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ROMAN EMPIRE -THE HISTORY... > 1. HF - THE FIRST MAN IN ROME - THE FIRST YEAR (1 - 95) (09/06/10 - 09/12/10) ~ No spoilers, please

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 11, 2010 08:34PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the historical fiction discussion of THE FIRST MAN IN ROME
by Colleen McCullough.

This is the reading assignment for week one - (Sept 6th, 2010 to Sept 12th, 2010)

Week 1 - Sept 6 - 12: p 1 – 95 The First Year

This is the third historical fiction group selected book.

We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers if you are catching up.

This book will be kicked off on September 6th.

This discussion is being led by assisting moderator - Alisa. She has done an amazing job with the Supreme Court and civil rights threads and this is her first venture in moderating an historical fiction book and she is very excited to be doing this. Please support her in this effort.

We always enjoy the participation of all group members. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, but this is not available on Kindle or audible.

This thread opens up Monday, September 6th for discussion. This is a non spoiler thread.

Welcome,

~Bentley


TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

The First Man in Rome (Masters of Rome, #1) by Colleen McCullough by Colleen McCulloughColleen McCullough

Alisa is using the current version available to her as follows:

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

Please feel free to research the complete Table of Contents and Syllabus on this thread:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/3...


message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Hello All,

Everybody out there should be ready for The First Man in Rome to be kicked off.

Alisa will kick this book off tomorrow and it is one great book.


message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 06, 2010 06:16AM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments And so the book The First Man in Rome opens up with the following description:

"Having no personal commitment to either of the new consuls, Gaius Julius Caesar and his new sons simply tacked themselves onto the procession which started nearest to their own house, the procession of the senior consul, Marcus Minucius Rufus. Both consuls lived on the Palatine, but the house of the junior consul, Spurius Postumius Albinus, was in a more fashionable area. Rumor had it Albinius's debts were escalating dizzily, no surprise; such was the price of becoming consul."

page 3

The book opens with a procession. It appears that Gaius Julius Caesar and his sons for some reason are tacking themselves onto a procession on behalf of Marcus Minucius Rufus. Why do you think they did this if they have no commitment to either of the new consuls?

Remember also that the date is 110BC and we are not discussing the Gaius Julius Caesar who lived from (100 to 44 BC). These were his ancestors. The elder Julia (Major) - GJC's oldest daughter would be his aunt and would have great influence on him. Also note that this is historical fiction and some liberties are taken by the author - including the fact that the Gaius Julius Caesar of 110 BC had two daughters when in fact he only had the elder Julia.

This is most likely the Gaius Julius Caesar II who was married to Marcia who had a daughter Julia (eldest daughter in the book) and a son Gaius Julius Caesar III who became the father of the famous Gaius Julius Caesar. Oddly enough the famous Gaius Julius Caesar who was the nephew of the eldest Julia in this book actually does have two sisters named Julia; but not two aunts named Julia. So some liberties have been taken yet one can see already the amount of historical research that author Colleen McCullough had to be involved in given her deep appendix, references, maps, and glossary.


Shannon | 65 comments I think that the point is to see and be seen. Everyone is dressed and acts perfectly. Everyone would be happiest if someone could act wrongly as it would give them all something to talk about. Additionaly the religion in Roman time is one of orthopractic significance. They all need to see this procession go well. They need to see the sacrifices and the behavior of the sacrifices. They need to see the Senate call the first meeting of the year. They need to see that nothing goes wrong, because anything that does go wrong has ominous significance for the year ahead, for the republic, and for them.


message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 06, 2010 09:28AM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Yes it was more about the pomp versus the circumstance.


message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments What was chapter one's Gaius Julius Caesar's heritage, why was his family tree allegedly so illustrious?


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Welcome to the opening discussion for this serial work by a critically acclaimed author. Colleen McCullough wrote this as the first in a series, and we are embarking on an adventure that centers in B.C. days of the Roman Republic. Can you imagine the adventure we are about to embark on with her? We have some 900+ pages of reading before us in the coming weeks, and for an epic writer to cover in novel style such a rich and wondrous period of history it is bound to be filled with all sorts of treats along the way. The author has generously included a robust glossary in her work to use as a handy reference along the way. Good thing we don't all need to be Latin experts, she has done her homework and laid this out in a way that will be welcoming for all. It also gives us some context about what we are reading, and we'll be sure to highlight some of these descriptions along the way.



