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The October Horse (Masters of Rome Series #6)

The October Horse (Masters of Rome Series #6)

3.8 23
by Colleen McCullough

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In her new book about the men who were instrumental in establishing the Rome of the Emperors, Colleen McCullough tells the story of a famous love affair and a man whose sheer ability could lead to only one end -- assassination.
As The October Horse begins, Gaius Julius Caesar is at the height of his stupendous career. When he becomes embroiled in a civil


In her new book about the men who were instrumental in establishing the Rome of the Emperors, Colleen McCullough tells the story of a famous love affair and a man whose sheer ability could lead to only one end -- assassination.
As The October Horse begins, Gaius Julius Caesar is at the height of his stupendous career. When he becomes embroiled in a civil war between Egypt's King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, he finds himself torn between the fascinations of a remarkable woman and his duty as a Roman. Though he must leave Cleopatra, she remains a force in his life as a lover and as the mother of his only son, who can never inherit Caesar's Roman mantle, and therefore cannot solve his father's greatest dilemma -- who will be Caesar's Roman heir?
A hero to all of Rome except to those among his colleagues who see his dictatorial powers as threats to the democratic system they prize so highly, Caesar is determined not to be worshiped as a god or crowned king, but his unique situation conspires to make it seem otherwise. Swearing to bring him down, Caesar's enemies masquerade as friends and loyal supporters while they plot to destroy him. Among them are his cousin and Master of the Horse, Mark Antony, feral and avaricious, priapic and impulsive; Gaius Trebonius, the nobody, who owes him everything; Gaius Cassius, eaten by jealousy; and the two Brutuses, his cousin Decimus, and Marcus, the son of his mistress Servilia, sad victim of his mother and of his uncle Cato, whose daughter he marries. All are in Caesar's debt, all have been raised to high positions, all are outraged by Caesar's autocracy.
Caesar must die, they decide, for only when he is dead will Rome return to her old ways, her old republican self.
With her extraordinary knowledge of Roman history, Colleen McCullough brings Caesar to life as no one has ever done before and surrounds him with an enormous and vivid cast of historical characters, characters like Cleopatra who call to us from beyond the centuries, for McCullough's genius is to make them live again without losing any of the grandeur that was Rome.
Packed with battles on land and sea, with intrigue, love affairs, and murders, the novel moves with amazing speed toward the assassination itself, and then into the ever more complex and dangerous consequences of that act, in which the very fate of Rome is at stake.
The October Horse is about one of the world's pivotal eras, relating as it does events that have continued to echo even into our own times.

