in favor of his hypocrisies. Cicero is weak, vacillating, easily swayed, and quite full of himself. This isn’t far off, although again it seems to focus more on his negative traits than his positive ones. Bibulus is angry and vengeful, though not for any real reason. He was humiliated by Caesar way back as a contubernis (tent-mate), but while that obviously means he’s not going to get along great with Caesar (not helped by their having to contest every magistracy at the same time) it doesn’t seem to really justify his loathing and scuttling of his own career to take Caesar down. What did he fear? We never really find out. Which sucks, because that was one thing that Scaurus was really clear about. When one man rises too high above the rest Rome cannot cope. And since Scaurus’ time, the constant rise of such men has radicalized the remaining partisans. While he could work with Marius when it suited his cause, these men would rather tear down the state than give in to Caesar. But you’d still think that would make them more not less able to articulate clear motives. Beyond the strictly personal. Oh, and Scipio was also present. That’s probably the most that can be said of him, both in the novel and in real life. The story here is that of Caesar’s rise. And Pompey’s personal growth of course, but mainly Caesar’s ascension through the various magistracies. As such there’s not as many dramatic events going on. Certainly there are very few wars and revolutions. This is a moment of relative peace between the chaos of Sulla’s and Caesar’s civil wars. Caesar’s early career moves (pre-proconsul of Gaul) was fairly standard even if uncommonly perfect. Most of the conflict comes from the opposition, which is fierce and unyielding. His ascension up the ladder of the cursus honorum was standard, but his ambition and behavior during his terms of office were much resented. Which leaves the novel with plenty to dramatize, even as it struggles with the fact that Caesar isn’t the main mover of events.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Manu

    The fourth in the 'Masters of Rome' series, covering 10 years from 68-58 BC, chronicling the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar, with most of the narrative set in Rome itself. Despite being part of the book's name, the first half of the book does not really focus on Caesar himself. Much of it is spent on building up the rest of the cast who would play an important role in Caesar's life during this period - from his allies like Pompey the Great and Marcus Crassus to enemies like Cato and Bibulus, and The fourth in the 'Masters of Rome' series, covering 10 years from 68-58 BC, chronicling the rise of Gaius Julius Caesar, with most of the narrative set in Rome itself. Despite being part of the book's name, the first half of the book does not really focus on Caesar himself. Much of it is spent on building up the rest of the cast who would play an important role in Caesar's life during this period - from his allies like Pompey the Great and Marcus Crassus to enemies like Cato and Bibulus, and even those who, in modern terminology could be called frenemies like Cicero and Clodius. However, the author remains true to the title by delving into the minds and lives of the various women who essay a key role in Caesar's life - his mother Aurelia, his lover Servilia, his daughter Julia and even the non-influencer - his wife Pompeia, whom he later divorces - though to a minimal extent. Cicero, in this book, is shown in poor light, and the author does say in her notes that his peers didn't think too much of him, as per the documentation available from that era. The other important character who makes an extended appearance is Brutus, originally betrothed to Caesar's daughter Julia. It then follows Caesar's political career covering his curule aedileship, his election as Pontifex Maximus, governorship of Further Spain and his first consulship. The book also highlights possibly the only chink in Caesar's otherwise impenetrable armour - an indifference towards money - though he manages to learn his lessons in that respect towards the end of the book. The book not only chronicles how Caesar uses various tools, even marriage (his own as well as his daughter's), to out-manoeuver his enemies and further his rise to prominence, but also manages to give a good idea of how Roman society functioned, in terms of culture, belief systems and hierarchy. It minimally shows Caesar's military genius but quite elaborately showcases his political and legal brilliance, aided in no small measure by his mother Aurelia, and which culminates in the formation of the triumvirate with Marcus Licinius Crassus and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus. The book sets quite a lively pace though it does require concentration to follow the various alliances that are made and broken at regular intervals. As in the previous books, and probably more so because of the new characters, the large secondary cast is not easy to follow. The final pages of the book point to a change in Caesar after his year as consul and sets the stage for the next book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Whiskey

