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Ancient Greece and Rome in Fiction!

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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 3, 2007 5:20:40 PM PDT
To the poster above on Manfredi: The Alexander Trilogy is my favorite of his books and the best I've read on the subject. The Tyrant was a good read as well. I enjoyed these books as entertainment. I cannot attest to the historical accuracy, but our esteemed historian probably can. This thread has really helped me broaden my collection.

Thanks all!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2007 6:34:17 PM PST
Dear Margaret George,
I came across your post on Amazon about historical novels based in Rome and Greece. (I assume you are the Margaret George of HELEN OF TROY and MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA fame? If so, congratulations. Love your work, you have a fan in me.))
Thank you for the Alan Massie reference too; I possess TIBERIUS in paperback, but was unaware of the remaining five works. I'll certainly hunt them down now.
As an Australian I'm ashamed not to have read any of the Colleen McCullochs. Their sheer size is intimidating. But several of the Mary Renaults have passed my way along with Robert Graves, Gore Vidal, and Stephen Saylor, etc.
For great research and a very visceral style, Steven Pressfield's ALEXANDER is a good read.
I hope HELEN does good business.
George Pugh
Sydney, Australia

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2007 8:03:49 PM PST
M. A. George says:
Mr. Pugh: It grieves me to disabuse you. Indeed my name is Margaret George--but not that Margaret George, the historical novelist. When I first started posting to these different threads, I used to add a P.S. that I am not that Margaret George--but stopped after a few posts, the message getting out (I thought.)

But I hope you do not think less of the recommendations I have made. I assure you, they are everything I said they were. I have read Pressfield ("Gates of Fire" for one) and enjoyed it wonderfully. I did not know about his book on Alexander but will look it up instantly.

You can easily get the Massie books via And for shame, not having read McCullough's "First Man in Rome" series. Yes, they are door stoppers, but when you get into them, you would not wish them any shorter, but even longer. I have them all and have read them twice--about ready to go around for the third time. Don't you love books that are so packed with detail and events that you can enjoy them more than once?

Again, I never meant to defraud!

Margaret George, Pittsburgh, PA

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2007 8:15:43 PM PST
K. Gilligan says:
The Steven Pressfield book in question is "The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great". ( The Virtues of War: A Novel of Alexander the Great ) Personally I didn't care for it because it was so much about war, as opposed to Alexander and his companions. Nothing wrong with war of course, I just expected a little more story.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 28, 2007 11:08:02 PM PST
Dear Margaret George,
Sorry to impose the wrong identity upon you. As Australians say: No worries. The Pressfield ALEXANDER is sub-titled The Virtues of War. My copy was published by Doubleday UK in 2004 but I think Random House USA handles it in the US. K. Gilligan's post found it unsatisfying, possibly because Mr. Pressfield does tend to engage in war-detail overkill. But he's expert at it. For me, that's quite interesting stuff. Perhaps I should acclimatise myself to my own hemisphere and dip into Colleen McCulloch? Sp, ta for your response.

George Pugh, Sydney, Australia

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2007 6:02:53 AM PST
M. A. George says:
K. Gilligan: Now I remember! I did buy "The Virtues of War" secondhand from Amazon, last spring. I did not remember it until you gave us the full title--and because it was an unmemorable read. So much so that I believe I didn't even finish it. Thanks for reminding me and saving me a few bucks.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 29, 2007 11:53:00 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 29, 2007 11:53:31 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 1, 2007 6:46:51 AM PST
Michael S. says:
i absolutely love the Lindsey Davis books and am a huge fan- Falco with is curls and street smarts with his girlfriend who's a senators daughter- with their kids in tow. i've read the collection about 6 times and all the other books on this forum. people think i am weird that i read murder mysteries based on such a short time period - basically the first 2 centuries only. - that time was so rich with intrigue and customs. - i wish i could go to the baths with a strigil!- this forum is my lifeline.
anita c - spotts

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 2, 2007 11:34:56 PM PST
i havent read all of the post, so im not sure if this has been put. i would recomend to all who like to read books about ancient rome and expecialy about galdiators. these ppl need to read sand of the arena and its sequal the fight for rome by a relatively new writter named james duffy. these are both great books that are almost impossible to put down.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2007 6:35:19 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 14, 2007 5:59:05 PM PST
Selene says:
On the Roman theme, would also like to mention David Wishart. He is mostly known as the author of the Marcus Corvinus mysteries, but my favourite is "The Horse Coin", a novel of Roman Britain. And speaking of Roman Britain, yes, I love the Simon Scarrow series as well! (And as a bonus they are great for getting teenage boys into reading fiction).

