Empire (Rome Series #2)

Empire (Rome Series #2)

by Steven Saylor

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Overview

"May Steven Saylor's Roman empire never fall. A modern master of historical fiction, Saylor convincingly transports us into the ancient world...enthralling!" —USA Today on Roma

Continuing the saga begun in his New York Times bestselling novel Roma, Steven Saylor charts the destinies of the aristocratic Pinarius family, from the reign of Augustus to height of Rome's empire. The Pinarii, generation after generation, are witness to greatest empire in the ancient world and of the emperors that ruled it—from the machinations of Tiberius and the madness of Caligula, to the decadence of Nero and the golden age of Trajan and Hadrian and more.

Empire is filled with the dramatic, defining moments of the age, including the Great Fire, the persecution of the Christians, and the astounding opening games of the Colosseum. But at the novel's heart are the choices and temptations faced by each generation of the Pinarii.

Steven Saylor once again brings the ancient world to vivid life in a novel that tells the story of a city and a people that has endured in the world's imagination like no other.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312610807
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 08/30/2011
Series: Rome Series , #2
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 294,404
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Steven Saylor is the author of the long running Roma Sub Rosa Novels of Ancient Rome featuring Gordianus the Finder, as well as the New York Times bestselling novel, Roma and its follow-up, Empire. He has appeared as an expert on Roman history and life on The History Channel.

James Langton is an actor and Earphones Award-winning narrator whose audiobooks include The Brotherhood of the Holy Shroud, Fire Storm , and An Old Betrayal . He has provided voiceover for clients including Geico and Johnson & Johnson, and is also a professional musician who led the internationally renowned Pasadena Roof Orchestra from 1996 to 2002.

Read an Excerpt

PART I

LUCIUS

The Lightning Reader

A.D. 14

Lucius woke with a start.

He had been dreaming. In his dream there was no earth, only a dark, empty sky, and beyond the sky, unimaginably vast, the crystalline firmament in which the stars shone brightly. No clouds obscured the stars, and yet there was lightning in the dream, lightning without thunder, random flashes of blinding light that illuminated great flocks of birds that suddenly filled the dark sky. There were vultures and eagles, ravens and crows, every sort of bird imaginable, soaring and flapping their wings, yet making no more sound than the silent lightning. The dream had filled him with a sense of urgency and confusion.

Awake now, Lucius heard a faint rumble of thunder in the distance.

He heard other sounds from elsewhere in the house. The slaves were up and beginning to stir, stoking the kitchen fire and opening shutters.

Lucius jumped from his bed. His room, with a small balcony looking west, was on the upper floor of the house. Below him was the slope of the Aventine Hill. The nearer houses, along the crest of the hill, were large and well made, like his family’s house. Farther down the hill, humbler houses and tenements and artisans’ workshops were crowded close together, and farther yet was a flat expanse with large granaries and ware houses close to the Tiber. At the river the city ended. On the far side of the Tiber, woods and meadows were divided into the private estates of the rich, which extended to the far horizon of hills and mountains.

How his mother hated this view! Born into a wealthy branch of the Cornelius family, she had grown up in a house on the other, more fashionable side of the Aventine Hill, with a view of the vast Circus Maximus below, the Capitoline Hill crowned by temples off to one side, and, directly opposite, the opulent Palatine Hill, where the emperor lived. “Why, from our rooftop, when I was a girl,” she would say, “I could see the smoke from sacrifices on the Capitoline, watch the chariot races below, and even catch a glimpse of the emperor himself, strolling on one of his terraces across the way.” (“All at the same time, Camilla?” Lucius’s father would say, gently mocking her.) But this was the view Lucius had grown up with. For twenty-four years this had been the Roma seen from his room, a jumble of the rich and poor—mostly the poor—where slaves labored endlessly in vast store houses to accommodate all the goods and grain that arrived day after day, carried up the river from the great world beyond, the world that belonged to Roma.

The month of Maius had been overcast and rainy so far, and this day promised to be no different. By the dim light of dawn beneath an overcast sky, Lucius saw the towering cypress trees along the Tiber sway this way and that. The blustering winds were warm and carried the smell of rain. In the far distance, black storm clouds roiled on the horizon, bristling with lighting.

“Perfect weather for an augury!” whispered Lucius.

His room was sparsely furnished with a narrow bed and a single backless chair, a small pigeonhole bookcase filled with scrolls left over from his childhood education, a mirror on a stand made of burnished copper, and a few trunks to accommodate his clothing. He opened the most ornate of the trunks and carefully removed the special garment it contained.

