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

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  11,800 ratings  ·  528 reviews
From the bestselling author of The Thorn Birds comes a masterpiece of historical fiction that is fascinating, moving, and gloriously heroic. The reader is swept into the whirlpool of pageantry, passion, splendor, chaos and earth-shattering upheaval that was ancient Rome. Here is the story of Marius, wealthy but lowborn, and Sulla, aristocratic but penniless and debauched -...more
Paperback, 1076 pages
Published August 1st 1991 by Avon Books (first published January 1st 1990)
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Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
71st out of 4,133 books — 17,551 voters
I, Claudius by Robert GravesThe First Man in Rome by Colleen McCulloughClaudius the God and His Wife Messalina by Robert GravesThe Twelve Caesars by SuetoniusThe Grass Crown by Colleen McCullough
Best Books About Ancient Rome
2nd out of 395 books — 640 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Karla (Mossy Love Grotto)
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...more
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...more
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...more
Allison (The Allure of Books)
Sep 15, 2009 Allison (The Allure of Books) rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Marilyn Ware
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!
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
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...more
I Cladius meets Clan of the CaveBear
Miss GP
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...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
Apr 18, 2010 Fiona rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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
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
The first thing that really struck me about this book was the amount of hard work, research, and love the author put into it. It's stuffed with every possible tool she could have used to bring ancient Rome to life: illustrations of the characters taken from their actual Republic Roman busts (when available; when not, she used plausible choices from the faces), tons of maps ranging from a layout of one character's insula (a Roman apartment building) to a diagram of the Germans' migrations and rou...more
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...more
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 of...more
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...more
First of an amazing series McCullough has written about Rome in the time of Julius Caesar. Yet here we start with a Roman not nearly so well known, a 'new man' in the sense he was not from one of the leading Roman families. But he was a genius as a military commander as well as a highly adept politician. Gaius Marius is not a household name but he made a huge impact on the Republic. McCullough approaches her (long) story with amazing passion. She has extensive end notes to help those who need to...more
Jul 07, 2012 Brad rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Brad by: no one i found it while scrounging through books on Rome
Shelves: favorites
This is the best book series I have ever read by far. To begin with the fall of the roman republic I believe is one of the most entertaining dramas on its own in all of history, but then when you add the amazing writing style of Colleen McCullough the story just comes to life through the eyes of some of the most powerful men in the history of the world.
The series starts with the military genius Gaius Marius beginning his career with his triumphs in Africa where he meets a seer who tells him he...more
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
Linda Harkins
We know the author from THE THORN BIRDS, but 21 years have elapsed since immensely talented Colleen McCllough published the first of her historical novels on Rome. Formidable though it may appear, this tome is definitely a magnificent read. Impeccably resarched, THE FIRST MAN IN ROME is essentially the story of an unlikely friendship that brought together one of the greatest generals in Roman history, Gaius Marius who rid Rome of the German threat, and his brilliant brother-in-law, patrician qua...more
Any classics scholars who have plowed through some Livy will see here the same format, told in annals dated by the Consuls. See Marius and Sulla rise from peasantry and poverty to become Rome's first military leaders to really bend the state to unknown boundaries - Marius was elected consul 5 straight terms, the first to ever be even elected back to back. This is a story of the great men who began as strong allies and, thru fame and age, grew apart. The characterization of Sulla is amazing - McC...more
Lengthy tomes like this are not my cup of tea, nor is the time period (110 - 100 B.C.), otherwise I would give this a higher rating. If you are a fan of ancient Rome then this would be a worthy read. The character development is excellent, and better than I expected for the subject time period. The glossary is worthy in its own right and very helpful ingiving a lot of background detail that helps bring the reader along, so that you do not need to be a scholar of the period to understand the back...more
Erik Graff
Jul 09, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: McCullough fans
Recommended to Erik by: James DeVoto
Shelves: literature
A classics professor friend recommended this to me as a well-researched novel set in the late Roman Republic. Indeed, it was, the notes included being worth a look in order to appreciate the work--much of it done by hired graduate students--involved. Most amusing was the research done as regards how it was possible for a man in a toga to urinate without becoming undone. However, although a plausible reconstruction, McCullough's actual writing style is a bit tedious.
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:
Jun 22, 2014 Richard marked it as to-read
Recommended to Richard by:
Strongly recommended by my favorite blogger/news-aggregator, Doug Muder at the Weekly Sift, in his essay Countdown to Augustus: Losing the Republic one day at a time as a we've-seen-this-history-lesson,-right? kind of book.

I've already listened to Dan Carlin's Death Throes of the Republic six-part 13-hour mega-epic-podcast series, but I'm up for more.
James Oliver Burns
First of all this book has everything that I ask in a historical fiction book. It is historically accurate, it is well researched, and it's characters come to life and are historically accurate as much as possible. I read the glossary last and I should've read it first, this book had the feel of a history textbook that you would read in school. I grew up watching movies such as the fall of the Roman Empire, Ben-Hur, Spartacus and the robe. so I really have a love for Roman wars, strategy, tactic...more
Arun Divakar
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...more
Ty Parsons
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...more
Sherry H
Historical fiction is a big term, and it can be many things. I love it when it's a real history lesson - with all the correct names and dates and battles and alliances and family lineage - with the addition of living, breathing characters. The First Man in Rome is just that kind of book - something that adds life to an important and fascinating piece of our world's history. Colleen McCullough has done her homework, and in so doing, has made ancient Rome real and memorable in a way my high school...more
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How did reading this series affect your view of Julius Caesar? 8 47 May 04, 2014 12:29PM  
Masters of Rome Series 22 134 Jul 31, 2013 04:06PM  
  • Claudius the God and His Wife Messalina (Claudius, #2)
  • Roman Blood (Roma Sub Rosa, #1)
  • Hero of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens, #1)
  • Eagle in the Snow
  • Imperium: A Novel of Ancient Rome (Cicero, #1)
  • The Forgotten Legion (Forgotten Legion Chronicles, #1)
  • Pride of Carthage
  • Julian
  • Fire in the East (Warrior of Rome, #1)
  • Marius' Mules: The Invasion of Gaul (Marius' Mules, #1)
  • Rome: The Emperor's Spy (Rome, #1)
  • Wounds of Honour (Empire, #1)
  • Tribune of Rome (Vespasian, #1)
  • The Eagle's Conquest (Eagle, #2)
Colleen McCullough AO (born 1 June 1937) is an internationally acclaimed Australian author. Colleen was born in Wellington in central west New South Wales to James and Laurie McCullough.

McCullough was born in Wellington, in outback central west New South Wales, in 1937 to James and Laurie McCullough. She grew up during World War II. Before entering tertiary education, she previously earned a livin...more
More about Colleen McCullough...
The Thorn Birds The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome, #2) Fortune's Favorites (Masters of Rome, #3) Caesar (Masters of Rome, #5) Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome, #4)

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