Also worth a mention is Alfred Duggan, who's written several Roman themed titles. I've just finished and can recommend "Winter Quarters", the adventures of two young Gauls who join the Roman army at the time of Julius Caesar.

I also find Conn Iggulden's habit of changing the facts irritating. He does the same
thing with his Genghis Khan series.
When what really happened is so exciting, what's the point in recreating history?
If something is clearly an alternative history/fantasy, like David Gemmell's "Troy"
trilogy, or his "Lion of Macedon' duo, that's different story - I really enjoy his work, and am so sorry that we'll never have any more stories from him.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2007 6:08:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 14, 2007 6:20:12 PM PST
Selene says:
I'm a fan of Lindsey Davis' Falco series as well, roman sleuth.
Have you read Paul Doherty's "Ancient Rome" historical mystery series?
1. Domina (2002)
2. Murder Imperial (2003)
3. The Song of the Gladiator (2004)
4. The Queen of the Night (2006)

He's also done an ancient Greek historical series, "The mysteries of Alexander."

Another excellent one-off Roman historical mystery which is unfortunately hard to come by these days is Barbara Hambly's "The Quirinal Hill Affair".

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2007 7:49:23 AM PST
Hi All, I may be off base here, but my own book, Woman Redeemed, takes on Roman history from a different angle...We often forget the Roman influence on the Jewish region in the first century when Jesus was alive. It was a multi-cultural region he lived in and that was due to the Romans. Anyway, for a look on how the Romans influence Jewish life during the time of Jesus, check it is a novel celebrating the women, but they are the "story tellers" of society and many a Roman story makes it's way in...

Woman Redeemed is available on here and or check my work out on
Christine Blake

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 2:35:46 PM PST
J. Fuchs says:
I, too, love Colleen McCullough, Mary Renault, Robert Harris and Robert Graves, but if you're in the mood for something slightly different (Roman history and science fiction combined), check out Richard ben Sapir's THE FAR ARENA, about a man frozen in ice and discovered by an oil rigging crew. He is brought back to life by a Russian scientist and eventually they figure out he is speaking Latin and claims to be a gladiator from Caracalla's Rome. Sapir is a great writer and although this book was written in the 70's, it still holds up. Best of all, used copies are really cheap. No... best of all is that it's a great book.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 3:17:40 PM PST
M. A. George says:
J. Fuchs--OMG, I read The Far Arena years and years ago--your mentioning it brings it all back to me, and it is odd how well I remember it. Yes, it is a great read. I think I will go up on and get me another copy to read again. Thanks! Any other recommendations? Your credit is now very high.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 5:08:30 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2007 10:44:17 PM PST
Hello all. I am a... VERY... avid reader of historical fiction. For the last four or five years, I have been reading my way forward from the most distant somewhat-historically-based legends of Ancient Greece (i.e., immediately pre-Troy) through some point, as yet to be determined, in the late Middle Ages or early Renaissance. I've included below the list through the end of the Roman Empire.

I had originally read a selection of the 20-30 better known works... and then post-9/11, actually, in an attempt to better understand the vast sweep of conflict between the East and the West, I decided to go back to the beginning, flesh out the list, and work my way forward chronologically. As you'll see by the * markings, I've read approximately two-thirds thus far.

In researching what works to include, I have exerted my own tastes, of course, leaning toward historical accuracy and also away from romance, fantasy, mysticism, and "dark and stormy night" floridness... although Bulwer-Lytton did make the cut!! I have been much indebted to the lists and databases I've found here and there on the Internet (including here at Amazon), and particularly to the reviews of N.S. Gill, Irene Hahn, Harriet Klausner, and Fred Mench, among others.

