Having already read the Conqueror series about Genghis Khan by Conn Iggulden, I was looking forward to the Emperor series. I must say I was a little disappointed as it did not have the same intensity.
To be fair, the Emperor series was Conn’s maiden attempt at writing epic historical fiction, and The Gates of Rome, his very first book. I suppose once Conn had cut his teeth on this genre with Emperor, he excelled on the Conqueror series.
Not much is known about the early life of Julius Caesar, but from inferences in the biography by Suetonius, Iggulden was able to create a fictional account of what may have occurred. Iggulden as he usually does, takes great liberties by introducing Gaius and Marcus as boyhood friends who grow up together learning the arts of war on Gaius’s father’s estate. Gaius as we know, is in fact Gaius Julius Caesar and Marcus is Marcus Junius Brutus who was the leading figure in Caesar’s eventual assassination.
In Iggulden’s fictional version of events, the two boyhood friends are separated in their early teens, with Marcus joining a foreign legion in Greece and Gaius entering politics in Rome under the patronage of his uncle Gaius Marius, who was a rival to Sinna, another famous Consul.
The rivalry between Sinna and Marius is loosely based on historical facts, but the eventual showdown between them in Rome is total fiction. After Marius takes control of the city, Sinna who was away on a foreign campaign, returns to defeat him. In the aftermath of this civil war, Julius Caesar is evicted from the city, joins a naval legion and swears to return and seek revenge for the killing of his uncle by Marius.
And that’s where the first book ends. I have not started the second book yet, but hope it gets better than the initial installment.