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Gods and Legions: A Novel of the Roman Empire [Kindle Edition]

Michael Curtis Ford
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $20.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
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Sold by: Macmillan
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Book Description

The year 354 A.D.:

Julian, a young scholar in Athens, is the last survivor of a bloody political purge that killed his entire family. Unexpectedly summoned to the court of the Emperor Constantius, he fears the worst-only to find himself bearing the ring of Caesar of the Western Empire.

Tested by bloody battle and the scepticism of the Roman legions, Julian proves to be a military genius, crushing the German tribes that have threatened Rome for generations. Soon after, defying his own emperor against overwhelming odds, he risks civil war and ultimately seizes the Empire for himself, becoming the most powerful man in the world while still only thirty.

Now the dark side of his ambition emerges. Julian discards the Christianity of his boyhood and sets his sights on the greatest conquest of all-the Persian Empire. In Persia, however, his gods and his sanity desert him, and in one swift stroke, the course of history is altered forever.

Ranging from the forbidding forests of ancient Gaul to the sweltering sands
of Persia, Gods & Legions is a breathtaking historical re-creation of one of the most dangerous periods-and enduring mysteries-of all time.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This second historical novel by Ford (after The Ten Thousand) follows the rise of the Emperor Julian, the fourth-century Roman Caesar who has been vilified by Christian historians for his reintroduction of Hellenistic religions to Rome. The narrator is Julian's physician, Caesarius, ostensibly a loyal adviser but also a dogmatic Christian who wants to save Julian's soul and thinks very little of the man he serves. Battle scenes predominate in the early going, as Ford traces Julian's military campaigns in Gaul and documents his growing opposition to his uncle, Constantine the Great. The fast-paced narrative competently examines Julian's development as a soldier, inspired military commander and rhetorician. Ford clearly admires Julian's breadth of intellectual curiosity and his mission to restore diversity of religious practice and neo-Platonism. But Caesarius is so unrelentingly angry and humorless that his voice-over ends up stifling Julian as a character. An unreliable narrator threatened by the hero's greatness might have been a marvelous device, but in this case Caesarius's hostility is over the top, and his snide commentary gets too much airtime at the expense of Julian. Then, too, Julian's philosophical inner life and his genius for enlightened Hellenism has been dealt with at length in Gore Vidal's Julian (1962). In showing Julian from the distorted perspective of a treacherous enemy, Ford gambles, with mixed results.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A close relative of Constantine, the first Roman emperor to embrace Christianity openly, but himself a pagan, Julian the Apostate was a man of many contradictions. In this powerful and passionate second novel by Ford (The Ten Thousand), readers come to understand his dimensions in intimate detail. The story opens with Julian as a young, sheltered philosophy student and pacifist in Athens. Not long into his education, however, he must take up arms and save the Roman Empire from corrupt leaders and hostile neighbors. He does so ingeniously, becoming the first emperor since Julius Caesar to conquer the tribes of Gaul. Though Ford's descriptions of warfare in the fourth century C.E. are dramatically gruesome, the moments of humor and personal valor make this a truly compelling story-one not just of gods and legions but of men. Julian lived as simply as an aesthetic in the heart of one of the most decadent cities history has ever known. Although he never set foot in Rome, he dedicated his life to the expansion of the Roman Empire. Highly recommended for most fiction collections.
Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 673 KB
  • Print Length: 484 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B0084BVRA4
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (April 1, 2010)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003J564VM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #328,791 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Fiction, Questionable History June 11, 2003
By Niko
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Emperor Julian is one of the most controversial figures of the late Roman / early Christian period. He stands alone in that he tried to reverse the Empire's adoption of Christianity as a state religion. For this he is loathed by the Church (which named him the Apostate) and worshiped by the most romantic admirers of the Classical Period.
Michael Curtis Ford has attempted to unravel Julian's complex personality and interpret his actions by delving deep into his early childhood and experiences as the military leader of the armies of Gaul. He then follows him through his ascention to the throne and his agressive slide into increasingly erratic and controversial behaviour towards the end of his life.
The journey is very enjoyable. Ford writes the political intrigue, the fight to defend Gaul and the young commander's development very well indeed. The Empire's progressive stagnation can be felt, the conflicts between the old and new ideals are quickly outlined. So, the first two thirds of the book, or so, are really quite good.
Unfortunatelly, towards the end, where the novel reaches the most controversial aspects of the story, Ford seems to run out of steam. Or perhaps, he is reluctant to offend mainstream sensibilities. The narrative becomes rather one-sided, using mostly the viewpoints of Christian clerics to describe Julian's actions and interpret his motives. He quite innexplicably turns from a tolerant, cultured "philosopher king" to a bloodthirsty pagan ruler, bent on continuous sacrifices, and fanatical worshiping of forgotten deities, under the influence of a malicious dwarf!