Again, the list as it stands today is a product of my own discretion... I had to cut away much of the dross in the 1000 or so books that would be included in a truly comprehensive database. There are a number of authors who probably shouldn't be on my list (e.g., Iggulden), and yet others who perhaps should be, but I have not fully examined (e.g., Davis, Doherty, Jacq, Leckie, Massie, Roberts, and Tarr). Sometimes, as in the example of the first century BC, there are so many competing re-tellings that I've simply chosen the one(s) that I've read and respected thus far.... take a look at the mish-mash I have for that period!!

Regrettably, I haven't been writing short reviews along the way... I'd be happy to comment on any specific book or author, however.

I chose this discussion thread, btw, specifically to avoid the strictures of winnowing down to a Top Ten list!!! That being said, to give a flavor of my preferences, here are the authors that have struck me the most: Ford, Graves, Duggan, McCullough, Pressfield, Renault, Warner, Vidal. I also happened to agree with the OP, Ed Brooks, on his original picks, with `Eagle in the Snow' probably being my favorite... all the more reason to post in his thread!

Right now I am in the middle of the first century AD: just re-read Graves, tried and put down Gedge, and am about to start Lagerqvist.

And yes, my wife is absolutely sick of hearing that EVERYTHING relates back to Greece and Rome!!


(Mainly chronological order by ending date, with thematic adjustments)
(* = to buy, R= replace)