Ordinarily, he would have waited for a slave to help him dress—arranging the folds correctly was a complicated task—but Lucius could not wait. The garment was not simply a toga, such as the one he had put on when he became a man at the age of seventeen. It was a trabea, the special garment worn only by augurs, the members of the ancient priesthood trained to divine the will of the gods. It was not white but saffron with broad purple stripes. Except for the fitting, when the tailor had made it for him, this was the first time Lucius had even touched the trabea. The never-worn wool was soft and thick and had a fresh smell of murex dye.

He put on the garment and did his best to pull the hanging folds into a proper arrangement. He glanced at himself in the copper mirror, then reached into the trunk again. He picked up a slender ivory wand that ended in a little spiral. The lituus was a family heirloom and a familiar friend; Lucius had spent countless hours practicing with it in preparation for this day. But now he looked at the lituus with fresh eyes, studying the intricate carvings that decorated every part of its surface with images of ravens, crows, owls, eagles, vultures, and chickens, as well as foxes, wolves, horses, and dogs—all the various creatures from whose actions a trained augur could interpret the will of the gods.

He left his room and descended the stairs, crossed the garden surrounded by a peristyle at the center of the house, and stepped into the dining room, where his mother and father reclinined together on a couch while a slave served their breakfast.

His mother was wearing a simple stola, with her long hair not yet combed and pinned for the day. She leaped up from her couch. “Lucius! What are you doing dressed in your trabea already? You can’t eat breakfast wearing that! What if you get food on it? The ceremony is hours away. We’ll be going to the baths first. The barber must shave you and your father—”

Lucius laughed. “Mother, I did it on a whim. Of course I won’t wear it to breakfast. But what do you think?”

Camilla sighed. “You look splendid, Lucius. Absolutely splendid! As handsome as ever your father was in his trabea. Don’t you think so, dear?”

Lucius’s father, who strove always to maintain the restraint proper to a man of his standing—a patrician, a senator, and a cousin of the emperor—merely nodded. “Handsome our boy certainly is. But looking pretty is not the point when a man puts on his trabea. A priest must carry his garment as he carries his lituus, with dignity and authority, as befits the intermediary of the gods.”

Lucius drew back his shoulders, raised his chin, and held forth his lituus. “What do you think, father? Do I look properly dignified?”

The elder Lucius Pinarius looked at his son and raised an eyebrow. To him, young Lucius often still looked like a boy, and never more so than at this moment, dressed up in priestly finery but with the folds of his trabea tucked and draped haphazardly, like a child in grown-up costume. Twenty-four was very young for a man to be inducted into the college of augurs. The elder Pinarius had been in his forties before the honor came to him. With his black hair mussed from sleeping, his broad smile, and his smoothly handsome features, young Lucius hardly fit the standard image of the wrinkled, gray-haired augur. Still, the young man came from a long line of augurs, and he had shown great aptitude in his studies.

“You look very fine, my son. Now, go change into a nice tunic. We shall have a bite to eat, then be off to the baths for a wash and a shave, then hurry back home to get ready for the ceremony. Hopefully, the storm will hold off and we won’t be drenched with rain.”

Having a slave arrange the trabea certainly made a difference, Lucius had to admit, as he studied himself in the copper mirror later that day. The sight of himself freshly groomed and properly outfitted in his trabea filled him with confidence. Of course, he was not an augur quite yet. Preceding the induction ceremony there would be a final examination in which Lucius would be called upon to demonstrate his skills. Lucius frowned. He was a little nervous about the examination.

This time, when he descended from his room, his mother almost swooned at the sight of him. His father, now dressed in his own trabea and carrying his own lituus, gave him a warm smile of approval.

“Shall we be off, father?”

“Not quite yet. You have a visitor.”

Across the garden, a young man and a girl were seated on a bench beneath the peristyle.

“Acilia!” Lucius began to run to her, then slowed his pace. A trabea was not made for running, and it would not do to catch the soft wool on a thorn as he passed the rose bushes.

Acilia’s older brother rose to his feet, nodded curtly, and discreetly withdrew. Looking over his shoulder, Lucius saw that his parents had also disappeared, to allow him a moment of privacy with his betrothed.

Lucius took her hands in his. “Acilia, you look beautiful today.” It was true. Her honey-colored hair was worn long and straight, as befitted an unmarried girl. Her eyes were bright blue. Her cheeks were as smooth as rose petals. Her petite body was largely hidden by her modest, long-sleeved tunica, but during the year that they had been betrothed she had definitely begun to acquire the contours of a woman’s body. She was ten years younger than Lucius.

“Look at you, Lucius—so handsome in your trabea!”

