I enjoy reading a good exciting historical epic so I thought I would read The Gates Of Rome, the first novel in the Emperor series, written by Conn Iggulden. It introduces two young Romans: Gaius (Gaius Julius Caesar), son of a senator and born of noble-blood, and blood-friend Marcus (Marcus Junius Brutus), son of a high-class courtesan (Servilia) who grow up as close as brothers, and form a deep and long-lasting friendship. as they face the harsh realities of life in Ancient Rome.
The novel follows their progress As they begin their careers (Gaius as a senator and Brutus as a legionary). Marcus is trained alongside Gaius by a famous, retired and unbeaten gladiator named Renius. In preparation for a life in the legions serving the Republic, Renius teaches them not only swordsmanship, but also how to become weapons themselves. However At the end of their training, Renius seriously wounds Gaius in a training accident; in retaliation Marcus proves his skill with a sword, severely injuring Renius’s arm.
Elsewhere a turbulant political war is being played out in the senate between two powerful Generals: Cornelius Sulla and Gaius’s uncle, Gaius Marius. In order to survive in the complex and ever-shifting world of Roman politics, Gaius casts his lot in with his uncle Marius, who agrees to take both Gaius and Marcus under his wing. Marius is a Consul and one of the two most powerful men in Rome, the other being his great rival Sulla. After Marius secures a Triumph for his legion Primigenia (“the First-Born”)
Marcus gains a position in a legion guarding the Roman province of Macedon. After leaving with Renius ( Marcus begins to make a name for himself in the Fourth Macedonia Legion’s centuria:”gaining the nickname “Bronze Fist”. Meanwhile, in Rome, Gaius accompanies Marius on his Triumph before being confirmed as a Senator in his own right. Marius confronts Sulla in a Senate vote by sending him and his legion, Second Alaudae off to Greece to put down a rebellion led by the Greek king: Mithridates (known as the Second Mithridatic War). Gaius also makes a reputation for himself as a serious party-goer, and takes his father’s name as his own: Gaius Julius Caesar. In Greece Sulla confronts Mithridates. Meanwhile Julius falls in love with Cornelia, daughter of the wealthy and influential Senator Cinna, and marries her on the morning of Sulla’s return.
Trouble erupts when Sulla tries to take Rome but Marius refuses to give up Rome and surrender his legion to Sulla, ordering his men to burn Rome. Meanwhile The remnants of Primigenia under Orso Ferito and Bar Gallenius, fights a losing battle against Sulla’s army and Julius is captured in the chaos. Marius’ wife frees Alexandria. Sulla is declared Dictator of Rome by the Senate and the Assembly of the People, and is given total control of the city and republic of Rome, except for Hispania (which Marius’s general Quintus Sertorius had established as an independent state).
Sulla immediately begins taking vengeance on all of Marius’ allies, including Marius’s beloved Primigenia legion who are branded traitors by order of Sulla. Marius and his supporter’s holdings are seized and Rome burns. Julius is brought before the victorious dictator, and Sulla gives him an ultimatum, Julius refuses and is exiled from the city. Julius signs on with a naval legion where he finds his childhood nemesis Suetonius and swears to return once he is able to avenge his uncle. Marcus meanwhile impresses with his abilities on the battlefield And is promoted to the rank of Centurion taking the name Marcus Brutus.