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Masters of Rome

Masters of Rome

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Masters of Rome is a series of historical fiction
Historical fiction
Historical fiction tells a story that is set in the past. That setting is usually real and drawn from history, and often contains actual historical persons, but the principal characters tend to be fictional...

A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

s by author Colleen McCullough
Colleen McCullough
Colleen McCullough-Robinson, , is an internationally acclaimed Australian author.-Life:McCullough was born in Wellington, in outback central west New South Wales, in 1937 to James and Laurie McCullough. Her mother was a New Zealander of part-Māori descent. During her childhood, her family moved...

 (b. 1937) set in ancient Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 during the last days of the old Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

; it primarily chronicles the lives and careers of Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius
Gaius Marius was a Roman general and statesman. He was elected consul an unprecedented seven times during his career. He was also noted for his dramatic reforms of Roman armies, authorizing recruitment of landless citizens, eliminating the manipular military formations, and reorganizing the...

, Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix , known commonly as Sulla, was a Roman general and statesman. He had the rare distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as that of dictator...

, Pompeius Magnus, Gaius Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

, and the early career of Caesar Augustus. It spans from January 1, 110 BC through to January 16, 27 BC.

Other major historical figures who appear and play prominent parts in the series include Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI of Pontus
Mithridates VI or Mithradates VI Mithradates , from Old Persian Mithradatha, "gift of Mithra"; 134 BC – 63 BC, also known as Mithradates the Great and Eupator Dionysius, was king of Pontus and Armenia Minor in northern Anatolia from about 120 BC to 63 BC...

, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus, Publius Rutilius Rufus
Publius Rutilius Rufus
Publius Rutilius Rufus was a Roman statesman, orator and historian of the Rutilius family, as well as great-uncle of Gaius Julius Caesar....

, Quintus Sertorius
Quintus Sertorius
Quintus Sertorius was a Roman statesman and general, born in Nursia, in Sabine territory. His brilliance as a military commander was shown most clearly in his battles against Rome for control of Hispania...

, Marcus Livius Drusus
Marcus Livius Drusus (tribune)
The younger Marcus Livius Drusus, son of Marcus Livius Drusus, was tribune of the plebeians in 91 BC. In the manner of Gaius Gracchus, he set out with comprehensive plans, but his aim was to strengthen senatorial rule...

, Jugurtha of Numidia, Spartacus
Spartacus was a famous leader of the slaves in the Third Servile War, a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic. Little is known about Spartacus beyond the events of the war, and surviving historical accounts are sometimes contradictory and may not always be reliable...

, Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus
Marcus Licinius Crassus was a Roman general and politician who commanded the right wing of Sulla's army at the Battle of the Colline Gate, suppressed the slave revolt led by Spartacus, provided political and financial support to Julius Caesar and entered into the political alliance known as the...

, Marcus Tullius Cicero, Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus
Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus was a politician of the late Roman Republic.Bibulus was the son in law of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticencis. In 59 BC he was elected consul, supported by the optimates, conservative republicans in the Senate and opponents of Julius Caesar's triumvirate...

, Marcus Porcius Cato
Cato the Younger
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

, Publius Clodius, Titus Annius Milo
Titus Annius Milo
Titus Annius Milo Papianus was a Roman political agitator, the son of Gaius Papius Celsus, but adopted by his maternal grandfather, Titus Annius Luscus...

, Vercingetorix
Vercingetorix was the chieftain of the Arverni tribe, who united the Gauls in an ultimately unsuccessful revolt against Roman forces during the last phase of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars....

, Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus
Marcus Junius Brutus , often referred to as Brutus, was a politician of the late Roman Republic. After being adopted by his uncle he used the name Quintus Servilius Caepio Brutus, but eventually returned to using his original name...

, Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus
Gaius Cassius Longinus was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus.-Early life:...

, Marcus Antonius, Cleopatra VII of Egypt
Cleopatra VII of Egypt
Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a family of Greek origin that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great's death during the Hellenistic period...

, Caesarion
Ptolemy XV Philopator Philometor Caesar , better known by the nicknames Caesarion and Ptolemy Caesar , was the last king of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt, who reigned jointly with his mother Cleopatra VII of Egypt, from September 2, 44 BC...

 and Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa
Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa was a Roman statesman and general. He was a close friend, son-in-law, lieutenant and defense minister to Octavian, the future Emperor Caesar Augustus...

. Each book in the series features a detailed glossary, hand-drawn illustrations of the major characters, and notes by McCullough detailing her reasoning for portraying certain events in certain ways.

The series has a thesis: as Rome became more powerful within the Mediterranean world, the old ways of doing things – through the deliberation of various interests, mainly aristocratic and mercantile – became impossibly cumbersome. It became more and more difficult to govern an empire with institutions originally designed to administer a city-state. Certain powerful leaders (especially Marius, Sulla, and Caesar on a populares
Populares were aristocratic leaders in the late Roman Republic who relied on the people's assemblies and tribunate to acquire political power. They are regarded in modern scholarship as in opposition to the optimates, who are identified with the conservative interests of a senatorial elite...

 ticket) tried to create a state in which they had autocratic power but also preserved the externals of the old ways. They were opposed by the conservatives (called the optimates
The optimates were the traditionalist majority of the late Roman Republic. They wished to limit the power of the popular assemblies and the Tribunes of the Plebs, and to extend the power of the Senate, which was viewed as more dedicated to the interests of the aristocrats who held the reins of power...

 by classical historians, though they themselves preferred the title boni or "good men"). The obtuse or simply ignorant resistance of these reactionaries, who are all (except for Cato
Cato the Younger
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

) presented as degenerate or self-serving, made the creation of an autocracy necessary. The result was the birth of an imperial monarchy
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, and a radically different organization of power. The novels have been criticized for their idealization of military dictators and strong men like Caesar and Octavian.

