Caesar – Masters of Rome Series – Book 5 by Colleen McCullough
Caesar: Let the Dice Fly is the continuing drama (Book 5 of 7) of the Masters of Rome series covering the years 54 BC through 48 BC. As the government of Rome descends into total chaos, the most powerful leaders struggle for control: Cato, Pompey, Caesar, and Clodius. Simultaneously, Egypt – the friend and ally of Rome – is immersed in civil war. The nine year old Egyptian King Ptolemy along with his military advisors have declared war on the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra – Ptolemy’s twenty year old sister/wife… really!
Caesar is my favorite of the series thus far. Caesar can be viewed from several perspectives; historical, philosophical, and solely on it’s fictional artistry. From the historical perspective, it is amazing how intricately detailed Colleen McCullough weaves this saga: vivid descriptions of the vast array of characters, the hand to hand combat battles, the locations – from Rome to the Gaul countryside to the heart of Egypt – and the customs and rituals. The authenticity conveyed through the genre of fiction of this complex story is worthy of an award.
I should probably reserve my thoughts on the philosophical perspective until I’ve completed the last two books of the series, but I will say there is a lesson to be learned from the Masters of Rome series.
Rome was never satisfied to merely sit back and enjoy the status of “greatest country on earth”. There was always one more land to conquer, one more group of people to dominate, and one more government treasury to confiscate. “Roman soldiers learned to hate their enemies healthily, they approached war with cool business heads. Thoroughly trained, absolutely pragmatic, fully confident… battles were won… through discipline, restraint, thought, valor. Pride in professional excellence. No other people owned that attitude to war.” Yet, for all this effort to view war and global domination as a rational, practical, economical business, Rome suffered the weakness of narcissistic leaders. There was always one more egomaniac waiting in the wings to be the greatest leader Rome had ever known, and unfortunately, the easiest way to do that was through military dominance.
And regardless of how noble the leaders original intentions, they inevitably put more importance in achieving legendary fame and securing their name in the history books than worrying about what was best for their country, Caesar included, though McCullough tends to portray him as a hero.
Regarding fictional artistry, Colleen McCullough does an incredible job of turning historical figures into living people with their ever present emotions of love, hate, envy, and pride. A daunting task, considering the number of primary characters and interwoven relationships in this 100 year saga. What McCullough lacks in style, she makes up for in tenacity.
If you like the other books of the series, you will definitely enjoy Caesar. It is quite amusing that some reviewers have given the series a bad rating stating the characters were unlikable and the plot was boring. Did these reviewers not know this series was based on real history?
Rated 5 Stars, March 2014
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