‘The Gates of Rome’ is the first novel in Conn Iggulden’s Emperor series and introduces us to the young Gaius Julius Caesar. This was also Conn Iggulden’s debut novel.
The childhood of Julius Caesar is not actually documented, so Iggulden has created the type of childhood that might lead him to become the famous ruler of Rome. At the time that Julius Caesar, known as Gaius before his marriage, was growing up, Rome was still a republic. It held land in far off places and was mostly controlled by the senate. But the senate was split into factions and rife with corruption. It was inevitable that a dictator would emerge to sort out the mess.
Gaius grew up with another boy who his father had taken charge of – Marcus Brutus. The boys were trained by the ex-gladiator Renius. When Gaius’s father was killed in a slave revolt, the two boys went to live with Gaius’s uncle Marius. Marcus went to fight with a legion in Greece while Gaius learnt the workings of the senate. Marius and Sulla, both consuls, were the main contenders for dictator of Rome.
When Sulla was forced to fight against invaders outside of Rome, Marius planned that he would not be able to return. But Sulla was not to be so easily defeated. At the end of this book, Marius is dead and Gaius (now Julius) has fled Rome leaving his new wife behind and is fighting with a legion in Egypt.
Apart from their friendship, Julius and Marcus are also tied together by their love for the same slave girl.
Iggulden has succeeded in bringing ancient Rome to life in this novel and in making many of the characters people who we are keen to get to know.
There are a lot of historical inaccuracies in this novel as it has been turned into more of an adventure story. I like my historical fiction to be exciting and enjoyable so don’t have a problem with this.
I’m looking forward to reading the next book in this series – ‘The Death of Kings’ where we will see the next phase of Julius Caesar’s life.