The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome Series #2)
  • The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome Series #2)
  • The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome Series #2)

The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome Series #2)

4.4 13
by Colleen McCullough
     
 

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New York Times bestselling author Colleen McCullough returns us to an age of magnificent triumphs, volcanic passions, and barbaric cruelties.

Throughout the Western world, great kingdoms have fallen and despots lay crushed beneath the heels of Rome's advancing legions. But now internal rebellion threatens the stability of the mighty Republic. An aging,

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author Colleen McCullough returns us to an age of magnificent triumphs, volcanic passions, and barbaric cruelties.

Throughout the Western world, great kingdoms have fallen and despots lay crushed beneath the heels of Rome's advancing legions. But now internal rebellion threatens the stability of the mighty Republic. An aging, ailing Gaius Marius, heralded conqueror of Germany and Numidia, longs for that which was prophesied many years before: an unprecedented seventh consulship of Rome. It is a prize to be won only through treachery and with blood, pitting Marius against a new generation of assassins, power-seekers, and Senate intriguers—and setting him at odds with the ambitious, tormented Lucius Cornelius Sulla, once Marius's most trusted right-hand man, now his most dangerous rival.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Continuing the saga of the Roman Empire begun with The First Man in Rome , McCullough spins a stupendous tale of love, lust and murderous ambition. This title was cited in PW 's ``red and black'' feature as having failed significantly in hardcover to live up to publishers' sales expectations. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
Volume two of McCullough's triumphant Roman series. The First in Rome (1990) initiated the chronicle of the edgy partnership of new-man-in-Rome Gaius Marius and aristocrat Lucius Cornelius Sulla during the German wars. Here, the calamitous last hurrah of one and the violent pinnacle acts of the other twist through years of Italian wars, expeditions into Asia Minor, domestic trials and brief happinesses, terrible cruelties, and politics, always politics, in which sectors, families, and the famous fight for power—by diplomacy, manipulation, alliances, or the simple art of murder. By now (roughly 80's and 90's B.C.) Marius is in his 60s and escaping a "dull" Rome to scout Asia Minor and sniff out the purposes of the barbarian king Mithridates of Pontus. The king will be faced down, and, some years later, Sulla, in a spectacular expedition over the Euphrates, will face him down again. Meanwhile, in the Senate there is a movement to enfranchise the sophisticated neighboring Italians, a movement snapped off by an assassination and a polarizing of ruling powers—and, inevitably, there's war. It is the overwhelming victory over one of the Italian tribes that brings Sulla his highest honor (the Grass Crown). Surely he is now equal to the great general Marius, now crippled by a stroke and attended by the boy Gaius Julius Caesar Junior, his wife's nephew. (Yep. The very same.) Marius intends to fulfill an old prophecy—that he will be elected Consul for a seventh time. The inevitable conflict between Marius and Sulla explodes during an ongoing battle to dilute the power of the Senate elite. There will be a march on an unarmed Rome, screaming grabs for ascendance from an unhinged,dying Marius, and a raving Sulla, plus bloody deaths...and deaths...and deaths. Again, magnificent portraits of real beings. And, again, gamey politics, bright talk, great scenery, and gore. With glossary and maps. (Literary Guild Dual Selection for November)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061582394
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/11/2008
Series:
Masters of Rome Series, #2
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
1152
Sales rank:
313,727
Product dimensions:
7.98(w) x 5.28(h) x 1.99(d)

Read an Excerpt

Grass Crown

Chapter One

The most exciting thing that's happened during the last fifteen months," said Gaius Marius, "is the elephant Gaius Claudius showed at the ludi Romani."

Aelia's face lit up. "Wasn't it wonderful?" she asked, leaning forward in her chair to reach the dish of huge green olives imported from Further Spain. "To be able to stand on its back legs and walk! And dance on all four legs! And sit on a couch and feed itself with its trunk!"

Turning a contemptuous face to his wife, Lucius Cornelius Sulla said very coldly, "Why is it people are charmed to see animals aping men? The elephant is the noblest creature in the world. Gaius Claudius Pulcher's beast I found a double travesty—of man and elephant both."

The pause which followed was infinitesimal, though everyone present in the dining room was uncomfortably aware of it; then Julia diverted all eyes from the blighted Aelia by laughing merrily. "Oh, come, Lucius Cornelius, it was the absolute favorite of the whole crowd!" she said. "I know I admired it—so clever and busy!—and when it lifted its trunk and trumpeted in time to the drum—amazing! Besides," she added, "no one hurt it."