Your friendly moderator here will admit to not having studied this period of history previously, but I can assure you I love all things Rome! The Eternal City, it's people, culture, customs, well-worn cobblestones, remnants of another day and time in places like the ruins of the Forum and Coliseum, all conjure up visions of another day. Oh my word and the politics. Even the word stirs imagination and controversy, and it seems even in the modern day it is near impossible to travel around Rome without being exposed to discussion of politics. The Romans LOVE to discuss politics - Italian or otherwise - with anyone they meet. The Forum itself was designed for an open theater of political discussion. And in this book we will have a chance to view that through the eyes of our author. In the Roman Republic where there is politics there are men brokering for power, which is sure to involve conflict, war, drama, money, and love. We are going to get it al in this book. Great! Let's get started!


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Shannon, so true. There is a good deal of ceremony involved. The processional order is intriguing, and in part used to define the focus on who is in the procession. Notice how the details of what they are wearing defines who is at what level in the pecking order. You have to wonder if how the toga is designed with it's variation in stripe placement and color is just as much for the spectator as it is for the participants.


message 9: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 06, 2010 10:32AM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Welcome Alisa...glad you are aboard and ready to roll. Folks, Alisa is on Pacific Coast time so she is behind the East Coast and Europe. It is three hours earlier than we are here in the Big Apple.

She will be opening up the threads early during the weekend for the following week now that we are rolling to compensate for the time differences.

Great intro Alisa and this should be a dynamite read and discussion.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Thanks Bentley. I'll brew my coffee pot a little earlier in the weeks to come so fear not, we will forge ahead!


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments In this first week we learn about the significance of the title of The First Man in Rome and something about our characters who aspire rise through the ranks. Gaius Marius, Gaius Julius Caesar, and the young upstart Lucius Cornelius Sulla all come into view and we see their relationships and views of each other form. As if the Romans dealing with each other isn't enough, we catch an early glimpse of how events change when an annointed sovereign visitor enters the picture in Jugurtha, King of Numidia. Then there are the two young women who are sure to be the center of attention - Julia and Julilla. Perhaps not as clear in these early pages is what daily life is like in 110 B.C. Starting on New Years Day everyone seems to be partying, or ushering in and examining the procession of the ruling class. By the end of this week we will see the foundation being laid of these early power relationships among a few key players.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments The physical description of the Romans as being fair skinned caught me off guard. The sharp angular facial features of the opening illustration of Sulla and Marius seem more consistent with a darker olive-skinned person more in line with a stereotypical Italian. Then again, the fair complexion seesm in line with a patrician-style feature. Is this inconsistent? What surprised you?


Shannon | 65 comments Skin color could be a sign of status.

If you're pale then you have the leisure to be out of the sun: carried about in a litter, or send someone else to do you errands for you, not working in the feilds. A corolary to today could be our preference to be tan. Being tan proves that even though your life is sedintary and indoors you still have the leisure to spend time out of doors even if that is completely false and your tan is airbrushed on.

I know that Romans male and female wore makeup. Most troubling being a powder made from lead to make their faces pale. I forget what sort of toxic poisons they used to rouge their cheeks and lips. But beauty is pain after all!


message 14: by Alisa (last edited Sep 06, 2010 12:28PM) (new)

Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments You have to wonder about the products used for such things as make-up and fabric dye. In those times we assume it was all organic and forget those compounds include toxins. For a population where appearances are important it must have been consuming to come up with the right combination of function and design. Look at our friend Metrobius who had the misfortune of being labeled as using 'cheap imitation safron' to dye his party outfit. (p17). And the women in their cork platforms to keep their feet out of elements (p26).


message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments The dyes were not water proof for sure.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments The appearances really had to be used for a form of communication though, don't you think? It is interesting to me how the procession lines up, what they wear, and the order in which they enter the venue. THere were surely limited means of communication so that rank and status had to be communicated through non-verbal means. They went so far as to designate the wearing of the toga as a sign of Roman citizenship. Outsiders are easily identified, which I suppose is defensive as much as anything.