R All periods: The Source - James Michener
18th BC: The Sea Kings - Les Cole
16th BC: Lion at Sea - Les Cole
14th BC: The Sea Peoples - Les Cole
13th BC: The King Must Die - Mary Renault
13th BC: The Bull from the Sea - Mary Renault
13th BC: Last of the Amazons - Steven Pressfield
13th BC: Hercules, My Shipmate - Robert Graves
12th BC: Achilles - Mike Chapman
*12th BC: Warrior in Bronze - George Shipway
*12th BC: King in Splendour - George Shipway
12th BC: The Great Legend - Rex Stout
R 12th BC: Helen of Troy - Margaret George
12th BC: The Song of Troy - Colleen McCullough
12th BC: The War at Troy - Lindsay Clarke
12th BC: The Return from Troy - Lindsay Clarke
12th BC: The Talisman of Troy - Valerio Massimo Manfredi
12th BC: The Private Life of Helen of Troy - John Erskine
12th BC: The Iliad - Homer/Fagles
12th BC: The Odyssey - Homer/Fagles
12th BC: The Oresteia - Aeschylus/Fagles
814 BC: Fire and Bronze - Robert Raymond
715 BC: Children of the Wolf - Alfred Duggan
559 BC: Dawn of the Greatest Persian - C.J. Kirwin
545 BC: Finding the Persian Way - C.J. Kirwin
539 BC: Belshazzar, A Tale of the Fall of Babylon - William Stearns Davis
526 BC: Men of Bronze - Scott Oden
570 BC: My Name Is Sappho - Martha Rofheart
514 BC: The Praise Singer - Mary Renault
*480 BC: 300 - Frank Miller
480 BC: Gates of Fire - Steven Pressfield
480 BC: The Battle of Salamis - Barry Strauss
480 BC: A Victor of Salamis - William Stearns Davis
*480 BC: The Headlong God of War - Jon Edward Martin
479 BC: In Kithairon's Shadow - Jon Edward Martin
464 BC: Spartan - Valerio Massimo Manfredi
460 BC: Farewell Great King - Jill Paton Walsh
*460 BC: The Man Who Saved Athens - Lyndall Baker Landauer
R 445 BC: Creation - Gore Vidal
430 BC: Champion of the Dead - Patrick Hatten
429 BC: Pericles the Athenian - Rex Warner
425 BC: The Isle of Stone - Nicholas Nicastro
422 BC: Shades of Artemis - Jon Edward Martin
404 BC: The Eye of Cybele - Daniel Chavarria
404 BC: The Last of the Wine - Mary Renault
404 BC: The Flowers of Adonis - Rosemary Sutcliff
400 BC: Tides of War - Steven Pressfield
396 BC: Pharnabazus Sits on the Ground With the Spartan Captains - Peter Carnahan
370 BC: The Arrows of Hercules - L. Sprague de Camp
367 BC: Tyrant - Valerio Massimo Manfredi
354 BC: The Mask of Apollo - Mary Renault
354 BC: The Ten Thousand - Michael Curtis Ford
346 BC: A Bloodline of Kings - Thomas Sundell
333 BC: Memnon - Scott Oden
330 BC: The Afghan Campaign - Steven Pressfield
323 BC: The Virtues of War - Steven Pressfield
323 BC: Alexander the Great - Nikos Kazantzakis
337 BC: Fire From Heaven - Mary Renault
323 BC: The Persian Boy - Mary Renault
308 BC: Funeral Games - Mary Renault
323 BC: An Elephant for Aristotle - L. Sprague de Camp
308 BC: On A Wine-Dark Sea - H.N. Turteltaub
308 BC: The Gryphon's Skull - H.N. Turteltaub
307 BC: The Sacred Land - H.N. Turteltaub
306 BC: Owls to Athens - H.N. Turtletaub
305 BC: The Bronze God of Rhodes - L. Sprague de Camp
283 BC: Besieger of Cities (AKA Elephants and Castles) - Alfred Duggan
238 BC: Salammbo - Gustave Flaubert
212 BC: The Sand Reckoner - Gillian Bradshaw
187 BC: The Corn King and the Spring Queen - Naomi Mitchison
202 BC: The Lion's Brood - Rafael Scott
202 BC: The Sword of Hannibal - Terry McCarthy
202 BC: Pride of Carthage - David Anthony Durham
146 BC: Carthage - Peter Huby
715-44 BC: Roma - Steven Saylor
80 BC: Roman Blood - Steven Saylor
R 72 BC: The House of the Vestals - Steven Saylor
72 BC: A Gladiator Dies Only Once - Steven Saylor
R 72 BC: Arms of Nemesis - Steven Saylor
75 BC: Cutter's Island - Vincent Panella
70 BC: Spartacus - James Mitchell (AKA Lewis Gibbon)
70 BC: Spartacus - Howard Fast
64 BC: Imperium - Robert Harris
R 63 BC: Catalina's Riddle - Steven Saylor
61 BC: The Last King - Michael Curtis Ford
58 BC: The Fourth Part of Gaul - John Beatty
R 56 BC: The Venus Throw - Steven Saylor
R 52 BC: A Murder on the Appian Way - Steven Saylor
52 BC: The Druid King - Norman Spinrad
R 49 BC: Rubicon - Steven Saylor
49 BC: Last Seen in Massilia - Steven Saylor
48 BC: A Mist of Prophecies - Steven Saylor
47 BC: A Friend of Caesar - William Stearns Davis
R 43 BC: The Judgement of Caesar - Steven Saylor
80 BC: Emperor: The Gates of Rome - Conn Iggulden
71 BC: Emperor: The Death of Kings - Conn Iggulden
50 BC: Emperor: The Field of Swords - Conn Iggulden
44 BC: Emperor: The Gods of War - Conn Iggulden
50 BC: The Young Caesar - Rex Warner
44 BC: Imperial Caesar - Rex Warner
40 BC: Winter Quarters - Alfred Duggan
36 BC: Three's Company - Alfred Duggan
101 BC: The First Man in Rome - Colleen McCullough
86 BC: The Grass Crown - Colleen McCullough
78 BC: Fortune's Favorites - Colleen McCullough
63 BC: Caesar's Women - Colleen McCullough
59 BC: Caesar - Colleen McCullough
40 BC: The October Horse - Colleen McCullough
*30 BC: Antony and Cleopatra - Colleen McCullough
30 BC: Memoirs of Cleopatra - Margaret George
30 BC: When We Were Gods - Colin Falconer
