Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome Series #4)

Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome Series #4)

4.2 7
by Colleen McCullough

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Caesar's Women is the story of Gaius Julius Caesar's rise to prominence in his world, beginning with his return to Rome in 68 B.C. as he prepares to dominate a new battlefield - the Roman Forum. The wars he fights within it are waged with words, plots, schemes, and metaphorical assassination. Today's ally may be tomorrow's foe; everything shifts and changes within…  See more details below


Caesar's Women is the story of Gaius Julius Caesar's rise to prominence in his world, beginning with his return to Rome in 68 B.C. as he prepares to dominate a new battlefield - the Roman Forum. The wars he fights within it are waged with words, plots, schemes, and metaphorical assassination. Today's ally may be tomorrow's foe; everything shifts and changes within this political arena. Caesar's victories are not limited to the Forum, however. Penned inside Rome for these memorable ten years, Caesar also conquers Rome's noblewomen. Yet the one thing he never gives to any of the women who love him or want him is himself. To Caesar, love is just another weapon in his political arsenal. He is as willing to sacrifice his daughter on the altar of his ambition as he is ready to seize other means of moving toward his ultimate goal - to be the greatest of all Rome's First Men. Was he villain, or was he hero? That argument is still being debated today, for Caesar has never ceased to fascinate the passing generations. Caesar's Women reveals the man behind the legend, and displays a world that, despite its alien trappings echoes our own too closely for comfort.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Senator and debtor, general and seducer, orator and would-be world conqueror, Julius Caesar, as depicted in this fourth installment (after Fortune's Favorites) in McCullough's epic re-creation of ancient Rome, is both a force of nature and something of a momma's boy. He worships his sophisticated mother Aurelia, ``a fount of experience and a mine of common sense,'' while dismissing as ``not important'' his ``expensive, idle, and monumentally silly'' second wife, Pompeia. Its title notwithstanding, this marvelously researched and detailed novel focuses on traditional male pursuits-political intrigue, war, conquest-in the corruption-riddled late Roman republic even as it elucidates the behind-the-scenes influence of women in a repressively patriarchal society. Caesar, though tenderly loving and protective toward his daughter, Julia, pledges her as a child to the adolescent Brutus, with whose mother-the cruel, scheming Servilia-the future dictator of Rome has a purely sexual affair. Years later, Caesar cancels the betrothal in order to use his blossoming daughter as bait to forge a political alliance with the commander of the Roman legions. Meanwhile, Cicero, Caesar's main rival, is portrayed as an incurable vacillator and social climber who displays scant gratitude toward his ``sour'' and ``ugly'' wife, Terentia, despite her foiling a conspiracy against his life. With great brio, and ample attention to Roman customs and rites, as well as to the religious, sexual and social institutions of the day, including slavery, McCullough captures the driven, passionate soul of ancient Rome. Illustrations; maps. Author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In the fourth book in her "Masters of Rome" series, McCullough (Fortune's Favorites, LJ 9/1/93) details Caesar's rise to power from 68-58 B.C. Caesar repeatedly outmaneuvers his enemies, who devise one scheme after another to bring about his political, economic, and social downfall. Eventually he allies himself with Pompey and Crassus to create a formidable triumverate. Despite the book's title, women play minor roles in the novel. Caesar consults his shrewd mother about strategy and depends on her to manage his household. He adores his daughter and misses her dead mother. Nonetheless, he consistently subordinates personal affection to political ambition, seducing the wives of his rivals and maintaining an emotional distance from his own wives and lovers. McCullough crams the book with details about Roman life and politics and includes many pages of notes and a glossary. Those readers following the series and others with an intense interest in the time period will enjoy this installment.-Kathy Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Brad Hooper
The fourth installment in McCullough's popular ancient Rome series follows "Fortune's Favorites". The author continues her sweep through Roman history during the declining days of the republic as it heads into the imperial era. McCullough has now arrived at the pivotal point: the rule of Julius Caesar, who, though he refused to wear a crown, ruled with a controlling hand, presaging the advent of men who had no problem calling themselves emperors. Although McCullough's dialogue remains as wooden as ever, her abundance of interesting background detail and her decent ability to impart human dimensions to historical figures sustain interest. Potboiler stuff, but her fans will like it, as will readers of lightweight historical fiction who haven't read her before.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Masters of Rome Series, #4
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.29(d)

Read an Excerpt

Caesar's Women

Chapter One

"Brutus, I don't like the look of your skin. Come here to the light, please."

The fifteen-year-old made no sign that he had heard, simply remained hunched over a single sheet of Fannian paper with his reed pen, its ink long since dried, poised in midair.

"Come here, Brutus. At once," said his mother placidly.

He knew her, so down went the pen; though he wasn't mortally afraid of her, he wasn't about to court her displeasure. One summons might be safely ignored, but a second summons meant she expected to be obeyed, even by him. Rising, he walked across to where Servilia stood by the window, its shutters wide because Rome was sweltering in an unseasonably early heatwave.

Though she was short and Brutus had recently begun to grow into what she hoped was going to be tallness, his head was not very far above hers; she put up one hand to clutch his chin, and peered closely at several angry red lumps welling under the skin around his mouth. Her hand released him, moved to push the loose dark curls away from his brow: more eruptions!