Editorial Reviews

Chris Barsanti
McCullough's fictionalized history of Republican Rome grinds to a halt with this doorstopper volume, the sixth and final of a series about Caesar and Cleopatra and the rise of the Roman Empire. Set in the tumultuous years between 48 and 42 B.C., the story follows the brilliant and charismatic Caesar as he tries to keep the republic from falling apart, and the strangely uninteresting Cleopatra as she has Caesar's child and complains a lot. While McCullough (The Thorn Birds, Morgan's Run) seems as familiar with Roman history as the historians from whose work she draws, her book suffers from a plodding, convoluted and resolutely uninteresting story. There's a lengthy glossary of terms and characters at the end of the novel, but it's unlikely that many readers not already enamored with the series will make it that far.
Publishers Weekly
Caesar may be the nominal protagonist of this last novel in a series of six chronicling the demise of the Roman Republic, but the presiding spirit is that of Octavian (later Augustus), Caesar's successor and Rome's first emperor. McCullough's Octavian is as complex and gifted as her Caesar, but far less moral, just or merciful-a fitting ruler for a Rome grown too unwieldy for republican government. Blessed with the same immediacy and breezy style that made the tumultuous first century B.C. come alive in previous volumes (The First Man of Rome; Caesar: Let the Dice Fly; etc.), McCullough's heady novel begins with Caesar as dictator of Rome. Brilliant, ruthless, ascetic in his habits and devoted to the welfare of Rome, he enacts a series of reforms while consolidating his power and fathering a son with Cleopatra. The Egyptian, here portrayed as spoiled and shortsighted but passionately in love with Caesar, is just one in a panoply of richly imagined characters: Cato, obdurate republican and traditionalist; Mark Antony, a crass brute with a streak of animal cunning; decent Brutus, batted between his mother, the poisonous Servilia, and Porcia, his vengeful wife. Caesar is a bit too perfect in McCullough's telling, and Antony too monstrous; the novel also suffers from a sameness of voice throughout. But the skillfulness of McCullough's portrait of Octavian will make readers wish more novels were in the offing. Introduced as a guarded, talented youth, he is transformed by Caesar's assassination into a merciless, retributive man-or perhaps he simply shows his true colors. The book ends in a dark blaze of vengeance with his pursuit and destruction of Caesar's assassins. (Nov. 26) Forecast: Some 25 years after The Thorn Birds, McCullough is still going strong. Sales should be on a par with those of previous works in the series. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
"Men who are doers can also be thinkers, but the thinking is done on the move, in the midst of events." This line typifies McCullough's vision of Julius Caesar as a man more charismatic, more intelligent, more visionary, and more dynamic than any other in history. Scholars have both lauded Caesar for his military genius, which has often been emulated but never duplicated, and reviled him for single-handedly destroying the Roman Republic and subjugating far-flung lands, and the author stresses that dichotomy here. In this sixth and final entry of her Roman series, McCullough boldly depicts the demise of the empire that Caesar worked so hard to create, closing with his heir, Octavius. This work probably won't be as immediately popular as The Thorn Birds, but it can definitely hold its own with the vast array of novels and nonfiction books on ancient Rome. Though some readers may find the sheer wealth of detail occasionally tedious, the book will find a niche among those who can appreciate the scholarship and research that contributed to recreating Caesar's remarkable career as dictator of Rome. Recommended for larger public libraries that own the rest of the series. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/02; for another portrait of Caesar, see Con Iggulden's Emperor, LJ 10/15/02.-Ed.]-Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sixth and last in McCullough's series detailing the death throes of the Roman Republic (Caesar, 1997, etc.): an intelligent page-turning epic that seamlessly mixes love, gore, and ambition. Here, the focus is on the last years of Caesar's life as enemies plot to kill him, and the young Cleopatra bears his son. The mood now is that of a Mediterranean Götterdämmerung: the skies are sunny, the sea wine-dark, but an end is imminent: it won't be long before Caesar, who has worked hard to preserve and make Rome great, will be cut down by lesser mortals. McCullough, whose research is exemplary, as always, tells the story with contemporary flair and persuasive psychological insights, taking up the action in October 48 B.C. Determined to destroy Caesar and restore the old Republic, Pompey, Brutus, and Cato are mustering their armies in the eastern provinces. They don't understand, as Caesar does, that Rome must change or die: the old ways are too reactionary for a grand city with an enlightened role to play in the world. Reluctantly, Caesar heads to Alexandria to secure Cleopatra's support and acquire funds and materiel. While Cleopatra falls in love with Caesar and bears his son, Caesar plots and plans: he changes the calendar so that it follows the seasons rather than the moon, expands Roman citizenship, and enacts progressive laws. Though Pompey is killed and Cato commits suicide, Brutus, once back in Rome and egged-on by wife Portia, is soon part of the conspiracy-as is Mark Antony-to kill Caesar. The familiar events from Shakespeare are tweaked so that the death of Caesar becomes even more tragic as the conspirators begin destroying all he had accomplished. They raid the treasury forthemselves and fail to take care of the legions. But they soon must contend with the opposition of Caesar's unlikely heir, 18-year-old Octavius. As ambitious as his uncle, he brilliantly outwits them all as the battles and bloodshed continue. A rousing and richly satisfying take on some of history's real beings.
From the Publisher
"An intelligent, page-turning epic that seamlessly mixes love, gore, and ambition." — Kirkus Reviews

"[A] swiftly moving story...packed full of political intrigue, romance, drama, and war." — Booklist

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Simon & Schuster
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Masters of Rome Series , #6
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From October Horse: Cesar in Egypt, From October of 48 B.C. until June of 47 B.C.

