I neglected to write on the passing of Colleen McCullough over the weekend. Many people remember her for The Thorn Birds, but her best work, in my opinion, was her Masters of Rome series, historical fiction about the latter days of the Roman Republic from Marius to shortly after Caesar’s assassination. It was a very well researched series, certainly much better than the dreadful Rome series that ran on HBO and was historically a rotten pile of crap! I was only able to watch the first few episodes. I know a guy, Tom Burns, who taught and wrote books about Roman history (and who also appeared as an expert on Rome on series on the Discovery Channel and the History channel) who felt the same way.
Anyway, if you want to read good historical fiction about the last days of the Roman Republic check out her series. The first two books are The First Man in Rome and The Grass Crown. She takes a few liberties with history, as most writers of historical fiction do, but it is prolly the most accurate historical fiction I have ever read. It’s certainly more accurate than Graves’, I Claudius. I also learned some things I didn’t know about the young Caesar. She really did her homework on this series and spent a lot of time researching the period.
This series is highly relevant today as we are in the last days of our republic. Just as politicians started ignoring the Roman Constitution in the late Republican Period of Rome, our politicians, of both parties, are doing the same altho’ the Dimocrats are more brazen about it. Obungler knows that any opposition to him will be deemed racist and is ignoring the Constitution and daring the Republicans to stop him. He knows Republicans won’t impeach him because if they do, he can play the victim and the race card. Those mean Republicans are racist for picking on the black dude.
But I digress. I turned my sister and her husband on to this series and we always looked forward to the next installment. McCullough said that she was gonna end the series with Caesar’s assassination, but then she came out with another book about the young Octavian and his meeting with his future wife, Livia.
Farewell Colleen. Thanks for the many hours I spent reading your Masters of Rome series.
Update: More here. Link from my sister.
As this guy pointed out, Marius was the first general to recruit his army from “the headcount” which were the peasants of Rome. The army used to be made up of citizens only who were responsible for their own arms and armor. By recruiting from the headcount and having the state or the general provide armor and weapons Marius started the process where the army pledged allegiance to the general rather than the state. That paved the way for Sulla taking over the Roman Empire with his army and later Caesar doing the same thing which turned the Roman Republic into a dictatorship with Caesar and later Augustus running things.
Could it happen here? Will our military honor the Constitution or will it support an ambitious general?