Fortune's Favorites (Masters of Rome Series #3)

Fortune's Favorites (Masters of Rome Series #3)

4.5 6
by Colleen McCullough

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They were blessed by the gods at birth with wealth and privilege. In a time of cataclysmic upheaval, a bold new generation of Romans vied for greatness amid the disintegrating remnants of their beloved Republic. But there was one who towered above them all — a brilliant and beautiful boy whose ambition was unequaled, whose love was legend and whose glory was


They were blessed by the gods at birth with wealth and privilege. In a time of cataclysmic upheaval, a bold new generation of Romans vied for greatness amid the disintegrating remnants of their beloved Republic. But there was one who towered above them all — a brilliant and beautiful boy whose ambition was unequaled, whose love was legend and whose glory was Rome's. A boy they would one day call "Caesar."

Author Biography:

Colleen McCullough's name is synonymouswith bestselling fiction. She is the author of nineextraordinary novels: TIM, AN INDECENT OBSESSION,A CREED FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM,THE LADIES OF MISSALONGHI, THE FIRST MAN IN ROME,THE GRASS CROWN, FORTUNE'S FAVORITES,CAESAR'S WOMEN, and the acclaimed Internationalphenomenon, THE THORN BIRDS.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The sequel to The Grass Crown charts the conquests of Sulla and Pompey, the exploits of Spartacus and the rise of Caesar. (May)
Library Journal
The third installment in McCullough's magnum opus (after The First Man in Rome , LJ 9/15/90, and The Grass Crown , Morrow, 1991) continues her chronicle of the decline of the Roman Republic and the impending rise of the Roman Empire. The novel's events are dominated by Sulla's return from exile and subsequent installation as Rome's first dictator in almost 200 years; Pompey the Great's machinations as the wealthy provincial, which clears his own path upward through Roman politics; and the maturing of Gaius Julius Caesar, who will ultimately set Rome upon it's imperial course. These three are ``Fortune's favorites.'' Painstakingly researched, McCullough's Roman saga is like a trip through time. Her characters come to life as do their surroundings. While giving us rollicking good fiction, McCullough has also made clear the bribery and chicanery that made up Roman politics. She has given us clear insight into how Rome found itself changing from a republic to an empire. Highly recommended.-- Steven Sussman, ``Library Journal''
Donna Seaman
The third installment in McCullough's mega-series on the fall of the Roman Empire, this hefty volume picks up where "The Grass Crown" (1991) left off. It begins in the year 83 B.C. and runs through 69 B.C., a violent and volatile era that brought the rise and bloody rule of the maniacal, disease-ridden dictator Sulla; the career of the cocky if dense "Magnus" Pompey; and the youth and education of Julius Caesar. As McCullough relates each and every historical event of import in her tireless sweep, she embellishes fact with dozens of anecdotes and quickly rendered scenes of intrigue, political maneuvering, grandstanding, gossip, sex both affectionate and calculated, and wholesale slaughter. While her wooden dialogue is almost laughable, McCullough's scope and grasp of her material, and her ambitious effort to animate and popularize it, is truly impressive. From depictions of public spectacles to whispered conspiracies, from cuddling to crucifying, McCullough works to charge history with the current of personality. We see Cicero orating, Crassus slaying, and Caesar and his mother consulting, and we meet a new and revised version of Spartacus. As she has in each of her Roman books, McCullough has provided an introduction, maps and illustrations, and an extensive glossary. To be continued, McCullough assures us, but in more finely focussed volumes. Watch for "Caesar's Women".
Kirkus Reviews
In her third majestic tale of Rome (83-69 B.C.), McCullough spotlights three mighty beings and the frictive sparks from their occasional interactions: Sulla, Dictator of Rome, whose early career was chronicled in The First Man in Rome (1990) and The Grass Crown (1991); the military juggernaut Pompey; and the great Julius Caesar, "the greatest prime mover of them all." Again, McCullough brings order to the mighty tangle of battles and political strategies of ancient heavyweights—in the Forum Romanum or in the tents of war. Sulla, his early beauty gone, scabrous, toothless, and given to bouts with the wineskin, takes over Rome as Dictator, issues a blizzard of new laws returning rule to the patricians (landed aristocrats), and banishes all masks and effigies of his old partner and foe, the late Gaius Marius (The First Man in Rome). Sulla will tolerate the contributions of Pompey, who insists on being called "Magnus" and has a child's temperament ("He could never be a danger to the Republic," says Caesar). Among those opposing Sulla is Young Marius (son of Gaius Marius), whose head will join others of Sulla's enemies on poles by the Senate. Working for "order and method," Sulla labors for Rome and thereby his "dignitas" ("his personal impressiveness"—the only triumph over death). His job done, Sulla makes a shocking exit and has a last laugh. Meanwhile, Julius Caesar, finally relieved of a hated role as priest, embarks on a series of extraordinary military and diplomatic coups, but quietly, correct in hierarchical obligations, stunning in charm, intelligence and beauty—and patient. Like other authors of popular Roman historical fiction, McCullough must reconcile thosecivil, gossipy, sophisticated makers and doers with acts of bizarre cruelty (the Spartacus slave revolt featured over 6,000 crucifixions along a major highway). But the author's fidelity to sources, her witty glossary, and strong narration offer some firm ground and exciting speculation. (Maps and illustrations) (Literary Guild Dual Selection for January; First printing of 100,000)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Masters of Rome Series, #3
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.87(h) x 1.44(d)

Read an Excerpt

Fortune's Favorites

Chapter One

From April 83 B.C. until December 82 B.C.