44 BC: The Ides of March - Thornton Wilder
24 BC: The Eagle and the Sun - Lord Belhaven
22 BC: The Legate's Daughter - Wallace Breem
16 BC: Render Unto Caesar - Gillian Bradshaw
14 AD: Augustus - John Edward Williams
9 AD: Centurion - Peter Mitsopoulos
*9 AD: The Legionary - James Mace
17 AD: The Lost Eagles - Ralph Graves
25 AD: The Bronze Bow - Elizabeth Speare
34 AD: Hawk - George Green
34 AD: Ben Hur - Lew Wallace
40 AD: Ben Hur: The Odyssey - Barry Clifton
42 AD: Under the Eagle - Simon Scarrow
43 AD: The Eagle's Conquest - Simon Scarrow
R 44 AD: When the Eagle Hunts - Simon Scarrow
R 44 AD: The Eagle and the Wolves - Simon Scarrow
R 44 AD: The Eagle's Prey - Simon Scarrow
*44 AD: The Eagle's Prophecy - Simon Scarrow
*44 AD: The Eagle in the Sand - Simon Scarrow
44 AD: The Chief Centurion - Patrick Rivette
41 AD: I, Claudius - Robert Graves
54 AD: Claudius the God - Robert Graves
54 AD: The Eagle and the Raven - Pauline Gedge
56 AD: Barabbas - Par Lagerkvist
*59 AD: The Horse Coin - David Wishart
61 AD: Imperial Governor - George Shipway
62 AD: Song for a Dark Queen - Rosemary Sutcliff
64 AD: Quo Vadis - Henryk Sienkiewicz (Kuniczak)
*65 AD: Conspiracy - John Richard Hersey
*67 AD: Sand of the Arena - James Duffy
*68 AD: The Fight for Rome - James Duffy
*68 AD: 68 AD - D.G. Bellenger
*68 AD: Atilus the Gladiator - Edward Thomson
*69 AD: Nero - Frank Castle
*69 AD: The Course of Honor - Lindsey Davis
*73 AD: The Inquest - Stephen Dando-Collins
*73 AD: The Antagonists - Ernest K. Gann
*79 AD: The Triumph - Ernest K. Gann
*72 AD: The Centurions - Damion Hunter
*74 AD: Barbarian Princess - Damion Hunter
*76 AD: The Emperor's Games - Damion Hunter
79 AD: The Last Days of Pompeii - Edward Bulwer-Lytton
79 AD: Pompeii - Robert Harris
80 AD: Legion - William Altimari
R 80 AD: The Far Arena - Richard Ben Sapir
*84 AD: All Roads Lead to Murder - Albert Bell
*87 AD: Daughter of Lazarus - Albert Bell
*96 AD: Domitia and Domitian - David Corson
*99 AD: Domina - Paul Doherty
*96 AD: The Light Bearer - Donna Gillespie
*103 AD: Lady of the Light - Donna Gillespie
*117 AD: Trajan and Plotina - David Corson
*117 AD: Medicus - Ruth Downie
*125 AD: The Eagle of the Ninth - Rosemary Sutcliff
*138 AD: Memoirs of Hadrian - Marguerite Yourcenar
*160 AD: In the Army of Marcus Batallius - David Ross
*175 AD: Island of Ghosts - Gillian Bradshaw
*180 AD: The Severan Prophecies - David Chacko
*186 AD: Germanicus Mosaic - Rosemary Rowe
*186 AD: Murder in the Forum - Rosemary Rowe
*187 AD: A Pattern of Blood - Rosemary Rowe
*187 AD: The Chariots of Calyx - Rosemary Rowe
*187 AD: The Legatus Mystery - Rosemary Rowe
*188 AD: The Ghosts of Glevum - Rosemary Rowe
*188 AD: Enemies of the Empire - Rosemary Rowe
*192 AD: Caesar Dies - Talbot Mundy
*195 AD: A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening - Mario De Carvalho
*208 AD: Dark North - Gillian Bradshaw
*222 AD: Child of the Sun - Kyle Onstott and Lance Horner
*222 AD: Family Favorites - Alfred Duggan
*245 AD: The Silver Branch - Rosemary Sutcliff
*250 AD: Callista - John Henry Newman
*260 AD: Empire of Dragons - Valerio Massimo Manfredi
*304 AD: The Water Thief - Ben Pastor
*313 AD: The Song of the Gladiator - Paul Doherty
*339 AD: The Second Papyrus - Albert Noyer
*340 AD: The Cybelene Conspiracy - Albert Noyer
363 AD: Gods and Legions - Michael Curtis Ford
363 AD: Julian - Gore Vidal
375 AD: Hadrian's Wall - William Dietrich
*375 AD: Puck of Pook's Hill - Rudyard Kipling
*388 AD: The Little Emperors - Alfred Duggan
*365 AD: Dominic - Kathleen Robinson
R 383 AD: The Skystone - Jack Whyte
401 AD: The Singing Sword - Jack Whyte
R 431 AD: The Eagles' Brood - Jack Whyte
439 AD: The Saxon Shore - Jack Whyte
R 446 AD: The Fort at River's Bend - Jack Whyte
R 449 AD: The Sorcerer: Metamorphosis - Jack Whyte
R 450 AD: The Lance Thrower - Jack Whyte
406 AD: Eagle in the Snow - Wallace Breem
*408 AD: Antonina - Wilkie Collins
*410 AD: Captive of Rome - Theodora Dubois
*414 AD: Threshold of Fire - Hella Haasse
*430 AD: Imperial Purple - Gillian Bradshaw
*451 AD: Darkness and the Dawn - Thomas Costain
451 AD: Attila - Ross Laidlaw
451 AD: The Scourge of God - William Dietrich
*453 AD: Death of Attila - Cecelia Holland
*451 AD: The Sword of Attila - Michael Curtis Ford
*476 AD: The Fall of Rome - Michael Curtis Ford
*476 AD: The Twelfth Vulture of Romulus - Boris Raymond
476 AD: The Last Legion - Valerio Massimo Manfredi
R 526 AD: Raptor - Gary Jennings
*528 AD: A Struggle for Rome - Felix Dahn
*530 AD: The Bearkeeper's Daughter - Gillian Bradshaw
*534 AD: Conscience of the King - Alfred Duggan
536 AD: Lest Darkness Fall - L. Sprague de Camp
*545 AD: The Boat of Fate - Keith Roberts
*548 AD: The Female - Paul Iselin Wellman
*565 AD: Justinian - H.N. Turtletaub
*565 AD: Count Belisarius - Robert Graves
*496 AD: The Lantern Bearers - Rosemary Sutcliff
*500 AD: Sword at Sunset - Rosemary Sutcliff
*600 AD: The Shining Company - Rosemary Sutcliff