    What was Julius Caesar like before he conquered Gaul, crossed the Rubicon and met his fate on the Ides of March? The women in Caesar's life play a large role in the story--his mother, wife, daughter, lover--but the bulk of the plot is taken up with intrigue in Rome and conquest abroad during the waning days of the Roman Republic. Caesar's Women written by Colleen McCullough details Gaius Julius Caesar's rise to power in Roman government and society. Set between the years of 68 B.C.-58 B.C., the What was Julius Caesar like before he conquered Gaul, crossed the Rubicon and met his fate on the Ides of March? The women in Caesar's life play a large role in the story--his mother, wife, daughter, lover--but the bulk of the plot is taken up with intrigue in Rome and conquest abroad during the waning days of the Roman Republic. Caesar's Women written by Colleen McCullough details Gaius Julius Caesar's rise to power in Roman government and society. Set between the years of 68 B.C.-58 B.C., the novel chronicles his political successes as well as his relationships with certain Roman noblewomen. It gives readers an insight into Caesar's personal life and the world behind Roman politics. Beginning in June of 68 B.C, Caesar returns home from Spain determined to make a name for himself. He, along with the support of his mother Aurelia, attempts to dominate the Roman Senate. Caesar competes for power against the likes of famous Roman senators such as Cicero and Cato, who form part of an elite conservative faction called the boni that seek to destroy Caesar. Using his wit and foresight, Caesar outmaneuvers his enemies and strengthens his bonds with his allies. In the ten years that Caesar remains in Rome, he is elected Pontifex Maximus, chief priest and head of the Roman state religion, and forms the First Triumvirate. Along with his public victories, the novel also reveals Caesar's private and intimate life. He is a well-known ladies' man. One of his main conquests, Servilia Caepionis, is a keen and spiteful aristocrat who begins a long-term affair with Caesar. She is the wife of a Roman senator and the mother of Brutus, who will one day assassinate Caesar. Even though Caesar dislikes Servilia, he is intrigued by her intellect and perverse ambition. She becomes his permanent mistress. However, he shows her no love or kindness. He even takes on other lovers and remarries. He views these women and Servilia as disposable. Despite being cruel with his lovers, Caesar is an affectionate father and patriarch. He adores his beloved daughter Julia, spoils his third wife Calpurnia, and highly respects his mother Aurelia. He even consults with his mother on certain political and social matters. When he assumes the role of Pontifex Maximus, Caesar becomes the legal guardian of the Roman Vestal Virgins. He treats them with tenderness and kindness. Even though Caesar cares for the women under his protection, he still keeps them at a distance. He loves them but he is a very practical and ambitious man. He even marries his daughter to Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus in order to secure his political ties. Caesar becomes a senior consul of the Roman Senate and forms the First Triumvirate. When his term of consul ends, he becomes proconsul of Italian Gaul. With this office, Caesar sets out to achieve his ultimate goal of becoming one of Rome's most powerful men. In his wake, he leaves behind his devoted and loving women. They are Aurelia, Julia, Vestal Virgins, Calpurnia, and Servilia. All these women lament his departure and wait with great anticipation for his return. Gaius Julius Caesar is the main character of this novel. He is intelligent, charming, ruthless, and meticulous. He is a thinker and is very disciplined with his emotions. Born into a patrician family known as the Junii, Caesar knows he is destined for greatness. He grows up in Subura an area mainly filled with foreigners, Jews, and lowly Romans. As a child, he forges a friendship with Lucius Decumius, who introduces Caesar to the everyday Romans. As a result, almost everyone in Rome regardless of status knows and loves Caesar. Unlike most Romans of his class, Caesar does not discriminate. He values a man's abilities instead of his ancestry. Regardless of class and race, he will form alliances with individuals that can serve is ultimate goal of becoming Rome's greatest First Man At the age of twenty, he wins the Civic Crown for his outstanding valor. This gives him entrance into the Senate immediately instead of at the age of thirty. It also permits him to speak in the Senate even if he has no office. Caesar never abuses this privilege. Instead, he simply wears the crown as a visible reminder of his strength and power. He chooses to watch instead of talk. This gives him key insight into the boni faction and how he will defeat them. From the beginning, the boni and Caesar are enemies. The Boni is a Latin term that translates to "the good men." They are an ultraconservative group of men in the Senate and the Assembly. Usually led by Cato and Bibulus, they are Caesar's enemies. Despite the