Iggulden returns with the second in a four-part fictionalized biography of Julius Caesar, this time following his subject from early victory at Mytilene to his formation of the First Triumvirate.
Although technically a sequel to Emperor: The Gates of Rome (2002), this installment actually concentrates on the earlier period of Caesar’s career, beginning with his service as a young officer in the Legion during the troubled last days of the Roman Republic. Militarily overextended and politically divided, Rome in the first century b.c. suffered an interminable succession of rebellions in the provinces and intrigues in the Senate. But bad times will always provide opportunities for statesmen, and out of this chaos Caesar found his first fame at the Battle of Mytilene, where he was decorated for quelling a revolt and saving the life of the Roman governor. Kidnapped by pirates not long after, he displayed the cool head for which he later became renowned, indignantly demanding that his captors ask for a higher ransom and calmly promising to crucify them all once he was freed (which he did). Back home, things were just as bad: Sulla, the Dictator of Rome, had just been poisoned (in retaliation, as it happened, for raping Caesar’s wife) and the Senate had become a free-for-all of plots and chicanery. Standing to the fore was Pompey, an able general who had won fame in crushing the slave’s revolt led by Spartacus but who was hampered by his lack of ready funds and by the opposition of prominent patricians. Called to the East to put down the rebellion of Mithridates (which he did with dispatch), Pompey returned to the city in triumph, making common cause with Caesar (whose noble lineage gave his cause legitimacy) and Crassus (whose vast fortune bankrolled them). The rest, of course is—well . . . history.
An admirable job: Iggulden hews closely to the real events while enlivening them with an inside perspective. Keep an eye on Brutus!