“That’s what my mother said.” As they strolled across the garden, he suddenly felt self-conscious about their surroundings. Lucius was acutely aware that the house of Acilia’s father was far grander than that of the Pinarii, more lavishly furnished, tended by more house hold slaves, and located on the more fashionable side of the Aventine Hill, near the Temple of Diana. The Acilii were plebeians, descended from a family far less ancient than the patrician Pinarii, but the Acilii had a great deal of money, while the fortunes of the Pinarii had dwindled in recent years. Lucius’s late grandfather had owned a fine mansion on the Palatine, but his debts had forced the family to move to their current accommodations. To be sure, the vestibule of their house contained the wax masks of many venerable ancestors, but that was not the sort of thing to impress a girl. Had Acilia noticed how overgrown and untended the garden was? Lucius remembered the perfectly trimmed hedges and topiaries, the marble walkways and expensive pieces of bronze statuary in the garden at Acilia’s house. The roof of the peristyle behind Acilia was missing more than a few tiles, and the wall was unsightly with peeling plaster and water stains. The slave who was supposed to tend the garden was already overworked with other duties, and there was no money to repair the roof or the wall.

Lack of money: that was the reason they were not yet married. Acilia’s father, after the initial excitement of betrothing his daughter to the patrician son of a senator and a cousin of the emperor, had since found one excuse after another to postpone setting a date for the ceremony. Obviously, having discovered more about the Pinarii’s finances, Titus Acilius had grown dubious about Lucius’s prospects in the world. From the moment Lucius first saw her, at a meeting arranged by their fathers, Lucius had liked Acilia; since then he had fallen hopelessly in love with her, and she seemed to feel the same. But that counted for nothing unless her father could be swayed to approve the union.

Acilia said nothing about the state of the garden or the unsightly wall. She gazed admiringly at the lituus he carried.

“Such ornate carvings! What is it made of?”

“Ivory.”

“From the tusk of an elephant?”

“So they say.”

“It’s very beautiful.”

“It’s been in the family a long time. You can tell the ivory is very old, because of the color. Many generations of Pinarii have been augurs, taking auspices at state ceremonies, on battlefields, at temple dedications. And at private events, as well, like … weddings.”

Acilia seemed duly impressed. “And only men from the ancient patrician families can become augurs?”

“That’s right.” And I can give you a patrician son, he thought. Yet even as he basked in her admiration, he heard a scurrying noise and looked up to see a rat running along the roof of the peristyle behind her. With a flick of its long tail, the rat dislodged a loose tile. Hearing Lucius gasp, Acilia look around just in time to see the tile fall and shatter on a paving stone. She jumped and uttered a little cry. Had she seen the rat?

To distract her, he seized her shoulder, spun her around to face him, and kissed her. It was only a quick kiss, but still she looked astonished.

“Lucius, what if my brother should see?”

“See what? This?”

He kissed her again, not as quickly.

She drew back, blushing but looking pleased. Directly in front of her was the amulet on the necklace that Lucius was wearing. It had slipped from inside his trabea and lay nestled amid the saffron-and-purple folds.

“Is that part of your augur’s outfit?” she said.

“No. It’s a family heirloom. My grandfather gave it to me when I ten years old. I wear it only on special occasions.”

“May I touch it?”

“Of course.”

She reached up to touch the little lump of gold, which was vaguely cruciform in shape.

“I remember the day my grandfather gave it to me. He showed me the proper way to wear a toga, and then took me all around the city, just the two of us. He showed me the exact spot where his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, was murdered. He showed me the Great Altar of Hercules, the most ancient shrine in the city, which was erected by the Pinarius family in the days before Roma even existed. He showed me the fig tree on the Palatine where Romulus and Remus and their friend Pinarius climbed among the branches. And finally he showed me the Temple of Venus that Caesar built, and that was the first time I saw the fantastic golden statue of Cleopatra inside. My grandfather knew Cleopatra very well, and he knew Marcus Antonius, too. Someday … someday I want to have a son, and take him to see all those things, and tell him about his ancestors.”

Acilia still held the amulet. As he spoke, she had drawn closer to him, until her body pressed gently against his. She gazed at the amulet, then looked up into his eyes.

“But what sort of amulet is this? I can’t make out the shape.”

Lucius shook his head. “It’s funny, my grandfather made such a fuss about giving it to me, but even he wasn’t sure what it’s supposed to represent or where it came from. He only knew that it had been in the family for many generations. The original shape must have worn away over so many lifetimes.”

“There’s nothing like that in our family,” said Acilia, clearly impressed. She was so close that Lucius felt an urge to put his arms around her and hold her tightly against him, no matter that her brother might appear at any moment. But the sky above them suddenly opened and pelted the garden with rain. The raindrops were warm, and Lucius would have been happy to stand there, holding her, both of them getting soaking wet, but Acilia dropped the amulet, seized his hand, and with a shriek of laughter pulled him through the peristyle and into the house.

They found Lucius’s father and Acilia’s brother sitting next to each other in a pair of matching ebony chairs with inlays of lapis and abalone. It was no accident that his father had guided their guest to the best two pieces of furniture in the house.