Though the steward held his five-flamed lamp high enough to illuminate the two recumbent figures in the bed, he knew its light had not the power to waken Pompey. For this, he would need Pompey's wife. She stirred, frowned, turned her head away in an effort to remain asleep, but the vast house was murmuring beyond the open door, and the steward was calling her.

"Domina! Domina!"

Even in confusion modest—servants did not make a habit of invading Pompey's bedchamber—Antistia made sure she was decently covered before she sat up.

"What is it? What's the matter?"

"An urgent message for the master. Wake him and tell him to come to the atrium," barked the steward rudely. The lamp flames dipped and smoked as he swung on his heel and left; the door closed, plunging her into darkness.

Oh, that vile man! He had done it deliberately! But she knew where her shift lay across the foot of the bed, drew it on, and shouted for a light.

Nothing woke Pompey. Provided with a lamp and a warm wrap, Antistia finally turned back to the bed to discover him slumbering still. Nor did he seem to feel the cold, lying on his back uncovered to the waist.

She had tried on other occasions—and for other reasons—to kiss him awake, but never could. Shakes and pummels it would have to be.

"What?" he asked, sitting up and running his hands through his thick yellow thatch; the quiff above his peaked hairline stood up alertly. So too were the blue eyes surveying her alert.That was Pompey: apparently dead one moment, wide awake the next. Both soldiers' habits. "What?" he asked again.

"There's an urgent message for you in the atrium."

But she hadn't managed to finish the sentence before he was on his feet and his feet were shoved into backless slippers and a tunic was falling carelessly off one freckled shoulder. Then he was gone, the door gaping behind him.

For a moment Antistia stood where she was, undecided. Her husband hadn't taken the lamp—he could see in the dark as well as any cat—so there was nothing to stop her following save her own knowledge that probably he wouldn't like it. Well, bother that! Wives were surely entitled to share news important enough to invade the master's sleep! So off she went with her little lamp barely showing her the way down that huge corridor flagged and walled with bare stone blocks. A turn here—a flight of steps there—and suddenly she was out of the forbidding Gallic fortress and into the civilized Roman villa, all pretty paint and plaster.

Lights blazed everywhere; the servants had busied themselves to some effect. And there was Pompey clad in no more than a tunic yet looking like the personification of Mars—oh, he was wonderful!

He might even have confided in her, for his eyes did take her presence in. But at the same moment Varro arrived in startled haste, and Antistia's chance to share personally in whatever was causing the excitement vanished.

"Varro, Varro!" Pompey shouted. Then he whooped, a shrill and eldritch sound with nothing Roman in it; just so had long-dead Gauls whooped as they spilled over the Alps and took whole chunks of Italy for their own, including Pompey's Picenum.

Antistia jumped, shivered. So, she noticed, did Varro.

"What is it?"

"Sulla has landed in Brundisium!"

"Brundisium! How do you know?"

"What does that matter?" demanded Pompey, crossing the mosaic floor to seize little Varro by both shoulders and shake him. "It's here, Varro! The adventure has begun!"

"Adventure?" Varro gaped. "Oh, Magnus, grow up! It's not an adventure, it's a civil war—and on Italian soil yet again!"

"I don't care!" cried Pompey. "To me, it's an adventure. If you only knew how much I've longed for this news, Varro! Since Sulla left, Italy has been as tame as a Vestal Virgin's lapdog!"

"What about the Siege of Rome?" asked Varro through a yawn.

The happy excitement fled from Pompey's face, his hands fell; he stepped back and looked at Varro darkly. "I would prefer to forget the Siege of Rome!" he snapped. "They dragged my father's naked body tied to an ass through their wretched streets!"

Poor Varro flushed so deeply the color flooded into his balding pate. "Oh, Magnus, I do beg your pardon! I did not—I would not— I am your guest—please forgive me!"

But the mood was gone. Pompey laughed, clapped Varro on the back. "Oh, it wasn't your doing, I know that!"

The huge room was piercingly cold; Varro clasped his arms about his body. "I had better start for Rome at once."

Pompey stared. "Rome? You're not going to Rome, you're coming with me! What do you think will happen in Rome? A lot of sheep running around bleating, the old women in the Senate arguing for days—come with me, it will be much more fun!"

"And where do you think you're going?"

"To join Sulla, of course."

"You don't need me for that, Magnus. Climb on your horse and ride off. Sulla will be glad to find you a place among his junior military tribunes, I'm sure. You've seen a lot of action."

"Oh, Varro!" Flapping hands betrayed Pompey's exasperation. "I'm not going to join Sulla as a junior military tribune! I'm going to bring him three more legions! I, Sulla's lackey? Never! I intend to be his full partner in this enterprise."

This astounding announcement broke upon Pompey's wife as upon Pompey's friend and houseguest; aware that she had gasped, almost voiced her shock aloud, Antistia moved quickly to a place where Pompey's eyes would not encounter her. He had quite forgotten her presence and she wanted to hear. Needed to hear.

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

Meet the Author

Colleen McCullough is the author of The Thorn Birds, Tim, An Indecent Obsession, A Creed for the Third Millennium, The Ladies of Missalonghi, The First Man in Rome, The Grass Crown, Fortune's Favorites, Caesar's Women, Caesar, and other novels. She lives with her husband on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific.

Brief Biography

Norfolk Island, 1,000 miles off the Australian coast
Date of Birth:
June 1, 1937
Place of Birth:
Wellington, New South Wales, Australia
Attended University of Sydney

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Fortune's Favorites (Masters of Rome Series #3) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
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Excellent third installment in the Masters of Rome series. Even as a young man Caesar is already showing signs of the great man he will become.....