"I knew I was right — a very slight earthquake," Caesar said as he put the bundle of papers on his desk. Calvinus and Brutus looked up from their own work, surprised.

"What has that to do with the price of fish?" Calvinus asked.

"The signs of my godhead, Gnaeus! The statue of Victory in that temple in Elis turning around, the clashing of swords and shields down in Antioch and Ptolemais, the drums booming from the temple of Aphrodite in Pergamum, remember? In my experience the gods don't interfere with the affairs of men, and it certainly didn't take a god on earth to beat Magnus at Pharsalus. So I made a few enquiries in Greece, northern Asia Province and Syria of the Orontes River. All the phenomena happened at the same moment on the same day — a slight earthquake. Look at our own priestly records in Italy, full of drums booming from the bowels of the earth and statues doing peculiar things. Earthquakes."

"You dim our light, Caesar," Calvinus said with a grin. "I was just beginning to believe that I'm working for a god." He looked at Brutus. "Aren't you disappointed too, Brutus?"

The large, heavy-lidded, mournful dark eyes didn't gleam with laughter; they stared at Calvinus thoughtfully. "Not disappointed or disillusioned, Gnaeus Calvinus, though I didn't think of a natural reason. I took the reports as flattery."

Caesar winced. "Flattery," he said, "is worse."

The three men were sitting in the comfortable but not luxurious room the ethnarch of Rhodes had given them as an office, as distinct from the quarters where they relaxed and slept. The window looked out across the busy harbor of this major trade route intersection linking the Aegean Sea with Cyprus, Cilicia and Syria; a pretty and interesting view, between the swarming ships, the deep blue of the sea and the high mountains of Lycia rearing across the straits, but no one took any notice.

Caesar broke the seal on another communication, read it at a glance, and grunted. "From Cyprus," he said before his companions could return to their work. "Young Claudius says that Pompeius Magnus has departed for Egypt."

"I would have sworn he'd join Cousin Hirrus at the court of the Parthian king. What's to be had in Egypt?" Calvinus asked.

"Water and provisions. At the snail's pace he's moving, the Etesian winds will be blowing before he leaves Alexandria. Magnus is going to join the rest of the fugitives in Africa Province, I imagine,"

Caesar said a little sadly.

"So it hasn't ended." Brutus sighed.

Caesar answered with a snap. "It can end at any time that Magnus and his 'Senate' come to me and tell me that I can stand for the consulship in absentia, my dear Brutus!"

"Oh, that's far too much like common sense for men of Cato's stamp," Calvinus said when Brutus failed to speak. "While Cato lives, you'll get no accommodations from Magnus or his Senate."

"I am aware of that."

Caesar had crossed the Hellespont into Asia Province three nundinae ago to work his way down its Aegean seaboard inspecting the devastation wreaked by the Republicans as they frantically gathered fleets and money. Temples had been looted of their most precious treasures, the strong rooms of banks, plutocrats and publicani tax farmers broken into and emptied; the governor of Syria rather than of Asia Province, Metellus Scipio had lingered there on his way from Syria to join Pompey in Thessaly, and had illegally imposed taxes on everything he could think of: windows, pillars, doors, slaves, a head count, grain, livestock, weapons, artillery, and the conveyance of lands. When they failed to yield enough, he instituted and collected provisional taxes for ten years to come, and when the locals protested, he executed them.

Though the reports reaching Rome dwelled more on evidence of Caesar's godhead than on such matters, in actual fact Caesar's progress was both a fact-finding mission and the initiation of financial relief for a province rendered incapable of prospering. So he talked to city and commercial leaders, fired the publicani, remitted taxes of all kinds for five years to come, issued orders that the treasures found in various tents at Pharsalus were to be returned to the temples whence they came, and promised that as soon as he had established good government in Rome, he would take more specific measures to help poor Asia Province.