boni, Caesar is politically ambitious. He does not hesitate to use his daughter Julia to strengthen his political ties with Pompey. He divorces his wife Pompeia in order to preserve his reputation and he marries Calpurnia to secure Lucius Piso's loyalty. The most important thing to Caesar is power. He loves his family and enjoys his affair with Servilia, but his career always comes first. He never allows anything to distract him from it. He is responsible creating and forming the First Triumvirate in Rome. Servilia Caepionis Descended from the ancient Servii family, Servilia is a highly intelligent and ambitious Roman aristocrat. She has been married twice. Her first husband was Brutus's father Marcus Junius Brutus the Elder, who was killed by Pompey. Her second husband, Decimus Junius Silanus, is a handsome but frail senator in Rome. Servilia deplores his weakness and runs the household. A domineering woman, Servilia is known for her cruelty to her slaves and obsessive control over her son. She is determined to make Brutus a powerful and influential Roman. Since she is a woman, she cannot attain political greatness. As a result, she grooms her son for it. All her attention is focused on him and she completely dismisses her daughters. She even poisons her brother Caepio in order to enhance Brutus's wealth and status. Neither her husband nor Cato can subdue her. When she becomes pregnant with Caesar's child, she boldly informs her husband of it without fearing any consequences. She tells him that she has been discreet and orders him to recognize the child as his. Silanus sees the logic of it all and accepts it. Whenever Cato tries to assert his authority over her and Brutus, Servilia unnerves him by insulting his ancestry and his family. She even scratches and scars him. She is a fearless and practical woman, who is very good at recognizing a person's weakness and then exploiting it for her own gain. Her only weakness is Caesar. Never before as she met a man that can dominate her. She is both intellectually and physically enamored of him. Their sexual relationship is a kin to a chess match. Each one always trying to outmaneuver the other. It is also very physically rough, with Servilia fighting to be on top. This is precisely why Caesar keeps Servilia as his constant mistress. She never bores him and he secretly views her as an equal. Despite her negative depiction, the reader must remember that Servilia lives in a world where women have no rights or power. They are the man's property. She has to use her sexual prowess and intellect to survive. Marcus Tullius Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero is a famous Roman writer, speaker and lawyer. He is married to a wealthy and noble plebeian wife, Terentia and is known for always buying art that he cannot afford.He lacks noble ancestry and descends from a wealthy family from the country. Through his gift of words, he is able to rise in the Roman government and aligns himself with the boni faction. The boni faction does not consider Cicero one of them, but they will use him when necessary. They get him elected as senior consul in order to block Catilina's bid for power. Cicero is an example of how wealth and intellect can prove just as powerful as a noble birth. Even though Cicero is very intelligent, he is highly influenced by his wife, the boni, and his desire to become a great statesman. He allows his judgment to be clouded. As consul, Cicero is very worried about the present economic crisis affecting Rome. When he hears of a plot to cancel debts, he immediately assumes that it will result in a revolution. He gets the Senate to issue a Senatus Consultum Ultimum decree, which gives the Senate supreme authority. He uses it to execute Catilina and his co-conspirators without a trial. Cicero firmly believes that Catilina wishes to march on Rome and become another dictator. Having seen what Sulla, a previous dictator, did to Rome, Cicero does not want it to occur again. He thinks he is going to be considered Rome's savior. Instead, he incurs the wrath of Caesar as well as other prominent aristocrats and senators. In the end, Cicero is forced to flee Rome for fear of being charged with murder. Publius Clodius Publius Clodius is an aristocrat from the Claudii clan. He is a wild, wealthy, and ambitious man. He forms a revenge list consisting of everyone who at one point in life has humiliated him or worked against him. He enjoys living on the fringes of society and forms friendships with soldiers and lowly Roman citizens. He uses his intellect to stir mutiny amongst his brother-in-law Lucius Licinius Lucullus's armies, costing Lucius his command over the Eastern Provinces. After he is circumcised by the Arabs as a form of punishment, Clodius returns to Rome. In Rome, he marries the wealthy heiress, Fulvia and sets out to become Rome's First Man. However, his immaturity and irrational behavior hinder him. He violates the sanctity of the Bona Dea celebration resulting in a trial and the death of his unborn child. At his trial, Cicero testifies against him, which puts him on the revenge