[Note: The list is ever-changing, as I find books that I've missed, and of course as new works are published. I intend to publish and maintain the list on my website, oh, one of these days. :) When I do, I'll make sure to post a link here.]

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 5:49:29 PM PST
JaneConsumer says:
Wow! Thanks for the extensive suggestion list. I purchased about 6 of them. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 6:11:37 PM PST
M. A. George says:
Mr. Podos--I do not see any of the historical workd of Alan Massie--a British author more well known in the UK than here, but for historical fiction of ancient Rome, among the best, not only in historical accuracy but in brillian writing. Please note such books as his "Ceasar", "Tiberius", "Augustus", "Caligula", "Antony", and "Nero's Heirs". I do not see Massie often on this thread and I begin to wonder why. I would put his work--and as literature as well as history--up there with Mary Renault and Rex Warner. And above McCullough.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 6:38:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2007 10:45:01 PM PST
Margaret, first off, PLEASE do not call me Mr. Podos. :)

As I mentioned in my preamble, there are a number of authors that I just haven't read yet, or at least haven't developed any kind of view... Massie is probably the most significant of those. In retrospect, I think I may have given him short shrift: I think I developed an incorrect presumption about his work whilst reading various reviews, possibly confusing him with Leckie (?), in assigning to him, in my own head at least, a reputation for historical inaccuracy. If so, my bad... as I've been reading the various relevant threads here in the Amazon discussion forum (which I only just recently discovered as a resource), I think I may have been precisely wrong!!

The other problem with Massie's Julio-Claudian series has been, well, the end of the Republic and beginning of Empire were so exciting/important/meaningful that there are just too many re-tellings for me to get to!! I made a conscience decision at one point to stop with what I had already read, just so that I could move on to the next five centuries! As it is, I've been fairly stuck in the 150 years starting with Marius for, hmmm, more than 30 months.