Which, Gnaeus Domitius Calvinus thought, watching Caesar as he read on through the papers littering his desk here in Rhodes, is why Asia Province tends to regard him as a god. The last man who had understood economics and also had dealings with Asia had been Sulla, whose very fair system of taxation had been abolished fifteen years later by none other than Pompey the Great. Perhaps, Calvinus reflected, it takes one of the very old patricians to appreciate the duties Rome owes her provinces. The rest of us don't have our feet so firmly anchored in the past, so we tend to live in the present rather than think about the future.

The Great Man was looking very tired. Oh, fit and trim as ever, but definitely the worse for wear. As he never touched wine or gourmandized from the table, he approached each day without the handicap of self-indulgence, and his ability to wake refreshed from a short nap was enviable; the trouble was that he had far too much to do and didn't trust most of his assistants enough to delegate them some of his responsibilities.

Brutus, thought Calvinus sourly (he disliked Brutus), is a case in point. He's the perfect accountant, yet all his energies are devoted to protecting his unsenatorial firm of usurers and tax farmers, Matinius et Scaptius. It should be called Brutus et Brutus! Everybody of importance in Asia Province owes Matinius et Scaptius millions, and so do King Deiotarus of Galatia and King Ariobarzanes of Cappadocia. So Brutus nags, and that exasperates Caesar, who loathes being nagged.

"Ten percent simple interest is just not an adequate return," he would say plaintively, "so how can you peg the interest rate at that when it's so deleterious to Roman businessmen?"

"Roman businessmen who lend at higher rates than that are despicable usurers," Caesar would reply. "Forty-eight percent compound interest, Brutus, is criminal! That's what your minions Matinius and Scaptius charged the Salaminians of Cyprus — then starved them to death when they couldn't keep up the payments! If our provinces are to go on contributing to Rome's welfare, they must be economically sound."

"It is not the fault of the moneylenders when the borrowers agree to contracts stipulating a higher than usual interest rate," Brutus would maintain with the peculiar stubbornness he reserved for financial matters. "A debt is a debt, and it must be repaid at the rate contracted for. Now you've made this illegal!"

"It should always have been illegal. You're famous for your epitomes, Brutus — who else can squeeze all of Thucydides into two pages? Haven't you ever tried to squeeze the Twelve Tables into one short page? If the mos maiorum is what provoked you into siding with your Uncle Cato, then you ought to remember that the Twelve Tables forbid levying any interest on a loan."

"That was six hundred years ago," Brutus would answer.

"If borrowers agree to exorbitant lending terms, then they're not suitable candidates for a loan, and you know it. What you're really complaining about, Brutus, is that I've forbidden Roman moneylenders to employ the governor's troops or lictors to collect their debts by force," Caesar would say, goaded into anger.

A conversation that was repeated at least once a day.

Of course Brutus was a particularly difficult problem for Caesar, who had taken him under his wing after Pharsalus out of affection for his mother, Servilia, and out of guilt at breaking Brutus's engagement to Julia in order to ensnare Pompey — it had broken Brutus's heart, as Caesar well knew. But, thought Calvinus, Caesar hadn't the slightest idea what kind of man Brutus is when he took pity on him after Pharsalus. He left a youth, he picked up the relationship twelve years later. Unaware that the pimply youth, now a pimply man of thirty-six, was a coward on a battlefield and a lion when it came to defending his staggering fortune. No one had dared to tell Caesar what everyone knew: that Brutus had dropped his sword unblooded at Pharsalus and hidden in the swamps before bolting to Larissa, where he was the first of Pompey's "Republican" faction to sue for a pardon. No, said Calvinus to himself, I don't like the craven Brutus, and I wish I could see the last of him. Calling himself a "Republican," indeed! It's just a highsounding name whereby he and all the other so-called Republicans think to justify the civil war they pushed Rome into.

Brutus rose from his desk. "Caesar, I have an appointment."

"Then keep it," said the Great Man placidly.

"Does that mean the wormlike Matinius has followed us to Rhodes?" Calvinus asked the moment Brutus was gone.

"I fear so." The pale blue eyes, unsettling because of that black ring around the outside of each iris, crinkled at their corners. "Cheer up, Calvinus! We'll be rid of Brutus soon."

Calvinus smiled back. "What do you plan to do with him?"