list. Clodius bribes his way to an acquittal. He legally renounces his patrician status in order to become a plebeian. He realizes he has a lot of clout with the lower classes and can gain power in the Assembly than he ever could in the Senate. He runs for tribune of the Plebeian Assembly, wins, and gets elected as President of the College of Tribunes of the Plebs. With the help and guidance of Caesar, Clodius passes controversial legislation which benefits Caesar. Clodius also makes it illegal to execute Roman citizens without a trial. This new law is what prompts Cicero to flee. Clodius respects Caesar and aligns himself with him in order to increase his own power. Aurelia Aurelia is the mother of Caesar and the matriarch of the family. She is the epitome of a Roman aristocrat: modest, respectable, and highly intelligent. She lives to serve her son and her family. Despite being a woman, Caesar listens to her advice and respects her opinion. Aurelia is very politically astute. She warns Caesar about the boni, suggests that Julia marry Pompey, and secures her son's marriage with Pompeia. When his debts begin to mount, she advises him to run for the position of Pontifex Maximus. She campaigns for her son by talking to the wives of priests and senators. Her main goal in life is to help make her son powerful. Aurelia knows when to speak and when to keep quiet. She uses her skills of logic and rationality to persuade people. Aurelia also protects and preserves Caesar's good name. Knowing that Pompeia is running in questionable circles, Aurelia assigns her most trusted servant to watch over her. She also never lets the wife out of her sight. In addition, she raises Julia like her own daughter. Julia's mother dies when she is a baby, and Aurelia teacher her what it means to be a proper Roman woman. She dresses her in simple clothing, teaches her how to mend and sow, and encourages her love of reading. She also reminds Julia that her purpose in life is to secure a powerful marriage that will help strengthen her father's political career. Marcus Porcius Cato Marcus Porcius Cato is the half-brother of Servilia. He is the grandchild of Cato the elder and his second wife Salonia, who was a former slave. he is a plebeian who strongly supports the old strict Roman customs and traditions. When he was a soldier, he lived very sparingly, ate nothing rich, and only drank water. With his family, he is extremely traditional. Even though he is wealthy, he demands that his wife Atilia take care of the household and sow the family's clothes. Cato criticizes anything that is flashy or opulent. He is a plebian, part of the boni and an ardent enemy of Caesar and Pompey. He along with the boni constantly veto and block any legislation Caesar and Pompey attempt to pass. He tries to prevent Caesar's election to Pontifex Maximus and proconsulship of Italian Gaul. He always delivers long speeches in an attempt to delay government proceedings. Cato is known for being stubborn and morally strict. He divorces his wife when he learns of her infidelity with Caesar and orders that she never be allowed to see her children again. After this scandal, he throws himself into learning all about accounting. As elected quaester, he launches a war against the Roman Treasury to rid it of corruption. His campaign is so successful that even the boni fear he may be going to far. Cato willing sacrifices his political career. His actions help his popularity in the lower classes but no one from the first or second class will ever vote for him again. He kills any possibility of running for higher offices but he gains the reputation of being incorruptible. Marcus Licinius Crassus Marcus Licinius Crassus is Caesar's good friend. He is an aristocrat and former military general who now engages in commercial activities and owns a lot of property. He is considered one of the wealthiest men in Rome, and frequently tries to lend money to Caesar. He also always supports Caesar in the Senate.Due to wealth and friendship with Caesar, the boni do not like him. Jealous of his wealth, the boni criticize his lending practices and his real estate ventures because it is not considered Roman. Crassus at one point shares the consulship of the Senate with Pompey. Both he and Pompey share a mutual dislike of one another, but put aside their differences when Caesar proposes that they form a triumvirate. Caesar convinces Crassus to join them by appealing to his business sense. Before anything else, Crassus is a business man who enjoys making a profit. With Caesar and Pompey, he can put forth his tax reform legislation in the Eastern Provinces, which will yield a lot of money. Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus better known as Pompey the Great is a successful military commander who has conquered more land for Rome than any Roman leader before him. He even takes over Lucius Licinius Lucullus's campaign to subdue Roman's Eastern Provinces when his soldiers mutiny. Pompey is a very wealthy and popular man who openly declares himself Rome's First Man.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karla