This fall, I've been torn by what-to-do about the release of McCullough's latest; do I go back and read the entire 'Masters or Rome'? What is that, 8000 pages? Sheesh.

Ah!! I've got it! As I haven't started 'Barabbas' yet, I'll read the Massie works right away, mixing in 'Antony and Cleopatra' and some of the others that I've missed as chronologically fitting.

So, Margaret, there you have it: you've gotten a Massie convert at the cost of one post!


ps: A general compliment, and kudos, to the posters in this forum [Edit: I meant this thread, particularly]. There seems to be a good balance in considering 'history' versus 'fiction'... including in the latter the simple qualities of good story-telling and writing. I hope to be a helpful contributor.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 9:28:29 PM PST
M. A. George says:
Richard--you are right in general about the posts in this particular thread--historical fiction about ancient Greece and Rome. I started in the wider Historical Fiction thread and got caught up in swooning reviews of romantic novels about Mary Queen of Scots and praises for what they call "bodice-rippers", you know, things like "Sweet Savage Love". Oh my God. This thread is so far the best in that it really attracts people with real historical knowldege and interest. So I may be an amateur and an interloper, but an eager and grateful one.

I don't know what negative reviews you have read (and if I did I would spit on them), but I would not recommend Massie so strongly if I had not read all of his books several times, with great pleasure. I am no expert in Roman history, but have read enough to recognize the general accuracy of his historicity. But Massie concentrates on the personalities and characters more than historical events--giving us inner portraits of the main players (or sometimes of real but subsidary characters)--as a novelist would with fictional characters, but staying within know historical realities. Start with "Antony" and you won't turn back. In terms of lucid, pure, graceful prose style and psychological insight, Massie reminds me mostly of Robert Graves, and maybe Mary Renault. No pot-boilers here!

I heard--on this site as a matter of fact--of McCollough's new book. I had thougth she would be ending with "The October Horse" so was pleasantly surprised. As I have read all her books at least twice, I should be able to pick up from where we left off without too much trouble. I wonder how she will handle Antony and Cleopatra--at least the characters as they appear in her earlier books. Her Cleopatra wouldn't give the time of day to her drunken lout of an Antony. This would not be a marriage made in heaven!

Yours, Margaret

P.S. I have not finished going over your complete list, but in my egotistical way, I concentrated on seeing which books on it I have already read! A respectable number, I am happy to say. So I must return to it for more useful information. It must have been a great effort for you to share all this with us. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 10:14:47 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2007 10:39:44 PM PST
Margaret, some random thoughts -

So, first I started by going to each of the Massie books on Amazon USA... have you seen the reader reviews (few though they are)?? My my my; now I know where I had gotten the negative impression!! But, based upon the strength of your recommendations, I forged on. I thought I'd check a general Google search on his name combined with N.S. Gill, Irene Hahn, or Harriet Klausner. Not much there, but Irene is a fan of at least two of his books, so that tells me something. I still need to check Amazon UK, where I assume there'll be a larger and more representative set of reviews.

In the meantime, as often happens, I ran across yet two more books that I'd never heard of, new grist for the mill/list:

"The Lost Legion" - H. Warner Munn (finding the Eagles post-Crassus, rather than another post-Varus tale)

"The Sword of Pleasure: Being the memoirs of the most illustrious Lucius Cornelius Sulla" - Peter Green (which is one of the best titles ever, if you know what I mean... or at least I am sure Metrobius would have thought so ;) )

Aside from the pleasure, and knowledge, that I gain from this HF obsession of mine, I do quite enjoy the detective work and surprises that I get along the way.

Hmmm, as regarding Antony and Cleopatra, McCullough's version or otherwise: My take on the situation has always been that Cleopatra, having made a brilliant play to 'manage' Rome in the person of Gaius Julius, was, after the assassination (like McCullough, I use the word well over 1000 years too early... chuckle), then forced to choose her next lover / ally with an eye toward both her own and Egypt's health during what was sure to be a tumultuous time. Who else but Antony? Lepidus? One of the Mithridatans or other Persian noble families? At least Antony would be fun!

