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The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome, #1)
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The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome #1)

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  15,196 Ratings  ·  655 Reviews
A story tracing the creation of Republican Rome presents those who founded an empire, including Marius & Sulla, each determined to become the First Man of Rome.
Hardcover, 896 pages
Published September 28th 1990 by William Morrow & Company (NYC) (first published January 1st 1990)
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Parzival Mary Renault writes a trilogy about Alexander that is quite good, and another two books about Theseus which are also quite good. Another commented…moreMary Renault writes a trilogy about Alexander that is quite good, and another two books about Theseus which are also quite good. Another commented that Conn Iggulden's Genghis series is good, and it is, but I don't know how accurate it is, as his Rome series is autrociously inaccurate. Nicholas Guild has a couple, The Assyrian and The Blood Star, that take place in Assyria which are very good. He also has one about Philip II of macedon though i believe it is only available as an ebook. Gore Vidal wrote a book called Creation which is about Darius I and is very enjoyable and accurate. You can also try Steven Pressfield for a number of individual books which take place at various points of time in Greece. Clavell's Shogun is a brilliant book and extremely accurate though it takes place in the 17th c. (less)

Community Reviews

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If I could have sex with this book, I would.

Nothing I write can really do justice to why I love this book so much. I've just finished it for at least the 4th time (most likely the 5th), and the series will probably serve as my comfort read whenever I'm in a book slump. They're great and awesome and a guaranteed satisfying read. They've spoiled me for pretty much all other HF out there, no matter the time period. Apart from Patrick O'Brian, no other author has seemed to capture an era so brillian
Tea Jovanović
Upravo sam juce na FB-u pisala o ovom serijalu... zato sto se tek sada pojavio prvi deo u Hrvatskoj... komentar je na FB stranici Povijesni romani... prevod srpskog izdanja je zastao - prevodilica je stigla do dela gde treba da ubije Cezara a to joj se nikako ne da... :) Prevodi su dobri, Zermen je veliki poznavalac Starog Rima :)

I detalj nepoznat široj javnosti... Srpski čitaoci mogu da zahvale direktno meni i mojoj neiscrpnoj upornosti da dobru knjigu doteram do čitaoca... 5 godina sam molila
Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten*
Monthly group read with Historical Fictionistas!

A solid four stars, which will probably get bumped up to five once I get a chance to reread this in its entirety rather than listening to the abridged audiobook. Don't get me wrong, the audiobook is fantastic, but... abridged. *shrugs* DOS did a fantastic job reading, as I knew he would, and McCullough's research shines through each of these characters. I don't know how much of each character was made up and how much was historical fact (aside from
Jul 24, 2008 maricar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a larger-than-life, fascinating novel...

Halfway through this book, I found myself with eyes full of dark circles. That's when I realized that I haven't had a full night's sleep since picking up this novel. Which in turn made me wonder at my reluctance towards reading another Colleen McCullough book (my previous book by her was, unfortunately, less than memorable). Suffice to say, after reading The First Man in Rome, I am now more than willing to eat my words and bow at the brilliance of McCullou
Allison (The Allure of Books)
Sep 15, 2009 Allison (The Allure of Books) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Allison (The Allure of Books) by: Kandice Zelaskowski
This book is just...a collosal achievement. The Thornbirds is just "eh" for me, her take on P&P made me really appreciate her as a skilled author and storyteller...but THIS book makes me revere and idolize her as one of the best authors in existance.

This is an almost 1000 page book about the ancient Roman senate, and I was addicted to every single word. How awesome is that? I was terrified to start it, when I glanced over the almost 300 page glossary, all I could think was "man, what if I'm
Marilyn Ware
Mar 01, 2008 Marilyn Ware rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read the entire Man in Rome series - TWICE. 900 plus pages per book. My all-time-favorite books. I'd read them all yet again should I feel so compelled. I tried to get them all in hard-bound so I could keep them for my grandson to read. I'm only missing the one I loaned out. (Dang, I shouldn't do that!)

In my opinion there is not a more definitive, comprehensive, and well researched set of novels written about the Roman Empire, Caesar in particular. Love history? Read, read, read!
Jan 10, 2010 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The First Man In Rome by Colleen McCullough is a door-stopper of a book. Without the 100 page glossary, it clocks in at 931 pages. The premise of the book is that it details the rise to power of Gaius Marius, also known as the third founder of Rome. There's politics, sex, and war. Really, you would think the First Man in Rome would be right up my alley and take a short time for me to read. Eh, wrong.

