This is quiet possibly my favorite translation of Tacitus. I would recommend it to any wanting to look at Roman history from a first-hand approach. It...moreThis is quiet possibly my favorite translation of Tacitus. I would recommend it to any wanting to look at Roman history from a first-hand approach. It contains a wealth of supporting material (maps, genealogical charts of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, et cetera) that make The Annals accessible. It is a shame that more of Tacitus' masterpiece did not survive so it could receive equally just treatment.(less)
Several months ago I read Matthew Clark's book, Augustus Casesar's Web: Power & Propaganda in Augustan Rome, a woeful piece of historical scholars...moreSeveral months ago I read Matthew Clark's book, Augustus Casesar's Web: Power & Propaganda in Augustan Rome, a woeful piece of historical scholarship that was only readable in so far as it demonstrated how not to try and equate the Classical world to the modern era. Gallia's Remembering the Roman Republic succeeded in all the ways that Clark's book failed.
Remembering the Roman Republic offers a detailed examination of how the leadership of the Principate founded by Augustus sought to manipulate and control both the Roman body politic and the Roman public-at-large by controlling how both remembered the pre-Augustan republic and continue to relate republican concepts of liberty and freedom to the equivalents of the same under Julio-Claudian and Flavian rule. The work expounds upon a deep, well-crafted body of research to examine how the emperors from both dynasties used both new and old institutions to validate their power with varying degrees of success. Gallia details how the Principate's various leaders relied upon manipulation of public imagery and memory to construct forms of propaganda that reveal the sophistication and development of the Roman world without distorting the inherent differences by relying on modern contrivances. While explaining how this process continued throughout the Principate period, Gallia focuses on the Flavian dynasty to a greater extent describing how Vespasian used techniques established by Augustus and his successors to cement the Principate under new leadership following the year of civil strife after Nero was deposed in 69 C.E. He explains, intriguingly, how this continued to follow a pattern of preserving Roman socio-culture, especially among elites, at a perpetual moment of conflict--allowing for links to the Republican past and the contemporary Principate to be redrafted almost at will. However, the instability of this state institutionalized deeper problems within the Roman state, as Domitian (Vespasian's youngest son) and later Roamn emperors would frequently struggle with throughout the imperial period.
Gallia's book is technical and assumes a broad base of knowledge about the late Republic and the early Roman Empire. I cannot recommend it to readers wanting to start an initial examination of the complicated world of Roman politics in the transition from republic to empire, but I do recommend it for those yearning for a more complete picture after examining the basics. Gallia freely admits in his introduction that this book is largely based upon and assembled from his work for his dissertation, and it sometimes lapses into overly-detailed accounts that are unnecessary. However, this editorial lapse is well worth the added pages to appreciate the wide-range of sources Gallia brought to bear in his treatment of the subject.(less)
William Bernhardt, author of Nemesis, is quoted on The Gates of Rome as saying "what Robert Graves did for Claudius, Conn Iggulden now does for...Juli...moreWilliam Bernhardt, author of Nemesis, is quoted on The Gates of Rome as saying "what Robert Graves did for Claudius, Conn Iggulden now does for...Julies Caesar." This would be true of Robert Graves was a thriller writing moron willing to ignore factual history at a moment's notice for mere literary convenience.
In his historical note afterward, Iggulden does mention that most of Julius Caesar's childhood is a mystery to historians. Iggulden could be forgiven for taking his liberties in with this period of the future dictator's life without taking too much flack (if only because his theories could not be disproven). However, there is little excuse for how he bastardized the competition between Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla.
Iggulden portarys Marius as being a populist infinitely younger than he was by the time Julius Caesar was born. Sulla is reduced to being an implied deviant obsessed with worshiping Aphrodite, but may still be a brilliant general in his spare time. In the books "climatic" final battle, Sulla murders Marius outside a siege of Rome while Marius shouts to his legion to burn the city. Other than Sulla marching on Rome, both events are purely fiction. Marius died weeks after assuming his unprecedented seventh consulship. Sulla went on to fill the vacuum left by Marius death, but would peacefully resign the powers of a dictator after reforming the Roman constitution. Both men were far better than the shallow, vain political power-mongers Iggulden paints them as.
Leaving aside his glaring fictionalization, Iggulden seems to delight in creating wholly unappealing main characters. I found it difficult to care about Caesar, who fluctuates between petulant aristocratic child and rich California play boy during the course of the book. His childhood friend, the fictitious Marcus, is little more than a two-dimensional exploration of a wanna-be Legionnaire. His appearances in the novel after leaving Caesar in Rome have a tacked on feel and do little more than jarringly move the reader from one part of the ancient Mediterranean world to the other.
The only part of Iggulden's fictional experiment that works is his secondary characters. They keep the book entertaining, but largely fall into the crushing stereotypes of the surrogate father (Tuburk), the mentor (Renius), the fortune-teller (Cabera), and the first love (Alexandria). If they were played by actors, a critic would praise them for managing to make the most out of a horribly written screenplay with ineptly designed characters.
I may have been spoiled by Graves' duology on Claudius and McCullough's Master of Rome series, but that leaves Iggulden little excuse to mass produce such historical garbage. I would rank both series as infinitely superior to Gates of Rome, and definitely say that HBO's Rome series was far better at capturing Rome as it was (knowing full well all its flaws) than this novel. Reading the remainder of the series would be enjoyable only to pick Iggulden apart.(less)