"How I wish you'd keep your hair cut!" she said, tugging at a lock which threatened to obscure his sightand tugging hard enough to make his eyes water.

"Mama, short hair is unintellectual," he protested.

"Short hair is practical. It stays off your face and doesn't irritate your skin. Oh, Brutus, what a trial you're becoming!"

"If you wanted a crop-skulled warrior son, Mama, you should have had more boys with Silanus instead of a couple of girls."

"One son is affordable. Two sons stretch the money further than it wants to go. Besides, if I'd givenSilanus a son, you wouldn't be his heir as well as your father's." She strode across to the desk where he had been working and stiffed the various scrolls upon it with impatient fingers. "Look at this mess! No wonder your shoulders are vacation, but some of the Mighty were out and about nonetheless, distinguished by the bobbing red-thonged bundles of rods their lictors carried shoulder-high to proclaim their imperium.

It's so hilly, Mama? Can't you slow down?" panted Brutus as his mother marched up the Clivus Orbius on the far side of the Forum; he was sweating profusely.

"If you exercised more, you wouldn't need to complain," said Servilia, unimpressed.

Nauseating smells of foetor and decay assailed Brutus's nostrils as the towering tenements of the Subura pressed in and shut out the light of the sun; peeling walls oozed slime, the gutters guided dark and syrupy trickles into gratings, tiny unlit caverns that were shops passed by unnumbered. At least the dank shade made it cooler, but this was a side of Rome young Brutus could happily have done without, "everyone" notwithstanding.

Eventually they arrived outside a quite presentable door of seasoned oak, well carved into panels and owning a brightly polished orichalcum knocker in the form of a lion's head with gaping jaws. One of Servilia's attendants plied it vigorously, and the door opened at once. There stood an elderly, rather plump Greek freedman, bowing deeply as he let them in.

It was a gathering of women, of course; had Brutus only been old enough to put on his plain white toga virilis, graduate into the ranks of men, he would not have been allowed to accompany his mother. That thought provoked panic-Mama must succeed in her petition, he must be able to continue to see his darling love after December and manhood! But betraying none of this, he abandoned Servilia's skirts the moment the gushing greetings began and slunk off into a quiet corner of the squeal-filled room, there to do his best to blend into the unpretentious decor.

"Brutus, ave," said a light yet husky voice.

He turned his head, looked down, felt his chest cave in. "Ave, Julia."

"Here, sit with me," the daughter of the house commanded, leading him to a pair of small chairs right in the comer. She settled in one while he lowered himself awkwardly into the other, herself as graceful and composed as a nesting swan.

Only eight years old-how could she already be so beautiful? wondered the dazzled Brutus, who knew her well because his mother was a great friend of her grandmother's. Fair like ice and snow, chin pointed, cheekbones arched, faintly pink lips as delicious as a strawberry, a pair of widely opened blue eyes that gazed with gentle liveliness on all that they beheld; if Brutus had dipped into the poetry of love, it was because of her whom he had loved for — oh, years! Not truly understanding that it was love until quite recently, when she bad turned her gaze on him with such a sweet smile that realization had dawned with the shock of a thunderclap.

He had gone to his mother that very evening, and informed her that he wished to marry Julia when she grew up.

Servilia had stared, astonished. "My dear Brutus, she's a mere child! You'd have to wait nine or ten years for her."

"She'll be betrothed long before she's old enough to marry," he, had answered, his anguish plain. "Please, Mama, as soon as her father returns home, petition for her hand in marriage!"

"You may well change your mind."

"Never, never"'

"Her dowry is minute."

"But her birth is everything you could want in my wife."

"True." The black eyes which could grow so hard rested on his face not unsympathetically; Servilia appre ciated the strength of that argument. So she had turned it over in her mind for a moment, then nodded. "Very well, Brutus, when her father is next in Rome, I'll ask. You don't need a rich bride, but it is essential that her birth match your own, and a Julia would be ideal. Especially this Julia. Patrician on both sides."

And so they had left it to wait until Julia's father returned from his post as quaestor in Further Spain. The most junior of the important magistracies, quaestor. But...

Caesar's Women. Copyright © by Colleen McCullough. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Caesar's Women (Masters of Rome Series #4) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
By the fourth installment of this Roman series Ms McCullough is as wittily vibrant as ever. Few historians could have told this history of Rome in its pomp as well as this. A slightly different departure from its three predecessors, this novel pretty much remains within the city limits of Rome, but forms a terrific backdrop to the famous events to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this novel after I read 'Caesar' by Colleen McCullough and I have to say I was enchanted by both. I've always been fascinated by Julius Caesar and to read this book it was almost as if I were reading his exact thoughts and living his life with him. Colleen McCullough writes in so much detail and how she can capture all the smallest intricacies is amazing. It's a long book but I couldn't put it down. This is definitely a book for people who want to feel like they are actually in Ancient Rome. And even though the title is 'Caesar's Women' it's also good for men because of all the political drama. A definite ten.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pages and pages of roman politics --- not enough of the interactions between the people to keep it moving. There is a lot of history, but the story develops too slowly as the focus of the first part of the book is on the politics of Rome.