Read the rest of my review here
Feb 20, 2014 Alex rated it it was amazing
I started to get more interested in ancient Rome (particularly the Republic) after the HBO series started. I read Tom Holland's excellent Rubicon and knew I needed more--especially on Marius and Sulla, two of the most fascinating characters of this or any historical period. When I learned of McCullough's series, I began with this one and was immediately hooked. I've read all seven, but my favorites are the first 3 or 4.

I really appreciated the way she was faithful to the known history but filled
Mar 24, 2016 Jean-marcel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book blew my mind in the mid-90s. It's long, but extremely addictive reading. Until the moment I started this tome, which was recommended to me by my highschool latin and classical civilisations teacher in the ninth grade, I never fancied myself a reader of historical fiction. But this is just a grate novel in every respect. McCullough can write with equal confidence and arresting zeal about domestic, familial conflicts, or huge military campaigns involving the great Legions of Rome, and ma ...more
I'll keep this brief, a lot has already been said in the other reviews. The book does a decent job if you're interested in this fascinating period of the roman revolution. However, summarizing; it's over-long, the beginning (100+ pages) it's very disorganized, the narrative tricks get really old (the use of letters to cover historical and plot gaps is extremely annoying), the coverage of battles is minimal, the ending stretches far too long. On the upside, the senate scenes are good and convinci ...more
Jan 29, 2010 A.J. rated it liked it
At long last.

Whenever I decide to give a new author a shot, I tend to stay away from the doorstoppers. Nothing against long novels, but the possibility of a very long mediocrity isn't appealing with my to-read list bobbing at 60. That said, I have a deep fascination for late Republic/early Empire Roman material, fact or fiction, and so I was willing to throw the dice on this one, and the results as you can see were mixed.

From a story perspective, this is a tough review. Parts of the novel were
Apr 20, 2011 PDXReader rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel was highly recommended to me by a co-worker who knew I'd liked I, Claudius and Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome. He said that although Colleen McCullough is best known for The Thorn Birds, she is actually a well-respected authority on ancient Rome.

I have to admit that I approached The First Man in Rome with a lot of skepticism. It sat on my shelf for two years before circumstances compelled me to start it... and within 10 pages I was hooked. I found it to be a compelling read, so muc
This is a truly amazing work of scholarship and creativity. I had been looking for something to help me understand the Roman Republic and in McCullough, I have found it! It brings the Roman Republic to life in a way that non-fiction cannot. This book is addictive and I will read the next one in the series, "The Grass Crown".

McCullough gives us possible personalities, motives, priorities and character traits of the major players in the rise to power of Gaius Marius. I learned how the Roman army r
Sep 17, 2010 Justus rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After 180 pages I put this down in disgust. I just couldn't choke down any more of the flat characters, out-of-place dicticism, and stupid plotting.

I went into this hesitant because I'm already predisposed to not like historical fiction. I ended up not liking it but largely not for the reasons I thought I wouldn't like it. This book just felt like bad, bad writing.

I realize that part of the problem is that McCullough needs to "educate" her readers. But the explanation, for instance, of Sulla's p
another reread of an all time favorite, again I have no idea how many so far but 10+ reads; still as engrossing as on first read and keeping its place in my top 5 books/series of all time - books 1-3 are just awesome, while the rest are excellent though marred by the author's deification of Caesar

Marius and Sulla and an extraordinary supporting cast with high stakes politics, war, love, murders, and the best panoramic historical recreation of an era I've ever read

Dec 10, 2008 Flan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I Cladius meets Clan of the CaveBear
If anyone asks me for a "good book" rec, I suggest McCullough's Masters of Rome series - after finding out if they like history. Because there's plenty! The detailed passages explaining the ins and outs of the Roman senate and how it all worked are not boring because McCullough is a born storyteller and can make even the driest, dustiest stuff interesting. Her characters, people who lived over 2000 years ago, are bonafide historical figures who actually existed and she brings them to vibrant lif ...more
Wow. This book is the very definition of epic. A bit too slow at times and am glad this is a series so I can catch up to a few of the characters presented in this book.
Myke Cole
Anyone following my reviews knows by now how unsettling it is for me to disagree with prevailing sentiment about the quality of a book. The First Man in Rome is universally acclaimed, and so I really felt like there was something wrong with me when I found that I was, at best, feeling "meh" about it.

I am a fanatic about ancient history, and that of the Roman Republic in particular. McCullough is right to hone in on the absolutely incredible intricacies of the Roman Social Wars and the Jugurthine
Ty Parsons
Feb 18, 2013 Ty Parsons rated it did not like it
To every reader there is a book that stops you in your tracks, and not for a good reason. More a book that just goes on and on, and literally just chews up your time, patience and turns you off reading. This book is one of them.
Having read Colleen McCullough before(and still will) I was keen to read the Masters of Rome series. After this book I will continue no further.
In the end I failed to finish this book, despite being really interested in how it may have played out. 550/781, and I just coul
Apr 18, 2010 Fiona rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fiona by: Kandice Zelaskowski
Well... ghosh I've finished and what a book! I'm not sure if I have the energy to write this review but I better write one before my brain falls backwards in its skull and goes into hibernation.