    2019 re-read (for 3rd time). Stopped at 30%. Not sure if I've outgrown/gotten too picky about McCullough's writing, or if I'm simply not that engaged with a re-read (I rarely re-read anything anymore), but I found myself eyerolling quite a bit at the clumsy exposition and slow pacing (also, Caesar simply has never been my favorite character in this saga). It's been quite the disappointing journey during this series re-read - after the first book, I haven't enjoyed them nearly as much as I 2019 re-read (for 3rd time). Stopped at 30%. Not sure if I've outgrown/gotten too picky about McCullough's writing, or if I'm simply not that engaged with a re-read (I rarely re-read anything anymore), but I found myself eyerolling quite a bit at the clumsy exposition and slow pacing (also, Caesar simply has never been my favorite character in this saga). It's been quite the disappointing journey during this series re-read - after the first book, I haven't enjoyed them nearly as much as I thought I would. To save time and patience, I'll leap to the last book at some point (the only one I haven't read at all) and wrap up this series for good. Oh well, nostalgia doesn't always hold up & that's a good thing. *** IMO, the series started to decline with this book, though it is still an excellent read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    I picked this monstrously thick novel up at my used book store. I am a sucker for history, and this seemed like a unique perspective. It follows the sordid and frequently raucous adventures of historically significant Gaius Julius Caesar. We meet his mother; his not infrequent lovers and mistresses; his wife; and we learn of the incredibly intense politicking that makes a lot of what happens in our politically-divided contemporary society much more understandable, and, sadly, lamentable. This is I picked this monstrously thick novel up at my used book store. I am a sucker for history, and this seemed like a unique perspective. It follows the sordid and frequently raucous adventures of historically significant Gaius Julius Caesar. We meet his mother; his not infrequent lovers and mistresses; his wife; and we learn of the incredibly intense politicking that makes a lot of what happens in our politically-divided contemporary society much more understandable, and, sadly, lamentable. This is a story of blind, driven, and historically-documented ambition. Caesar is a man with one goal in mind, complete power, and his every action is driven toward that end. In-between come the sorted affairs that make the book a pleasure to read, at least for me. Based on many historical truths, I found the book intriguing, albeit a little long in the tooth.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    This is my second favorite so far in the Masters of Rome series. Second to the very first book, "Masters of Rome". Caesar establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with. His uncanny powers of manipulation are used for the advancement of his politics, therfore increasing his dignitas (his ultimate goal). After the death of the only women he truely loved, women become merely tools to be used to his advantage. He uses them for the destruction of other men, for their insights and to make sure he This is my second favorite so far in the Masters of Rome series. Second to the very first book, "Masters of Rome". Caesar establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with. His uncanny powers of manipulation are used for the advancement of his politics, therfore increasing his dignitas (his ultimate goal). After the death of the only women he truely loved, women become merely tools to be used to his advantage. He uses them for the destruction of other men, for their insights and to make sure he is spoken of in a positive way by most people. Apparently, many love conquests by a married man was approved of in Roman times. No wonder, since men were in charge of everything. I enjoy learning about Roman history the way Colleen McCullough tells it. It would have been much easier to learn history in school if it were taught in this manner.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sumi

