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The Caspian Gates

(Warrior of Rome #4)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  885 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
AD262 - the Imperium is in turmoil after the struggle for the throne. Furthermore, Ephesus, Asia's metropolis, lies in ruins, shattered by a mighty earthquake. Its citizens live in fear as the mob overwhelms the city, baying for blood to avenge the gods who have punished them. Yet an even greater threat to the Empire advances from the North. The barbaric Goth tribes sail t ...more
Hardcover, 450 pages
Published July 1st 2011 by Michael Joseph (first published 2011)
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Jan 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Enjoyable but not as much as the previous ones. In Ephesus Ballista and familia survive an earthquake and a Goth attack and flee. Given no command, Ballista takes it on himself to relieve two cities from Goth attack. Instead of a death sentence for his crime of taking on the purple temporarily, the emperor semi-exiles him to the far end of the Black Sea, with the charge to repair passes, the so-called Caspian Gates, along with a fortress -- really not much more than a watchtower -- and to bring ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dr. Sidebottom's "warrior of Rome", Marcus Claudius Ballista, has become one of my favorite literary characters as I have worked my way through his series of novels. So I was thrilled to see that an audio version of "The Caspian Gates" showed up in my recommended list of Audible selections.

I wasn't sure where Dr. Sidebottom would take Ballista this time since the historical Ballista pretty much disappears from the historical record (according to the Historia Augusta) after he beat back the Persi
Roger Kean
Jun 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The Caspian Gates
Dr. Harry Sidebottom
Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Hard Cover: 423 pages, including Maps, Notes, Glossary, List of Characters

Sequels are a demanding task for any writer, in keeping the characters alive for the reader and consistent. In this, the fourth of the Warrior of Rome series, Harry Sidebottom triumphs effortlessly. Once again, he combines a fascinating interpretation of the mid-third-century Roman Empire in collapse with his lucid exposition and thrilling command of action scene
Robin Carter
May 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So many times i have read reviews for Harry that say..."too detailed".."Too much like a text book" etc...
I have no idea what book it is these people are reading!

While Harry Sidebottom is not your typical swords and sandals writer, his books are full of action pace, great characters and a plot that leaves the reader begging for more.

I struggled to put the book down, had to force it closed at 2am etc.. that for me is the sign of an excellent book.

Ballisata could have been used as a character and k
Jun 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Caspian Gates moves this excellent historical adventure series, set in the 3rd century AD, into new and unexplored territory. Beginning on the highly civilized but barbarian beset Asia Minor coast, the action moves to the frontier kingdoms of the Caucasus Mountains, where the empires of Rome and Persia vie for influence. Great characters, plenty of action, and a fascinating setting combine to propel this series into the top ranks of historical adventure fiction.
Lindsay Eaton
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Caspian Gates is the fourth book in Harry Sidebottom's Warrior of Rome series. As with the first three, it is really well written, beautifully researched – and I just loved it. I can’t wait for number five. Many thanks for the wonderful books Mr Sidebottom – you’re a star!
Jan 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a while since I read a Harry Sidebottom Roman novel. The last was this one's predecessor; 'Lion of the Sun.' So, I was quite looking forward to getting stuck into 'The Caspian Gates.'

However, while it is good, it's not great. Of course, better than a lot of others, but definitely not vintage Harry Sidebottom. Not close. I can only presume the glowing praise printed on the paperback jacket, was for others in the Warrior of Rome series.

It's way too bitty in my opinion. It just seems to w
This series should have ended on book three. That would have left the series with a clear overarching narrative: the story of Valerian's disastrous Persian war and its aftermath. Book one would cover the background and defense of the region prior to Valerian's arrival, book two would have covered the restoration of control over the empire and the humiliating campaign itself, and book three would cover the recovery of the Roman forces and Ballista's rise to great power and death. As it occurred i ...more
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
In which, among other things, our hero Marcus Clodius Ballista muses on the nature of Rome's willingness to adopt foreign ways, and opens up his mind while rejecting the notion of cultural relativism:

"A Roman might have been a little different. They always boasted of their willingness to adopt the best of foreign things. But, apart from Greek culture, that really boiled down to weapons and military practices -- a Spanish sword, a German war cry, the Punic word for 'tent.' Ballista would follow t
David Campton
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of this series that I have read as it was bought as a gift and neither I nor the purchaser realised that there were 3 books that preceded it... but that didn't spoil my enjoyment as it can easily be read as a story in it's own right without knowing more of the back-story than is revealed in the narrative itself... It is set in a period of history I'm not so familiar with, so it was an interesting and informative read, especially since, as many other reviewers have stated, Sideb ...more
Aug 07, 2012 rated it liked it
In my opinion this is the weakest book of the series. Sidebottom really doesn't have anything for Ballista to do until half way thru the book. The first half while he is waitig for the Emperor to decide what to do with him, Ballista is a self appointed guardian for several Roman Cities facing raiding Goths, while the battle scenes are well written, they don't really dont propel the plot anywhere.

Sidebottom has a couple of annoying tendencies. The first is to introduce fairly major characters and
Harry Fox
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like novels about the Roman Empire and there are plenty of good ones out there. But I think I like Harry Sidebottom and his several novels the best. They all are meticulously researched. He knows his stuff and has done his homework. But he is also great at the craft of novel writing. This combination is hard to beat. I plan to search out and read every one of the "Warrior of Rome" series. I have not read them all, but "The Caspian Gates" I have read and thoroughly enjoyed.
If this is your cup o
I love Harry Sidebottom's writing. With him, you know the historical research is good, the details accurate as can be and characters are interesting. I love the sense of place and time I get in this series. The maps, the details of movement; class structure and war in the Roman world at the time are fascinating. I have reviewed him more extensively in some of the previous books, suffice it to say here: I can't wait to read the next installment!
Jul 15, 2012 added it
I approached this book with a little trepidation. With a main character named Ballista, it sounded more like a fantasy novel. But the history seems good, and the action was satisfying. I was a little dismayed to find out this was part of a series of books, but it turns out this was pretty stand alone, and you didn't need to read the previous volumes. Given the dates of the books, hoping future volumes will put the characters in the thick of the Palmyrene Revolt...
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
An excellent addition to this wonderful, rich and detailed series of historical fiction. Harry Sidebottom has fully honed his talent for mixing academic authority with exciting adventure and drama. Ballista is a complex, intriguing hero, who often fails to live up to his own standards, making himself far more interesting for us. Highly recommended!
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
The best opening couple of pages I've read in a long time it really drew me straight in. Another good book from Dr Sidebottom. At times I did feel a little like I was being hit over the head with a history lesson, but still worth getting into the series and if there is another book to come then I will be buying it.
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
c2011. Ballista has to be one of the best protagonists and with Magnus as a side kick - you just can't go wrong. Lots of action, lots of information, humour to even out the brutality and poor old Ballista's travails continue. And another rather restrained romance - but, oh, the curse! Definitely recommended to the normal crew.
Peter Aguiar
May 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Better than average writing style for historical fiction, real and edgy characters, but a bit more layered than the first books: the action streches from goth pirates to persians then to the gates.....even so, its a easy and fastpaced read. ...more
Jul 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Preferred the others in the series, but still enjoy all the books. It can read very much like an undergraduate text at times, but then it gets more interesting again, so you keep going. Do want to find out how it is going to work out and look forward to the next book
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Not a bad read and I'd be tempted to read another book by Harry. Only problemus was someovus hisus over-useus offelial pretendius latinus made elements of the story drag and difficult to absorb easily...
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Dr. Sidebottom tells a great and interesting story; but at time his novels can feel like you are seating in a Roman History class. But I have enjoy this series and have started book 5.
Tom Webster
Jul 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not as good as the first few books mainly due to pacing. That said finished strongly and was very enjoyable over all.
Apr 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Not as good as the previous 3 books in the series, but still v.good! If you are seriously interested in history then Dr. Sidebottom is the man for you - 2nd only to the Venerable Bernard!
May 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another good book in that series. Takes the hero to uncharted territories. Once again, seems very well researched.
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Good plot - good characterizations - I really like the way the author weaves ancient literature and mythology into the story. Two more books to read.

Blair Hodgkinson
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Another entertaining installment in the continuing adventures of Marcus Clodius Balista. Well-written with plenty of action and earthy humour.
Nathan Albright
Mar 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: challenge
As someone who enjoys reading about the history of the Roman Empire [1], I figured that a good historical novel would be an acceptable way to spend the time in my lengthy commute, seeing as the audiobook for this particular volume spread out luxuriously over 11 hours of material on 10 cds, read by Stefan Rudnicki, who does a good job at capturing the various voices in this multiple POV novel. Yet the book is a bit of a misnomer, for although the Caspian Gates, the area where barbarians from the ...more
Paolo Calabrò
The series is losing steam. Fast.
The same situations repeat themselves a lot, and the plot increasingly straightforward and unoriginal.
Mark Knowles
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Really atmospheric tour of the backwaters of the Roman Empire. The section in which Ballista's warship seeks to evade the Gothic longboats in the mists of the Black Sea is astonishingly good: every bit as tense as 'Das Boot'! Highly recommended.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Nothing really wrong with this book but it felt trite after the previous offerings in the series - mroe battles, more poisoning, more wandering, more barbarian camaderie. It grows stale...

I stopped reading the series after this one. Will try the new Iron & Rust series, though!
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Harry Sidebottom is Lecturer in Ancient History at Merton College, Oxford, and part-time lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He has written for and contributed to many publications, including Classical Review, Journal of Roman Studies, and War and Society in the Roman World.

Other books in the series

Warrior of Rome (7 books)
  • Fire in the East (Warrior of Rome, #1)
  • King of Kings (Warrior of Rome, #2)
  • Lion of the Sun (Warrior of Rome, #3)
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“hundreds of them – sitting, standing, a multitude of refugees, all silent and dejected. Selandros gestured” 0 likes
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