My pick thus far for best novel regarding that several years has been your namesake's "Memoirs" (the other of her works that I've read was "Helen", which was dreck and un-finishable). I've recommended to quite a few people that "Memoirs" is an excellent capstone for "Masters", and will be reading McCullough's finale in that competitive light.

And, btw, count me in as a big fan of "The Far Arena"... I read it again earlier this year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. A gladiator parading around with a fencer's guts: an image I never forget. Best and most memorable description of latifundia that I've read as well.

Very glad that I posted here; already enjoyable.


In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 10:43:25 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 30, 2007 10:45:56 PM PST
Selene says:
Richard, you are a wonder. Many literary treasures lost in the mists of time there to be retrieved from your amazing lists.
Thanks indeed.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 10:47:35 PM PST
And thank you, Selene. I've already corrected my Doherty listings, and added Hambly!

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 10:52:13 PM PST
I've got to throw in one more thing:

One of my other non-revenue-generative but oh-so-enjoyable obsessions is the game Civilization, which is quite fitting. I've posted quite a lot on forums for it... you'll all be happy to know that my alias in that online world is 'Theseus'. :)


In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2007 11:03:13 PM PST
Selene says:
Hope you remember to take your ball of virtual string with you when you head into cybermaze! :)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 31, 2007 7:32:30 AM PST
M. A. George says:
Richard--You surprise me! I discovered Massie somewhere, loved him, and never bothered reading the reader reviews in Amazon. So, they are negative. This is a kick in the pants. I now have much less confidence in reader reviews and do not back down an inch in my support of Massie. To hell with reader reviews, then.

If you are overwhelmed with the number of books on the Ceasar period, you could start with Massie's
"Nero's Heirs", which focuses on the Year of the Four Emperors and its aftermath. Very interesting views on Galba, et. al.

I think your view of Cleopatra is spot on. She was, to all accounts, a wise and far-seeing ruler. I suspect she played it by ear and took advantage of the situation as she could--ergo liaisons with Ceasar and Antony. She probably saw Antony as the best bet--as he was at the time. Cearsar trusted and used him, and Ceasar was no fool. Though Antony needed Egypt and its wealth more than she needed him. But their story will always provide fodder for poets and playwrights, novelists and film makers--and therefore the romantic element will be stressed (such as it was.)

Byt the way, I was rereading Warner's "Young Ceasar" a few months ago and noticed how much like it was McCullough's story of Ceasar--not in every detail--but almost as if she used it as an outline. Aha! So that's how it's done. But I guess anybody has to use the facts as they are know. Still--one can guess at least one of her sources. (regarding Ceasar, Wilder's "The Ides of March" is and remains one of the best. Don't you love a well-written episalatory novel?)

I'm afraid I don't much like the books of my namesake and stopped reading them after I threw "The Memoirs of Henry VIII" across the room with great force. She seems unable to understand the psychological, spiritual, and social point-of-view, Zeitgeist if you will, of different periods and gives her characters modern sensibilities. Her Henry VIII was a divine-right, hierarchical Tudor monarch (and knew it)--not a self-doubting 20th century romantic. Jeez. I shudder to think what she would have done with Elizabeth--though she may yet. If you want the best description and most lucid explanation of the Tudor mind-set (and a very strange and alien way of thinking it was, too), I can only recommend (as non-ficiton) the work of Lacey Baldwin Smith. I have all his books and reread them every few years.

Though I would have thought that George would be able to do better with Helen, as she is basically a non-person and a writer could make of her whatever she could. But again, George would probably be unable to get into the world-view of Homer, or the Bronze Age. Does she make of Helen a modern, or even 19th century heroine? Probably. But then, if you recommend "The Memoirs of Cleopatra" I might give it a try. My hopes are slight, though.

Thanks for the heads-up on "The Sword of Pleasure". McCullough's Sulla is a fascinating character and I would love to get a different view (if it is different--we will see.) I remember Saylor's Sulla--quietly powerful and menacing.


P.S. Why, why, why do you think Antony would be "fun." True, the men of his legions adored him. But as a woman, Ecastor! He would be a drag and pain. Think again!
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Discussion in:  Historical Fiction forum
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Initial post:  Aug 27, 2007
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