Marcus Acilius was only a few years older than his sister and had the same golden hair and bright blue eyes. “But it’s been five years since the disaster that took place in the Teutoberg Forest,” he was saying, “and still nothing has been done to settle the score with the Germanic tribes. They’re laughing at us. It’s a scandal!”

“So, the rain has driven you inside.” Lucius’s father looked up at the couple and smiled warmly at Acilia. He wanted the marriage to take place as badly as Lucius did. “Marcus and I have been talking about the situation in the north.” He turned his attention back to Acilia’s brother.

“You’re a young man, Marcus. Five years seems to you a very long time. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s no more than the blink of an eye. This city was not built in a day, nor was the empire conquered in a lifetime. To be sure, for a long time, Roma seemed unstoppable. Ever outward our legions pushed the limits of the empire, and all obstacles fell before us. To the north, my father’s great-uncle Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and set the stage for our cousin Augustus to push beyond the Rhine and conquer the Germans. The wild tribes were pacified. Their leaders were won over with the privileges of Roman citizenship. Cities were built, temples were dedicated to the gods, taxes were collected, and Germania became a province like any other.

“And then came Arminius, or Hermann as the Germans call him, a German who was trained to fight by Romans, who was given all the benefits of Roman hospitality, and who repaid us by the most despicable treachery. On the pretext of stamping out a small uprising, he lured three Roman legions into the Teutoberg Forest—then staged an ambush. Not a single Roman escaped. Arminius’s men weren’t satisfied with simple slaughter. They desecrated the corpses, chopping them into pieces, hanging their limbs from trees and mounting their heads on stakes. A thoroughly disgusting business, to be sure—but not the end of Roma’s interests in Germania. The massacre in the Teutoberg Forest took place because of the ambitions of one man, Arminius, who wants to turn the province we have built into his personal kingdom. The man is nothing more than a thief. I hear he dares to call himself ‘Augustus of the North,’ if you can believe such effrontery!

“But never fear, young Marcus. Our efforts so far to punish Arminius and bring the situation under control have been thwarted, but not for much longer. As a senator I can assure you that the emperor’s attention to this matter is unwavering. Not a day passes that he does not take some action to correct it. And what Augustus sets out to do, Augustus does.”

“But the emperor is seventy-five years old,” said Marcus.

“True, but there are younger, more vigorous members of his family with military expertise. His stepson Tiberius is a very fit commander; it was Tiberius’s late brother, Drusus Germanicus, who conquered the province in the first place. And there’s Germanicus’s son, who’s eager to earn the name his father handed down to him by his own victories. Never fear, Marcus. It will take time and effort and no small amount of bloodshed, but the province of Germania will be pacified. Ah, but listen to me, rambling on about warfare and politics in the presence of one with such tender sensibilities.” He smiled again at Acilia.

Excerpted from Empire by Steven Saylor.

Copyright © 2010 by Steven Saylor.

Published in September 2010 by St. Martin’s Press.

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Empire (Rome Series #2) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
JGolomb More than 1 year ago
"Empire" is Steven Saylor's highly anticipated follow up to his centuries-spanning historical fiction saga, "Roma". Both books trace the ancestral evolution of the Pinarii family as they bear witness to the foundation and growth of Rome and its Empire. "Roma" covered the earliest foundations of Rome through the civil wars, while "Empire" picks up at the end of the reign of Augustus in 14 A.D. through the reign of Hadrian in 141. Each of four chapters tells a discrete and self-contained story set during key moments in the real or mythological history of Rome involving both fictional and non-fictional characters and events. Saylor uses the Pinarii like stepping stones across a stream of time; each stone provides just enough footing to propel the reader onto the next rock of time. The chapters place a different Pinarii generation under the spotlight and provide enough drama to fill an entire book in itself. The biggest frustration with "Empire" is the vastly inconsistent development of Saylor's primary characters. The Pinarii are like castles made with wet sand. Just as they gain a bit of definition, substance and depth, they either fall apart or are washed away. It's almost as if in trying to hit all events in a given era, none are enough of a focus to allow time for the solid development of members of the Pinarii clan. I felt very little emotional pull towards the members of the family, neither particularly liking nor disliking any of them. This void of raw human drama significantly reduces the cohesion of each generational chapter and no amount of historical activity is able to overcome that vacuum. The strongest character in the book is Emperor Nero whom Saylor paints as a subdued version of any Nathan Lane character. Nero ranges from sadistic to dramatic to regal to shockingly out-of-touch-with-reality. Though his end is predictably tragic, Nero and his era are the most interestingly interpreted. Saylor's dialogue often feels stilted, unnatural, and boring when used to provide historical background, whereas his integration of history and fiction works well while events are actually taking place. Saylor doesn't go for the Hollywood endings when it comes to the Pinarii, and I enjoy his sense of tragedy. Without giving too much away, the Pinarii clan is admirably (yet naively) staunch in their loyalty to their Emperors and friends, and it's enjoyable to be spectator to the historical train-wreck of such an amazingly varied group of personalities and events. And while there's already a lot going on in this 600-page novel, cameo appearances of Rome's' historical luminaries like Suetonius, Apollodorus, Dio, Sejanus and many others make for nice surprises. "Empire" is a fun, light-weight introduction to Ancient Roman history. The writing style is smooth and simple, and Saylor hits on most of the major themes and incidents in each of the respective time periods. For those looking for a consumable introduction to and exploration of Roman history, "Empire" is a good starting point.
ktbmurphy More than 1 year ago
As a lifelong studier of the Classics and Classical History, I found this book a wonderful read. I would highly recommend it.
bwightman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is the second in a trilogy that covers the history of Rome, from the founding of the city through the Republic, and into the time of the emperors. This particular book covers the period from the end of the reign of Augustus to the reign of Hadrian.The story follows the Pinarius family, an ancient patrician family who have witnessed some of Rome's greatest triumphs and worst tragedies. Members of the Pinarius family find themselves mixing with the Roman emperors, who both influence and are influenced by the Pinarii.I have read all of Steven Saylor's books, and while his writing is nothing spectacular, I find that his storytelling prowess keeps bringing me back for more. The books are easy to read, and it is clear that he has done a great deal of research to make the stories as historically accurate as he can, while still creating an entertaining plot. Throughout the story, Saylor introduces the reader to historical figures including emperors, playwrights, philosophers, and poets, whose writings he has used in his research for the book. I believe this lends it a somewhat more authentic feel than other historical fiction works in this vein. I look forward to the final book in the series!
kurvanas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To paraphrase some Queensryche I once heard, "He's building Empire." This is the second installment in his second major series.Saylor always does a magnificent job illuminating the ancient Roman world. Can't thank him enough for making Rome live again in popular fiction.Here we are back in the Pinarian series rather than the Roma Sub Rosa mystery series, but all things being equal, Rome is Rome. This follows the family of Pinarius through the Augustan reign and ramifications. (Coincidetally we find Hadrian building his wall while I teach classes in Latin with characters living alongside Hadrian's wall.)That said, this book has a much more wooden feel to it than the mysteries. I believe it is far less literary than historical, and suffers because of it. Cramming in all the details of Roman life and real peoples has left little room for character development and emotional investment. Now, for an historian like myself, I am happy either way. However, as a reader of fiction, I find this book more wanting than his others.Someone squirmed about the salacious side of things. I welcome the honesty and think that we should stop glossing over the Roman past. It was full-blooded, not whitewashed stone. So I didn't mind that at all, and thought it actually could have been used to generate more effective characters if utilized correctly. But anyway...A good read regardless and recommended for anyone with an interest in ancient Roman history or culture.
elric17 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An easy to read book, considering the breadth of time and events covered, however the character development is not as strong as one would like, you never felt as if viewing the events from inside the book. on the other hand, the historical detail was excellent and well presented.
