Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Pillar of Iron” as Want to Read:
A Pillar of Iron
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Pillar of Iron

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,164 ratings  ·  159 reviews
The spirit of ancient Rome in its last days of glory. The hero of the story, the man called "a pillar of iron" is Marcus Tullius Cicero, the lawyer-statesman who tried vainly to save the republic he loved from the forces of tyranny. Unfolding here are the private dramas behind the great Roman hero's triumphs and defeats - and the intimate, deeply moving story of his desper ...more
Paperback, 767 pages
Published June 12th 1983 by Fawcett (first published 1965)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Pillar of Iron, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Rowen Rayneharte Absolutely loved this book. Also make sure to read the forward. If you don't you probably will want to after reading a bit into the book. I dont want …moreAbsolutely loved this book. Also make sure to read the forward. If you don't you probably will want to after reading a bit into the book. I dont want to spoil one bit of it, so I will just say start reading! It is a book you can get into right away. You dont have to wait long to get drawn in. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.26  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,164 ratings  ·  159 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Pillar of Iron
Feb 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: all Taylor Caldwell fans
This book is about the story of Marcus Tullius Cicero the famous Roman lawyer, philosopher and statesman. Several historical characters are described the extent to which Cicero's life is described by the author. Jullius Caesar his childhood friend to whom Cicero always cheered despite some wrong political attitudes according to his point of view; Catilina his eternal enemy; Noe ben Joel a Jewish, a dearest friend and an intellectual who tried to convert Cicero to believe in the coming Messiah.

Sep 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
I don't really like historical novels, because so many false things are added with the truth to make the story interesting and fill in the gaps. It becomes a chore to filter out what is real and fake.

While reading this book, I have been reading others on Cicero and many websites, and believe this book was pretty accurate (with plenty of fill in the gap information that was made up).

Caldwell did a great job of explaining the principles Cicero fought for (like a republic and not a democracy or dic
Jan 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.” Aristotle

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.) is probably the most important man in history most of us never heard of. That he was one of Rome’s greatest orators and writers is secondary to his impact on modern western political thought. "The influence of Cicero upon the history of European literature and ideas greatly exceeds that of any other prose writer in any language," wrote classicist Michael Grant. Cicero’s t
Jim Bilbro
I only finished this book because each page was a new revelation in how *not* to write a book. Turgid, redundant prose; cardboard characters; plodding plot -- Caldwell has them all. Most risible is the way she interlards her wooly-headed pseudo-philosophizing throughout. Wait, no; most risible is the way she feels it necessary to cast her hero as some sort of proto-Christian devoutly inquiring after the prophesies of the Jews and awaiting the coming messiah. Even the history of the period is per ...more
Jennifer Catriana

Recommended for those who require a Christian infusion in their ancient history. Other readers may add a few stars if they are willing to skip anachronistic passages. It was an impressively researched work but compromised, in my opinion.
Jan 19, 2021 rated it did not like it
I read some of this author´s books years ago and remember liking them,but this one is awful. Historical novels are just that, novels;readers accept that gaps are filled, and events fictionalised,all within the boundaries of respecting the historical facts. If not, they´re trash. This one is.
Facts are twisted beyonf belief, chronology is off and daring to present Cicero as a protoChristian,when Roman religious beliefs at the time were, as we all know, pantheist and pagan,as were Cicero´s, as reco
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Castellanos
This is one of the greatest books I've read.
I was planning to rate it with 4 stars but at the end I was touched and decided to give it five stars.
The story is about Marcus Tullius Cicero, a roman orator and politic.
The pace is somewhat slow and repetitive. I can¿t recall a single chapter that didn't highlight the perversion of men and the debate of ideas: I s the man evil by nature or does he pursuits being virtuous?
Even though it is a great read, Caldwell does an excellent job at showing us Rom
Jul 29, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Whew! Am I glad to have finally finished this book! Most of the last third I skimmed so keen to be done with it. Cicero is a pathetic, weak character in this novel about him. He is so constantly exhausted with life in general it made me tired reading about him. This book can't even compare with the Rome novels of Colleen McCullough and Robert Harris. I had expected much more from Taylor Caldwell. ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This could have been a very good book. Caldwell is a very good author but her insistence that Cicero was a closet christian was just to damn much. He died 61 years before the birth of Christ for Pete's sake! ...more
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
"A Pillar of Iron" is a historical novel about Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman orator and consul during the tumultuous last few decades of the Roman Republic. Let me open this review by noting that this novel, like all of Taylor Caldwell's historical novels, is not slavish to the facts. Caldwell takes lots of liberties in her telling of the tale, which is fine since this is a historical novel and not a biography. Caldwell does not deal with the complexities of Cicero, including his own hy ...more
Sergio De Luna
I just finished reading Taylor Caldwell's book yesterday. I know this has received very good reviews, but honestly, I did not find it to be as good as people say, I love historical novels, but this one is very slow, sometimes boring.

