Chiefly told from the viewpoint of Aurelian's wife, this records the life of one of the last strong Roman rulers from a workmanlike though somewhat feminine angle. The basic facts are fairly close to history, but the book is rather a powerful, imaginative evocation of the chaotic period of barbarian invasions and the disintegration of the Empire, than a factual study. Severina, a rich patrician girl, is married off to Aurelian at an early age. He is a rough Illyrian soldier, busy fighting, and the marriage has its difficulties. The turning point is reached when Severina decides to join him near the battle front. After a picaresque, dangerous, exciting journey, she comes to Sirmium where she spends ten years learning about war and politics firsthand, and from Aurelian and his generals. When Aurelian is crowned Emperor, Severina is knowledgeable enough to rule Rome while Aurelian drives the last of the barbarians from Italy.... It is a first rate success story, with fine scenes of battle and behind-the-lines decisions, in which two remarkable people learn and grow strong enough to at least temporarily force a crumbling Empire to save itself.