Justus (jp6v) "Alisa is on Pacific Coast time so she is behind the East Coast and Europe."

It's already Tuesday here in Australia :)

I generally dislike historical fiction -- not that I've read much of it -- but I decided to join the read for First Man in Rome. I've found the first chapter a bit...boring. It feels very didactic so far. I'm hoping that won't last.

"Why do you think they did this if they have no commitment to either of the new consuls?"

Everyone turned up. Even the losing candidates (who certainly had no commitment to either of the winning consuls). I imagine it was an obligation of sorts -- probably borderline treason not to -- showing Roman solidarity and stability and whatnot.

"The physical description of the Romans as being fair skinned caught me off guard."

This could also be due to the Roman frame of reference. Nowadays we think of Rome as "European" (and thus aligned with countries to its north) but back then I think the weight of the Roman world was focused south. Rome spent more time dealing with North Africa and Greece than Europe. Perhaps the fair skin is relative to North Africans, not relative to Europeans? (Similar to how ancient Egypt called Libyans "fair-skinned" and Xenophon called Persians "white"


message 18: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Master of Rome Series (new)

Vicki Cline | 1513 comments Re Bentley's question on why the family of Gaius Julius Caesar was so illustrious, the gens Julius was supposedly descended from Iulus, Aeneas's son, hence the grandson of the goddess Venus (see The Aeneid by VirgilVirgil).

I like McCullough's explanation of why the family was relatively poor and hadn't had a consul for many, many years - that each generation had too many sons and they couldn't bear to adopt them out, so the land holdings and wealth gradually diminished. Who knows what the real story was. Gaius Julius Caesar grandpere is very charming, really too good to be true. I like him a lot, especially his giving each member of the family one special request.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Showing up for the procession is also somewhat of a social event. On any other day they would be out and about, but for an event it is the place to see and be seen. The losing consul candidates want to spy their competitition no matter what and where there is the perception of future power to be had, there are sure to be those who believe in their own eventual possibilities of ascencion. And the women are out, socializing as well.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Power comes and goes, and family lineage is but one important element in the chain that holds it together. Money and property are other power elements, and one alone does not guarantee movement up the chain. But it certainly helps considerably to come from a family of note.


message 21: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Master of Rome Series (new)

Vicki Cline | 1513 comments It's interesting that all the main characters introduced so far are historical, except for Julilla. Even Bomilcar, Jugurtha's aide, was in Rome with him at this time, although probably wasn't his half-brother. And Metrobius, Sulla's boy toy, actually existed.


message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Vicki wrote: "It's interesting that all the main characters introduced so far are historical, except for Julilla. Even Bomilcar, Jugurtha's aide, was in Rome with him at this time, although probably wasn't his ..."

very true Vicky


message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Justus wrote: ""Alisa is on Pacific Coast time so she is behind the East Coast and Europe."

It's already Tuesday here in Australia :)

I generally dislike historical fiction -- not that I've read much of it -- b..."


You make some interesting analogies about the color of their skin. I think you need to get at least half way through the first week's reading and once you do you start picking up the various story lines. I think it is quite good for an historical fiction read and quite accurate historically so far except for the younger Julia and being actually descended from the gods.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Part of what makes a historical fiction work like this so interesting. Given that the author did an extraordinary amount of research one would suppose she will draw heavily on the facts to write her own story. It should be enough to keep us history junkies engaged in the story!


Dan Fulghum | 18 comments I've not seen much historically about Sulla's early life. I like the tapestry that McCullough is starting to weave. Colorful characters with a lot of skeleton's in the closet and knowledge of political gamesmanship. I'm looking forward to the discussions.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Political gamesmanship is a great spectator sport, isn't it? Well, perhaps in fiction anyway. I think we are in for a dramatic treat. There are some hints of what may be to come with this early character development. We haven't seen much of Sulla yet, but what we have seen - eek! - he's quite an enigmatic figure. I'm taking an early liking to Gaius Marius as being somewhat savvy.


message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Yes, I feel that Gaius Marius will be a strong and reliable character which will be of much assistance to the Caesar family (all of them) and oddly enough somehow I suspect Sulla will lift himself up in some way. However, Sulla on the other hand is hard to like based upon what we have seen so far. Eek is a mild exclamation (yikes, @#$%)


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Sulla has currency in his lineage even though his character is suspect. Given the story line he is likely to be of use to someone. He hasn't done anything to ingratiate himself yet though, has he?


message 29: by Dan (last edited Sep 06, 2010 08:38PM) (new)

Dan Fulghum | 18 comments I agree. I believe the development of the relationship (I mean social/political, not sexual) between Marius and Sulla should bring some interesting and tense scenes in the book.