Being a classic, I expected something more flowing, vibrant and with more quotes from Cicero, because it's a book about Cicero's life, his relationship with Julius Caesar, Pompey, Crassus and the Roman empire's laws.

It seems like the author preferred to give more spa
Allen Roth
Dec 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
A memorable fictional account of Rome's Cicero and the fall of the Roman Republic. Familiar historical figures like Julius Caesar frequent these pages as Caldwell masterly tells the story of the great Cicero as she relates the political machinations that impacted his meaningful life. Caldwell's intense research into the primary sources are evident on most every page and her skill as a writer makes it exciting reading. I heartily recommend this novel for several reasons. The most important being ...more
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you, Ms. Caldwell (posthumously), for a good read.

A marvelous read about the life of Cicero. He was a lawyer, orator, writer, and statesman in Rome just before, during, and after Julius Caesar's time. He passionately loved Rome and the Republic. His passion outweighed common sense at critical junctures throughout his life, but he was a mighty pillar of iron in Roman politics. The author's writing mechanics were excellent as was her research. The book was lengthy and, at times, wordy.
Jun 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
I got most of the way through the book, but I got fed up with Caldwell's tone. There is too much of her bending the story around her own political views which seem to be mid century conservative. Specifically, her portrayal of Cicero as a stubborn and righteous crusader is too shrill. I don't know enough about the man for this to be a judgment on her accuracy, but the character's evolution turned me off. ...more
Dec 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I learned a lot from this book about the Roman Empire; the conspiracies and power-seeking individuals that led to its fall. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Julius Casear, Cleopatra, and Casear Augustus (Octavius) are a few of the characters in this book. Strong plots and storyline throughout although drags slightly towards the end. A very good read overall.
Mike Applegate
Feb 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I know. I know. But it is historical fiction and may not be accurate, but it is an inspiring book. The quotes that are included make it well worth reading, and the story is great even though some criticize it.
Mercedes Rochelle
While reading this book, I was stunned by the realization that I was comparing this historical novel with other historical novels I’ve read (namely by Colleen McCullough and Robert Harris) and finding it lacking in historical veracity. For example, McCullough had Caesar grow up in the Subura in an apartment building and Caldwell had him grow up on the Palatine, next door to Cicero; you couldn’t have found more extreme opposites! McCullough was so convincing I never doubted her version, and I loo ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
All that man knows is a synthesis of dead men’s knowledge.

This invariably over-descriptive and long tale of famous Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero is from time to time great, but the path to greatness is unfortunately cut short by a tedious and uneventful pace. To make matters worse, the final narrative arc betrays the reader, as a series of familiar (to us present-day walking encyclopaedias) events in history are foreshadowed by the main character in the form of vivid dreams. An uninten
Pamela Mondragon
A must!
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another wonder written by Taylor Caldwell. This book tells the story of Julius Caesar as he grows up and becomes the leader of Rome. During his childhood days he was a very good friend of of Cicero who tried to save Rome as others try to destroy it. Cicero knew that Caesar was doing wrong and tried to stop him even as he as he cherished him. A very sad book about Cicero as he challenged Caesar and the rise and fall of Cicero in doing so. A fantastic read of Ancient Rome and those who tried to ma ...more
Richard Booth
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taylor Caldwell, also the author of The Testimony of Two Men, wrote this historical novel about Cicero. The work spans the time before Cicero's birth until his death by assassination at the hands of Marcus Antonius, his opponent and Caesar's "right-hand man." Cicero and Caesar were, in a sense, lifelong friends, but Cicero, having acute insight, recognized early the political aspirations of Caesar and foretold Caesar's death at the hands of his enemies. A tense friendship between the two men exi ...more
Mark Stidham
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Marcus Tullius Cicero must be one of the most fascinating historical figures. He was in the thick of the politics of the Roman Republic during the period it morphed into an imperial government. He fought with nearly everyone involved, and yet survived. He was a prolific writer:

“His life as Consul of Rome (similar to the office of President of the United States) would make a thick volume without reference to his office as Senator. His law cases are famous. His Orations constitute many volumes. Pa
James D Bohling
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are books you read as a young man or woman that change your view of life.

When I was about 10, I found an old battered copy of "A Pillar of Iron" among my parents books. I knew nothing of Cicero, and little of Rome, but the book looked interesting and the winters were long in Nebraska.

This is the story of one of the greatest Roman statesmen, Marcus Cicero. Caldwell presents a picture of a man who knows of God, though incompletely, knows the Republic is doomed, but can do little else but f
Geoff Atwater
This is a hugely flattering FICTIONAL portrait of Cicero. I agree with another reviewer who observed that the author only loosely adheres to the facts. Cicero was indeed an important figure in the late Roman Republic whose legal and literary career occurred in the shadow of a lengthy period of civil war. If not for his extensive writings, which were highly edited versions of his own speeches, we would otherwise know much less about him. Cicero would add a “Like” to this version of his story.

Daniel Melo Smith
The most beatiful book that you can read, god, family, work, everything
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
I read this back in the 60's when it came out. I loved it then and I love it now. The only reason I did not give it 5 stars is because I think some of the "history" was wishful thinking on Caldwell's part. Particularly the spiritual views he (Cicero) learns and later shares with his tutor. But other than that I trust her version of the story. And I believe you can draw strong parallels from the book to today's most powerful republic, the USA. However, today we don't seem to have any statesman wi ...more
Apr 20, 2020 rated it did not like it
Bleh. The author makes clear in her introduction that she is writing this history as an analogy to what she saw as the decay of the American empire in 1965. Her biases definitely show from the start: against feminism and social welfare programs, and a weird emphasis on the pre-Christianity of both Cicero and his Jewish classmate.

On top of that, it drove me nuts that she would describe an incident in Cicero's life in the present tense - with admittedly sometimes very beautiful prose - and then t
Luis Garcia
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would've given 5 stars if it weren't for the unexpected supernatural tales. Haven't checked the sources (and probably will not) but I highly doubt Cicero could've foreseen Caesar's assassination in such detail. This made me question everything else in the book despite the author's 9 years of prior research. I know it's a historical novel but a few times it felt like science fiction.

This is a great book however. It really made me want to learn more about Cicero and Rome.
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. I normally don't like historical novels, but this was recommended to me by a friend. It was truly a work of art, well written by the author and well researched. She does a great job bringing Cicero to life with all his greatness and flaws. Would highly recommend this book to anyone and can't wait to read more Taylor Caldwell. ...more
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A la sombra del ángel
  • La traición de Roma (Publio Cornelio Escipión, #3)
  • Las legiones malditas (Publio Cornelio Escipión, #2)
  • Africanus: El hijo del cónsul (Publio Cornelio Escipión, #1)
  • Pasión india
  • Aztec (Aztec, #1)
  • The Wrong Man
  • Dispara, yo ya estoy muerto
  • The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico
  • Merchants of Virtue (The Huguenot Connection Book 1)
  • Nadie nos vio partir
  • Reinas malditas
  • El asesinato de Sócrates
  • La reina descalza
  • The Persecutor
  • Killing Pythagoras
  • Doña Perfecta
  • The Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings
See similar books…
Also known by the pen names Marcus Holland and Max Reiner.

Taylor Caldwell was born in Manchester, England. In 1907 she emigrated to the United States with her parents and younger brother. Her father died shortly after the move, and the family struggled. At the age of eight she started to write stories, and in fact wrote her first novel, The Romance of Atlantis, at the age of twelve (although it

Related Articles

Thirty-four years after the publication of her dystopian classic, The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood returns to continue the story of Offred. We talked...
369 likes · 59 comments
“A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear.” 562 likes
“Wicked men are born every generation, and it is the duty of a nation to render them impotent. When you discover a man who seeks power for himself, out of hatred or contempt for his fellows, destroy him,” 3 likes
More quotes…