    It's a coin toss as to which is my favorite in the Masters of Rome series, Caesar's Women or The First Man in Rome. The women referred to in the title are not just Caesar's wives or lovers. It also refers to his mother, who was one of the most important influences in his life, his daughter, Julia, and even the Vestal Virgins that were in his care as Pontifex Maximus. It's a great look into the lives of the upper class women and a thoroughly interesting read. Unlike the major male players, less is It's a coin toss as to which is my favorite in the Masters of Rome series, Caesar's Women or The First Man in Rome. The women referred to in the title are not just Caesar's wives or lovers. It also refers to his mother, who was one of the most important influences in his life, his daughter, Julia, and even the Vestal Virgins that were in his care as Pontifex Maximus. It's a great look into the lives of the upper class women and a thoroughly interesting read. Unlike the major male players, less is known about the women so McCullough can have a lot more license regarding their personalities. I love this series more for its portrait of everyday life more than the interesting story of how Rome began to move away from its republican beginnings.

  22. 5 out of 5

    MsSwisis

    ‘It wasn’t the gold, it was the lengthening of Rome’s reach. What did they have, that small race from a little city on the Italian salt route? Why was it they who swept all before them? Not like a gigantic wave, more like a millstone grinding patiently, patiently at whatever was thrown down as grist. They never gave up, the Romans.’

  23. 5 out of 5

    Solaris

    Not the kindest of people to read on....the powerful men of ancient Rome and a historically conscientious take on their personal lives. But a great read. Very academic, very dense, very enjoyable!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Well-developed fictional series.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nikhil

    "Caesar is no Marius, take my word for it, Caesar is another Sulla, and that is far, far worse." "Not even a mind as huge as Cicero's could outthink a mind like Caesar's. Why was it that these incredibly old families could still throw up a Sulla or a Caesar?" Caesar's wife, like Caesar's family, must be above suspicion" Having been fascinated by Julius Caesar for a better part of my life, these words brought a smile. For they were so true and fitting to his personality. A lot of people here are "Caesar is no Marius, take my word for it, Caesar is another Sulla, and that is far, far worse." "Not even a mind as huge as Cicero's could outthink a mind like Caesar's. Why was it that these incredibly old families could still throw up a Sulla or a Caesar?" Caesar's wife, like Caesar's family, must be above suspicion" Having been fascinated by Julius Caesar for a better part of my life, these words brought a smile. For they were so true and fitting to his personality. A lot of people here are not satisfied with the title of this book. But I find it fitting. Caesar was always surrounded by women, they would readily give up their lives and their husbands' for Caesar, such was his charisma. However, it was not just that. Caesar was a product of his mother's staunch, a bit stoic life she led. Aurelia, besides being his mother, was Caesar's strength. The nobility, the dignitas the proverbial Roman-ness came from Aurelia who herself was so. And how can we forget his scandalous and immortal affair with Servilia! Caesar was always surrounded by powerful and beautiful women. Most importantly, this book has set the course for Caesar and what he is to become -- the greatest Roman of all. Had the republic not hated him for his virtue, he would never have surpassed Lucius Cornellius Sulla and Gaius Marius and wouldn't that have been a blessing?! I particularly loved how McCullough did not digress too much with Caesar. That is the most common mistake with historians and historical fiction writers. With personality as charismatic and as big as Caesar, historical fiction writers often lose the touch for Caesar was beyond anyone's wildest imagination and the writers can only try to grasp him in their words. McCullough remained grounded to her research and made careful assumptions from the historical texts. Caesar was the most hated man among the senate, so much so that the boni wanted to kill him. (Did I reveal it too soon!). It was easy to be diverted after reading Cicero and Cato's version of history. This book is an interesting read for someone who really wants to understand how and why the boni -- the faction-- went against the likes of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Gaius Julius Caesar. Why the formation of triumvirate? But for most importantly, it describes the time and struggle, the strife that turned Caesar into a cold and brutal military general.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joe Pickert