"Ensconce him in the governor's palace at Tarsus, which is our next — and final — destination. I can't think of a more fitting punishment for Brutus than to make him go back to work for Sestius, who hasn't forgiven him for filching Cilicia's two legions and taking them to serve Pompeius Magnus."

Once Caesar issued the order to move, things happened in a hurry. The next day he set sail from Rhodes to Tarsus with two full legions and some 3,200 veteran soldiers amalgamated from the remains of his oldest legions, chiefly the Sixth. With him went 800 German cavalry troopers, their beloved Remi horses, and the handful of Ubii foot warriors who fought with them as spear snipers. Ruined by the attentions of Metellus Scipio, Tarsus was limping along in the care of Quintus Marcius Philippus, younger son of Caesar's nephew-in-law and Cato's father-in-law, Lucius Marcius Philippus the fence-sitter and Epicure. Having commended young Philippus for his good sense, Caesar promptly put Publius Sestius back into the governor's curule chair and appointed Brutus his legate, young Philippus his proquaestor.

"The Thirty-seventh and the Thirty-eighth need a furlough," he said to Calvinus, "so put them in a good camp in the highlands above the Cilician Gates for six nundinae, then send them to me in Alexandria together with a war fleet. I'll wait there until they come, then I'm moving west to flush the Republicans out of Africa Province before they get too comfortable."

Calvinus, a tall, sandy-haired, grey-eyed man in his late forties, did not question these orders. Whatever Caesar wanted turned out to be the right thing to want; since joining Caesar a year ago he had seen enough to understand that this was the one man all wise men would adhere to if they wished to prosper. A conservative politician who should have chosen to serve Pompey the Great, Calvinus had elected Caesar after the blind enmity of men like Cato and Cicero had sickened him. So he had approached Mark Antony in Brundisium and asked to be ferried to Caesar. Very aware that Caesar would welcome the defection of a consular of Calvinus's standing, Antony had agreed instantly.

"Do you intend that I should remain in Tarsus until I hear from you?" he asked now.

"Your choice, Calvinus," Caesar answered. "I'd rather think of you as my 'roving consular,' if there is such a beast. As the dictator, I am empowered to grant imperium, so this afternoon I'll assemble thirty lictors to act as witnesses of a lex curiata granting you unlimited imperium in all lands from Greece eastward. That will enable you to outrank the governors in their provinces, and to levy troops anywhere."

"Have you a feeling, Caesar?" Calvinus asked, frowning.

"I don't get the things, if by that you mean some kind of preternatural gnawing inside my mind. I prefer to think of my — er — feelings as rooted in tiny events my thought processes have not consciously noted, but that are there nonetheless. All I say is that you should keep your eyes open for the sight of flying pigs and your ears tuned to the aether for the sound of singing pigs. If you see one or hear the other, something's wrong, and you'll have the authority to deal with it in my absence."

And on the following day, which was the second-last day of September, Gaius Julius Caesar sailed out of the river Cydnus into Our Sea with Corus blowing him south and east, ideal. His 3,200 veterans and 800 German horsemen were jammed into thirty-five transports; his warships he left being overhauled.

Two nundinae later, just as Calvinus the roving consular endowed with unlimited imperium was about to set out for Antioch to see what Syria was like after enduring Metellus Scipio as its governor, a courier arrived in Tarsus on a winded horse.

"King Pharnaces has come down from Cimmeria with a hundred thousand troops and is invading Pontus at Amisus," the man said when he was able. "Amisus is burning, and he's announced that he intends to win back all of his father's lands, from Armenia Parva to the Hellespont."

Calvinus, Sestius, Brutus and Quintus Philippus sat stunned.

"Mithridates the Great again," Sestius said hollowly.

"I doubt it," Calvinus said briskly, recovering from his shock.

"Sestius, you and I march. We'll take Quintus Philippus with us and leave Marcus Brutus in Tarsus to govern." He turned to Brutus with such menace in his face that Brutus backed away. "As for you, Marcus Brutus, take heed of my words — there is to be no debt collecting in our absence, is that understood? You can have a propraetorian imperium to govern, but if you take so many as one lictor to enforce payments from Romans or provincials, I swear I'll string you up by whatever balls you have."