Justus (jp6v) Out of curiosity, do most of the people reading this know (at least some vague outlines) of Sulla and Marius? I'm curious how an author handles those conflicting audiences: those who know absolutely nothing and those who have some knowledge. And nowadays you have to contend with the omnipresence of Wikipedia: I doubt I'm the only one these days who'll check up on Julilla or Grania on wikipedia.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments For a novel I would expect the author to borrow from the facts she needs as a foundation for the character she is developing. We are bound to get a blend of info, as you suggest.

For those who are interested in more, there is a glossary thread set up where I will be posting some of the relevant info like this that comes up in our discussion. Please note however that the glossary thread IS a SPOILER thread, as by virtue of going into some of these items a bit further it is bound to reveal material which would likely be used later in the book. With that said, I will add info on the early years of Sulla and Marius. Julilla I think is a fictional character.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments The middle of this weeks segment (p46) there is some discussion about Marius' early years and his development as a warrior. What do you think will be the influence from this on his later years as he aspires to political leadership? Will it differentiate him from others with similar aspirations?


message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments I guess it will depend upon what he learned from these experiences and the alliances that he made. I am sure that those alliances are deep and will assist him. Those who do have a military background owe their lives in part to the people they are on the battlefield with and vice versa; tight bonds are formed for life because of these experiences.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments That certainly is true, but it seems that so much of what we are seeing thus far in this book also relies heavily on lineage and wealth as important factors in climbing the Roman political career ladder. I'm just not sure how much conquering matters, or does it depend where in the political arena one's aspirations lie?


message 35: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments It seems to be a combination of lineage, money, ancestral aspirations, reputation, ambition and military prowess and property ownership. It seems money and land hold keys over lineage.


message 36: by Dan (last edited Sep 07, 2010 05:43PM) (new)

Dan Fulghum | 18 comments Not necessarily. With lineage, a Roman could manage a loan that would at least get him started. A wife taken from a wealthy, politically connected family could also help weave the ambition into a bright future. For a Roman of noble lineage, it was possible to get a military appointment that could also lead to wealth and land gained from battles won. I would say that a patrician lineage would afford many more opportunities to gain the wealth, land, and reputation necessary to get a seat in the Senate and important elected positions leading to power. Some Equites were able to achieve such success, but it was much easier with the patrician lineage. What I'm saying is that the lower classes or foreigners living in Rome, didn't have the opportunities that the Patrician or even the Equites had. In many ways, it could be compared to a caste system.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments There is a complexity to how those factors interweave that makes it a bit tough to follow in these early passages and navigating through how this works using Marius' experience. The paralell to a caste system makes sense and since Marius was considered an outsider - or at least not a Roman - it seems to give him an extra hurdle to cross. The power grab is sort of dizzing!


Dan Fulghum | 18 comments Reading about the Triumvirate, in works by Tacitus, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch and others, gives good background on how money exchanged hands in the form of loans, the required accumulation of land, formation of political alliances, and, in Caesar's situation, how a man evolved and gained all the assets necessary to become one of the most powerful men Rome ever saw.


message 39: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Dan wrote: "Not necessarily. With lineage, a Roman could manage a loan that would at least get him started. A wife taken from a wealthy, politically connected family could also help weave the ambition into a..."


I of course agree that lineage is paramount for "many". But without going further in the book; that does not always have to be everything. There are other ways to skin the cat.

Also, as in the case of the Caesar family introduced to us in chapter one; one can see even the most pristine of lineages without land and money would not get you much or your sons anything.


message 40: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 07, 2010 06:26PM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Dan wrote: "Reading about the Triumvirate, in works by Tacitus, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch and others, gives good background on how money exchanged hands in the form of loans, the required accumulation of l..."

Hi Dan, when mentioning other works and/or authors we need to cite them.