McCullough portrays Caesar as being an autocrat but also a great military man, populist and reformer, which is somewhat controversial. She does not portray the death of the Republic as a positive thing but rather portrays Caesar as being a great man and his crossing of the Rubicon as being inevitable, given that the alternative was exile and disgrace and the violation of his dignitas, which was an unthinkable anathema
Anathema originally meant something lifted up as an offering to the gods; it later evolved to mean:...

 to a Roman Patrician of consular rank. According to McCullough's portrayal, Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon
Caesar's civil war
The Great Roman Civil War , also known as Caesar's Civil War, was one of the last politico-military conflicts in the Roman Republic before the establishment of the Roman Empire...

 was his last option, his last roll of the dice, as best illustrated by the timeless quote from Caesar: "The die is cast.". McCullough points out that the better translation of this original Greek phrase is "Let the dice fly high.", which characterises not fatalism (as with the former) but rather risk-taking, the crossing of the Rubicon being Caesar's last gambit.

The novels of the series are
  1. The First Man in Rome
    The First Man in Rome (novel)
    The First Man in Rome is the first historical novel in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.The cast includes most of the major historical figures of the late Roman Republic, including: Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, as well as Gaius Julius Caesar II , Julia, Marcus Aemilius...

    (1990); spanning the years 110–100 BC
  2. The Grass Crown
    The Grass Crown (novel)
    The Grass Crown is the second historical novel in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.The novel opens shortly after the action of The First Man in Rome...

    (1991); spanning the years 97–86 BC
  3. Fortune's Favourites
    Fortune's Favourites (novel)
    Fortune's Favourites is the third historical novel in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. In the United States of America, it has been published as Fortune's Favorites.-Plot summary:...

    (1993); spanning the years 83–69 BC
  4. Caesar's Women
    Caesar's Women
    Caesar's Women is the fourth historical novel in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series, published on 21 March 1996.-Plot summary:...

    (1997); spanning the years 67–59 BC
  5. Caesar
    Caesar (novel)
    Caesar: Let the Dice Fly is the fifth historical novel in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.-Plot summary:The novel opens in 54 BC, with Caesar in the middle of his epochal Gallic campaigns, having just invaded Britannia...

    (1998); spanning the years 54–48 BC
  6. The October Horse
    The October Horse (novel)
    The October Horse is the sixth novel in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.-Plot introduction:The book begins with Gaius Julius Caesar's Egyptian campaign in Alexandria, his final battles with the Republicans led by Metellus Scipio, Cato the Younger, Titus Labienus and the brothers...

    (2002); spanning the years 48–41 BC and
  7. Antony and Cleopatra
    Antony and Cleopatra (novel)
    Antony and Cleopatra is the seventh and purposely last novel in Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series.- Plot summary :McCullough continues her Masters of Rome series with the seventh and final installment, Antony and Cleopatra...

    (2007); spanning the years 41–27 BC

McCullough originally decided to end the series with The October Horse because in her opinion the ultimate fall of the Roman Republic took place after the Battle of Philippi
Battle of Philippi
The Battle of Philippi was the final battle in the Wars of the Second Triumvirate between the forces of Mark Antony and Octavian and the forces of Julius Caesar's assassins Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus in 42 BC, at Philippi in Macedonia...

, with the death of Caesar's assassins. However, most historians place the end of the Republic a decade later, after the final showdown between Augustus and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium
Battle of Actium
The Battle of Actium was the decisive confrontation of the Final War of the Roman Republic. It was fought between the forces of Octavian and the combined forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. The battle took place on 2 September 31 BC, on the Ionian Sea near the city of Actium, at the Roman...

, in 31 BC.

In response to lobbying from fans McCullough completed one more volume concerned mainly with Antony and Cleopatra, Antony and Cleopatra, released in September, 2007, in the UK, and December, 2007, in the US. Bob Carr
Bob Carr
Robert John "Bob" Carr , Australian statesman, was Premier of New South Wales from 4 April 1995 to 3 August 2005. He holds the record for the longest continuous service as premier of NSW...

, former Premier
Premier is a title for the head of government in some countries and states.-Examples by country:In many nations, "premier" is used interchangeably with "prime minister"...

 of New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 has very publicly campaigned for McCullough to write further Roman novels. He argues that she should not continue in chronological order through the Second Triumvirate
Second Triumvirate
The Second Triumvirate is the name historians give to the official political alliance of Octavius , Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Mark Antony, formed on 26 November 43 BC with the enactment of the Lex Titia, the adoption of which marked the end of the Roman Republic...

 and the Julio-Claudian
Julio-Claudian Dynasty
The Julio-Claudian dynasty normally refers to the first five Roman Emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula , Claudius, and Nero, or the family to which they belonged; they ruled the Roman Empire from its formation, in the second half of the 1st century BC, until AD 68, when the last of the line,...

 and Flavian
Flavian dynasty
The Flavian dynasty was a Roman Imperial Dynasty, which ruled the Roman Empire between 69 and 96 AD, encompassing the reigns of Vespasian , and his two sons Titus and Domitian . The Flavians rose to power during the civil war of 69, known as the Year of the Four Emperors...

 Dynasties but instead skip ahead to write about the Five Good Emperors. This is unlikely, because her eyesight is rapidly failing due to macular degeneration
Macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is a medical condition which usually affects older adults and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field because of damage to the retina. It occurs in “dry” and “wet” forms. It is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in older adults...


External links