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Review: Emperor: The Gates of Rome

Conn Iggulden

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Emperor: The Gates of Rome

The book “Emperor: The Gates of Rome” is the first part of a historical novel showing the life of one of the world’s greatest politicians and leaders – Gaius Julius Caesar. In the first part, we learn about the childhood of a young patrician and his path to politics in the difficult times of the civil war.

At the outset, it should be noted that readers who take Conn Iggulden’s book in their hands will not be dealing with historical truth and credible biography. The novel about Caesar can be considered a fictional-adventure-historical story, which in many places has little to do with the historical truth. As the author himself points out in the historical note, we know little about the life of young Caesar, which is due to the fact that historians were not interested in the lives of the youngest patricians. However, Conn Iggulden went even further and changed many aspects of Caesar’s life contrary to what we know. For example, nothing is mentioned in the book about Caesar’s two sisters, including the later grandmother of Gaius Octavian, and he is an only child who is the apple of his father’s eye. Another example of “historical modification” is the fact that Gaius Marius – the great Roman commander and politician of the 2nd-1st century BCE was husband of Caesar’s father’s sister, not the brother of Aurelia Kotta’s mother. Similarly, the author colored the deaths of Caesar’s father and Marius, where the latter, as we know, did not die in the fight with Sulla. Historical changes may be irritating, but they certainly add color to the plot and give the action a more lively pace.

As I mentioned, the lack of information about Caesar’s early life and his adolescence enabled the author to fantasize and create his own vision of the childhood and adolescence of the young patrician. The rivalry of Caesar and his orphaned friend Mark with Suetonius, the son of a neighbor from a nearby estate, or learning under the guidance of an old and experienced gladiator shape the young men into real men ready to serve Rome. In the novel, two side stories emerge over time, after Gaius and Marcus go their separate ways. In this way, the author embellishes the plot and acquaints the reader with new locations and events.

Even though I’m personally not a fan of historical fiction books, I think it’s worth recommending especially for rainy afternoons. The action is fast-paced, the fate of the characters is interesting and full of emotions, and the characters are expressive. The very love of Caesar and Cornelia was, in my opinion, wonderfully shown. The book is worth reading just for pleasure; not for exploring the life of one of the greatest warlords in history.

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