The First Man In Rome

The First Man In Rome

Book - 2008
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With extraordinary narrative power, New York Times bestselling author Colleen McCullough sweeps the reader into a whirlpool of pageantry and passion, bringing to vivid life the most glorious epoch in human history.

When the world cowered before the legions of Rome, two extraordinary men dreamed of personal glory: the military genius and wealthy rural "upstart" Marius, and Sulla, penniless and debauched but of aristocratic birth. Men of exceptional vision, courage, cunning, and ruthless ambition, separately they faced the insurmountable opposition of powerful, vindictive foes. Yet allied they could answer the treachery of rivals, lovers, enemy generals, and senatorial vipers with intricate and merciless machinations of their own--to achieve in the end a bloody and splendid foretold destiny . . . and win the most coveted honor the Republic could bestow.

Publisher: New York : Avon A, 2008.
ISBN: 9780061582417
Branch Call Number: MCC
Characteristics: xxii, 1123 p. : ill., maps
Alternative Title: 1st man in Rome


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May 22, 2017

I'm interested, in a layman's way, in the history of Rome, so this entire series (books listed below) was riveting for me.

Masters of Rome series:
1. The First Man in Rome (1990) - The narrative begins in 110 B.C. with the story of Gaius Marius.
2. The Grass Crown (1991)
3. Fortune's Favourites (1993)
4. Caesar's Women (1995)
5. Caesar (1999)
6. The October Horse (2002) - Originally intended to be the final book of the series, the narrative carries us through Julius Caesar's death on the Ides of March in 44 B.C., and ends after The Battle of Philippi in 42 B.C., the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian (Caesar's great-nephew, and adopted son) and the forces of the tyrannicides Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus.
7. Antony and Cleopatra (2007) - Somehow McCullough was persuaded to add one more book to the series, tying up loose ends, perhaps? Or maybe it was just hard for her to imagine life without The Masters of Rome? I had secretly hoped she'd carry on further into the reign of Augustus.

Julius Caesar appears in each of the first six books. If you're interested in popularized Roman history, this is a treasure. The writing is good, if not quite up to the standard of Robert Graves two volume set "I, Claudius," and "Claudius the God," or Robert Harris' Cicero trilogy. If you have read and enjoyed any of these, however, you MUST read them all - in chronological order, of course. It is particularly interesting that McCullough seems more or less in the Caesar-worshipping camp. He was a prodigy; he was too good at too many things, which in the end had a lot to do with his downfall. But what a magnificent creature he was!

However, Cicero was Caesar's mortal enemy, and Robert Harris' books tell much of the same story as we find in McCullough - from a diametrically opposed point of view.

Be forewarned, these books are packed with lengthy Roman names, so will in some ways read like Russian novels. Hard to keep track of the cast of characters without a program, which the author naturally provides, along with detailed hand-drawn maps, and her own line-drawing fanciful portraits of the principle characters. Not very good drawings, but somehow rather endearing. She was quite a character herself.

P.S. It gets easier to keep the characters straight on the third and fourth readings. Yes, the books are that good ………

librarymovieguy Aug 14, 2013

Warning: if you read this, you'll need to read the entire series. Well worth it, though.

Feb 27, 2013

It's very readable even for those that do not know much about late Roman republic history/politics.

EuSei Apr 22, 2012

Good enough to read the whole book... although Mrs. McCullough took lots of license with historical information. (Read Appius and Plutarch and you will know what I mean.) For instance, I wonder where she got the idea that Marius and Rutilius were friends and maintained correspondence. Also, why would she conclude Sulla had sexual relations (at the same time) with both his step-mother and Nicopolis? The only thing, for example, I could find was a mention in Plutarch, that he inherited money from "a step-mother who loved him as her own son." Also that "he made court to a common but rich lady, Nicopolis" and that "she rather than he was the lover, and that at her death she bequeathed him her whole property." And where did she get the idea that there were no chickens in Rome?! Not only they had and ate them, but also used them for oracles. I guess during her “meticulous research” she did not come across Columella, Cato, Varro, or Pliny…

Jun 04, 2011

Masters of Rome series:

1. The First Man in Rome (1990)
2. The Grass Crown (1991)
3. Fortune's Favourites (1993)
4. Caesar's Women (1995)
5. Caesar (1999)
6. The October Horse (2002)
7. Antony and Cleopatra (2007)

Excellent series.
Use interlibrary loan service to order titles not owned by Orangeville Public Library.


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FavouriteFiction Oct 14, 2009

Gaius Marius, while able to lead his army to defeat the invading barbarian German tribes, finds himself resorting to deceit and treachery to achieve his political goals.


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Feb 11, 2018

He, a patrician Cornelius

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