parelle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As with Roma (the previous book in what is definitely headed to being a series) a book which sparks an interest in Ancient Rome, but a somewhat... err... salacious one. Perhaps it's more noticeable this time through, but I believe the author's point is not so much as to enlighten but to scandalize. I found the less sexy bits to be much more interesting, but it was almost tiresome to go through two hundred pages of "that again?!" before finding something which wasn't completely focused on the character's sexual history. Then again, how on earth did he avoid mentioning the usual scandals surrounding Nero's sexuality, having handled everyone else's? As noted in the author's afterward, the difficulty with this period was avoiding a focus on the emperors, but truthfully I don't think was as successful as his last attempt. And it's rather interesting how the author simply brushed under the table what in the previous book was a secret worth killing over (and then proceeded to use the same plot again). I don't think I'll seek out the next book, although the next emperor in line I believe had a remarkably staid life, so maybe I can avoid the concubines and eunuchs for once...
leschak3188 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Do not be put off by the size of this book. Saylor does a great job of keeping the story interesting enough to keep you flying through the pages. He clearly did his research with this novel, and (as a classicist) I found it an interesting way to immerse myself in imperial Rome. My one caveat (which may have stood out more to me, since this is a personal pet peeve) was that Saylor was apparently intent on showing off the research he did, which would have been fine if it was part of the background narrative. However, I found myself reading dialogue where one Roman character explained some historical or mythological story that the other characters would already know, being Roman themselves. (I am thinking particularly of the early portrayal of Claudius, who would go on about things to his Roman patrician cousin Lucius that Lucius would definitely know already, such as the myth of Niobe.) As other reviewers have noted, Empire does not have one straight line of narrative throughout; rather, it is separated into smaller vignettes to get a glimpse of more aspects of imperial Rome. The chopping up of the narrative took me out of the flow somewhat. Despite these issues, I still enjoyed reading Empire, and would recommend it to others.
SJWolfe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A tour-de-force of the history of Rome from Augustus to Hadrian, as experienced through the fortunes of the Pinarus family. This sequel to Roma is every bit as entertaining and full of historical bits and pieces as it predecessor. Saylor knows Roman history and it shows.No matter what your interest--gladiators, emperors, architecture, politics, scandal, feasting, battles, slaves, scheming men and women, art, religion--you name it, and this book has something in it. Pleasantly enough it lacks gratuitous sex and foul language. Micheneresque novels have always appealed to me; this had me scrambling for my copies of Suetonious, Penguin atlas of ancient Rome and other reference books.
readafew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't really know what to expect, I've read the books in the Forgotten Legion series which takes place during the time of Julius Caesar and this book starts in the time of Augustus. The book follows the patrician Pinarius family through the generations and how each was affected by the different emperors and how each emperor changed Rome.finish later
Chatterbox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Both this book and its predecessor, Roma, adopt the Edward Rutherfurd/James Michener approach to saga-telling: placing characters, linked through family ties, in stories revolving around crucial time periods or events. I'm not a big fan of Rutherfurd's books, but told myself I might enjoy this series more as it's set in ancient Rome. But nope. At least in this sequel, Saylor doesn't leap entire centuries and generations in a single bound, but big chunks of this hefty book are still devoted to characters earnestly discussing recent events with each other so that the reader can be caught up on what they've missed. That's a ham-handed way of addressing the problems created by the decision to link the lives and stories of four generations of the Pinarius family, and it meant that rather than being a compulsive page-turner, this book turned into a cure for insomnia. (Except when it was giving gruesome descriptions of gladiatorial battles and other such events on what came to be known as the Colosseum, that is, which I found overwhelming in another way. Less is more when it comes to creating atmosphere!!)I'm a big fan of historical fiction, but not this kind of historical fiction, where the characters are simply two-dimensional devices for writing about Rome and its history. The dialog is stilted and the events sometimes hilariously obvious (as when you see the guy responsible for special effects at a theater creeping around on the stage.) For instance, characters sit around discussing one of their group possibly moving to Campania, and how he had dropped in on good old Pliny at his home near Pompeii, when suddenly they hear the noise of an eruption... Yeah, you get it.. I'm giving this 2.5 stars simply because it may appeal to readers who are curious about ancient Rome and know little about it. Saylor has read all the primary sources, and does a good job hewing closely to history, but that doesn't make this readable. I'd suggest reading Robert Graves (I, Claudius) or Colleen McCullough's series, starting with "the First Man in Rome", rather than this. Both are equally authoritative, and infinitely more lively and readable whereas this -- happily -- is a book I will happily forget about having read. Not a good historical novel -- not a good novel, for that matter.
bridgetmarkwood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a great example of why one would want to read historical fiction! I've had Saylor on my list of authors to look out for and this is the first one I've actually read. Very excited to dive in! In general, I find historical fiction about Ancient Rome terribly dry. Not this one! Saylor has struck a beautiful balance between history class and interesting fiction, wrapped up neatly in a very readable form. Although quite a long book, it felt nicely paced and didn't seem to drag. I enjoyed the characters and the plots. I also very much enjoyed the writing itself. Saylor has found an eloquent way to teach and enrich his readers. For elements of history about which the reader may be unfamiliar, the author finds a character or some other clever way to explain what is going on. The book is well researched, though I did not get the notion that Saylor felt compelled to share every bit of his research with us... which I appreciated. I would very much recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about Ancient Rome... or anyone who just wants to read a good book.
