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by Conn Iggulden

Pub Date: Dec. 31st, 2002
ISBN: 0-385-33660-8
Publisher: Delacorte

A debut by a British schoolteacher depicts the childhood and early career of Julius Caesar.

In case you’ve forgotten your Suetonius, the later days of the Roman Republic were a rough time for the well connected. The fledging empire had established colonies farther and farther afield, colonies that reaped fortunes but required standing armies. The generals of these armies (who paid for the upkeep of their men out of their own pockets) all became laws unto themselves after a while; the Senate was the ultimate authority, but it was unwieldy, and rife with corruption and factions. When young Gaius, the son of a senator, was growing up, everyone expected that the Senate would soon have to appoint a Dictator—a Caesar—to reestablish order. But who? After his father is killed in a slave uprising, Gaius lives with his uncle, Marius the Consul, one of the leading contenders. Marius has just come back with his Legion from a successful campaign in Africa, but his rival Sulla has balked at allowing Marius and his troops to enter the city, lest the troops establish Marius as the Caesar. Sulla has been making a name for himself as a general and would naturally prefer that the Senate choose him. How does it end? With a civil war, naturally, in which Sulla’s forces drive Marius and his army back to North Africa, then invade Greece to put down a rebellion led by Mithridates. While Sulla is away, however, Marius, having prevailed upon the Senate to declare Sulla a traitor, reenters the city in triumph. Young Gaius—now named “Julius” after his dead father—observes all the maneuverings and learns the most important lesson a Roman statesman can master: Trust no one. It becomes his motto once he is named the Caesar himself, but he makes one exception—for a childhood friend and blood-brother named Marcus Brutus.

An absorbing portrait of ancient Roman life and history, well written and full of suspense—even for those who know the ending.