Caesar’s Women by Colleen McCullough
From the blurb:
Julius Caesar has proved himself a brilliant general. But when he returns to Rome he lays down arms only to take up another battle: this time for political power. This is a war waged with words, plots, schemes, metaphorical assassinations – but also with seduction and guile.
Though being the fourth book of the Masters of Rome series, Caesar’s Women was my first read of the series and I found it to be an absolutely beautiful and powerful book. It relates the story of Caesar’s initial political career in Rome. Ambitious to become the First Man in Rome this man plays his cards carefully and cleverly being always a few steps ahead of everyone else. I am simply in awe of Caesar after having read this book – a man of physical good-looks and extreme talent and intelligence.
As we read of Caesar climbing up the political ladder we are introduced to the women who helped him along the way in some form or the other, either indirectly or directly, knowingly or unknowingly. Hence the title name. Three names stand out vividly – Aurelia, his sharp-witted and dignified mother; Julia, his lovely and obedient daughter; Servillia, his shrewish yet intelligent and wealthy mistress.
There are many things that I learnt from reading this book. One of them being that Caesar was a man of the people. The ordinary folk simply loved him. Having lived among them in his youth he knew a great deal about them, and it is said that he never forgot a name! He was also a man who set high standards for himself and his family. These famous lines run through my head now, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” He lived by a code and expected those close to him or who would be close to him to follow it as well.
Apart from Caesar are other famous names such as Pompey, Crassus, Cicero and Cato. These names simply come alive within the pages of this book, and all these character serve as excellent foils to Caesar. Pompey’s insecurity as against Caesar’s unwavering self-confidence; Crassus’ love for money as against Caesar’s indifference to it; Cicero’s weak mind as against Caesar’s strong and determined one; Cato’s obsession with doing good to the point of reaping evil as against Caesar’s well thought out plans and suggestions for reaping a good harvest.
I love the way McCullough has woven this tale, delightfully blending history with story-telling and making it an absolute joy to read. Her language and style are fluid and elegant.
She has, for every part in the book, personally drawn portraits of all the main characters that, personally, gave me a good idea of what the characters looked like – some have been drawn out of existing busts and others she has drawn from out of busts that are unknown. She also has a series of maps for places and buildings which - if you are a person who likes to know every detail of where you’re going in a book - are very detailed. Her Author’s Note at the end of the novel is also very interesting as she clearly explains her reasons for slight changes she has made in terms of an event or two in the novel, and in terms of characterisation. There is also a well laid out glossary of all the Latin/Roman terms that she has used throughout the narrative.
For anyone looking for an excerpt I have posted some of the quotes
that struck me during the course of my reads.
I would highly recommend this book/series to anyone who loves history, Caesar and a well written story.