JennileeFoster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was excited to get the chance to review this book; I had Roma sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time and hadn't had a chance to read it. I read Roma by the same author, I was not impressed and well I went into Empire with a heavy heart knowing that I would probably not enjoy this book if it was anything like Roma. I think the author has a great idea; however, he didn¿t pull it off in the book. The writing is more technical than beautiful. It didn't capture any emotion, the characters were not human enough, they didn¿t have any depth. I know that he covered a lot of ground, but instead of writing such a big book on so many people, maybe writing more books and developing those characters and the story. I didn¿t grieve for the characters, more likely they annoyed me, they were either really sweet perfect people or complete tyrants who were against the people. The sentences were simple and boring.I give it three stars for trying; however, I doubt I will want to read anymore of Mr. Saylor¿s novels based on the two that I¿ve completed in the last week.
viking2917 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What would it be like to have the best tour guide in Rome give you a guided tour through the city, giving you the history of every building, the cultural context, the events and emotions that transpired there? That's what Empire (and its predecessor Rome) is like. Saylor has lived his entire professional life in ancient Rome and knows it like the back of his hand. Rome & Empire are very different in format to his Roma Sub Rosa detective series; they are much more episodic "food tastings" from different periods. The history and context are wonderful. But they're not always a fictional "meal". Characters do not live for the entire novel, but come and go as the tapestry is woven. Almost all the characters die offstage, and so the novel rarely strikes deep emotionally. But it's wonderfully informative.Covering the period from AD 14 to 141, Empire shows us the madness of Caligula and the architectural passion of Hadrian. The scenes with Caligula are salacious yet horrifying, and bring home the reality of an infamous period of history. Many familiar characters and stories make their appearance (Nero "fiddling" while Rome burns, the stammering Claudius first popularized by Robert Graves). The early rise of Christianity is present as well. There is an ironic and amusing nod to our current military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Apparently Emperor Trajan had an "Ask not, Tell not" policy towards Christians, who were viewed with suspicion by Roman society. Empire is half fiction and half history lesson. As a history lesson, it goes down easily and is far more consumable, if less serious than, say, The Fall of the Roman Empire. As fiction, it's enjoyable, but doesn't truly strike deeply. And it is a tome - weighing in at 600+ pages. I think the novel could profitably have been edited down. Still, it's enjoyable, engaging history; but to my tastes not nearly as enjoyable as the Gordianus novels. (Reviewed for the Early Reviewers Program)
mdtocci on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program, and since it is a sequel to the book Roma, I decided to read that book first. The two books together cover the history of one fictional family from the founding of Rome in around 600 BC, to the reign of Hadrian. The first book covers around 600 years, so there is very little character development, but Empire only covers about 150 years, so there is much more detail on the lives and relationships of each generation of the Pinarius family.I've read a few other of Saylor's books on Ancient Rome, from the Gordianus the Finder series, and I liked those books better. Empire and Roma felt more like a synopsis of the major events of Ancient Roman history, with a fictional character inserted into the events. Since this was such a fascinating period of world history, it did make for interesting reading, but I'm not sure it made for a great novel.
turtlesleap on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this novel, Mr. Saylor documents the drama and history of Rome through the eyes of several generations of a noble Roman family. His research is impressive and there is a ton of information in this 600 page account of life in ancient Rome. Unfortunately, the book is freighted with so much exposition, infodump and "As you know, Bob" dialogue, that the reader must struggle with loss of interest. Character action takes a distant backseat to the drama, architecture and politics of Rome. Worth reading for those interested in data on Roman history; not so much for those principally interested in a novel.
MarysGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Empire" continues the story of the Pinarius family chronicled in Steven Saylor's earlier novel "Roma." Roma followed the aristocratic family from the founding of Rome through the Republican years. "Empire" picks up at the end of Augustus' reign and concludes at the end of Hadrian's, covering about 130 years and four generations of Pinari. Saylor sets himself a Herculean task to cover the major events and people of the times in an entertaining and accessible way using a formula perfected by James A. Michner in his historical epics. He mostly succeeds. Each "chapter" of the book covers a different Pinari generation and varies in the quality of the story telling and character development. The first chapter is the briefest at 68 pages and seems to exist solely for the purpose of filling in a bit of Roman back story before Lucius, the main character and his family are banished to Alexandria, Egypt. Lucius, we hardly knew ye! And from what little we do know, Lucius seems to be a pleasant, but dull, man. Augustus and his wife Livia make a brief appearance, Tiberius retreats to his island, and the evil Sejanus throws a mild scare into the family. Hardly the stuff of epics. The most interesting character in this section is Claudius who seems to step from the pages of Robert Graves' book I, Claudius with his stammer, limp, and almost feral ability to keep his head down and off the chopping block.Things pick up after that. The remaining three chapters are much longer and Saylor does a better job of developing the characters, both his fictional and historic ones. The most interesting relationship is that of Titus (in the second generation) with Nero. Saylor does an excellent job giving us insight into one of Rome's most complicated and misunderstood emperors. So he had his mother assassinated, kicked his pregnant wife to death, and couldn't sing very well...Nero had an artist's soul and a vision for Rome after the great