"And," snarled Sestius, who didn't like Brutus either, "it's due to you that Cilicia has no trained legions, so your chief job is recruiting and training soldiers — hear me?" He turned to Calvinus. "What of Caesar?" he asked.

"A difficulty. He asked for both the Thirty-seventh and the Thirtyeighth, but I daren't, Sestius. Nor I'm sure would he want me to strip Anatolia of all its seasoned troops. So I'll send him the Thirty-seventh after furlough and take the Thirty-eighth north with us. We can pick it up at the top of the Cilician Gates, then we march for Eusebeia Mazaca and King Ariobarzanes, who will just have to find troops, no matter how impoverished Cappadocia is. I'll send a messenger to King Deiotarus of Galatia and order him to gather whatever he can, then meet us on the Halys River below Eusebeia Mazaca. I'll also send messengers to Pergamum and Nicomedia. Quintus Philippus, find some scribes — move!"

Even having made his decision, Calvinus worried about Caesar. If Caesar had warned him in that oblique way that trouble was coming in Anatolia, then the same instincts had prompted him to want two full legions sent to him in Alexandria. Not receiving both might hamper his plans for going on to Africa Province as soon as maybe. So Calvinus wrote a letter to Pergamum addressed to a different son of Mithridates the Great than Pharnaces.

This was another Mithridates, who had allied himself with the Romans during Pompey's clean-up campaign in Anatolia after Rome's thirty years of war with the father. Pompey had rewarded him with the grant of a fertile tract of land around Pergamum, the capital of Asia Province. This Mithridates wasn't a king, but inside the boundaries of his little satrapy he was not answerable to Roman law. Therefore a client of Pompey's and bound to Pompey by the rigid laws of clientship, he had assisted Pompey in the war against Caesar, but after Pharsalus had sent a polite, apologetic missive to Caesar asking gracefully for forgiveness and the privilege of transferring his clientship to Caesar. The letter had amused Caesar, and charmed him too. He answered with equal grace, informing Mithridates of Pergamum that he was quite forgiven, and that he was henceforth enrolled in Caesar's clientele — but that he should hold himself ready to perform a favor for Caesar when it was asked of him.

Calvinus wrote:

Here's your chance to do Caesar that favor, Mithridates. No doubt by now you're as alarmed as the rest of us over your half brother's invasion of Pontus and the atrocities he has committed in Amisus. Adisgrace, and an affront to all civilized men. War is a necessity, otherwise it would not exist, but it is the duty of a civilized commander to remove civilians from the path of the military machine and shelter them from physical harm. That civilians may starve or lose their homes is simply a consequence of war, but it is a far different thing to rape women and female children until they die of it, and torture and dismember civilian men for the fun of it. Pharnaces is a barbarian.

The invasion of Pharnaces has left me in a bind, my dear Mithridates, but it has just occurred to me that in you I have an extremely able deputy in formal alliance with the Senate and People of Rome. I know that our treaty forbids you to raise either army or militia, but in the present circumstances I must waive that clause. I am empowered to do so by virtue of a proconsular imperium maius, legally conferred by the Dictator.

You will not know that Caesar Dictator has sailed for Egypt with too few troops, having asked me to send him two more legions and a war fleet as soon as possible. Now I find that I can spare him only one legion and a war fleet. Therefore this letter authorizes you to raise an army and send it to Caesar in Alexandria. Whereabouts you can find troops I do not know, as I will have picked the whole of Anatolia bare, but I have left Marcus Junius Brutus in Tarsus under orders to start recruiting and training, so you should be able to acquire at least one legion when your commander reaches Cilicia. I also suggest that you look in Syria, particularly in its southern extremities. Excellent men there, the best mercenaries in the world. Try the Jews.

When Mithridates of Pergamum received Calvinus's letter, he heaved a huge sigh of relief. Now was his opportunity to show the new ruler of the world that he was a loyal client!

"I'll lead the army myself," he said to his wife, Berenice.

"Is that wise? Why not our son Archelaus?" she asked.