    I've found that my favorite novels tend to break down into two main categories: 1)Those with mediocre to average writing but with plots interesting enough to carry the book on their own (e.g. Red Rising, Hunger Games, portions of A Song of Ice and Fire) 2)Those that are so well written that an interesting plot is only icing on the cake (e.g. The Brothers Karamazov, Catch-22, Anna Karenina) The entirety of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome falls squarely into my second category. And incidentally I've found that my favorite novels tend to break down into two main categories: 1)Those with mediocre to average writing but with plots interesting enough to carry the book on their own (e.g. Red Rising, Hunger Games, portions of A Song of Ice and Fire) 2)Those that are so well written that an interesting plot is only icing on the cake (e.g. The Brothers Karamazov, Catch-22, Anna Karenina) The entirety of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome falls squarely into my second category. And incidentally enough, the plot is interesting enough that even if the series were written by someone as illiterate as Donald Trump, I would probably still try to get through it. And the most unbelievable part is that the events illustrated in this series actually happened! The era of the late Roman Republic is one of the most dramatic and compelling time periods in all of human history, and if you've ever had any interest in ancient Rome, I cannot recommend this series enough. As a lifelong fanatic of all things Rome, Caesar's Women scratched an itch that I forgot that I had. I used to spend countless hours of my childhood playing the legionary in my back yard, practicing my oratory to my patient and receptive stuffed animals, and studying the history of a civilization that I so desperately wished that I could have experienced in person. Thanks to Colleen McCullough, I finally feel that I have. In this book, we see Caesar transform from a young politician full of potential to a budding autocrat with his eyes set on his ultimate prize: becoming the First Man in Rome. And in the era of the late Roman Republic, there exists but one means to this end: conquest. Onwards Caesar! Further Gaul awaits!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elena

    3.75 stars. In this fourth book of the Masters of Rome series, Gaius Julius Caesar finally takes center stage. This novel follows the beginnings of his political career, and focuses especially on his battles in the Roman Forum. Also, as the title suggests, Colleen McCullough explores his relationships with the most important women of his life. So far the first two books remain my favourite of this series. This is probably because, as much as I love Caesar as a historical figure, I am not yet 3.75 stars. In this fourth book of the Masters of Rome series, Gaius Julius Caesar finally takes center stage. This novel follows the beginnings of his political career, and focuses especially on his battles in the Roman Forum. Also, as the title suggests, Colleen McCullough explores his relationships with the most important women of his life. So far the first two books remain my favourite of this series. This is probably because, as much as I love Caesar as a historical figure, I am not yet completely sold on his characterization by McCullough. Don't get me wrong, he is fascinating; but, while I think she did a splendid job with Sulla, Caesar still feels a little too perfect for me. However, I do appreciate that she began to explore his darker side, and I hope to see more of it in the next novels. What I really enjoyed were his relationships with other characters in the book: his mother Aurelia (definitely one of my favourite of the series), Pompeius and Crassus. His conversations with Crassus, especially, were among my favourite parts of the book. Most of the action takes place in the Roman Forum, and these scenes were interesting to read too. Some parts felt a little dense and repetitive, but for the most part I was highly entertained by the ferocious oral battles. I loved reading about the different political factions and political strategies. The Catilina conspiracy was probably my favourite part. I think I will pick up the next book soon. I am very excited to see how McCullough tackles Caesar's most famous acts!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Moll