In this the book fails to convince.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where Are The Politics? December 2, 2002
The mid-Fourth Century Emperor Julian is definitely one of the more fascinating characters in the later Roman Empire. In a time of growing Christianity and crumbling power, Julian was a strong leader and a devout Hellenistic Pagan. He brought decisive victories against the barbarians invading Gaul (modern-day France) and the Persians - the eternal thorn in the side of Rome, but died in a catastrophic overshooting of his resources in the midst of attacking the Persians at the heart of their Empire.
Ford's treatment of Julian and the times in which he lived is both strong and disappointing at the same time. The sense of military tension and the increasing Orientalism of the Imperial Court come through strongly, and Julian's campaigns in Gaul and Persia are well-researched. Nonetheless, there's a very "Middle Ages" sense to the Christian church of timelessness and doctrine - when it should be in the midst of faction purges and self-definition - as well as a close-knit feel of Roman politics that never existed.
Admittedly, there's little reason to make "Gods and Legions" another "I, Claudius", but the political life of the novel is boiled down to half a dozen or so memorable characters. To write a novel about the Roman Empire that glosses over politics is like writing a novel of Eighteenth Century America that glosses over the British.
It's obvious from his postscript that Ford has done his research - he's thoroughly combed the best sources of the times including Julian's own writings for the sense of power and contradiction that the man's legacy carries even today. However, the contradictions he focuses on loan themselves more to Julian's character than his history.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fabulously Written Tale intriguing to Modern Readers December 11, 2002
Although I am far from being a Scholar of the Classics and I do not have a large appetite for historical fiction set in ancient Rome, Gods and Legions, the second novel by Michael Curtis Ford, has an uncanny ability to draw in modern readers with its vivid imagery, fascinating characters, and well written dialogue that would appeal to even those who lack any prior background to the era. Although the story of Emperor Julian is well chronicled in history, it is not necessarily well known. The tale of the unlikely heir, banished to await his execution, and rising unexpectedly to the throne would be fascinating enough. Yet the story that Ford tells progresses towards even more surprising and compelling twists beyond the ascension of the young Emperor. Ford exhibits a fantastic ability to paint a picture of ancient warfare, and adeptly contrasts different armies' strategies, techniques, and dispositions, creating a graphic description of ancient times. Just as easily, Ford shifts gears to provide wonderful dialogue between the protagonists, influenced by classical authors and philosophers. The complex character that is Julian will confuse and dumbfound readers as his bizarre behavior leads to his demise. What motivates his actions? That is left for the reader to interpret. Although it would be easy to summarize the plot, the true art is found in Ford's writing. Overall, Ford's second book is a must read for those who enjoy a well-told story lush with action, imagery, and intellect. One need not be a classical scholar to enjoy this fine tale.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Just OK. Try reading Champion of the Gods.
Published 13 days ago by reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read!
I found this book to be remarkably well written. I thought it dealt with the subject matter, the life of Julian, in a very clever and very readable manner by making the narrative... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Anthony C. Bash
2.0 out of 5 stars Niche book
Bought this for my son because it was on his summer reading list. He asked me to to post that it's a slow moving book that was very hard to read... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Sam A
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
If you read Ford's earlier work "The Ten Thousand" you will be interested in this book. While not as compelling as "The Ten Thousand", it does give you a glimpse... Read more
Published 13 months ago by TWJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Michael Curtis Ford, a Talent Not to Miss
I have become a fan of historical fiction over the past ten years. This is due to my non fiction research into the collapse of complex societies. Read more
Published on November 26, 2012 by Jerome Fife
2.0 out of 5 stars The Philosopher Emperor - So So Story
"Gods and Legions" is a well written book. Michael Curtis Ford is a capable writer who knows how to piece together a decent story. Read more
Published on April 19, 2012 by Jason Golomb
5.0 out of 5 stars A Novel of Rome
Historical fiction writers often have a difficult task in melding real history with fiction. Too little factual data and you offend purists; too much and you offend fiction... Read more
Published on June 7, 2010 by O Shepard
5.0 out of 5 stars A Page Turner
I am not a Roman historian so did not read this book from a historically critical standpoint. I am, however, an avid reader and fully enjoy action and adventure. Read more
Published on June 1, 2010 by D. Meyers
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising...
The cover was not very impressive when I found it at the store but I was simply blown away by this book after reading it. Maybe it was the low expectations. Read more
Published on April 24, 2008 by J. Peterson
4.0 out of 5 stars Worm's eye view
The key to GODS AND LEGIONS is its narrator. Caesarion, physician to two emperors, begins as a bright scientist who likes to push the boundaries of reseach. Read more
Published on May 12, 2007 by Joy
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