"Archelaus can govern here. I've always fancied that perhaps I inherited a little of my father the Great's military skill, so I'd like to command in person. Besides," he added, "I've lived among the Romans and have absorbed some of their genius for organization. That my father the Great lacked it was his downfall."

Copyright © 2002 by Colleen McCullough

Meet the Author

Colleen McCullough, a native of Australia, established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher at Yale Medical School for ten years. She is the bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Thorn Birds, and 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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October Horse (Masters of Rome Series #6) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I waited with great anticipation, this book. Even to the extent of sending the Author an E-mail a while back asking when she was going to get it published. I was among the first to get the thing pre-ordered as soon as it showed up as a pre-order item from Barnes and Noble. However, in comparison to the rest of the series, this anticipation was not well placed. I got a sense of lack of enthusiasn, as though, perhaps, she was as tired of writing these books as Caesar was of living, and struggling to live. As usual, I loved the characters and enjoyed getting involved in their individual drama's. In general this series was better than a soap opera. I was looking forward to getting to know Cleopatra from Colleen McCullough's perspective, and she was given such little coverage. The coverage she did get portrayed her as a whiny child who begged Caesar to have sex with her and give her a child for her country instead of the extremely intelligent woman who fought for each and every breath she took and used every means at her disposal to protect her country. There was a little bit of the smart woman,and one definitely got the drift of her spiritual commitment to her people, but mostly the annoying child was the person we got. I could have used some closure with Servilia. She was a very important character in the previous books. She formed the young Brutis and was a first class creep, but still, she was Caesar's favorite squeeze. I needed more closure as to what kind of a fate she saw - even if it was only speculation. If, as was suggested, she really did do in Portia in such an ugly way, we needed to see her get hers in the end too. Or go on to live a long a healthy life. Either way - what happened to Servillia?? In this final book, especially with every reader who knows a little bit about Roman history knowing that Caesar was going to bite the dust at some point, I expected this book to be more character intimate, perhaps along the lines of the The First Man in Rome, or Caesar's Women. We needed more meat regarding Brutis, and especially more on Octavian. It disappointed me that there was so much military stuff to plod through in this final book. By this stage of the game, the readers know that the battles were horrible, the campaigns were a drag - we want more soap opera action to sink our teeth into and to grieve when our favorite hero's or villans die. I was almost relieved when Caesar finally got it. But I didn't feel any of the devastation that I should have felt at such a horrible demise. I will admit, she was graphic in changing my last visualisation of this handsom man into something pretty gruesome. The drama, the soap, the horror and grief. That's part of what made the whole serie so much fun. These were characters that you could really wrap yourself around. You could get involved in their day to day issues from a safe distance and not risk actually become a gossip yourself. The gossip and the passing of the gossip was a treat the reader could indulge in vicariously. Ms. McCullough, good try on this one. Thank you for a wonderful series of books. I have every one of them and will, no doubt read them all again, even the October Horse. When my grandson, an avid reader, is another year or so older, I will probably let him plunge into the the First Man in Rome and then the rest as he's ready. Hopefully, he'll find the hours of enjoyment that I found.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the 6th and final episode in the Roman Empire series written by Colleen McCullough. It is a fitting end to a most fasinating series of work. I have been totally and completely engrossed in these books since last Fall and am feeling a sense of loss now that I don't have another one of these to look forward to. Colleen McCullough is the most compelling writer of historical fiction and I look forward to whatever she has planned for the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was never interested in history before, but when my friend gave me this book I started reading all her books about Rome. McCullough is really the greatest at bringing ancient characters to light. It's almost as if she had known them personally. Her research is excellent.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When will barnes and nobel put out the other volumes(5) in this series? I READ THIS book in paperback and enjoyed it very much .was not aware this was a series. Oh well still enjoyed it Please put out the other books as well.
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Great series
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was not about Caesar and Cleopatra, as it sounds. It was mostly about the intricate workings of ancient Roman politics. It felt like it had no plot, just kind of rambled on and on. Do not read this if you are not familiar with Roman history already, you will get very lost.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"As you wish."