The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome Series #2)

The Grass Crown (Masters of Rome Series #2)

by Colleen McCullough


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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: 201,079
Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 5.28(h) x 1.99(d)

About 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.


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

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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Grass Crown (Masters of Rome Series #2) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Oneira More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the first book of this series (First Man of Rome) but this way much better! It covers roughly 10 years (99 - 88 BC) and is centered around Sulla's rise to power and Marius' fall. The thing I love about the way she portrays these historical figures is that no one is utterly adored or despised. One can see both the good and bad in everyone, and even see good reasons for horrible actions. It is, in my opinion, the most fascinating period of Roman history. Called by historians The Roman Revolution, this period is plagued by civil wars and various leaders stepping forth to restore order and claim power for themselves as the Republic dwindles away with every step taken to prevent it. My favorite story line in this book, though only present in the first half, is the career of Marcus Livius Drusus. An incredible figure who was assassinated as he tried to prevent the Italian War, he was truly an incredible figure that not many people know about. Overall, though, Sulla was by far the most complex character of this chapter of the saga, as much of the book revolves around him (he did get the Grass Crown, after all). Again, I'm not sure how much someone would get from these books without an understanding of the period. Perhaps someone could inform me either way, as I most definitely have a background in the area with my degree.
nillacat on LibraryThing 10 months ago
First class research, first class recreation of an alien culture. McCullough has managed to paint the sociopathic Sulla with a sympathetic brush.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This is the second book in the Masters of Rome series begun in The First Man in Rome. That first man was unmistakenly Gaius Marius, a flawed but still admirable figure who married Julia, an aunt of Julius Caesar, making him a brother-in-law to Lucius Cornelius Sulla. A secondary character in the first book, he's on the rise in this one, as Marius is in decline.It makes for a sad book, seeing that decline of a character I grew fond of in the first book. Sulla, as in the first book, is shown as both incredibly able, more than a little creepy and definitely scary. The character in this book that most gained my sympathy was Marcus Livius Drusus. As a tribune, he tried to reform the law and his failure is a turning point both in the book and for the republic. McCullough really made me feel for him and the lost opportunity to avert war. The young Julius Ceasar is also appealing here, just coming of age, he's around 14 years old at the end of the book, and it was fascinating to see the makings of the man in the boy of this book--the way his life in his mother's cosmopolitan insula in a rough neighborhood may have shaped him.I've seen reviewers who complain the books in the series, including this one, are ponderous, even tedious. I wasn't particularly taken with McCullough's prose style and it's not for the style for which I recommend these books. But although the books are long, I feel it's the rare long book that earns its length--even demands it. What makes this book and the series special to me is how vividly it recreates the early Roman republic. In that regard I think it's a more impressive achievement than Robert Graves's Claudius novels. I got a real sense of the Roman mindset and way of life in these books, both of the ways it parallels--and helped form--modern political systems and the ways it's in no way modern in outlook. I have a friend who is a classics scholar, and when she once told me all she cared about gaining in her own writing was dignitas, because of these books, I knew exactly what she meant.
Zenbabie on LibraryThing 11 months ago
This the second in a series of five books about Ancient Rome. The Grass Crown, like its predecessor, brings history to life. It brings a historical accuracy while breathing life into ancient figure so that we care about the characters to the point of mourning or cheering their fate. In this tome a very young and very charming and gifted Caesar is introduced. It is very exciting to read about Caesar in his youth and gain insite into Caesar the man, the politician and the military genius.
LeoSh More than 1 year ago
Amazing book with many historical facts.
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Real History with some fiction to fill in the blanks. This is a great way to become familier with Roman History. Then read Rubicon for the real history. Ciao
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Guest More than 1 year ago
While it is every bit as good as the first, the Grass Crown does have a rather sad ending though McCullough dealt remarkably with the tragedy of Marius and his death. I won't reveal the details here but it's a pity Marius and Sulla fell out (though you saw that coming). It's full of the same intrigue and historical goodies as the first (The First Man in Rome) is. Her knowledge of the Roman Republic is extensive and you can tell she is interested in the subject. The same characters develop and new ones are added, and they 'look' like real people with real problems. The machinery of the Republic is brought to life in a way that you will never capture just by reading a history book. I never was interested in the Romans until after I had read the First Man in Rome and the Grass Crown.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This second volume of Ms McCullough's Roman series of novels is every bit as good as her first. Every level of Roman society is involved and comparisons with modern society are inevitable. The scheming, machinations of the senators are well worthy of their beltway contemporaries today! The death of Marius of particularly good, for most of his life an icon, only to end up as a half crazed madman, neither the first of his kind or the last!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This second novel in Ms McCullough's Roman series is every bit as good as the first. What a wonderfully greedy, avaricious and self-centered lot the upper echelons of Roman society were - strike any familiar bells with govt circles in D.C.? How little human nature has changed with the passing of time and how relevant the study of history is. A shame we don't sometimes learn more from it. The death of Gaius Marius is particularly poignant, a Consul six times and a national icon, by the time of his seventh and his death, already forgotten by those around him, how ephemeral is life in the fast lane! It would be difficult to imagine a more interesting read with more relevancies for today's world than these glimpses into our past. McCullough deserves her own triumph!
Guest More than 1 year ago
To understand most of this novel you will, of course, have to of read 'The First Man in Rome.' But it will be well worth your time, trust me. Although Mrs. McCollough can get a bit wordy/long-winded at times, she definitely knows how to dive the reader into a society that was lost to us long ago. Her character descriptions are sharp and her understanding of Roman culture uncanny. I must admit, I almost gave this five (5) stars, but stopped short because of a few items that annoyed me. Mainly was the portrayal of Gauis Marius' death. For a man who had been Consel seven times, even if he had lost his mind at the end, his death would have been much more widely grieved I believe. But that is neither here nor there, simply a matter of literary taste on my part. I can see the development of Cornelius Sulla into a MAJOR player for future events in Rome and I have already began to read the next book in the series---Fortune's Favorite. These books are addicting! Be careful. I do applaud Colleen McCollough's work--she has done some incredible research and found her niche in the literary community. All in all, I say, WELL DONE! Bravios!