"Well, I liked its color," said Aurelia, thinking it wise to contribute her mite. "Pink!"

All of which Lucius Cornelius Sulla ignored by swiveling on his elbow and talking to Publius Rutilius Rufus.

Eyes sad, Julia sighed. "I think, Gaius Marius," she said to her husband, "that it's time we women withdrew and let you men enjoy your wine. Would you excuse us?"

Out went Marius's hand across the narrow table betweenhis couch and Julia's chair; she lifted her own hand to clasp it warmly, and tried not to feel even sadder at the sight of his warped smile. So long now! Yet still his face bore the evidence of that insidious stroke. But what the loyal and loving wife could not admit, even to herself, was that the stroke had wrought a tiny havoc within Gaius Marius's mind; the temper that now flared too easily, the increased emphasis he placed upon largely imagined slights, a hardening in his attitude toward his enemies.

She rose, disengaged her hand from Marius's with a very special smile for him, and put the hand upon Aelia's shoulder. "Come, my dear," she said, "we'll go down to the nursery."

Aelia got up. So did Aurelia. The three men did not, though their conversation ceased until the women had gone from the room. A gesture from Marius sent the servants scurrying to clear the women's chairs from the dining room after which they too vanished. Now only the three couches remained, forming a U; to make conversation easier, Sulla shifted from where he had lain beside Marius to the vacant couch facing Rutilius Rufus. Both of them were then able to see Marius as well as they could each other.

"So Piggle-wiggle is to come home at last," said Lucius Cornelius Sulla when he was sure his detested second wife was out of earshot.

Marius shifted restlessly on the middle couch, frowning, but less direfully than of yore, for the lingering paralysis gave the left half of the grimace a mournful quality.

"What do you want to hear from me by way of answer, Lucius Cornelius?" Marius asked finally.

Sulla laughed shortly. "Why should I want anything but an honest answer? Though, you know, I did not phrase what I said as a question, Gaius Marius."

"I realize that. But it required an answer nonetheless."

"True," said Sulla. "All right, I'll rephrase it. How do you feel about Piggle-wiggle's being recalled from exile?"

"Well, I'm not singing paeans of joy," said Marius, and gave Sulla a piercing glance. "Are you?"

They have drifted subtly apart, thought Publius Rutilius Rufus, reclining on the second couch. Three years ago—or even two years ago—they could not have had such a tensely wary conversation. What happened? And whose fault is it?

"Yes and no, Gaius Marius." Sulla stared down into his wine cup. "I'm bored!" he said then through clenched teeth. "At least when Piggle-wiggle returns to the Senate, things might take an interesting turn. I miss those titanic battles you and he used to have."

"In which case, Lucius Cornelius you're going to be disappointed. I'm not going to be here when Piggle-wiggle arrives in Rome."

Both Sulla and Rutilius Rufus sat up.

"Not going to be in Rome?" asked Rutilius Rufus, squeaking.

"Not going to be in Rome," said Marius again, and grinned in sour satisfaction. "I've just remembered a vow I made to the Great Goddess before I beat the Germans. That if I won, I'd make a pilgrimage to her sanctuary at Pessinus."

"Gaius Marius, you can't do that!" said Rutilius Rufus.

"Publius Rutilius, I can! And I will!"

Sulla flopped on his back, laughing. "Shades of Lucius Gavius Stichus!" he said.

"Who?" asked Rutilius Rufus, always ready to be sidetracked if there was a possibility of gossip.

"My late lamented stepmother's late lamented nephew," said Sulla, still grinning. "Many years ago he moved into my house—it belonged to my late lamented stepmother then. His aim was to get rid of me by destroying Clitumna's fondness for me, and his thinking was that if the two of us were there together in Clitumna's house, he'd show me up. So I went away. Right away from Rome. With the result that he had nobody to show up except himself— which he did very effectively. Clitumna was fed up in no time." He rolled over, belly down now. "He died not long afterward," Sulla said reflectively, and heaved a stagey sigh through the middle of his smile. "I ruined all his plans!"

"Here's hoping then that Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus Piggle-wiggle finds his return a hollow victory," said Marius.

Grass Crown. Copyright © by Colleen McCullough. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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