When simply mentioning authors:

PlutarchPlutarch

Tacitus

Appian

Cassius Dio

When mentioning an author; add author's photo if available and in addition the author's link. The authors you mentioned for the most part did not have an author's image to add aside from one.


Dan Fulghum | 18 comments What I was saying, however, was that there were ways to get the wealth (i.e. taking a loan, marrying into a wealthy and politically connected family and/or military service). The Patrician lineage would grease the treads and give you a definite advantage to get the things that most did not have. A lot depended on your status as a patrician, equite, veteran, foreigner or low-born individual living in Rome. You had to be born a patrician and it took land/wealth to get to be an Equite. I suppose there could be a chance for a low-born individual if adopted by a patrician or Equite family, but that was a longshot.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments What we are seeing early in chapter one (remember that we are only reading the first half of chapter 1), is that one of these elements does not completely trump any other. Right? We have Sulla who comes from the right gene pool but he's dirt poor. We have Marius who is a skilled military man and wealthy but no lineage and he's not even Roman. And we have Gaius Julius Caesar who has centuries of power in his family line and has some wealth even though he tries to convince people he is poor and they haven't been in power for years. And we are also being introduced to the notion of a proper time to ascend the ranks, a specific age. So, who needs who more in this equation? and will it necessarily help them enough?

Thanks for the author links Bentley. Helpful for others checking out the topic.


message 43: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Dan wrote: "What I was saying, however, was that there were ways to get the wealth (i.e. taking a loan, marrying into a wealthy and politically connected family and/or military service). The Patrician lineage..."


Yes, lineage played an important role especially in terms of "respect".


message 44: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Alisa wrote: "What we are seeing early in chapter one (remember that we are only reading the first half of chapter 1), is that one of these elements does not completely trump any other. Right? We have Sulla wh..."

Alisa, you have basically defined the three protagonists and their plight in life as of this juncture very well. And you are welcome.

It is almost like a horse race with all of the horses at the gate. Which horse has the best pedigree, the training, the right backing, etc. (and luck).


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments The meeting between Marius and Gaius Julius Caesar is intersting. I don't want to jump too far in the discussion but it is where we are at in the book. What do you all see developing in this meeting?


message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 08, 2010 09:03AM) (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Of course, I have to keep myself in check here. But at first glance when I read these pages, I felt that GJC had something up his sleeve; why this invitation out of the blue, why Marius and why now.

I think it hit GJC that Marius was the key or could be a major player for his family's advancement and maybe he struck while the iron was hot.

Marius accepting the invitation set the play in motion. I think it was a dinner invitation for Marius and one that he was pleased with in terms of respect and stature and for GJC it was much more than just a dinner...it was a strategy meeting, an invitation to join forces in a way and an introduction to his family at all levels.

Guess who is coming to dinner. I have to wonder what Marcia thought when GJC indicated there was going to be a dinner guest and who it was. I wonder what was the reason he gave for inviting this man to dinner initially.


message 47: by Vicki, Assisting Moderator - Master of Rome Series (new)

Vicki Cline | 1513 comments This also shows the Roman attitude, at least among the elites, toward marriage and divorce. Marriage was pretty much always for wealth or political advantage. Hence how unusual it was for GJC II's son GJC III to request to be able to marry whomever he wanted. And imagine inviting a married man to dinner and proposing to have him marry whichever of your daughters he wanted, in return for money.


Justus (jp6v) I have to say I didn't like Caesar's "two reasons". One of them made sense. But the other felt like the author just beating me over the head.


Alisa (MsTaz) | 5303 comments Vicki, and also to your point, the 'shock' of the Caesar's proclaimed attitude of marrying for a long-term union in the face of an otherwise contrary view among the elite set. Personally I'm not so much of a fan of this sort of approach, but I suppose Julia did the only thing she could have done given the financial arrangement and demand the funding of a dowry. Those gals had to look after themselves and I suppose the smarter ones figured it out quickly.


message 50: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 24010 comments Vicki wrote: "This also shows the Roman attitude, at least among the elites, toward marriage and divorce. Marriage was pretty much always for wealth or political advantage. Hence how unusual it was for GJC II'..."

I have to say that this threw me too. Here he was a very respectful man inviting a married older man to marry his daughter. That takes a certain amount of boldness for sure.


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