fire. And Titus is instrumental in achieving it, after nearly losing his life in one of Nero's "entertainments."My least favorite Pinarius is Lucius (of the third generation) who spends his life depressed; doing nothing but staying out of sight of the various emperors who reign during his long life¿primarily the lesser known Flavians, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. He is Saylor's vehicle for introducing these fascinating emperors and meeting some of Rome's famous philosophers and writers, but has almost no substance of his own. He is slightly redeemed with a tragic love story with one of the very few women characters in the book who had anything resembling a personality. The other "woman" character who gets some space and sympathy is actually a cross-dressing eunuch that everyone refers to as "she." From my own researches, I know Roman women were very involved in politics, arts and trades. Lucius has three sisters, but we never see them or even learn their names. Too bad. They may have been more interesting than their brother. Where he falls short on character development, Saylor excels with the historical details. The pitfalls and snares of various emperors and their courts are rendered in chilling detail. Not only the details of politics and religion; but fascinating facts on food, clothes, architecture, and fire control are deftly slipped into the story. As a reader, I could picture myself walking down the streets flanked by magnificent marble temples, smelling the smoke of Rome burning, feeling the heat of the sand in the arena. His description of what it was like to be in the audience of the Flavian Amphitheater (the Roman Coliseum) was one of the best I've ever read. Ditto the building scenes in the fourth chapter as Marcus Pinarius helps build Trajan's Column and renovate the Pantheon. Saylor obviously did his homework and it shows. Except when he is describing something, Saylor's writing is workmanlike. My particular peeve is the "As you know, Bob..." lecture chunks¿usually at the beginning of a chapter or sectio
JGolomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Empire¿ is Steven Saylor's highly anticipated follow up to his centuries-spanning historical fiction saga, "Roma". Both books trace the ancestral evolution of the Pinarii family as they bear witness to the foundation and growth of Rome and its Empire. "Roma" covered the earliest foundations of Rome through the civil wars, while "Empire" picks up at the end of the reign of Augustus in 14 A.D. through the reign of Hadrian in 141.Roman history is made up of fact, rumor, and myth, and Saylor hits on all of those elements in ¿Empire¿. Each of four chapters tells a discrete and self-contained story set during key moments in the real or mythological history of Rome involving both fictional and non-fictional characters and events.Saylor uses the Pinarii like stepping stones across a stream of time; each stone provides just enough footing to propel the reader onto the next rock of time. The chapters place a different Pinarii generation under the spotlight and provide enough drama to fill an entire book in itself. The chapters are highlight reels of their respective periods. In the early years, Saylor gives glimpses of Livia's evil which is very reminiscent of the Livia from "I, Claudius". He opens a window on Tiberius's sadistic hideaway on an island off the coast of Italy where he purportedly kept young boys for his own pleasure. The second chapter runs the gamut of Caligula's psychoses and Claudius¿ dramatically failed marriages. Readers also get a surprisingly poignant portrayal of Nero "fiddling" while Rome burns. In the third chapter, Saylor provides a historical discourse that includes the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius, the history of the development of the Flavian Amphitheater (known now as The Colosseum), and the rise and fall of the Flavian Emperors. In the final chapter, Saylor takes readers to the building of Trajan¿s column and the Pantheon and gives an all too brief glimpse of the philosopher-emperor Hadrian.The biggest frustration with "Empire" is the vastly inconsistent development of Saylor¿s primary characters. The Pinarii are like castles made with wet sand. Just as they gain a bit of definition, substance and depth, they either fall apart or are washed away. It's almost as if in trying to hit all events in a given era, none are enough of a focus to allow time for the solid development of members of the Pinarii clan. I felt very little emotional pull towards the members of the family, neither particularly liking nor disliking any of them. This void of raw human drama significantly reduces the cohesion of each generational chapter and no amount of historical activity is able to overcome that vacuum.The strongest character in the book is Emperor Nero whom Saylor paints as a subdued version of any Nathan Lane character. Nero ranges from sadistic to dramatic to regal to shockingly out-of-touch-with-reality. Though his end is predictably tragic, Nero and his era are the most interestingly interpreted. I have a bit of a bias towards Hadrian, but Saylor also did a fine job representing the erudite, introspective, and insecure monument-building Emperor.Saylor¿s dialogue often feels stilted, unnatural, and boring when used to provide historical background, whereas his integration of history and fiction works well while events are actually taking place. The most awkward moments come during a series of dialogues providing background on Rome during the reign of the Flavian Emperors. In some cases, Saylor uses this approach to set up future scenes; in others, it¿s as if he¿s trying to shoehorn in as much history as possible. Saylor doesn't go for the Hollywood endings when it comes to the Pinarii, and I enjoy his sense of tragedy. Without giving too much away, the Pinarii clan is admirably (yet naively) staunch in their loyalty to their Emperors and friends, and it's enjoyable to be spectator to the historical train-wreck of such an amazingly varied group of personalities and events.Each story is connected as one generation of Pinari
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How did the battle with the lords' alliance go?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rookie. Shows potential. <br> <br> Sergeant. A good soldier. Proven loyalty <br> <br> Captain. A well respected soldier. Skilled. <br> <br> Commander. &star A very skilled and super respected person. One of the highest positions. <br> <br> General &#19977 near impossible to get. Nuff said.
Majoro4e7 More than 1 year ago
As you read this book, you're transported to ancient Rome and the Emperors. A wonderful, ancient history, fictional presentation.
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