    My first foray into Roman history, I have ready, my next conquest, Colleen McCullough's First Man in Rome. I have joined the throng of plebs that find anything and everything about Caesar fascinating. In starting at the end of the series, Masters of Rome, I will now move onto the first. I am a time travel hopper, a binocular spotter, a historical plotter, an out of water otter. I find this method of attack, this guerrilla foray, a fun and interesting way to discover the past. Never fear, fellow My first foray into Roman history, I have ready, my next conquest, Colleen McCullough's First Man in Rome. I have joined the throng of plebs that find anything and everything about Caesar fascinating. In starting at the end of the series, Masters of Rome, I will now move onto the first. I am a time travel hopper, a binocular spotter, a historical plotter, an out of water otter. I find this method of attack, this guerrilla foray, a fun and interesting way to discover the past. Never fear, fellow novice to Roman reading, an exceptional glossary makes light the task. This novel, woven in and around the noble women of Rome is both captivating and thought provoking. Oh, the influence of Rome, over 2000 years later, part of the very fabric of today's western world, the very streets we tread, the very laws with which we govern. But it is McCullough's characters that nail you to this novel, provoke laughter out loud, make the pages fly. The politics, intrigue, masterminding, collusion, pave the road to, fro, and within Rome, above which rises the dignitas of our most memorable Roman. Yet, the rise of one man is never autonomous, and although when in Rome, (you know the drill), one is wise to remember, the part played by those without a voice, vote, or visage, a part both part and parcel and foundation to his lofty rise, Caesar's Women. Thanks to McCullough we can do just that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    In the 4th book in her "Masters of Rome" series, McCullough continues the story of Julius Caesar and the people and events in his life. We begin with Caesar's return to Rome after his proconsulship in Spain and his election as Pontifex Maximus. The core plot point of the book is the ongoing conflict between Caesar and the "boni" faction in the Senate (e.g. Bibulus, Cato). We see the formation of the first triumvirate, as Caesar partners with Crassus and Pompey for their mutual benefit. "Caesar's In the 4th book in her "Masters of Rome" series, McCullough continues the story of Julius Caesar and the people and events in his life. We begin with Caesar's return to Rome after his proconsulship in Spain and his election as Pontifex Maximus. The core plot point of the book is the ongoing conflict between Caesar and the "boni" faction in the Senate (e.g. Bibulus, Cato). We see the formation of the first triumvirate, as Caesar partners with Crassus and Pompey for their mutual benefit. "Caesar's Women", suitably titled, also tells us much about the women in Caesar's life--his mother Aurelia, as she moves in with Caesar to oversee the Vestal Virgins, Caesar's daughter Julia and her ultimate marriage to Pompey, and Servilia, mother to Brutus and Caesar's mistress. The entire book takes place in Rome and McCullough gives us lots of information about these women and the events in Rome that they are a part of. McCullough's novels in this series are masterful. They are incredibly researched--McCullough reportedly spending 13 years researching the period before starting the first novel. But they are also incredibly readable, given the depth of the characters that she creates. She does a good job of staying faithful to the historical records that we have, while fleshing out the various personae, bringing them to life. Her books are an enjoyable read even for readers not already fans of Ancient Roman history.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Boy, it appears that the Roman Republic was as f**d up as our current political system. The more things change the more they are the same, as the saying goes. You have dirty tricksters (Clodius), you have politicians who are trying to do the right thing by their constituents, i.e. Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey and then you also have the obstructionists, i.e. Cato, Bibulus among others. I couldn't help, as I was reading, of putting contemporary politician faces to the characters. I am simply in awe Boy, it appears that the Roman Republic was as f**d up as our current political system. The more things change the more they are the same, as the saying goes. You have dirty tricksters (Clodius), you have politicians who are trying to do the right thing by their constituents, i.e. Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey and then you also have the obstructionists, i.e. Cato, Bibulus among others. I couldn't help, as I was reading, of putting contemporary politician faces to the characters. I am simply in awe how McCullough is able to fictionalize this period of the Roman Republic based on her research and making logical inference from period documents and known historical facts. She tells a good story and makes the period exciting. In addition she describes how the women associated with powerful Romans may have affected decisions and politician's behavior. She makes us think that, obviously, these Roman politicians had relationships with women who steered them, who supported them and who advised them. If you are interested in the Roman Republic history, then this series, Masters of Rome, is very informative. The fiction is woven into the historical record. At the end of the book, McCullough does provide a chapter to support her view of her fictionalized account and she chose the logic on why she might have deviated from the documented record.

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