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The First Man in Rome Mass Market Paperback – August 1, 1991

4.4 out of 5 stars 255 customer reviews
Book 1 of 7 in the Masters of Rome Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Gaius Marius, brilliant military leader and six-term Roman consul, heads the cast of a hefty historical novel replete with politics, social infighting, bloody battles and domestic drama. "Evoking with impeccably researched, meticulous detail the political and social fabric of Rome in the last days of the Republic, McCullough demonstrates a thoroughgoing understanding of an age in which birth and blood lines determine one's fate," said PW . $200,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This big, complex novel detailing the beginnings of the downfall of the Roman Republic is a startling change of pace for McCullough ( The Thorn Birds, LJ 5/1/77). Gaius Marius, an upstart New Man from the Italian provinces, and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, a patrician Roman brought up in the slums of the Subura, are both ambitious enough to want to become First Man in Rome, despite their social handicaps. The author deftly weaves politics, family rivalries, and battle scenes into a riveting story replete with fascinating details of everyday Roman life. The research is obviously painstaking; the author includes a large glossary of more than 100 pages as well as a pronunciation key for the Roman names. Highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/90. BOMC main selection.
- Marilyn Jordan, North Miami P.L., Fla.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 1076 pages
  • Publisher: Avon Books (August 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380710811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380710812
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.5 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (255 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #355,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neuropathologist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. Her writing career began with the publication of Tim, followed by The Thorn Birds, a record-breaking international bestseller. She lives on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific with her husband, Ric Robinson.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Nothing prepared me for the complexity, depth and shear sense of reality that Colleen McCullogh's The First Man in Rome provided. I have read a lot of historical fiction and was used to authors routinely ignoring the real nitty gritty of daily life in previous ages in order to get on with their story. McCollogh manages to infuse a lively plot with a significant amount of period lore, domestic detail and even hitorical exposition without ever losing the reader's interest. Her characters and their story - taken straight from history - manage to be both larger than life and believably human at the same time.
Among the devices she uses to achieve a kind of verisimilitude are imagined conversations, letters, and maps (drawn by her own hand). Where there are unknowns in the historical record, her inventions are based on careful research and are, if not correct, certainly plausible.
I can't praise this book (and the four that follow it in the series) highly enough. Standing in the remains of the original forum in Rome last year, I felt as if I had actually experienced that place before. So much of the story told in these books takes place in the limited confines of the forum and the nearby Palitine and Capitoline hills, and her description of the space was so accurate - even with the passage of two thousand years - that it was easy to imagine how it must have looked then.
Anyone who loves historical fiction - that is, real history presented in novel form - owes it to themselves to experience this book. It is both a work of scholarship and a great imaginative achievement written by a master of language. No story totally invented could be half as interesting as this tale of real people that McCollough brings to life in these pages. A great book.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a great book. It presents the reader with a dazzling image of ancient Rome, in fact I literally felt transported back to the Rome of the time of Marius. After reading all of McCullough's "Masters of Rome" books (those written as of this date) this one is still my favorite. I've read a fair amount about Rome, but no book that I have read has ever explained Rome's politics and social structure half as well as this one.
Marius is shown as what he was: a giant. I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with McCullough's portrayal of Sulla, but each reader can make that decision for him or her self. This book covers the time period as from shortly before the Jugurthine War (which I never really understood until I read this book) to slightly after Marius' conquest of the German tribes. But this isn't just a book about wars. McCullough takes the readers into the Senate, into private conversations of Roman (and foreign) leaders, and really tries to get at the guts of what was going on in the Roman Republic at this critical stage of its history. Mostly, she succeeds brilliantly.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I throughly enjoyed "The First Man in Rome". It is a great historical novel with timeless appeal. So far, I have read three novels in the Masters of Rome Series, the other two were "Caesar's Women" and "Caesar: The Novel". Of these three, "The First Man in Rome" is the best.
I especially enjoyed the characters in this novel. While "Caesar", for example, was completely devoid of character development, this novel is overflowing with wonderful and well-structured character portraits. I was particularly impressed by Sulla. Instead of portraying him as a wild psychopath that he undoubtedly was, Colleen McCullough turned him into a psychopath with a tender side. Her description of his childhood and especially his relationship with his tutor brought tears to my eyes. Although Sulla is quite despicable in his action, McCullough uncovers a complex person under all the madness. A great achievement!
I also appreciated her depiction of Gaius Marius. In history class, I learned that he was extremely lucky but rather unremarkable in his talent. That never sat well with me because I thought that even if he wasn't a genius, he must have been capable enough to secure the number of consulships that he had. McCullough very nicely goes into Gaius Marius' head and examines how and what is driving him.
Not all the characters were well-developed. Julia or Julia Major was extremely boring and could have used more complexity because she appears to be such a paragon of virtue that she does not seem human. Jugurtha also suffered because in the book he is too one-dementional. That's too bad since he is quite fascinating.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first book in a (so far) 5 book series on ancient Rome. I highly recommend the entire series. As has been mentioned previously, the level of detail (and hence research) is amazing and highly engrossing. I know some folks who have given up on this book because of the detail and sheer number of charachters (for shame Mom). To combat this, McCullough has a great summary in each of the subsequent novels and an interesting glossary, defining Latin and other hard to recognize terms (I wish Patrick O'Brien would do likewise). But this book is really focused on Gaius Marius, a remarkable general and a real man's man. While he had nowhere near the pinache or number of victories as Caesar, he was equally as facinating and deserving of the title of a founder of Rome. His victories were a result of tremendous training, a use of spies that would make Sun Tzu proud, weapons innovations, and inspired leadersip. If you are a fan of Roman history or historical novels in general you must read this book. However, throughout the series McCullough's plot lines involve the women, merchants and slaves of Rome as much as the political and military leaders - the intrigue in the bedroom is equally entertaining. This makes the book a great read for any fan of great fiction.
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