The Gates of Rome (Emperor #1) by Conn Iggulden Book Review

The ultimate Rome story From the spectacle of gladiatorial combat to the intrigue of the Senate, from the foreign wars that secure the power of the empire to the betrayals that threaten to tear it apart, this is the remarkable story of the man who would become the greatest Roman of them all: Julius Caesar. In the city of Rome, a titanic power struggle is about to shake the Republic to its core. Citizen will fight citizen in a bloody conflict – and Julius Caesar, cutting his teeth in battle, will be in the thick of the action. The first installment in the bestselling Emperor series.

On the lush Italian peninsula, a new empire is taking shape. At its heart is the city of Rome, a place of glory and decadence, beauty and bloodshed. Against this vivid backdrop, two boys are growing to manhood, dreaming of battles, fame, and glory in service of the mightiest empire the world has ever known. One is the son of a senator, a boy of privilege and ambition to whom much has been given and from whom much is expected. The other is a bastard child, a boy of strength and cunning, whose love for his adoptive family-and his adoptive brother-will be the most powerful force in his life.

As young Gaius and Marcus are trained in the art of combat-under the tutelage of one of Rome’s most fearsome gladiators-Rome itself is being rocked by the art of treachery and ambition, caught in a tug-of-war as two rival generals, Marius and Sulla, push the empire toward civil war. For Marcus, a bloody campaign in Greece will become a young soldier’s proving ground. For Gaius, the equally deadly infighting of the Roman Senate will be the battlefield where he hones his courage and skill. And for both, the love of an extraordinary slave girl will be an honor each will covet but only one will win.

The two friends are forced to walk different paths, and by the time they meet again everything will have changed. Both will have known love, loss, and violence. And the land where they were once innocent will be thrust into the grip of bitter conflict-a conflict that will set Roman against Roman…and put their friendship to the ultimate test.
Brilliantly interweaving history and adventure, Conn Iggulden conjures a stunning array of contrasts-from the bloody stench of a battlefield to the opulence of the greatest city in history, from the tenderness of a lover to the treachery of an assassin.

The Good Bits:

Most of Julius Caesar’s growing up years are a mystery, so this is basically a work of fiction. But as such it is thoroughly a compelling read. What emerges is a coming of age tale set in the Roman Empire, where the author imagines a vibrant characterization of the early years of the man who would become the most powerful ruler of his era. If you are not looking for historical accuracy, this is an adventure story that will capture your attention and grant a few hours of an entertaining read.

I really enjoyed the battle to protect the villa that took the life of Gaius’ father. Everybody fought against free slaves even though they were captive too. The cook made an impression!

The Bad Bits:

Unfortunately, for me, that’s where the book was last interesting. We have some fake romantic interests appearing in the form of Alexandria, some dry bits in the Senate, some more political intrigues but none of the things that made “Rome” work for me.

“I will need good friends around me if I am to survive my first year of politics. My father described it as walking barefoot in a nest of vipers.”

I’ve seen countless re-tellings of Historical fiction and the important aspect is either historical accuracy or high-stakes drama. This book fails to deliver on both.

“We must be grateful that the Senate appreciates gold. The senators think only about new horses and slaves, but they were never poor as much as I’ve been poor. I appreciate gold only because of what it brings to me and this is where it’s placed me – on this stairs, with the largest city in the world behind me.”

The Gates of Rome is the first of four books of the Emperor series that portrays the life of Julius Caesar, from boyhood through to his violent death. Now on to the second volume, The Death of Kings. Recommended for fans of historical fiction which is not always true to actual historical facts.


“Every man, who has fought in a battle, is now ash, every sword has been eaten by rust, but the lessons still must be learned”

2/5 Charity Pile

%d bloggers like this: