Monday, January 7, 2013

More of Ancient Rome, Mysteries and History.....Books By Steven Saylor

I seem to be on an ancient Rome footing right now. Actually I have always enjoyed Ancient Roman history: the plots, the intrigues, the fact that people who lived over 2,000 years ago have so much sway in our present lives. The need to understand these people and how they functioned, what they thought and the choices they made is hard-wired into my need to understand my own world. So when I find some good historical novels that allows me into the ancient world while I am still being greatly entertained, it becomes a win-win.

The mystery books by Steve Saylor, Roma Sub Rosa series, is my newest craze. This is the story of a simple man with a Sherlock Holmes ability to figure out murders and mysteries. His name is Gordianus, the Finder. So nicknamed became he simply finds answers to questions. You follow Gordianus along his lifelong path that propels him into the worlds of the patrician elite, the political, the medical and the day-to-day life of the average Roman citizen, slave and barbarian.

Latest book in the Roma Sub Rosa series
You meet Sulla, Cicero, Crassus, Caesar, Pompey, Marc Antony and for certain, Cleopatra....and a cast of thousands who change Rome's course, and by extension, actual human history. Using highly researched information, Saylor, writes so that you feel that you are walking along the Tiber or part of the Forum, the Palatine Hills and the Roman Senate. You can see the homes of the extreme wealthy and the hovels of the poor. You understand their commerce, their military, their religion and their familial structures. You get to see inside ancient Romans.

As with any good historical novelist, they cannot know from beyond the letters, books or manuscripts left behind just what was said at any one given moment. Yet their talent lay in the fact that they can infer, reason and with a keen understanding of how society worked in the ancient world, produce possible scenarios that compel the reader to keep reading. Then add in a good murder or two or three, coupled with the actual political intrigue of the day and you have a rather good diverting yarn.

As with most books in a series, I recommend you start from the beginning rather than diving head first into the middle or the end. Not because one mystery leads into another, but because part of the charm of such a series is living the life of the protagonist and seeing how they grow, change and develop along with the society in which they live.

Now before the Roma Sub Rosa books, Saylor wrote two historical novels simply about ancient Rome: Roma and Empire. (No murder mysteries involved) If you enjoy muti-generational accounts of history through one or two prominent families these books are for you. From the mythical beginnings of Rome and how it probably happened, to what actually made Rome the center of the ancient world, these two books are very engrossing on their own.

As for me, I am at the beginning of the civil war between Pompey and Caesar. They are still friends, or what passes for friendship among the politically ambitious, and tethered by their shared love of Caesar's late daughter Julia.  But not for long. Meanwhile Gordianus is out there waiting for a new assignment along with his sons and his entire household retinue.The modern world as we know it is about to begin.

For those that do not know the history of the phrase, "crossing the Rubicon" comes from this dramatic time between Caesar and Pompey. Caesar in contravention to laws set out by the Roman Senate, returned to Rome at the head of his army to challenge Pompey for control of the city and thus the Empire. When Caesar crossed over the Rubicon river, there was no turning back and the Roman civil war had begun.

Qi en Pace,


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