I'm feeling a little dizzy at the moment. I have just been living in the Roman times with togas and centurions galore and I'm not quite ready for the real world. My head feels like you do after you've just come off a merry go round - I'm standing still but everything else is just spinning around in a mad
First I have to compliment Colleen McCullough on her research. Truly an outstanding effort and very praiseworthy. Her glossary at the end of the book is excellent and one which I have referred back to more then once for just general information. Having said that I now have to state that the entire series has been going down in quality since the second installment The Grass Crown . With the first two novels it is apparent that Ms. McCullough wrote them more or less simultaneously over a period o ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Vikram rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I want to register my displeasure with this series of books, and this place is as good a forum as any. The series begins with the lives of Sulla (Dictator of Rome) and Gaius Marius, and culminates some time after the death of Caesar (hope that isnt a spoiler). While Ms. McCullogh has done an admirable amount of research and the books are exceedingly accurate historically, the books quickly become bogged down in minutae of Roman life in general and the Senate in particular. The series devolves in ...more
Feb 25, 2008 Dorothea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When people wonder how I can pay so much attention to politics & not be totally angry & hopeless, I direct them to this book & it's brilliant illumination of the history that preceeds us. It's a bit much to get thru all the Latin names, but the story is so engaging one finds a way to deal with them. This is the first book in McCullough's Roman Republic series. She spent 13 years researching documents in the original Latin & Greek before embarking on the task of "fleshing out" the ...more
Rebecca Huston
One of my favourite HF novels. Introduction to the end of the Roman republic, two fascinating characters -- Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla (one of my favourite baddies who so great he's good!), and the Julius family, among others. A great read, lots of details, and helped to go a long way for me to understand ancient Rome -- and modern politics. Seriously.

For the complete review, please go here:
Sublime, I'll get to a re-read-re-review eventually. That closing passage still gave me the motherfucking chills.
May 17, 2015 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
2.5 stars. I am heavily conflicted by this book. Firstly, it was incredibly long, as were the chapters. Secondly, the sheer amount of names looked to be never-ending, and given most major characters had four or five names, and could have been referred to by one or two of them, it took a while to work out who was being spoken about. Thirdly, new characters were dumped into the story with gay abandon, sometimes with no or little lead-in. Parts of the book were enjoyable, but there wasn't really a ...more
This was a huge, sweeping book which was enjoyable from the beginning to the end. Ordinarily, I avoid books of this size as I often get bogged down, but this one just seemed to flow. There were definitely times when the detail could have been cut down, but I was so keen to know what happened and I loved the stories of the political machinations which Gaius Marius and Sulla engaged in. Both were admirable characters whom I really liked. At times I was so engrossed in Ancient Rome that I would loo ...more
D.D. Price
Apr 14, 2015 D.D. Price rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I could only get one hundred pages into this book! Does it get better? I don't know because I didn't care to find out! From the sappy dialogue, lack of conflict, overly descriptive but unevocative and unvivid writing, and overuse of exclamation points like right here! I can't imagine this novel getting so much better that I would make the ridiculous claim that this is one of the greatest historical novels as one reviewer here claimed! However, I can sort of understand why this book as so many ra ...more
Arun Divakar
Mar 27, 2011 Arun Divakar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rome is a never ending fascination for me. Politics, power plays, forceful characters, guiles,deception and many more of those lip smacking delicacies of a republic drunk on its own power. Personally, my interest was fired by their supremely capable and organized armies, a very vocal governing system and that colossus of a man named Julius Caesar. The first man in rome however predates Caesar and begins way before his birth.

One thing to this novels credit isthe large amount of research that woul
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Colleen Margaretta McCullough AO (married name Robinson, previously Ion-Robinson; 1 June 1937 – 29 January 2015) was an Australian author known for her novels, her most well-known being The Thorn Birds.

Source: Wikipedia.
More about Colleen McCullough...

Other Books in the Series

Masters of Rome (7 books)
  • The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome, #2)
  • Fortune's Favorites (Masters of Rome, #3)
  • Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome, #4)
  • Caesar (Masters of Rome, #5)
  • The October Horse: A Novel of Caesar and Cleopatra (Masters of Rome, #6)
  • Antony and Cleopatra (Masters of Rome, #7)

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